I've just finished reading this fictional tale of a pastor getting himself acquainted with the rummaging of postmodernity and the question of how to live his faith in that brooding environment. It has a classic emergent/emerging storyline which appeals to the conversation. The book is entitled "Chasing Francis" and is written by Ian Morgan Cron. I think this book sort of echoes Brian Mclaren's book "A New Kind of Christian", although I'm just guessing this at the moment. But one thing about Cron's book is it's fascination with Francis of Assisi, whose life plays a guiding role in bringing life to the book.
The story starts with the introduction of the main character, Chase Falson, who is depicted as a successful mega church pastor. Falson soon becomes disillusioned with faith as it is played along the lines of certainty and the neat portrayal of Christianity. The death of one of his church member's child had deeply affected him and soon shatters the pretention of meaning on which he broke down in the middle of his 'certainty' and neat theological stance that he had always understood Christianity to be. This soon fueled the church board to give him time off because he was seen as abandoning faith altogether.
His laying off by the church board leads him to a journey or rather a pilgrimage to Italy where he found how it was a Christian lived. With the help of some monks they introduce Falson to the life of Francis of Assisi, someone who was "…a Catholic, an evangelical street preacher, a radical social activist, a contemplative who devoted hours to prayer, a mystic who had direct encounters with God, and someone who worshiped with all the enthusiasm and spontaneity of a Pentecostal. He was a wonderful integration of all the theological streams we have today…"(55). This brings to mind another of Mclaren's work "A Gracious Orthodoxy".
With the quote above in mind, I think I have done enough (I hope) to explain the main thrust of the book. The fictional story plays around these themes and presents a need for us to embrace a more holistic outlook of our Christian faith and engagement as followers of Jesus. It also falls along the lines of a critique of the modern church in its, all too often, narrow description of being a Christian and the church. But with that, this quote would redeem the negative critique of Christendom in a more fashionable way,
"Francis, you changed the church (in fact, you reevangelized it)-not through being critical but through forming a community that confounded it. For the last few years, I've been a self righteous critic of the church and all of Christendom, and I need to give that up. Sister Irene told me the other day that "no one else is your problem but you." Maybe I should try to live the "gospel without gloss" and keep my mouth shut?" (155)
But I would add that keeping our mouths totally shut would not also contribute to changing the status quo. I think what it means here is we have a responsibility more in living out what we believe as opposed to just a mere criticism of the present condition of church.
All in all, I enjoyed the book immensely because the story does in some ways reflect a journey I am all too familiar with. I would gladly recommend it to anyone who has time to read and reflect with an open heart and mind. You might find yourself also, like Falson, chasing Francis.