Review of Francis Chan’s Newest Release

 

Review of Francis Chan’s Newest Release

December 12, 2018

I think it’s safe to say many young Christians (and non-Christians) have grown somewhat tired of church in America. The ignorant caricature of an American Christian has hit the mainstream mindset—for reasons that are often valid. In his newest book, Francis Chan shares his similar concerns for the modern church in America and how he feels we need to do a much better job with Christ-centered community.

Chan makes a lot of very good points on his journey to discover the potential of intentional church in modern day America. He diagnoses many of its problems very accurately, especially in relation to the consumerist mindset of church attendees, in which church is all about what you get and not so much what you give. Many times people are looking to be served instead of serve others themselves. Also, the fact that many leaders can grow into a habit of subconsciously preaching to avoid criticism rather than teach the truth regardless of the response. Since, after all, large churches have to maintain a large budget, which also means maintaining as many people as possible. The risk of people disliking the church seems to outgrow the risk of not stewarding its people well.

So, in response, Chan teaches us how to be critics of church rather than participants.

This agenda has its strengths and weaknesses, since many Americans really do need to examine their hearts and spiritual lives and ask themselves, “Is there any fruit in this?” In contrast, there are others out there doing their best to fight against apathy, selfishness, or a lack of fruit. It seems impossible to suppose that every current leader needs to be either renewed or replaced.

The We Are Church model that Chan claims most closely resembles the New Testament model of church includes congregations of no more than 20 to 30 people meeting in homes and planting new churches every year. Its leadership is drawn out of the congregation, meaning there are always two men serving as elders and two more being trained as future elders and church planters. In addition, its pastors (who are almost always bivocational) pursue their careers while pastoring as they’re able. These pastors are generally not seminary-educated because of the speed at which churches grow and spread and the need for new leaders. Compared to most churches, the worship services have a deeper focus on Scripture-reading, prayer, and the expression of each participant’s spiritual gift.

His model, though with its strengths, also carries many obstacles. Much of the weight is placed on the shoulders of unpaid, sometimes untrained pastors. The majority of these pastors have divided attentions with their ministry since they also work to provide for their families, while some even live with Francis since they cannot afford their own place. One can’t help but wonder if this is a model that only Francis Chan could do: a successful pastor reaping the benefits of many public speaking occasions and books. Also, the multiplication of people (though in small groups instead of large) is still viewed as proof of success.

We Are Church was created after Chan left his mega church in California out of the fear it was becoming a cult of personality built upon him. However, does the same risk fall on a house church model that is also strongly balanced on his resources and convictions?

As Christians, we have a collective relationship with God as the body of His Church. At the same time, we also have personal, intimate relationships with God that are between ourselves and Him. I can’t help but feel Chan’s fears for the church are more than just the model in which we meet on Sundays, but also have to do with the personal apathy many have towards their personal relationships with their Savior. It is, indeed, a wretched thing.

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