In his most recent book, Greater, Steven Furtick draws from both modern illustrations and the biblical story of Elisha to encourage believers against wasting their lives on lesser things. By placing their faith in God, he argues, they will achieve things beyond “good enough,” beyond the “vague and unrealistic aspirations” of “greatness (9).” “When you live this way—the greater way…” he continues, “God’s greatness will not just be working around you—it will start working through you (14).”
A Strong Start
I was encouraged by Furtick’s initial chapters as he laid out his vision for a “greater” Christianity— where believers focus on “what Christ has already done and what He desires to do through us (21).” Reading this statement, one would suspect, as I did, that Furtick would point those looking for greater things to the greatest work already accomplished. Yet as the book progressed, the greater life seemed to be less and less about Christ’s finished work, and more and more personal achievement. Due to somewhat vague, motivational language, by the end of the book, I knew little about the steps towards the greater life, let alone Elisha’s place in redemptive history.
Pointing to God’s Greatness
Furtick paints a picture of the greater life by pointing to story after inspirational story of God’s great work in the lives of countless people. As I was thinking over the string of inspirational stories in Greater, I came across a review by John Starke of Furtick’s previous book, Sun Stand Still. The review put into words how I felt as I read:
There’s…a good lesson here for gospel-centered, young Reformed types-like me. We need to remember that our faith is not just in a message, but in the power of a great God who has accomplished the work of the gospel through his Son, Jesus Christ. That is what’s behind, under, and in the message of the gospel. Furtick is right to point to God’s great power and let that inform our prayers and expectations.
I was inspired by these stories and rejoiced in God’s great work, but as Starke said of Sun Stand Still, “I need to be critical in a few spots.”
A Few Concerns
While God can, and does, work miracles in our lives today, Furtick seems to miss the point of these inspirational moments. By pointing only to miraculous feats of faith, he leaves no room for God’s great work in the seemingly mundane. In this way, readers are left to beg the question, what happens when we trust in God, wholeheartedly leaning on him, and yet we don’t accomplish great things. What happens when suffering still comes?
This is where the logic of “greater” Christianity begins to unravel. It’s not about making our lives “greater” in the sense that Furtick points to, it’s about living our lives in such a way that Christ is shown to be great-est. Furtick gets close to this distinction a few times, even going so far as to say “…it’s not about our greatness (133).” But he fails to drive it home when he points to Christ as a motivational example rather than the divine savior.
Instead, if we are living our lives in response to Christ’s finished work on the cross, Christ will be enough, whether God ordains “great things” for us or not. Don’t get me wrong, Godly ambition is good, but that’s just it—it’s Godly. And if it’s Godly, then bringing glory to God will be the highest goal, and it will be largely accomplished by the God himself (in the form of the Holy Spirit).
This brings me to my last concern and conclusion. While the goal of a “greater” Christianity is alluring, the concerns aired above paired with the following statements are problematic in that they position us as God’s teammates:
“God is so much greater than we’re allowing him to be through us (9).”
“…human action prepares the way for supernatural favor (63).”
Whether it’s Furtick’s intention or not, his language seems to imply that God is up in heaven waiting for us to pray the right prayer, or take the right step before he enacts his plan. The problem with this is, God already has enacted and accomplished his plan, in the sending of his son. The greatest life is one that is lived in light of this fact. In this way, I don’t want to negate Furtick’s call to take action, but instead suggest it be founded on the completed work of Christ.
Furtick spends the whole book pointing out how we can be greater and do greater things for God, but in the end fails to point in any significant way to the greatest thing, that is Jesus Christ and him crucified (cf. Luke 1:32, 1 Corinthians 2:2, Galatians 6:14 ESV).
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah for this review.