Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Book Notes: Fearless (4/5)

Max Lucado writes books like I write sermons, which is to say that they keep on coming. I just finished reading his latest book, Fearless, this week, and hope my thoughts are helpful as you decide if this book is for you. Before I can review the book, however, I need to truthfully share my preconceived ideas about Lucado and his books.

First, I had the opportunity to sit in a meeting with Lucado and some other large-church pastors during a conference in 2006. I was able to compare and contrast his personality and leadership with other large-church pastors during our short time together. What did I find? Max Lucado is one of the most gracious, genuine, down-to-earth, friendly guys you will ever meet. Some of the guys in the room that day couldn't fit their egos in the room, but Lucado was incredibly humble and gracious the whole time. From that one meeting, I walked away asking God to make me a more gracious and humble pastor - such ingratiating traits. All that to say that I really admire and respect Pastor Lucado.

Second, and not quite as positive: I've read my share of Lucado books over the years. They seem to all follow the same pattern, which makes me wonder if they are constructed out of sermon series that he preaches at his church. They are full of wonderful stories, short, insightful explanations of Bible passages, and extremely practical applications. This not a bad pattern - it is just Lucado's pattern. In some ways, if you've read one of his books, you fill at home in the others - though the content is different, the structure is very similar. This always leads me to assume before I even read one of Lucado's books that I am going to enjoy his stories, but not be challenged too deeply by his insights.

Now, to Fearless, Lucado's effort to expose our deepest fears and provide helpful solutions to live a fear-free life. The book gives one chapter to each fear. Here's the list of fears that Max addresses:

1) the fear of not mattering
2) the fear of disappointing God
3) the fear of running out
4) the fear of not protecting my kids
5) the fear of overwhelming challenges
6) the fear of worst-case scenarios
7) the fear of violence
8) the fear of the coming winter
9) the fear of life's final moments
10) the fear of what's next
11) the fear that God is not real
12) the fear of global calamity
13) the fear of God getting out of my box

Out of this list, I personally connected with only a few chapters. However, I read each chapter because I know people in my congregation struggle with these fears - they sit in our chairs every Sunday and in my office during the week. So what did I like?

1) I really enjoyed his explanation of each fear, especially the way in which he showed the reader how these fears show up in their lives. He does a great job of explaining what this fear looks like in our every day lives.

2) I always enjoy his illustrations and stories. Lucado does a wonderful job using historical examples, personal stories, and funny parables to make his points come alive. I'm sure some of his illustrations will show up in my upcoming sermons.

3) I really enjoy his writing style. His language never gets old or repetitive. His chapters are short and to the point. He uses great metaphors and keeps the reader engaged.

So what did I not enjoy?

1) I felt like his solutions to the different fears left me wanting something more. Part of this may have been driven by my lack of satisfaction at his analysis of the source of each fear. He exposes fear adeptly, but doesn't seem to get down to the root issues. I understand that I am afraid of not mattering, and I understand how that shows up in my life. But WHY do I have that fear? What root heart-issue explains my irrational fear of something happening to my kids?

2) I don't have answers to those questions (like I know something that Lucado doesn't know), but I felt like he didn't really wrestle with them. The closest he got was the last chapter, where he began to explore the connection between fearing God with other fears. Here, he quickly mentions that all other fears are rooted in a lack of fear toward God. I think this is kernel I was looking for, but got to the end of the Fearless and wanted more. How, then, do I develop my fear of God? Why don't I fear God? Why do all my other fears dwarf my fear of the Lord? These answers would have helped me more.

Thanks, Max, for another great book and for continuing to teach us so much about faithfully communicating the message of Jesus to this generation.

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