One Thousand Risks ~ A Book Review

“The reason we fear man so much is that we fear God so little.” When I first read those words of William Gurnall I was overcome with the truth of them. Fear has a way of paralyzing us and becomes a barrier to our pursuit of God. Recognizing fear’s ability to paralyze, Chad Johnson leads readers to step out in faith in his recently released book, One Thousand Risks.

As part of the Christian music industry, Johnson took a ‘risk himself when he left it behind in order to serve the Lord in a different way. That different way lead to the writing of this book. In an effort to encourage others to step beyond their own fear in order to impact others, Johnson shares a number of stories combined with some commentary. Released just over a month ago, the book consists of 15 chapters, each about 10 chapters. These short chapters and the use of stories throughout makes the book a fairly quick and easy read. Unfortunately, the book was lacking on a number of levels and perhaps the most comprehensive word to describe what I read is carelessness.

Carelessness about Writing
At the most fundamental level, the book seems to be carelessly written noting the three following aspects:

  • Contradictions: First, the author makes points early on in the book only to contradict himself. While discussing this in more detail later on, those contradictions are manifested in such instances in which faith is reduced to just a few words (see the introduction) and yet a dissection of the later citation of Matthew 7:32-23 (pg. 27) would recognize the difficulty of faith. Furthermore, the book relies heavily on emotionalism and ‘feelings’ in order to guide decisions while noting at one point that feelings are deceitful, at least according to his title on page 56.
  • Connections: Additionally, the unclear writing leaves readers attempting to discern the connections that the author is trying to make. This is especially seen in the citations of Scripture in which they seem to be haphazardly inserted, but with little indication of why the author thinks a particular verse is relevant.
  • Citations: Finally, the citations lack consistency and appeasement on an academic level. Often times, the author utilizes wikipedia, a source often rejected in writing because of its lack of reliability. This could have been avoided because in most instances this is done for information that should be easily available elsewhere from reliable sources, and thus maintaining credibility. There is also an inconsistency in verse citations, in which sometimes the author cites them in the text, and other times he adds the reference as a footnote. Perhaps one of the most confusing citations comes on page 27 when he indicates that Paul taught a message that combines both faith and works, and yet the verse citation in the footnote is not a Pauline letter at all. Instead, he lists James.

Thus, the author employs a carelessness in the writing that makes it a questionable read. I suspect that many of these are unintentional, yet it confirms a notion that the book seems to be hastily written with more attention to getting it published first and make corrections later (if needed).

Carelessness about Faith
Unfortunately, the carelessness continues into matters of Christianity, beginning first with issues of faith. In an effort to see people ‘converted’ the author begins his introduction by appealing to people to repeat a prayer that he has written for them to be saved. Unfortunately, the placement of this prayer at the beginning of the book makes it appear to lack sincerity and instead compels it more as an act of obligation from his readers. However, there is a greater concern here in that he has reduced faith to a few words, that may or may not lack meaning depending on the reader. This combined with the constant appeal to emotionalism throughout the book reduces faith to something that is inexplicable and makes it man-centered rather than God-centered. Unfortunately, this undermines God’s gift of wisdom and rationality; while faith may not understand all things, it comes with knowledge and wisdom (cf. Hebrews 11:1; Proverbs 1.7; 9:10) which are gifts from God (James 1:5, 17) and thus are not senseless.

Carelessness about God
The carelessness about faith perhaps can be understood as a result of the author’s carelessness about who God is. The author’s constant appeals to respond to God not because of who He is, but more because of what He did for you and I indicates a lack of respect for who God is. About midway through the book (pg. 78), the author indicates that he has less fear about God’s judgment than he does about his own spiritual pride. In fact, throughout the book, he minimizes God’s judgment against sin (consider some of the examples of ongoing sin).

That lack of understanding about God’s judgment creates a lack of understanding of God’s love. While denying being a universalist, the author makes comments about God’s love allowing ongoing sin (pg. 127). While Johnson affirms the worldly view that God must not hate because God is love, this notion denies that God must hate because God is love. The two aspects are not opposites that cannot coexist, but are actually complementary and therefore must coexist. To utilize an example I once heard Paul Washer say, “I love little children, therefore I hate abortion” (my apologies that I don’t know what sermon I heard this in and therefore cannot cite it; if I find it, I will update this review with that link). To extend that example to God, consider that He loves holiness and therefore he must hate sin (for a good discussion oaths point, click here to read an article at Glory Books).

