Recently I have begun re-reading “Letters to the Church by Francis Chan”. I picked this book up a month after it was published in 2018. I started reading it, got offended by it, put it down and didn’t come back to it for sometime. I got offended by it because his words are so packed with truth and in my own life personally, I knew they were soul piercing. This is one book you can’t read unless you truly want to take personal stock on your life as a ” christian” and what it truly means to be the “church”. After reading this book three times now, I have come to realize Francis is not being ” better than or arrogant. If you don’t know anything about Francis he was a prominent pastor in California of an extremely large, better known as MegaChurch. He was exceptionally successful with books podcasts speaking engagements and a church whose numbers could rival just about anyone. This book is basically a summation of why he walked away from it all and what he believes the church needs to be. Like I said, don’t read this book unless you want to take careful stock about your own role in the church and the role your church is playing to the people watching.
As many times as I read this book, new passages come to light and I am going to spend the rest of this writing sharing the pieces I have found most convicting to me personally. So from here on out all the words will be from Francis Chan:
COMMANDS VERSUS EXPECTATIONS:
” There is a simple exercise I walk through with church leaders. First, I have them list all the things that people expect from their church. They usually list obvious things like a really good service, strong age specific ministries, a certain style/volume/length of singing, a well-communicated sermon, conveniences such as parking, a clean church building, coffee, childcare, etc. Then I have them list the commands God gave the Church in Scripture. Usually they mention commands like ” love one another as I have loved you” ( John 15:12) , “visit the orphans and widows in their affliction” ( James 1:27) , ” make disciples of all nations” ( Matt 28:19) ” bear one anothers burdens” ( Gal 6:2) etc. I then ask them what would upset their people more- if the church didn’t provide the things from the first list or if the church didn’t obey the commands in the second list.
In Luke 12, Jesus told a parable about a master leaving his servants with specific tasks. When the master returned, he expected to see the tasks accomplished. When he saw his commands neglected, the servants were punished harshly. How can we shrug our shoulders at a parable like this? Thats insane! Jesus is returning soon, and He expects to find His Church taking His commands seriously. Yet far too often we are more concerned with how well the sermon was communicated, whether the youth group is relevant enough, or how to make the music better. Honestly, what is it that get the people in your church stirred up for change? Is it disobedience toward commands from God? Or is it falling short of expectations that we have made up? The answers to these questions might just show us whether our church exists to please God or please people- whether God is leading our church or we are. “
Francis goes on to say about his own Mega Church that “ I was busy doing whatever worked. I learned how to keep an auditorium filled. I learned how to give people the experience they wanted”
Then Francis quotes Alan Hirsch saying ” If you have to use marketing and the lures of entertainment to attract people, then you will have to keep them there on the [same] principle because that is what people buy in to….Win them with entertainment, and you have to keep them there by entertaining them. For a whole lot of reasons, this commitment seems to get harder year after year. We end up creating a whip for our own backs.”
Francis then reverts back to his own thoughts by saying “ We’re not doing people any favors by pretending they are the center of the universe.” This next line is probably my the one I have wrestled with the most and am genuinely starting to finally understand after 3 reads, I found it so very offensive to begin but am now understanding the truth behind it…. ” Either people will be awed by the sacred or they will not. If the sacred is not enough, then it is clear that the Spirit has not done a work in their lives. If the sheep don’t hear His voice, let them walk away. Don’t call out with your own voice. Too often we add in our own voices, thinking if we offer just the right service or package the gospel in just the right way so no one gets offended , we can convince people to stay. By catering our worship to the worshippers and not to the Object of our worship, I fear we have created human- centered churches. ” ” We just need to make sure that its really God we are putting on display. Otherwise we run the risk of people attending our services who have merely fallen in love with us.”