In his book Greater, pastor and author Steven Furtick encourages readers to pursue "greater" instead of good enough or greatness. He says, "Greater = the life-altering understanding that God is ready to accomplish a kind of greatness in your life that is entirely out of human reach."
Taking lessons from the prophet Elisha and weaving them together with scriptures and modern-day stories of faith, Furtick shows how God is present in the ordinariness of life and how readers must choose to break away from the old and embrace the new. He also encourages readers to:
get their hands dirty because faith is work;
to see their limitations as God's greatest opportunities; and
Furtick ends Greater with prayers over the readers, in a sort of "passing the mantle" just as Elijah passed the mantle to Elisha. Furtick encourages readers to take up the mantle and live a life that is not good enough or full of greatness, but a life that is greater.
As is normal, Furtick fills his book with Tweetable quotes. His story-telling abilities and down-to-earth, every-day way of putting things draw readers in to Elisha's story, meeting readers where they are and helping them move on to "greater."
This book is an easy read, but it's not necessarily easy to put the principles into practice. They are challenging in that the reader has to let go of pride and selfishness in order to take up the mantle and live a life that is greater--to embrace what God wants to do in and through them.
I like the suggested "Tweets" listed below each chapter title in the table of contents. They whet the reader's appetite, and then when the reader happens upon them in the text, they likely find themselves highlighting those very quotes. But in context, those quotes mean so much more. Additionally, there are discussion questions at the end for groups, though individuals would still benefit from them. The questions lead readers to process what they've read, to internalize it, to apply God's Word to life.
About the Author
Steven Furtick is the best-selling author of Crash the Chatterbox and Sun Stand Still. He is the founder and lead pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and he holds a master of divinity degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Furtick and his wife Holly have three children, Elijah, Graham, and Abbey.
* Blogging for Books has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for this honest review.
Steven Furtick's basic premise is that "most of us are not in danger of ruining their lives, we're in danger of wasting them."
This book promises not to be just another "self-help psuedo solution" but to "give you confidence to know that nothing is impossible with God, the clarity to see the next step He's calling you to take, and the courage to do anything He tells you to do."
Does he succeed in all this? Maybe I'm getting old, but this book reads like it comes from the experience level of a teenager. When I read quotes like "Naaman was a rock star", or "Captain Awesomesauce", or "history would be rewritten" it gets difficult to take it seriously. If I can't take a book seriously it's not going to give me confidence, clarity or courage.
What does Furtick do well?
The book is easy to read and engaging. He weaves personal anecdotes in and out of the message with ease.
In general, he encourages the reader to trust in God even when it doesn't seem like things are getting better.
He also encourages the reader to not settle for good enough, or mediocrity. However, this one gets sticky because he assumes that if what you're doing something like farming, or working a 9-5 job, then you're stuck in the mundane and mediocre.
And that's about all the good I can pull out of this book.
Where does the book fail?
The book is fraught with problems, but I'm going to narrow it down to three.
Furtick makes a lot of assumptions and they start at the very beginning. At the end of chapter 2, Furtick describes Elisha, the prophet whose life is the basis for the book.
"Elisha started out just like many of us, living under the tyranny of the ordinary, plowing hard dirt."
Elisha's first appearance in the Bible (1 Kings 19) finds him driving a plow behind a team of oxen. It was certainly hard work, but we are never told how Elisha feels about this work. Did he love it? Did he hate it? Was he doing a good job, or a poor job? We don't know. Furtick makes the assumption that Elisha must be suffering from the "tyranny of the ordinary." Even though there's no evidence of it, Furtick needs Elisha to hate his job for the premise of the book to work; if you're just plowing a field, you must be wasting your life.
The next big problem is the allegory. Furtick has a bad habit of turning events into allegories.
When Elijah shows up to commission Elisha, Elisha burns his plows (1 Kings 19:21). Furtick then asks, "What plow do you need to burn?"
In 2 Kings 5 a man named Naaman wants to be cured of leprosy. Elisha instructs him to wash in the Jordan River seven times to be healed. Naaman refuses because the water is too dirty for him. Furtick asks us the question, "What is the Jordan River in your life?"
In 2 Kings 6:5 one of Elisha's disciples is swinging an axe and it flies off the handle into the river. Furtick asks, "How have you lost your edge?" Your edge, like an axe head; get it?
These events aren't morality tales, they are actual events. Elisha burning his plows means Elisha burned his plows. Naaman was actually told to wash in the Jordan. Elisha's disciples actually lost an axe head. To allegorize these events is to make the Bible about you instead of God.
The sad part is how Furtick applies his own allegory. When Elisha burned his plows it was his source of income. No plow, no income. He was committing himself to God's call through Elijah. There was no going back. How does Furtick apply this? He burned his CD collection.
In my opinion there is one problem with this book that is "greater" than all the rest: It's confusing. Furtick relies so heavily on emotional pulls and motivational cliches that he must think the reader will gloss over the "yes it is/not it isn't" logic running through each chapter.
In one particular chapter he tells the reader it's not about Jesus and then explains why it is about Jesus. Then he explains again why it is always, but never, about Jesus.
"The more I study the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, the more I'm struck by an irony that marked his attitude toward His life. If Jesus had published a campaign slogan, I think it would have gone something like this: It's not about Jesus." (Greater, page 131)
Admitting this will sound heretical he quotes a couple of Bible verses; Philippians 2:6-7 and Matthew 20:28, Luke 12:37. None of these passages imply that Jesus' ministry wasn't about Jesus, only that He came to serve.
Then he starts to back track.
Let me say clearly and definitively: everything is for Jesus's glory. (Greater, page 132)
So, it is about Jesus. Well, no, it isn't.
But as He walked the earth, how did Jesus demonstrate the riches of His eternal glory? By getting down low. By choosing the way that made Him appear to be nothing in the eyes of people, all the while reconciling all things to Himself with a servant's towel around His waist. It only stands to reason: if it wasn't about Jesus, then it definitely isn't about you." (Greater, page 133)
Okay, so what he means by "It's not about Jesus" is that it's not about us. That's fair, it's not about us, but does that mean it's not about Jesus? Didn't Jesus claim to be one with the father? Didn't Jesus commend Peter for identifying Him as the Messiah? Didn't John the Baptist proclaim that Jesus was the lamb of God?
Furtick goes on to confuse the issue even more.
"In the words of the One whom it was all about / never about: â€˜Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it' (Mark 8:35)" (Greater, page 133)
"All about / never about"? That's a logical impossibility and to suggest that it's never about Jesus is just plain wrong and the verse he quotes proves it. Enough said.
The Wrap Up
As much as Steven Furtick wants to believe he's on to something new with this book, he isn't. The dustcover of the books says, "If you're tired of being ordinary - dream bigger." But what's wrong with being ordinary? What's wrong with doing your job well, providing for your family, and raising godly children? In Philippians 4, Paul talked about being content in all circumstances, but Furtick wants to incite us to discontent. If God calls you to do something different than what you're doing, then you should do it, but never despise what God is doing with you right now, right where you're at.
This is what "Greater" feels like: a motivational speaker who, because he's also a pastor, shoe horns scripture into his messages to make them sound Christian. Consequently you get a good idea with no foundation. It reminds me of when Jesus talked about building a house (good idea) on sand (bad idea) in Matthew 7:24-27. Funny, in that passage Jesus was saying that those who put his words into practice were like the man who built his house on a solid foundation. I guess it was about Jesus.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. Check out my other reviews and you'll see this is often true.
If you're ready to really focus on what God has for your life, this is the perfect book for you. God will use it and His word to guide you into dreaming those big dreams and making the practical steps toward fulfilling them.