Thinking Out Loud

May 6, 2013

Chasing Francis: 2013 Meets the 13th Century

I don’t want to toss out cheap superlatives like, ‘Best book I ever read,’ but 24 hours after finishing Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale by Ian Morgan Cron, I definitely feel that this is one of best written books I’ve ever read. With equal parts contemporary ecclesiology, church history, and Italy travelog, You can practically taste the Italian food. Chasing Francis is an excellent work of fiction that’s more about facts than fiction.

Chasing FrancisSome explanation is necessary.  For me, this book fits in with the type of fiction that I’ve been attracted to over the past few years; what I call Socratic dialog. Think Paul Young in The Shack and Crossroads, Andy Andrews in The Noticer and other titles, David Gregory in the Perfect Stranger trilogy; books that use story as a motif for teaching.

But the publisher, Zondervan, didn’t see it that way, identifying the advance copy I received in the Christian Living category and avoiding the category thing entirely on their website.  Here’s their synopsis:

Pastor Chase Falson has lost his faith in God, the Bible, evangelical Christianity, and his super-sized megachurch. When he falls apart, the church elders tell him to go away: as far away as possible…

Falson crosses the Atlantic to Italy to visit his uncle, a Franciscan priest. There he is introduced to the revolutionary teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi and finds an old, but new way of following Jesus that heals and inspires.

Chase Falson’s spiritual discontent mirrors the feelings of a growing number of Christians who walk out of church asking, Is this all there is? They are weary of celebrity pastors, empty calorie teaching, and worship services where the emphasis is more on Lights, Camera, Action than on Father, Son, and Holy Spirit while the deepest questions of life remain unaddressed in a meaningful way.

Bestselling author Ian Morgan Cron masterfully weaves lessons from the life of Saint Francis into the story of Chase Falson to explore the life of a saint who 800 years ago breathed new life into disillusioned Christians and a Church on the brink of collapse.

Well that’s about right, though the weight of the book rests more in its thoroughly researched study of Assisi’s Francis than today’s Chase, but without ignoring the connection to the modern church in North America.

In an afterword, Cron says he struggled with committing his picture of the classic saint to something in the modern fiction genre. His struggle does not evidence itself. There are characters here to identify with and, unlike the way you might think Socratic dialog works, a surprising number of plot turns. (For the record, Cron prefers the term wisdom literature.)

Who should read Chasing Francis? Anyone who wants more meat in their Christian fiction. Pastors and church leaders for whom it should be required reading. Local church adherents and members concerned with the direction of the contemporary Church and/or evangelism.  People with a passion for social justice who would benefit from a refresher course on St. Francis’ approach to poverty and injustice.

I mentioned The Shack earlier. While this book doesn’t have the same general market crossover potential, I believe that in the right hands it does have the potential to make a major impact on the capital C Church; but first both brick and mortar bookstore and online vendors need to settle whether it goes in the church history section or church growth section or the fiction section. Books that land between categories often languish in either or fall between the cracks altogether.

So I’ve got a section for Chasing Francis: Recommended Reading.

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April 6, 2013

Timing Is Everything for Zondervan Author

Filed under: books — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:05 am

When Ian Morgan Cron, author of Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir…of Sorts (and yes, that’s all one title) was preparing his latest work Chasing Francis, A Pilgrim’s Tale (much shorter title) for spring release, he probably never imagined that a book which deals with the life of St. Francis of Assisi would coincide with the name chosen by the Roman Catholic Church’s new Pope.

Chasing FrancisBut what is Chasing Francis? Since the book is several titles back in my review pile, I can only say I’m not sure. Everything about the book screams fiction, but the category on the advance copy, with which the listing at Ingram/Spring Arbor agrees, indicates Religion or Christian living. A contemporary fictional story about a burned out pastor is used to present the story of the 12th Century friar and founder of the Franciscan order.

Previous authors have used a fiction platform to deliver theological, doctrinal and apologetics content, but the books have always ended up shelved in the fiction section. This one strikes me as, if anything, a title that might belong in the church history section, or, as it turns out, Catholic interest section; but one that might introduce more readers to the story of Francis were it allowed to stay true to itself, that is, a book written in the fiction genre. Regardless, you can’t beat the way the timing worked out.

The book is scheduled for May 7th release in paperback from Zondervan, who will hopefully recognize they have a hotter title on their hands than they imagined, and move that date up as much as possible.

Publisher marketing:

Pastor Chase Falson has lost his faith-and he did it right in front of the congregation of his megachurch. Now the elders want him to take some time away. Far away. So Chase crosses the Atlantic to Italy to visit his uncle, a Franciscan priest, where he encounters the teachings of Francis of Assisi and rediscovers his ancient faith.

