Francis Chan and the State of the Church

17 Jan

Last night, I spent about an hour watching a video. You know, this wasn’t a movie or some other kind of time-waster. This was a video of a message given by Francis Chan. He is the pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA.

A little over 12 years ago, Chan started Cornerstone as a church planter. Over the years his church grew and grew and by all outside appearances, he had achieved great success and was a tremendous leader and many others wanted to have a church just like his.

But Chan didn’t have peace. His church was huge and it disturbed him. Not because it was big, but because when he sat alone and read the Bible, he realized that he preached differently than Jesus. While Chan was worried about getting big crowds and newcomers to return and he desperately tried to make sure that EVERYONE understood his messages…it just didn’t seem like Jesus did it that way.

The bottom line was that Jesus seemed to not care about numbers, while Chan and in general the “American church” cared deeply. He also saw an alarmingly large gap between the New Testament description of the Church of Acts and Chan’s own church.

In the New Testament Church, believers cared for each other and “what is mine is yours” was the M.O. of the church and no one had need and they really did life together and stuck it out in the good times and the bad…but not in Chan’s church…

He noted that in his church even friends of his had left the church because they changed the service times. Or they left because they didn’t “like” someone in another service or that he wasn’t entertaining enough or the music was terrible.

Chan couldn’t take this dissonance between what church should be (an Unstoppable force…one so strong the gates of hell couldn’t stop it!) and what it actually was…(actually QUITE stoppable).

He was so disenchanted with church that one day he told his wife that he couldn’t keep going and he took a leave of absence from the church (his baby, that he founded). He didn’t know if he’d ever come back.

He did. And he came back with a new way to do church and a new love in his heart for the very thing that Jesus died for.

I really took note of the things that he did…he decided that he would no longer ever try to temper the words of scripture and that he would let Jesus speak for himself…in all His raw-ness. He started challenging people to truly become followers of Christ (imagine that?!) instead of lazy consumers. He chose to lay it ALL out on the table and to say ANYTHING he felt God was leading him to say.

But that wasn’t the only thing that changed. Chan’s relationships with the elders also changed. One night as he and the elders were sitting at a meeting and they finished the book of Acts, one of the elders said…”hmmmm…WHY NOT?!?!”

Chan looked at him and he said “if anything should ever happen to you, I promise you that I will take care of your children as my very own.” A revolution had begun and all of the men around the table were changed. Their lives started to actually “look” more like Christ instead of simply (and too easily, I might add) claim to be Christians. Suddenly, the church started looking more unstoppable.

Just like Chan, there is something inside of me that is so sick of the state of the church today. We give so little to God’s work and we complain if the service goes 10 minutes over and we think that worship music should be pleasing to us, and we sit in the suburbs pretty much un-changed. We see and hear about needs around us and most of us turn a blind eye. We keep trying to build nest-eggs for ourselves, when our neighbors are facing foreclosure. We want bigger homes with even more rooms we won’t use when some people don’t have anything to call their own.

I am so tired of this blatant hypocrisy, and I’m part of it. I’m so sick of building campaigns for churches that already have enough when we could honor God far more by caring for the “least of these” in Matthew 25.

What is wrong with us?!?! It’s easy…I don’t mean easy to change, but it is easy to diagnose. We’ve traded God’s purposes for our own and we’ve come to love materials more than our neighbor…period.

I agree whole-heartedly with Francis Chan. I choose today to no longer ever be afraid to speak the truth and with God’s grace, live out the truth no matter what the consequences are.

Can we do this right?!




3 Responses to “Francis Chan and the State of the Church”

  1. andrea February 16, 2009 at 10:13 am #

    You’re invited to be in the studio audience for the appearance of Francis Chan on the LIFE Today show with James Robison & Betty Robison, Tuesday, February 24 at 7 p.m. Come hear Pastor Chan as he talks about his new book Crazy Love. Tickets are free, but you must reserve your seat. To do that, email or call 817-354-3655 . The studios are located at 1801 West Euless Boulevard, Euless, Texas 76040

  2. Jason November 24, 2009 at 5:40 pm #

    Read Amos 5:21-24 from The Message translation and you will see that Chan’s cry, your cry, my cry as church leaders is very similar to that cry God gave to the Israelites.

  3. Daniel March 27, 2010 at 9:17 am #

    I strongly agree with both your heart and Chan’s – however in our attempt to voice our discontent and “say the truth” we must be careful not to spew our frustrations, Truth spoken in love and seasoned with grace brings freedom and liberty yes, but frustration only creates more frustration.

    Please don’t get me wrong I too have been troubled,to say the least, with the present condistion of the American Church but in the midst of the mayhem and in the midst of the lukewarm state many believers are in – there is a glorious Church, the “7000” Elijah didn’t even realize existed, those who have not bowed there knees to Baal.

    Have we watered down the Gospel in an attempt to be “all inclusive” absolutley But in an attempt to wake up a sleeping “Church” we musn’t ignore the vibrant, powerful, Holy and loving church that still exist today.

    Daniel Cruz, Pastor
    FaithWorld Chicago

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