Those of us who have been following Christ for awhile can sometimes slip into “faith by autopilot” mode. You know—mouth the right words, do our duty by serving down at the church, show up for worship services, shop for Christian stuff in Christian stores, etc. etc, etc. You can overlay a week of our life from this year and it’s pretty much the same as a week of our life from last year.
Plug-n-play. Dull. Safe. Predictable. And if that’s true of individual Christians, then it’s probably also true of a lot of evangelical churches as well. And though we don’t mean for it to, the way we Christ-followers live our lives may say the Jesus we claim is like that, too. .
In his new book, Wild Goose Chase (Watermark Multnomah, 2008), Mark Batterson deftly challenges “faith by autopilot” and urges Christians to instead choose faith by adventure. The title is drawn from an ancient Celtic name for the Holy Spirit, Who as Batterson notes, “cannot be tracked or tamed.” He wonders if “we have clipped the wings of the Wild Goose and settled for something less”, living Christian lives that might make our guardian angels yawn. Instead, he asserts that “if you chase the Wild Goose, He will take you places you never could have imagined going by paths you never knew existed.” This is wide-eyed faith—interesting, risky and spontaneous.
I suppose some would place this book in the “how to find and follow God’s will for your life” category. It is that, but with the underlying theme that the quest is not simple or outline-able; it has a mystery and wonder about it. Neither is it a cookie-cutter program that produces a series of identical Christians with similar stories. He reminds us that “chasing the Wild Goose…. requires a moment by moment sensitivity to the Spirit…[appreciating] the fact that something uncontrollable and unpredictable will get you where God wants you to go.” (p. 134) The Spirit is larger and infinitely more creative than our programming.
Batterson, author of In the Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day and who serves as pastor at National Community Church in Washington, DC writes with an obvious love for the church and church people. He avoids the scolding tone that so many books intended to challenge Christians adopt. At the same time, he doesn’t back off the prophetic moments when they come. He is transparent about his own journey—the good and bad, funny and sad. His obvious interest in science makes for some fascinating and mind-stretching applications to the thought, emotion or decisions of the Christian life. Another important feature is that much writing on the Holy Spirit is either sensationalistic or scholastically dense. Batterson manages to make that topic both accessible and applicable, so that ordinary Christians can greatly benefit, which is one reason I will recommend it to members of our church.
The book is organized around exploring how to escape from six soul cages that can keep a Christian from experiencing the freedom and adventure of this Spirit-led life. Responsibility, routine, assumptions, guilt, failure and fear can keep us captive. The alternatives that Batterson describes are compelling—you can almost feel your heart beat a little faster while reading.
Chasing the Wild Goose has the potential to stir Christians to choose to live their faith as an adventure. Breaking out of sleepwalking, faith-by-the numbers will not happen by church programming and showing up. It is a daring and necessary choice, for as Batterson writes: “A world in desperate need can’t do without what you will bring when you become part of something that is bigger than you and more important than you: the cause of Chris in this generation. The stakes could not be higher. And like the first-century disciples, we have the opportunity to turn the world upside down.” (p. 170) That’s a vision worth chasing all the days of your life!
(I was provided a copy of this book for review)