We Can't All Be Francis Chan–Or Can We?

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What if instead of imitating Francis Chan, we imitated his faith and his hunger for God?

With only a 10 day notice, Bayside Church invited pastors for a roundtable with Francis Chan, that I attended this morning. I’m not sure how many were in attendance but there were no seats available at the tables on the floor. It was a very encouraging and challenging time. Every time I hear this man speak I wish I was walking in his shoes. Not that I don’t know who I am, or want to be like him, yet walking out a radical faith, in radical obedience, in response to a rendered heart. I’m guessing I’m not the only one, but here are some “wishes” that I think are stirring in men of God. Obviously I’m not talking about every pastor, but this guy’s courage is contagious.

1. Every Pastor wishes they could walk away from traditional ministry like Francis Chan.

After 16 years at Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, Francis Chan resigned his church of approximately 5,000 in 2010. Rereading his resignation letter something he wrote jumped off the page at me, “I’m still not completely sure of everything, but it feels great to be living by faith.” There is something about the traditional ministry that keeps us grounded in the familiar where we look to formulas instead of putting our faith in God. Like Chan many of us long for the foreign places, the places we’ve never been, where faith functions best.

2. Every Pastor wishes they could give a millions of dollars away like Francis Chan. It is widely know that Francis has donated most of his book royalties, which have totaled about $2,000,000, to various charities. Much of it goes to organizations which rescue sex slaves in foreign countries. Today, he restated the fact that “he doesn’t get a dime” and that the proceeds go to the poor and ministry. Francis Chan’s generosity bleeds through everything that he does.

3. Every Pastor wishes they could be brutally honest when they speak like Francis Chan.  After a being introduced to the crowd of pastors as a author, speaker that doesn’t let success get to his head, Francis was led by the Holy Spirit to be brutally honest how he felt when his first book, Crazy Love was blowing up. His story about struggling with success and how it did go to his head was a powerful display of honesty.

4. Every Pastor wishes they could  deal with success the way Francis Chan has. Chan contributes his handling of success to the grace of God and humility. He actually is not afraid to fall down on his knees and repent at a conference he is speaking at, or as mentioned above, go off topic to set the record straight about the way it really happened.

5. Every Pastor wishes they could survive criticism like Francis Chan.  It seems as though there have been two things that have have helped Chan survive the criticism that he has received. First, not fearing what men think and secondly understanding that he, being a prophetic voice, isn’t always going to be the popular voice.

6. Every Pastor wishes they were as funny as Francis Chan. Not only is he brutally honest, but his honesty leads to laughter. A great quality he has is the ability to laugh at himself.

7. Every Pastor wishes they were excited as Francis Chan is about the future of the church. When you are constantly focusing on where you are at, why you are there and how many were there, it’s difficult to know where the church is going. The hope in Chan’s heart comes from being able to step away from the madness of the church system, traveling to other countries and seeing what God is doing in places like China, reaching the unreached and raising up disciples.

8. Every Pastor wishes they could fail like Francis Chan.  Could you imagine growing a church to 5,000 people and then calling it a failure? Most of us would have a hard time calling that a flop, but Francis Chan said as he looks back that is when his church, Cornerstone stopped multiplying. His church plant that started with 50, then 500, stopped producing disciples at 5,000.

9. Everyone wishes they could keep it as simple as Francis Chan does. Simply put “if it’s in the book (Bible) let’s do it, let’s go for it. If it’s not, we’ve got a problem.

Is it just me, or when you hear this guy speak does it not pierce your heart?  

Dean Deguara I’m an encourager of leaders at all levels on this blog at deandeguara.com. My posts have been featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Smallgroupchurches.com, FaithVillage.com, and JesusCulture.com. I am currently serving as the Director of Resources at Jesus Culture in Sacramento.

More from Dean Deguara or visit Dean at http://deandeguara.com

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  • Theo

    At our Church plant we just recently stopped Sunday morning services because it seemed like God was leading in that way for some time. Naturally people have misunderstood and thought that meant we were closing the Church! But that is not what we meant – the Church plant goes on and things are better than ever. It has been very freeing and we are now the biggest supporter of a new ministry in our area that four local Churches teamed up to start. God really seems to be blessing and people are stepping forward and really learning how to win converts and then be faithful in training them to be disciples and disciple makers. We purchased our first building without a mortgage and good things keep happening… all without a Sunday morning service which had been what I call a ‘hamster wheel’ for the 7 years we had been doing it.

    • Pedro Alexandrino

      Hi Neil. I would love to hear more about this story. If you can, please email me missionbayleaders@gmail.com and we could get some chat going. I love what you said so far and I think you could help us to understand a few things about our church plant too. God bless

    • Eric

      Yes. I would love to hear more also! Ecchen1 @gmail.com

  • http://www.SmallGroupChurches.com/ Andrew Mason

    I hate it when my church stops multiplying at 5,000 people… all joking aside, this is a great article Dean! I agree with all of your observations, especially #9. Not only does he seem to be brutally honest, but brutally obedient to God’s Word and calling the church to be obedient to His Word. That might be the biggest reason for his effectiveness.

    • deandeguara

      I hate when that happens too…by the way #9 Simple can be so profound!

  • Rick Henderson

    Francis Chan is a good guy with great intentions. His passion is contagious and it makes sense that he is so inspiring to many. I fear, however, that you are like many others who have been infected with the Francis Chan Fever.

