Bad Hebrew but a good book: a book review

Sometimes, I am overly critical and curmudgeony against mega-churches and their pastors but I like Craig Groeschel a lot. And I really like this book, Chazown, a lot, but I got problems with the title. So while this is generally a pretty positive review, the next paragraph is a little cranky. If you’re avoiding negativity in your life, you might want to skip it and pick up this review in paragraph three.

The title, Chazown comes from the Hebrew: חָזוֹן or ḥāzôn (Romanized according to SBL). As Craig says, it means vision and he’s right, but why he chose to spell it this way irks me. When you a quick google search of “Chazon,” “Hazon,” or Chazown, you discover that the first two spellings are in far greater usage. Most of the hits for “Chazown” seem to relate directly or indirectly to Craig’s book, a couple of online lexicons and a Youtube clip from a documentary on Cher’s son’s sexchange operation (Chaz- Own). Maybe this is a legitimate way of writing a holem vav(a pointed vav indicating an ‘o’ vowel) but it is not what I was taught, and it doesn’t seem to me to be that common. I kind of think it’s similar to me writing a book called Selah Vee from the French for “That’s life?” Why not spell it like everyone else? In the accompanying website, Groeschel pronounces “Chazown” with a hard k (Kazone) instead of the soft guttural kh sound. Of course beyond faulty spelling and pronounciation, why name it “Chazown” anyway? The answer: marketing. Beyond a brief reference to the King James Version’s rendering of Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish (newer translations have the much more liberating, ‘cast off restraints’ instead of perishing),” there is little discussion in the book of the Hebrew concept of vision; instead Groeschel loads the term with his own understanding of what vision is. The use of the Hebrew here, is simply because if you saw another Christian/personal development/leadership book with “vision” in the title, you probably wouldn’t buy it. But you don’t know Hebrew so Chazown is exciting.

All right, rant over. This is very helpful book which is thoughtfully engaged in helping people achieve God’s ‘chazown’ for their life. Groeschel helps people cast a vision for becoming all that God made them and take steps to walk into it. He begins in part 1 to get people to envision of where they want their life to end up (writing your epitaph). In part 2, he presents three overlapping circles which point to God’s vision for your life: your core values, your spiritual gifts and your past experiences. In part 3 he talks about the convergence of these three areas and how they reveal where God may be calling you. In part 4, Groeschel presents the image of a wheel with five ‘spokes’ which hold things together and allow us to acheive our vision. It is his contention that if we are to stay on track with “God’s chazown” in our life we need to cultivate our: (1) relationship with God, (2)relationship with people, (3)integrity in our finances, (4)make healthy choices about diet and exercise, (5) and attend to meaningful work. While I have a theological objection to placing God as another spoke in the wheel of our dreams (God is the center, the axle and the wheel itself), I like how holistic Groeschel is in his approach. His image illustrates how these areas are not ‘seperate spheres’ but interrelated and necessary components which need our attention.

In part 5, Groschel talks about the need for accountability. In the end matter of the book, he gives helpful advice for picking up the pieces when we feel like we’ve failed God and ourselves.

I have read through the book and found it challenging at different points and think it has some useful tools for self discovery, attending to areas of spiritual/physical health, and discovering where God may be calling you. I have finished the book, but plan to reread sections and go back and complete several of the exercises. the book also includes questions for personal use or group discussion making it a thoughtful choice for a church small group. As someone who has worked in college ministry, I think that this would be particularly helpful in that context.

Thank you to Waterbrook Multnomah for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this fair and honest review (albeit cranky in places).

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One thought on “Bad Hebrew but a good book: a book review”

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