Pilgrim Confessions {Book Club}

Pilgrim Confessions {Book Club}

“A pilgrimage is a way of praying with your feet.”- Chasing Francis

Do you feel like a wanderer, someone without a spiritual home?

For a very long time I felt rooted. I grew up in a part of the United States where people were born, grew up, stayed, and died. There were generations of my family all one in place, and I could trace our history back for a century.

There’s something about this overseas life that reminds me of the journey I’m on, that makes me feel a bit rootless.

That’s the theme of Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale by Ian Morgan Cron. When I first met Chase Falson, our mega-church pastor main character, I got a bit bristly with him. It was obvious that he was destined for failure as he described himself in the beginning of this story. He seemed judgmental, egotistical, and a case of burnout waiting to happen.

We learn in chapter 1 that he had big plans to be the church-planting hero. “Truth be told, I wasn’t interested in working for a church someone else had built. I wanted to be the pioneer who ‘broke the code’ for the spiritually barren Northeast, heroically advancing the cause of Christ into the most gospel-resistant region of the country”. Yikes.

I thought about Chase Falson and how I might be like him. Well, of course not, I immediately retorted to myself. But then I remembered the times I thought I might be the overseas worker hero or wanted to be at least. I thought about how there came to be a time when I felt like that pedestal crumbled, when everything around me seemed to be falling apart. I realized I was trying to do it all on my own strength, and that breaking needed to happen.

It was painful, as I imagine we’ll keep reading about in Chase’s life. I had an awful lot of questions, like he did.

Have you had a moment where it felt like your foundation was shaken, where you questioned and doubted and felt like you were wandering in the desert? How did you hold onto hope and find healing?

One of the problems that Chase had, I thought, was that he wasn’t able to seek help without feeling ashamed. He met with a counselor, but under the guise of playing squash (a game like racquetball) so that people in his church wouldn’t find out.

This bothered me, and maybe that’s what the author intended so we would stop and think. There’s been a lot more openness and compassion related to mental health and seeing a counselor or therapist, and this is a very good thing. We shouldn’t have to hide when we need help. We shouldn’t be ashamed to take a brave step and find someone to talk to.

In our line of work, burnout can be a very real and debilitating struggle. It’s not something to be brushed aside, and it’s not something that we should be ashamed of either (although I get it, and I’ve been there). We might not have an uncle who lives in Italy, or be able to take a journey to learn about the life of a saint. But there are small but significant things that we can learn to implement to prevent or heal from burnout. Okay, I’ll stop preaching.

What did you think about the start of this book? Did Chase Falson rub you the wrong way like he did me? What do you know about the life of Francis of Assisi? I don’t know much, so I’m interested in seeing where the book takes us next.

Join us for the rest of Chasing Francis! Here’s the schedule:

January 14: Chapters 4-6

January 21: Chapters 7-9

January 28: Chapters 10-12, Epilogue

Photo by Simon Rae on Unsplash


  1. Michele January 6, 2020

    I’m loving the book so far! My crisis of faith actually came before I went to the field, which opened me up so that, combined with leaving my culture and adjusting to a new one, constantly questioning the differences (wrong, right or just different) opened me up to what Chase calls a new way of following Jesus. It didn’t take me to a more liberal theology as it seems to for many these days, but it changed me a lot, and twenty plus years later it’s almost hard to remember the way I used to think.
    I don’t know much about Francis, but I have learned from a lot of Catholic’ mystics’and look forward to learning about and from him. I thought the correlations between his time period and ours were very interesting!

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 9, 2020

      Michele, I’m so glad you are joining us this month! 🙂 And I’m glad you are loving the book. I used to fear a crisis of faith, but I think sometimes the beauty that God brings from the ashes is worth the pain and heartache.

  2. Amy Young January 6, 2020

    Like Michele, I’m enjoying this book! I wanted to read it for eons, and this was the nudge to get me to read it :). I’m listening to a copy on Hoopla that is read by the author. (It was originally recorded for CD’s, so every now and then Ian says, “Please turn over the CD. :)). At the beginning of the book, Chase reminds me of the title of another book, “The Sin of Certainty.” Not that we can’t be certain about God, but sometimes the thing we think we are certain of leads to arrogance. I’ve been studying the book of Proverbs and am thinking about what is the significant (yet at times small) distinction between the wise and the foolish. I think I’m quite far from where you meant this discussion to go Sarah :)! But, isn’t this what ideas in books do? Take us here and there :).

    1. Karen Huber January 7, 2020

      Amy, I can’t wait to hear/read your thoughts when you’re finished. I read this book a couple of years ago on so many smart people’s recommendations, and well… I’ll keep my thoughts spoiler free for the moment, but already appreciate Sarah’s insight – and yours. Staying tuned!

    2. Sarah Hilkemann January 9, 2020

      That’s the beauty of book club- the discussion can go wherever we want it to! 🙂 I’m so glad you are enjoying the book, Amy! I feel like I have gotten less certain about many things the older I get. 🙂 Not that I’m more confused, but so much more comfortable with not being certain that I have it all figured out. I love that connection to Proverbs!

  3. Ev January 6, 2020

    I was struck by the fact he thought he had all the answers! He said, “My premise was that if we would just examine the biblical and historial evidence for the deity of Jesus as well as the foresnsic case for the physical resurrection, we would inevitably come to the conclusion that the gospel was true. Simply believing these evidentiary facts, saying the Sinner’s Prayer, and dedicating ourselves to a life of obedience would bring life-bearing water to our arid souls.”

    Just like this different culture I live in, the more I learn and know, the more I know I have so much to more to learn. Plus I wonder about all the things I understood before. Did I misunderstand? Did I hear part of the sentence but missed the grammar which makes it completely opposite? Did I miss the cultural meanings? And not understand jokes from different cultures. The Bible is my first cross cultural experience. I learn more and more as I am in the different culture, aka the Bible.

