There is one pastor and author that I have had several people in my life recommend to me over the past several months, and that is Francis Chan. Both new friends and old have pointed me in his direction, and it stuck with me. One of my friends from the Chicago area has even told me that I would greatly benefit from watching/listening to many of his sermons online. I own a couple of his books, but, being honest, I’ve never read them. I have a lot of books, a plethora of them, that I have not (yet) read. And, from all my experience regarding Francis Chan, I have garnered this: People either LOVE him, or they LOATHE him. It really seems as if there is no middle ground involving the guy.
To give some people a bit of background, Francis Chan is a very charismatic leader and pastor who began a successful megachurch in California back in the early 1990’s, starting with a handful of people in his home and eventually growing to thousands over multiple campuses. Then, in 2010, he resigned. He and his family moved to Asia for a time, and then felt called back to the United States where they began what essentially is, and this might be an oversimplification, a house-church movement in the San Francisco area. Now that you’re up to speed (kind-of) on Francis Chan, let’s get to this book, Letters To The Church.
Letters To The Church is a book about his Biblical convictions on why many churches in America are really doing church wrong. He makes strong, convincing arguments to this case. My favorite chapter is the one where he compares the modern American church to a Zoo, where the animals, i.e. the congregants/members, are comfortable. So comfortable in having everything served to them, that they don’t want to leave. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it is, for practical purposes, not the Biblical model of the church that we see throughout the Gospels, Acts, and all of the New Testament.
The book is a very convicting book, a la David Platt Radical convicting. While Chan has many themes interwoven throughout Letters To The Church, there are two that really strike home regarding the church I now pastor in rural Missouri. The first of those is family. Family is a theme that is also woven in throughout Scriptures. I love the many Proverbs that being with “My son”, or some variation of that. The second of the themes is equipping. I feel blessed to be surrounded by people who want to be equipped, and it is my prayer that I can equip them. Having read Letters To The Church, I feel very encouraged regarding these themes, that of family and of equipping the saints for ministry. And for that, I must say thank you, Francis Chan, for your encouragement.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I probably have some friends who are going to give me some flack for this, as I’m sure some, if not many, are in the loathing camp. This is not going to be a fluff peace regarding Letters To The Church. (Disclaimer, I paid for my copy. No publisher sent me one or anything!). Shortly after finishing the book, I texted my wife, calling the book “solid”, but also “a little wonky at the end.” In one of the closing chapters, entitled “Church Again”, he really pushes the idea of home churches over established churches. He doesn’t call established churches bad, either directly or indirectly, however, I fear that many people could read it that way.
His last chapter, “Surviving Arrogance”, is a refreshing chapter, aimed at the people who will take this book the wrong way, exhorting them, albeit in some cases to no avail, to not do that. To read Scriptures, to listen, to be humble. As a result of this book, Chan feels that some people will think that we need to do away with the established church. I feel, and I’m sure he does, too, that some people will feel that he’s railing against the established church.
In my opinion? I think that established churches and home churches are something that need to work together, because in the end, we worship the same Jesus. We seek to glorify the same God. Lord willing, in the church I pastor, I will be able to equip the saints, loving them like family, and, if at all possible, send them out to do ministry. And if that’s in a home church, Praise the Lord! If they go to an established church, Praise the Lord!