Carelessness about Lives
Not only does the author’s low view of God indicate but it minimizes God’s tremendous grace, a grace that can create victory over sin. Instead, it relies on man’s efforts and in essence leaves people without hope because in our own effort we are incapable. Therefore, the message of the book has the opposite effect of what the author desires.

However, consider further the author’s emphasis on healing. The book is almost exclusively stories of praying for someone’s healing, but not merely in God’s will, but that of the miraculous kind that is often associated with the Pentecostal movement. In fact, so infatuated with this is the author that he imposes his views into verses on the great commission citing that two part of the Great Commission was to proclaim the kingdom of God and heal (pg. 84). Of greater concern though, is that the author seems to be more concerned about what he gets out of the experience of praying for someone’s healing rather than what the end result is of those he is praying over. Therefore, he takes little time to consider the truth of the events, or the long-term impact on the individuals (while not wanting to deny that God can do as he pleases, we must also recognize James 5 and the that God heals according to his purposes, not ours; as a result it would be fascinating to see what happened to those people long-term). This causes me great concern because of the false hope it can offer to people (for more on this consider visiting justinpters.org, joniandfriends.org, or go to gty.org/library/strangefire and watch Joni Eareckson Tada’s testimony).

This, combined with the author’s careless description of faith, can cause readers to take risks that are unnecessary or outside of God’s will. While not wanting to minimize the author’s point about needing to trust God, it is important to see that what is being talked about can have catastrophic consequences for one’s physical life when God’s gift of logic, rationality, and stewardship are not considered and used to guide the ‘risks’ that a person takes.

Carelessness about Spiritual Lives
Not only is there a lack of concern about the physical lives of individuals but there is also a lack of compassion over their spiritual lives. Certainly the physical needs are important, however, if you meet the physical need without ever directing the person towards the spiritual need, then you’ve failed the Great Commission. Concerning in this regard then is the author’s explicit statement that his goal is to love the person, not convert the person. It’s admirable to love one another, but this misconception of love is really the antithesis of love because it doesn’t demonstrate the long-term concern over someone’s soul. It should always be our hope that our love demonstrates God’s love and will direct a person to Him in hopes that they will give their life to Him. Such an attitude indicates a God-oriented life that is concerned with his glory; anything less is man-glorifying.

Carelessness about Scripture
Finally, the author is careless with his use of Scripture. The greatest violation he exhibits is the citation of Scriptures to prove his points that, when taken in context, are unrelated or are misapplications of the verse. This point is further accentuated by his constant reliance upon emotionalism. The emotionalism he uses often places the author in a position in which he never defines his life by Scripture but instead defines Scripture by his life.

In all of these concerns, readers can appreciate that the author is trying to challenge them and not let their fear of the world direct their spiritual lives. In this Chad Johnson exhibits a level of humility that is extremely appreciated. He is quick to point out his own flaws and not place himself above others. In that regard, there is little doubt to the author’s genuineness in his desire to see people impacted by the gospel.

Consider the opening words of this review though. William Gurnall once said, “The reason we fear man so much is that we fear God so little.” Unfortunately,  while trying to conquer people’s fear of others, he does not instill a fear of God. In fact, he rejects a healthy fear and reverence of God. Because of that rejection, the author cannot help others conquer their own fear of man.

Therefore, despite the author’s enthusiasm, humility, and genuineness, it is not a book that comes with my recommendation. It contains little substance to the Christian life thus inculcating a faith that is not stable, sensible, nor sustainable. In fact, I would boldly declare that the majority of people who live according to the faith outlined in Chad Johnson’s book will walk away from the Christian faith within a few years.

To purchase a copy of this book, click here.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book at no cost for the purposes of review. However, my review is not influenced by the author, publisher, or any person associated with this book and is the result of my own reading of the book.