In my gradual discovery of the Charismatic side of Christianity, I’ve been helped on my way by books from a range of people. One of the most helpful in terms of crystalizing my personal journey has been Simon Ponsonby’s “MORE“, Jack Deere’s “Surprised by the Power of the Spirit”, and todays review, “Forgotten God” by Francis Chan. Chan is a wonderful American Pastor and Writer, who has written a range of superb books, including “Crazy Love”, “Erasing Hell” (review forthcoming) and contributing to “Thinking. Loving. Doing.”.
Woven throughout this book are several stories of people who have experienced the fullness of the Spirit – and gone on to do amazing things for God. It is easy to observe that such lives should be the norm for followers of Jesus – and this is exactly Chan’s point. The problem, as Chan diagnoses correctly regarding the American Church at least, is that we don’t all live like that. We don’t all live like we should. Chan’s suggestion, in biblical language, with a Gospel-focus and a love of the advance of the Kingdom of God is that this is because of our ‘tragic neglect of the Holy Spirit’. Chan wants to be part of the solution to that challenge – which is good, because oftentimes critics of (especially from within of other parts) the Church then don’t offer any constructive work to address their concerns.
There is no part of or phrase in this entire book that is wasted. Chan is concise and careful throughout, weaving together his points and his passions with real skill. The Introduction and the section About the Cover are brilliant, setting the scene perfectly. Chan notes that “no matter what religious tradition you come from, you likely carry baggage and harbour stereotypes when it comes to the Holy Spirit. It’s going to require laying aside your baggage and stereotypes so you can be open to what God wants to teach you. Are you willing to do that?“. This is a book that does what it sets out to do, and Chan is gripping right from the start.
Each chapter is followed by a story of someone who Chan identifies as being particularly ‘Spirit-Filled’. These are not stories of people who shout ‘bam’ and emotions cause people to fall over. These are stories of God sending his Spirit on men and women who did mighty and lasting work for his Kingdom. And that is exactly what Chan is trying to do. Challenge us to seek the Giver, the Loving God. To seek him not for our own gain but for the advance of the Kingdom of God, the sharing of the Gospel, and our own transformation. I think Chan succeeds in challenging his readers to consider these things. I personally found his case compelling. All kinds of ‘charismatic’ and ‘spirit-filled’ Christians should read this book. And those with sceptical or cessationist leanings should do so too. Like Simon Ponsonby’s superb ‘MORE’, this is a book that could go a long way towards correcting extremes and opening up dialogue.
I was tempted to do a chapter by chapter summary of this superb book. But I genuinely do want you to read it. Regardless of whether you are a Charismatic or a Cessationist. Evangelical or Liberal or Catholic. This book is immensely helpful in challenging you about how you view God, and in particular what you make of the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. I seriously recommend this book.