“Forgotten God” by Francis Chan (Book Review)

Francis Chan is a bit of an enigma.

He has garnered great “success” by all cultural Christian accounts by becoming a popular conference speaker, best-selling author, and planting and pastoring a thriving and growing church body. Yet last year he abruptly left it all to spend time chasing down the specific call of God on his life by prayer, fasting and traveling the world abroad. Most in Christianity have praised him for this, some of have been perturbed by this. Chan has most recently been drawn to San Francisco, though he’s being intentionally careful about any public ministry implications in the future.

Chan’s sophomore release to “Crazy Love” is “Forgotten God: Reversing our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit.” The book reflects its author. It’s enigmatic. Warm. Winsome. Generous. Thoughtful. But in the end, enigmatic.

If you are expecting a thorough doctoral treatise on pneumatology, this shain’t it, and Chan admits as much (p. 18). If you want to know what end of the spectrum Chan falls in the Cessationist vs. Charismatic age old debate, again, he remains enigmatic. He does give some gentle rebukes to both extremes, and he keeps a pastoral humble attitude throughout when addressing issues in the modern movements (p. 53). According to Chan, he was “saved in Baptist Church, attended a charismatic bible study, went to a conservative seminary while working at seeker-sensitive churches, partnered with Pentecostal movements, and have spoken at wide variety of denominational conferences.” (p. 57)

More than anything this work is a practical guide to discovering the basic attributes of the person of the Holy Spirit and what massive lifestyle implications He brings to a person’s world. “The reality is that the early church knew less about the Holy Spirit than most of us in the church today, at least in the intellectual sense. But they came to know the Spirit intimately and powerfully as He worked in and through their lives.” (p. 36)

The most helpful and endearing portions of the book are the soul probing and provocative questions Fran challenges the reader with:

On the Holy Spirit’s unction:”If everyone gave and served and prayed exactly like you, would the church be healthy and empowered?” (p. 91)

The Spirit’s guidance to sacrifice:”Why would we need to experience the Comforter if our lives are already comfortable?” (p. 107)

The Intimacy with the Spirit:”Do you listen to the Holy Spirit as you stand in line at the Post Office?” (p.131)

The fruits of the Spirit:”Do you exhibit more kindness than the Mormons you know? Do you have more self-control than your Muslim friends?” (p. 146)

Consistently, throughout the work Chan encourages the reader to literally “put the book down” and pray, search the Scriptures and listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying personally right now (p. 110). Chan knows the limits of his own wisdom and ingenuity, and without the reader seeking a personal experience with the Holy Spirit his book will be another worthless clanging noise in the strange symphony of cultural Christian voices. I applaud him for that.

Though Chan briefly explores the theology (Ch. 3) and intimacy (Ch. 5) of the Holy Spirit, the central thrust of the book is this: the Holy Spirit has enabled us to live supernatural uncomfortable self sacrificial lives of love to others. As a result much of the book is not a revelation of the person of the Spirit Himself, but rather the sure affect the Spirit will have on the believer’s life. “The Spirit will lead you the way of the cross, as He led Jesus to the cross, and that is definitely not a safe or comfortable or pretty place to be.” (p. 50)

At the end of most of the chapters there are some anecdotal stories of saints who were gripped by the Holy Spirit and yielded to His call in sometimes ordinary, sometimes spectacular ways. The subjects range greatly from the common folk Chan admires in his own church, to the notable Christian philosopher, Francis Schaeffer. These concrete illustrations give living examples to the reader of what it means to live a surrendered Spirit filled life. It may be adopting needy children, being content with a physical malady, enduring severe persecution, or just opening your home to others.

Francis Chan has a readable writing style that is accessible for all walks of Christian life. You will be challenged, but not berated by his encouraging analysis of the church’s tragic “neglect.” Though I made it a weekly study for a group of guys, the book could be easily ingested by a weekend warrior. I recommend it.

Bryan Daniels

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Author: Bryan Daniels

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband to Jessica, and a father of three boys: Josiah, Gideon and Judah. I teach high school math as a job, read reformed theology as a hobby, and write this blog just for kicks. With the rest of my time I coach football and track.

13 thoughts on ““Forgotten God” by Francis Chan (Book Review)”

  1. at this point I have read all his books… they are a good quick read, and make some fine points, but lack deep meat (though I doubt that was ever his intent in his writing anyway).

  2. love it! I really respected his middle (as you called it ‘enigmatic’) stance on the modern theological argument, mainly because he is being a unifier rather than a divider of the Body of Christ at large, under the banner of a theme that the American church desperately needs to hear. thanks for the review. I did not finish the book when I first started it, but this gave me the spark to pick it back up.

  3. after reading his book, did you find that the way we live and pray and worship, is much different than his? the total package, what would u say was the biggest difference between him and us?

    1. I don’t think the way we live and pray is much different than his. He’s pretty close theologically to what I would subscribe to. The main take away is that the Holy Spirit enables and empowers us to take greater risks for the glory of God and service of others than what our natural state could do for us.

  4. I liked “Forgotten God” quite a lot more than “Crazy Love,” although I may be the only one. I found Crazy Love wasn’t really radical to me, but Forgotten God seemed more personally challenging, as well as challenging to the church as a whole. In the denomination I currently attend, I find the Holy Spirit is overlooked and ignored, treated as if totally subservient to the rest of the Trinity if mentioned at all. It’s good to hear someone talking about these issues who isn’t necessarily going to offend people along the spectrum of denominations and who can perhaps ignite some discussions in churches that basically have no clue (or seem to prefer) that the Holy Spirit even exists.

  5. Although I have read both Crazy Love and Forgotten God, they weren’t hugely impacting on me as they seemed to be on many others… I agree with Scott’s comments that “they are a good quick read, and make some fine points, but lack deep meat.” Forgotten God definitely wasn’t one of my more favourite books on the topic of the Holy Spirit, but I did like some of his comments, like: “When I read the Book of Acts, I see the church as an unstoppable force… The church was powerful and spreading like wildfire, not because of clever planning, but by a movement of the spirit.” The first book I wrote, “Supernatural: Contending for Signs and Wonders Today” is all about examining the work of the Holy Spirit in Acts, and contending for more of that in the church today. Thanks for the review, Bryan!

  6. Thanks for the insightful review. I just recently read his “Crazy Love” book, and I was overall impressed. It felt alot like David Plait’s book, and while I did not learn anything new, it still caused me to think about somethings. So far I like the guy, and I am okay if he doesn’t go theologically deep. I think we have some good writers and scholars for that already.

    Thanks again for the post.

  7. Sounds like a must-read. Growing up in an overly-conservative, very traditional Independent Baptist setting from my birth, I knew nothing of the Holy Spirit until I started college two years ago. Let me just say that it has dramatically changed my life each say since– this coming from someone who was saved at about the age of 12, yet knew nothing of the Spirit until I was 18.
    I am considering this as the next read-together for my boyfriend and I. We are currently reading a devotional to “Costly Grace” by Jon Walker. But who after reading this I realized that a devotional is simply more convenient, and an entire book may be more challenging in many ways. We are both seeking the Lord in new ways and consistently attempting to better our lives in Christ. Would you reccomend this read for a 20 year old Christian couple?

    1. Awesome testimony Aaron. You’ll probably enjoy the book greatly! It’s not specifically speaking to couples but it will challenge both of your spiritual lives to go deeper into the radical life the Spirit calls us into.

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