A month or two ago, Amazon offered free Kindle versions of some Francis Chan books. I’ve heard about Chan and some of his teachings, but I had not read anything of his on my own. I downloaded the books and started with his first book, Crazy Love.
Every generation must carefully consider what it means to be a Christian. It is easy for Christians to become comfortable in their faith, allowing the world to have a greater hold on their worldview and their actions. The gospel makes strong and radical demands, and it is common to water down the sting of its message.
The goals of American Christianity are often a nice marriage, children who don’t swear, and good church attendance. Taking the words of Christ literally and seriously is rarely considered. That’s for “radicals” who are “unbalanced” and who go “overboard.” Most of us want a balanced life that we can control, that is safe, and that does not involve suffering (p. 66).
This book attempts to address this tendency, rooting motivation in a response to God’s power, love and grace. Chan argues that God deserves a radical response by disciples, a crazy love that displays complete devotion and service even if it exceeds the bounds of social convention. Christians should be so consumed by God that they are willing to live in a different way, even different than is normally imagined by many Christians.
In our world, where hundreds of things distract us from God, we have to intentionally and consistently remind ourselves of Him (p. 27).
Chan addresses a host of subjects in calling for radical discipleship.
Discipleship should begin by putting things in the proper perspective. When the world has too strong of an influence, worry and stress reign while trust takes a backseat.
Worry implies that we don’t quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what’s happening in our lives (p. 40).
Stress says that the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace toward others, or our tight grip of control (p. 40).
Disciples must be true students of the word, continually examining themselves, and seeking to obey God, realizing up front that being a disciple will require suffering
What I can say is that you must learn to listen to and obey God, especially in a society where it’s easy and expected to do what is most comfortable (p. 166).
Chan places a heavy emphasis upon the necessity to give. Giving by American Christians too often comes from an excess that rarely brings any discomfort. The author suggests that disciples should downsize and live on humble means so that they will be able to be generous givers, meeting the needs of others. I thought this was one of the more helpful suggestions in the book, calling Christians to give even if it hurts, trusting God to provide. The idea of downsizing one’s personal standard of living for others gets at the dedication required to be a Christian. Christ exemplified sacrificial giving for others, and he demands nothing less for his followers.
If you really want to experience God’s supernatural provision, then do as He says. Test Him. Give more than you can manage, and see how He responds (p. 119).
The concept of downsizing so that others might upgrade is biblical, beautiful… and nearly unheard of. We either close teh gap or don’t take the words of the Bible literally (p. 120).
When it’s hard and you are doubtful, give more (p. 140).
Overall, the book is worth reading and considering. Chan is a charismatic and persuasive personality, and he addresses a topic that has always been relevant. The need for discipleship is an emphasis of Scripture, ranging from the OT prophets to the early preachers of the church in the NT. Modern day classics like Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship and Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy tackle the same subject.
One interesting feature of the book is that it has accompanying videos with each chapter. The videos can be seen on the book’s website. You can also check out the website to see summaries and other information about the book. If you are wondering about whether to read the book, the website might be a good place to start.