    So when he said all he needed to do was “know it all”, I wondered “How many other people think this way?”

    The first part of the book made me sad. Then I started to remember Assisi, the mystics, contemplation and my spirit was rejoicing.

    1. Evy January 6, 2020

      Sorry for the big picture!

    2. Sarah Hilkemann January 9, 2020

      Ev, that connection to cross-cultural understanding is fascinating! I’ve definitely had those moments where I thought I understood something- a cultural point or a language conversation- and then realized much later, like even months or years down the road that my understanding was limited or the way I needed to read the situation was off. It definitely is a reminder to be a humble learner and keep that attitude up!

  4. Phyllis January 7, 2020

    I’ll admit something silly: I thought this was a memoir until about, um, halfway through this section. I was slightly familiar with the author from his enneagram stuff (which left me with a “meh” response), so I was kind of curious about why he was calling himself Chase. 😀 Anyway, I got straightened out, and I think I’m going to love this NOVEL. Hah.

    I looked up the frescoes they went to see. Beautiful.

    The timing is great for me, too. A few days ago I discovered the blog of a woman who is walking across Europe, and I read all of it, almost in one gulp. I love walking. It’s what is keeping me sane and healthy lately, too. I dream of a real pilgrimage…. Of course, it looks like they won’t be actually walking in this book, but it still fits.

    1. Karen Huber January 7, 2020

      If I’m not mistaken, I think it is a sort of memoir, but in fiction form…

      1. Phyllis January 7, 2020

        So I wasn’t really being all that silly. I was close to right. Kind of.

        Oh, by the way, Merry Christmas everyone! It’s Christmas here today.

    2. Rachel Kahindi January 7, 2020

      I thought the same!

    3. Sarah Hilkemann January 9, 2020

      The genre is sort of strange! I think he calls it wisdom fiction or something like that- I can’t find it at the moment. 🙂 But it is based on the author’s experience.

  5. Katy Miller January 7, 2020

    I am just off the field, and the premise of this book sounded like something I could relate to. His pessimism about the Church is painfully familiar.
    I am now, because of this book, interested in learning about St Francis. I really know nothing at all other than he’s the cute little bald monk statue holding a bird in my mom’s garden :).

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 9, 2020

      Katy, transition off the is definitely its own journey! I’m sorry that pessimism toward the church might feel familiar- but I also know you aren’t alone in that! I love picturing the statue in your mom’s garden. 🙂

  6. Rachel Kahindi January 7, 2020

    I really don’t know much about Francis of Assisi, but am interested, especially after Uncle Paul’s pitch. I jotted down his bibliography.

    I also noted this part. It made me laugh, in a ‘that’s so true and hits close to home’ way:
    “Who said God’s always rational?” … Given all that had happened, however, I’d softened to the idea that God might have an irrational side.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 9, 2020

      Rachel, I know, I’m interested in learning more about St. Francis! I’m such a rational person (I think ;)) so of course God should be too! But I don’t always or even often understand His ways. I am interested to see where else this book takes us!

  7. Regina January 8, 2020

    I am really enjoying this book. Chase didn’t necessarily rub me the wrong way, but I definitely saw the red flags. I read the entire book over a couple of days and LOVED the journey he took. I didn’t know very much about Francis of Assisi, and I loved being able to take this journey along with Chase!

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 9, 2020

      Regina, wow, good for you! 🙂 I love that it feels like we can journey with Chase as well.

  8. T January 9, 2020

    I’m glad Amy mentioned Hoopla. I borrowed the ebook thru it. I told my husband, “The main character needs healing and you kind of hope that whatever needs healing in you will get it as you walk beside him.” 🙂

    1. Michele January 9, 2020

      That is such a great way to say it!

    2. Regina January 9, 2020

      What a great description!

  9. Grace L January 12, 2020

    I absolutely love this book! I have already read through chapter 7 and want to read more every day. I am encouraged and inspired in each chapter.

    What did I know about St. Francis before reading this book? On the wall in the guestroom where we often stay when in Maine, there is a cross stitch of the Prayer of St. Francis. I would wake up in the morning reading it and would go throughout the day singing the song that came from that. Now I am fascinated to learn more about St. Francis as well as to see what will happen with Chase in his search for a new relationship with God. Oh, how I hope he gets freed up from the kind of church situation he is fleeing from. Can’t wait to find out.

    Here is the Prayer of St. Francis

    Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
    Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
    Where there is injury, pardon;
    Where there is doubt, faith;
    Where there is despair, hope;
    Where there is darkness, light;
    Where there is sadness, joy;

    O Divine Master,
    Grant that I may not so much seek
    To be consoled as to console;
    To be understood as to understand;
    To be loved as to love.

    For it is in giving that we receive;
    It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
    And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann January 13, 2020

      Grace, I’m so glad you are loving the book so far! Thank you for sharing that prayer of St. Francis. I’ve heard parts of it but I don’t think I’ve ever seen the whole thing. I’m anxious to see what happens to Chase in the end too. 🙂

      1. Grace L January 13, 2020

        The prayer is also a song. That is why, whenever I would see the prayer on the wall, I would go about the day singing the song with those words. As for the book, I am barging ahead and reading a couple of chapters a day. I may even want to go back and read it again while we are still discussing it in the book club. Oh, and I insisted my husband to read it also! It will be fun to discuss it with him. Thanks for choosing this book!

        1. Abigail January 27, 2020

          Grace, thanks for sharing. I just read the whole prayer, and I have heard it as a song. The version I’ve heard was truly beautiful. 🙂 Enjoying reading the book while on public transport in Sydney.

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