    Symptoms include:

    1. Attraction to his transitory lifestyle that resonates with the inner vagabond you keep tucked away within.
    2. Desire to be free from mundane responsibilities and bills.
    3. Sense that there is something more grand than faithfully and quietly serving the bride of Christ.

    What is missing from your piece is perspective and pertinent facts about his building campaign, income and purchases. There is nothing immoral about his activity. His activity is simply not what many have conjured up in their imaginations. His lifestyle is one that is available for a select few who have the financial means to unfetter themselves from responsibility.

    There are a number of broad-stroke assertions that I take issue with in this article:

    1. “Every pastor wishes they could walk away from traditional ministry.” This an ABSURD statement.

    2. “Many of us long for the foreign places, the places we’ve never been, where faith functions best.” While it may be true that many of us want to travel to new and exciting places. There are places where people express more mature faith or more desperate faith or deeper faith. The way you have framed this is distorted in fact and scope.

    3. “Every pastor wishes they could be as brutally honest when they speak.” There is a difference between honesty and transparency. I do not concede that more transparency is always a good thing or even a desired thing.

    Francis Chan is a good man and has helped kindle a sincere hunger for God’s word in the lives of my friends. I’m not advocating that we dismiss him. I’m saying let’s take his hyperbole with a grain of salt.

    He is not a guy who wants only what we find in the Bible. If that were the case, few of us would know his message and story. He wouldn’t sell books–he’d write letters. He wouldn’t speak at conferences–he would speak at churches. He wouldn’t sell cirriculum–he would give it away.

    I don’t disagree with any of those things that he is doing. His life is impractical and in many ways not the example of leadership we see in Scripture. So let’s settle down. Let’s acknowledge the hyperbole. Let’s recognize him and his ministry for what it is. It’s not an ideal–it’s an anomaly.

    • deandeguara

      Rick, I guess you had to be there because though I was having some fun with event I attended, a lot of leaders and pastors do walk away inspired and challenged in their own walk after Francis shares. Appreciate your reply and how you did it.

    • Mar Komus

      You seem to say “transitory” and “vagabond” like those are bad things. I think, perhaps, you’ve swung the pendulum too hard the other way.

      Jesus was not in a position of official leadership within the Jewish community. He Himself was transitory. He was a vagabond–having no where to lay His head to rest. Paul was a transitory ambassador. He was homeless. He sometimes lacked provisions. Other times he had an abundance. In all these things, neither Jesus nor Paul would have fit the kind of person to whom we look to head up our churches that are organized as non-profit corporations.

      I’m not sure why this idea of not wanting to be responsible or pay bills gets heaped in with brother Chan. Nor do I see how brother Chan is failing to humbly serve the bride of Christ–unless you mean because he resigned from his 501(c)(3) group. Then I have to ask from where one’s definition of church is coming.

    • http://brocevanphoto.tumblr.com/ Broc Verschoor

      Though I am willing to submit to your notion that Francis may not be living fully in line with scripture by selling books etc., I would also note that I think he is living it out in a much more tangible way than I personally am. I will also say that letters were a way of reaching people of that time and context, in our time and context it makes much more sense to write a book. Your message reaches far more people, I mean that’s why we printed the Bible wasn’t it? To his efforts of living out the gospel as he sees it, I give him tremendous credit, I pray that he continues on in that genuine pursuit. I would say to you that you may want to conduct a heart check. I can’t say for certain, but it seems from the tone of your comment that you seem to think you have it better figured out than he. I do not want to keep elevating Francis, so let’s just put it in neutral terms. Why is it that you are so certain that your perception of how the Kingdom is to be lived out is right? How are you so certain that how “Traditional” church has been done is the way that it should be done? I have to say that I resonate with Chan’s notion that in reading the Bible without the lens of our societal framework I would never get the idea that church should be what it is today, nor would I assume that I should live my “Christian” life as I used to. Again, I don’t want this to be an assumption of your intent in writing this, nor do I want to assume your tone in writing this, I am just saying that before you look to tear down the efforts Chan has made, I would encourage you read about the unity that Christ desired for us to have. He prayed that to the Father, and I think in our society we overlook the importance of that prayer and how that plays into our effectiveness to reach the world we live in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Suzanne2k Suzanne Sneath

    I enjoyed thoroughly Deans article…”doing ministry” needs to be kept fresh and organic. The style of Francis is totally unconventional…which makes it all the more appealing! He is reaching more people for Christ by his actions than just his preaching. He certainly has a way of dispelling the theory that “all churches want your is money!” I think there’s room for ALL types of ministry; traditional & completely unconventional! Deans observations were spot on. Not only recognizing the man of Francis but also the method of Francis. Keep writing Dean…I’m looking for new perspectives on the original message.

  • lenchito

    I Praise God for Francis Chan, we need more men like him.

  • http://www.facebook.com/oral.richards Oral Richards

    Wow, sounds like we should be following Francis Chan instead of Jesus Christ…

  • terryble 2

    I’m still not completely sure of everything, but it feels great to be living by faith” when i read that I immediately had to pray and beg for forgiveness. I moved to Asia from the US. I felt God leading me the whole time. But due to the stress of adjusting to a new country, I found myself complaining after just a few weeks. I knew of the story of the Israelites complaining after a few weeks after they left Egypt. I didn’t want to be the same. But sometimes we don’t realize how we behave. So thanks for being somewhat of a coach and helping me realize where I went wrong. I pray God forgives me.


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