What happens when the pastor of a megachurch loses his faith?

What happens when the pastor of a megachurch loses his faith? August 29, 2013

A book. That’s what happens.

Specifically, a wonderful piece of fiction, Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale.

Author Ian Morgan Cron recounts the spiritual journey of pastor Chase Falson, whose career as a successful pastor crumbles to pieces when he loses his faith in God, the Bible, and evangelical Christianity.

What happened? Life happened–slowly but surely, with a final straw being a tragic death in his congregation.

After a blunt moment in the pulpit where he comes clean with his struggles, his elders decide it’s time for Falson to take a break so they can decide what to do with him. Not knowing where to turn, he contacts Uncle Kenny, whom he hasn’t seen in years but always respected and liked.

Uncle Kenny lost his pregnant wife in a tragic accident years earlier.

The family said he never fully rebounded from the loss. The proof lay in the fact that two years later, he did the unthinkable–he left the conservative Baptist fold and became a Catholic. Not only did he become a Catholic; he went on to become a Franciscan priest. A conservative Baptist becoming a Catholic is like the pope becoming a Mormon. The long-haul viability of the cosmos is drawn into question when stuff like this happens.

Kenny invites Falson to visit him in Italy.

What should I bring?

An open heart, and open mind. Oh, and bring a journal.

Little does he know, but Falson is going to Italy to go on a pilgrimage. He will be retracing the life of Saint Francis of Assisi.

A pilgrimage is a way of praying with your feet. You go on a pilgrimage because you know there’s something missing in your soul, and the only way you can find it is to go to sacred places, places where God made himself known to others. In sacred places, something gets done to you that you’ve been unable to do for years.

Of course, Falson isn’t the only one on a pilgrimage. The readers follow along, too, and in the process learn a good bit about Franciscan teaching, and–if the timing is right–about their own spiritual state, and new possibilities open to them if they are open to God’s leading.

Cron tells a wonderfrul story with wit and insight, and along the way introduces readers to the simplicity of the Franciscan way of following Jesus. Friends of mine passed this book on to me over the summer, and I’m glad they did.

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  • Ann Gingrow Corbett

    Thanks for the book recommendation. I plan to check it out.

  • Ian Morgan Cron

    Thanks, Pete. Glad you enjoyed the book!

    • Pete linked to your book about a week ago as well, and I started reading almost immediately—and have really been appreciating it. Thanks for your work.

  • Pete, I read this in 3 days and could not put it down. I was comforted by the narrative as someone who seeks God openly through a new lens. I think this book resonates (and will resonate) with many evangelicals who long for something else or, because they have been canned, have to find something else. Great book. I especially loved the last lines: “Any advice?” I asked. “Start over,” he said.

    Many, I think, are doing this.

  • Paul Charles

    Welp, that’s going on the “must-read” list.

  • Brian P.

    I read this one a few years ago and liked the book a good bit. I couldn’t really figure out why the protagonist stayed within the confines of Christianity though. One of the things I did in reading the book and prepping for a book study on it was to map the characters in it against the roles in the archetypal hero’s voyage as articulated in the works of Joseph Campbell. I even wondered if the influence of Campbell on this book was implicit or explicit.

  • mike

    easily one of my favorites!

  • Maybe it’s fictional, but we just have to look around to find countless examples of Evangelical pastors having lost their faith.

    The problem of evil mentionned in this novel is only a very SMALL PART of the reasons pushing people to walk away from God.
    In most cases, they’re (rightly) disgusted by the Biblical genocides and unjustifiable violence in the Old tetament which they have learn to adore as the inerrant word of God.
    INERRANCY is one of the main causes of apostasy.
    I’m currently developing a progressive Christian theology based on the concept of God as a perfect being.
    Both on my blog and in real life in my German town I invite open discussions and challeges to my position.
    I think we need such a honest Christianity to overcome the challenges of the new century.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

  • Andrew Watson

    there are real life stories of this nature as well look at Ed Litton, the pastor of First Baptist North Mobile, one of the largest churches in southern Alabama. Though Pastor Ed did not completley loose his faith, he struggled greatly after his wifes death. http://www.northmobile.org

  • Muzi Cindi

    This is REAL Carlton Pearson’s STORY. He lost his Evangelical faith, his Mega Church of 8000 people, and is now with Progressive Christianity / New Thought Movement.

    • Brian P.

      I remember attending his church back in the day. We went mostly to sway with the organ. Oh what a choir and organ.

  • Susan_G1

    thanks for the recommendation. Ordering today.

  • Bill

    I have read the book and found it very useful and enlightening. I am a fallen away Catholic who still appreciates much of the Catholic faith. I recommend it highly.