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Chasing Francis - Ian Morgan Cron (2006)

What would happen if a successful, self-assured young pastor of a metro-mega church faced up to the crushing reality of pain and doubt that plagues so many of his congregants? Even more, what would happen if he began to experience his own self-awareness, and started to verbalize it to his congregation? Would he lead his church through a time of learning and growing through the process? Or, would they reject him and move on to someone who would resound with surety and triumphalism, assuaging the congregants that "all is well" in the spiritual headquarters of their local church?

Ian Morgan Cron is the brilliant writer/pastor who tackles the above questions with credulity, weight and panache. In his book "Chasing Francis", Cron creates reality in fiction that smacks you with a clear "names and locations of the characters of this story have been changed to protect those involved".  And though the book is officially fiction, it's themes, circumstances and characters remind us of our own lives, churches and ministries: broken, hurting and isolated.

The protagonist in the story, Chase Falson, is an amalgamation of the questions we pose in the hardest times, the honest conversation that must happen if we are to walk through our dark night of the soul. Chase is riddled with doubts in his personal life, and they reach an apex when a 9 year old girl in his congregation is tragically left in a state of permanent life support.  All that is left is for the single mother parent of the girl and her pastor, Chase, to bear the weight of taking her off the machines which leads to her death. There is no higher purpose, no sense in it, no great cosmic reason which it seems God has for this senseless loss of life and brokenness for those left behind.

That event leads Chase to begin public questioning of his previously iron clad dogmatic faith. When his church implodes on his public questioning, he takes a sabbatical trip to Italy. Through the counsel of an uncle, he tries to find understanding by taking a personal pilgrimage through the towns and life of Saint Francis of Assisi.   Chase is transformed day by day as he encounters the way of St. Francis and begins to enjoin himself to the task of God's own reconstruction project in his life.

The novel is hand picked for an exemplary journey into the best questions being asked by the post modern culture that is colliding with the Christian faith. It also doesn't acquiesce into an endless stream of circular questions leading to further (and unending) questions- it comes to a direction that is a way back for many to the faith that is fresher, more authentic, more enduring when seen through the eyes of Francis.

Artistically, the writing is very engaging.  Starting throughly in the world of Christian leadership and church, it takes us from the familiar to the earthy  world of the mystic/monk from Assisi. Cron's gift of writing is witty yet speculative, a perfect confluence that doesn't abandon all hope, but doesn't settle for cheap cliche either.

If you want to read a thoughtful, challenging but enjoyable book that will both teach you something and engage you in a poignant story, I strongly encourage you to consider "Chasing Francis". You won't be disappointed.

Book on Amazon: Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim's Tale


Review by

Kim Gentes


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