Add Francis Chan to the growing list of Christian authors/speakers/leaders who are discontent with mainstream Christianity and ready to see faith and the church re-imagined.
In Crazy Love, Chan suggests that American Christians have fallen out of love with God, resulting in believers who settle for attendance and churches that languish in mediocrity. After defining the problem, Chan uses the remaining chapters to briefly explain the impact of our tepidness and to exhort and inspire readers to reconnect with God, even at the expense of mainstream Christian acceptance and approval. He warns that if a Christian really follows Jesus in full obedience, there's a good chance she will be criticized and even rejected by other Christians.
Francis Chan has some actions to back up all this subversive talk: earlier this year, he stepped down as pastor of the megachurch where he cut his teeth as a nationally-recognized Christian leader. In light of this recent radical decision, Crazy Love takes on new relevance as a window into the thoughts and motivations that led a premier Christian leader to give up his day-to-day post.
Readers get a first-row seat as Chan pieces together the puzzle of God's new calling
in Crazy Love. More than once, Chan breaks away from the exposition to narrate events in his writing of the book, describing his struggles to convey this vision God has placed in his heart. The book reads more like a series of epiphanies and insights than a cohesive treatise on Christian living. It's in these honest and inconclusive sections where Chan is at his best on paper.
Crazy Love is a book of tidbits and takeaways. Chan peppers the chapters with catchy sentences, off-beat illustrations, poignant stories, and chunks of scripture. These ideas are immediately sticky, each one capturing the imagination just long enough to propel the reader through the chapter to the next easter egg. In between these nuggets, Chan defaults to some tried-and-true speaking tricks to keep things moving. Pep talks and gentle group guilt-trips are intended to stir up readers' passion, but without Chan's signature voice, the sections tend to feel like filler. Overall, Crazy Love is a light read, so it's easy to breeze through these lulls.
Francis Chan is a very engaging speaker, but the impact of his speaking is lost in the move from podium to paper. I found myself most interested when I imagined myself sitting in a seat at a conference, listening to Chan
speak the chapters. In this way, I was able to ask myself some of the same questions that Chan poses, and I found myself wrestling with some of the same issues. What if I am missing something? And how do I get back on track? Chan doesn't outline any cookie-cutter answers, but he does point readers in the right direction, encouraging them to look to God for the next step, instead of relying on a Christian guru-pastor to lead the way forward. This makes Crazy Love a great book for sparking discussions in a small group