Book Review: Pursuing God

Pg-2nd-revised-ed I first heard about and met Jim Elliff at a Founder's Conference years ago. I've emailed him a time or two over the last several years about an evangelism project I've worked on that came from a lecture I heard him give. His articles have often been a source of inspiration (like "A Different Style of Evangelist: Laborers on the Loose"), as had the first edition of Pursuing God. So when I heard Pursuing God: A Seeker's Guide was being reworked, I couldn't wait to check it out. Jim & Christian Communicators Worldwide were kind enough to send me a handful of copies to give away & one I could review. 

PHYSICAL: The book is compact. At 86 pages (75 of main content) it's a quick read: Introduction, 11 chapters, "Twenty-one days with God" (10 pages for reading/reflecting in Gospel of John) and finally two pages on reading through the New Testament. That's a lot for a very small book. It could be easily divided into tiny, chapter chunks for daily reading, or consumed fairly quickly in one sitting. The cover is just great, black with a barely visible floral design. Really attractive. Better than I would expect from a small publisher. Well done.

CONTENT: This isn't a your-life-could-be-even-better-with-Jesus sort-of book. It's a hard-hitting, direct spiritual challenge intended for the seeker. Elliff writes in the introduction, "This book is for the person who knows God is there, and believes that somehow he must relate to him." Then a page-turn later Elliff says, "What does God think of me? The answer to this question might surprise you--and disappoint you. But the disappointment is necessary." Pulls no punches. 

While the content is strong and biblical, that doesn't mean Elliff runs you over. He doesn't. He walks you through the struggle with ample illustration and in a conversational tone. 

The first several chapters or so deals with sin: Who we are because of sin, our broken relationship with God, the coming judgment. Then Pursuing God leads toward an understanding of the power of the Gospel, the need & call to repent (not merely an explanation of repentance), trying vs trusting, and then a final challenge to not only believe, but to then go in faithfulness. In just a few paragraphs I think Elliff does well to explain the life of the Christian from conversion on. And again, there is a guide to 21 days reading in John to help with next steps.

MY TAKE: I really like this little book. Elliff doesn't say everything the way I would, but I'm not unhappy with that. It's solid theology, very practical and personal, and convicting. It takes you down a path toward a knowledge of Christ but isn't written as if it has to do everything or it has failed. It stays simple. I also really like how the first chapter can be used on its own: there's a problem and here's how God solves it.

I don't recommend giving this book to a skeptic, an active doubter. It's not rich on evidence or argument for "defeater beliefs." It's not supposed to be. Keller's The Reason for God is good for them. Pursuing God book is for the nearly convinced and open. And I think it's better than most books written for that category of folks.

One thing that stood out to me is it lacks one chapter on the Cross. I thought that was odd. I knew reading through the book that the Cross was there, but I figured it would be a full chapter right in the center. So I thumbed through again and noticed the Cross is everywhere. I actually sent a direct message on Twitter to Jim today and asked about why no one chapter on the Cross and he said, "My idea was to put the cross in many of the chs all the way through." Exactly what I observed, and I'm good with that. While it might be helpful in some ways to have one chapter giving the Cross full focus, it's not a weakness of the book. The Cross is there in full and clear throughout the book.

USE: As I said, this is written for and truly meant for the seeker. But I've already found it useful in two other ways. First, I used it as a chapter by chapter devotional with my kids. Be careful when you get to the chapter on sex. I was reading to a 7 year old and had to creatively edit on the fly. :) Second, I'm using it with new guys I'm discipling. I think it's helpful to have something this brief as a starting point for discipleship. Plus, it keeps me from discipling someone who may think they have understood the Gospel but hasn't yet. 

BONUS: Don't miss the online, free, downloadable study guide for the book.

I highly recommend Pursuing God by Jim Elliff for yourself, family discipleship, church discipleship and, of course, for anyone considering Christ. You can even buy them in bulk.