Chase Falson’s spiritual struggle rings so close to the truth that, at times, you’ll swear you’re reading a memoir rather than fiction; a memoir that mirrors the searching heart of a large movement within evangelicalism today.

Author, musician, and speaker Ian Morgan Cron sheds new light on the legacy of St. Francis of Assisi as he masterfully weaves actual accounts from the life of Francis into the fictional story of Chase Falson. It’s an amazing story with profound implications for the contemporary church today.

June 30, 2010

Wednesday Link List

Check your calendar:  The year is half over.   Just eighteen months left until the world ends in 2012.    Here’s where we were this week:

  • Without question my number one link this week is Francis Chan’s children’s book trailer — that’s right, a kids book — for The Big Red Tractor releasing in September from David C. Cook.
  • Pete Wilson pays tribute to a retiring staff member who he hired seven years ago to bring some experience and wisdom to an otherwise younger team; sharing some valuable lessons he learned from Tom Tyndall.  Here’s a sample:

    Great sermons will get you pats on the back. Savvy leadership skills will win you admiration from your colleagues. Hard work will catch peoples eyes as you separate from the pack. But if you don’t love you’re nothing more than a noisy gong, or a clanging cymbal. If you don’t love the people God has placed in your life nothing else really matters.

  • Andy LePeau at InterVarsity has a surefire way to increase the earning potential of your children and it’s not (directly, at least) education.   Check it out.
  • I really enjoyed Rick Apperson’s Blogapalooza throughout the entire month of June at Just a Thought, but especially this guest piece by Clay Crosse.  (Check out the other posts, too.)
  • Mark Wilson has a hilarious hypothetical conversation between God and St. Francis on the subject of lawn maintenance.

    GOD : They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?
    ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.
    GOD:  They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

  • Know somebody who is giving your pastor a hard time?  Probably not anything like this story.   This guy was a terrorist.  This is a book trailer for an upcoming non-fiction book, The Devil in Pew Number Seven by Rebecca Alonzo; releasing August 1st.
  • A 2006 iMonk column by Michael Spencer showed considerable insight in trying to bring balance to the young-earth/old-earth tensions in science vs. creationism.  He felt the Bible was a book about God and Jesus, not a book about science.
  • Here’s something you don’t see every day; a book about the ascension of Jesus and why it matters.   Check out Jeff Loach’s review of He Ascended Into Heaven.
  • First it was the hymn people versus the chorus people.  But recently there’s been more visible unrest within the modern worship community itself.   Michael Krahn comments,  in a blog post inspired by one by Canadian Chris Vacher.
  • New Blog of the Week:  Contrast by Terry Foote in Florida.   No particular post, though you might read a father’s perspective on the loss of a child.
  • Atheists have put the “under God” part of “One Nation Under God” back on the agenda with a billboard campaign .
  • There are parts of the Christian internet I’m sure some of you (us) never get to see. Not sure what to make of this one: The blog Enoch Route introduces us to “Billy” who offers some signs you might be in a cult.
  • Can you handle one more Drew Marshall Show link?   When the new archived interviews (from last week’s show) go up on Friday, it’s Drew’s first “Gay Day” with Justin Lee of the Gay Christian Network, Wendy Gritter from New Direction Ministries, and singer-songwriter Derek Webb, just back from a tour with Jennifer Knapp.  Click here after 7.2.10 and select the show from 6.26
  • Ruth Graham observes that the themes in Christian young adult fiction are creeping into the mainstream book market.  (Some critics felt it was the other way around.) Check out her article at Slate.
  • Some people have all the answers until you start asking spiritual questions.   Check out this Soul Chat promo.   More Soul Chat video content here.
  • If you’ve read the last chapter of the book version of Stuff Christians Like (as opposed to the website) you know the (somewhat) serious side of Jon Acuff (pictured at right). CNN’s Belief blog had him back again, this time to tell everyone why some Christians act like jerks online.
  • Late breaking item:  With too many contradictions in his Muslim-turned-Christian story, when Ergun Caner’s current term as dean of Liberty University Theological Seminary expires today (6/30) the job won’t be renewed, though he gets to stay on staff.   The Washington Post tells the story, additional background is at World Magazine.
  • Our cartoon today is a classic — in internet terms, it’s actually only from 2008 — Hi and Lois by Brian and Greg Walker.

If you were listed in the blogroll here at Thinking Out Loud, and your blog name begins with “The,” don’t panic, you’re still here.  Look for your blog’s title without the “the.”  (Requests to have it reinstated will be considered by a bureaucratic committee that meets in Switzerland twice a year.)

Last week’s link list got bumped from its home page position by another post, check it out here.

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