[CHRISTIANITY] Francis Chan (Interview & Background)
- Interview With Francis Chan
His Website: http://www.francischan.org/
Church Website: http://www.cornerstonesimi.com/
College Website: http://www.eternitybiblecollege.com
Video on the Disenfranchised:
Video (Chan's Video based on this Sarah McLaughlin video:
Video 1: http://youtube.com/watch?v=mG7EStr8s3I
Video 2: http://www.godtube.com/view_video.php?
Francis Chan is the founding pastor and teaching pastor of
Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley, CA. After being raised
by his Buddhist grandmother in Hong Kong, Francis came to America at
the age of five. His mother died at his birth, his stepmother died in
a car accident when he was nine, and his father died of cancer when
he was twelve years old. Francis came to know the Lord in high school
in Stockton, CA. In 1994 Francis and his wife Lisa started
Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley. Over the past ten years,
the church has grown to over 3,000 regular attendees. Cornerstone has
many ongoing ministries including Cornerstone Television, an
evangelistic cable television show. Pastor Chan is a highly sought-
after speaker at many Christian colleges and youth conferences
nationally and internationally. He is also currently active with
Children's Hunger Fund, African Renewal Ministries and World Impact.
EN: What three words would you use to describe yourself?
FC: Blessed, undeserving, in over my head.
EN: What was your childhood like?
FC: My childhood was weird with my mom dying and my stepmom dying and
my dad dying. When you deal with such big things early on in life,
pretty soon things like death are really not that big a deal to you.
They were at the moment because I had to grapple with it, deal with
it and understand it. But now when people die, I see it as just a
part of life. It doesn't overwhelm me. So in that sense it was good.
As a child I wasn't really attached to anyone. Maybe my brother a
little bit and eventually my friends. There was really no sense of
family growing up. It was awkward. I came from Hong Kong, so I had to
deal with switching cultures. I felt like I didn't fit in anywhere,
not at school, not at home.
EN: You were never close to your father?
FC: No, he was just a very authoritative figure. Typical Asian father
demanded a ton but never really spoke with me. I don't remember any
conversations we had.
EN: Did this shape the way you saw God?
FC: For years I treated God as someone I feared. I feel like I
understand the fear of God well because of my dad. I didn't
understand the love of God well until I became a dad. I had a lot of
these feelings of never thinking that I was good enough and I wasn't
as smart as my sister. Those types of feelings definitely entered
into my relationship with God. I felt like because I did this sin or
because I did this in the past He'd never forget this. Those are all
feelings I've felt about God in the past.
EN: How did you meet Christ?
FC: Our dad made us go to church and so did my mothers. I never would
deny God or Christ but it's hard to know when you really know God,
when you've had a genuine relationship with Him. I know in high
school I really understood my relationship with God. I may have had a
relationship before that but I remember in high school I definitely
believed in Him and loved Him. In high school a friend of mine took
me to a youth group where I started learning from a youth pastor that
taught in a way that I could understand. Since then God continued to
develop my relationship with Him. I personally think it was
definitely ingrained in me as a kid but it was understood by me in
EN: Did you know that God was going to call you into ministry?
FC: It's weird. I had thoughts of it when I was young of possibly
going into ministry. In high school and junior college I knew I was
supposed to speak and be a pastor. I definitely had no idea what I
was in for. I didn't know that any of the stuff that I'm doing today
was going to happen. I never dreamed that it would be this big or
that there would be this many people who would listen to anything I
have to say so that's been a real surprise and every year it gets
more and more surprising.
EN: What are some advantages of being a Chinese American amongst
mostly Caucasian Americans?
FC: There really hasn't been a ton. It really opens the doors to so
many different venues like some of the more Caucasian venues are open
to me because they want a token Asian. So I think that's cool. And
then at the Asian events I feel at home because I totally understand
the youth and their upbringing. I feel like I relate because I get
the way some of them were raised because that was me. Because of my
nationality, when I work in inner-city ministries, it breaks any
prejudices or barriers. I feel like God's used my ethnicity to open a
lot of doors for me.
EN: How did you decide to move here and start a church in Simi Valley?
FC: The starting of the church was so strange. As I look at my life,
the greatest things that have happened have been "accidents." They
weren't anything I planned for. It wasn't like one day I sat down and
said, "I'm going to pastor a church." In fact, my plan was to be a
youth minister for life. That's what I came out of college saying I
was going to be. Here I was in this city working at a church that
kind of fell apart. I was somewhat disillusioned with churches in
general. I always had in my mind what I thought church ought to be
like and it really was like a spur of the moment decision or calling
or sense of a calling by God to start a church at the time that I
did. It was about a month after I got married. I had to tell my new
bride that I wanted to start my own church. I asked her, "Even if
it's like a dozen people in my living room, but we knew that we were
all there just to worship God and just to hear from His word and we
had confidence that something genuine was happening, wouldn't that be
a great worship experience on Sunday mornings?" And I thought that if
it didn't turn into a church that supported us, it wouldn't be a big
deal, I could just work a second job. It was this really strange
beginning but that's the way that everything works in my life.
Everything is spur of the moment and really sensing God's leadings
and then as I pursue, God confirms that it's Him by making everything
fit into place.
EN: Was there a time of your life when you were inclined to turn away
FC: The only time I can remember when I thought about genuinely
turning away from God, was when my grandmother died and she was
Buddhist. My brother and I watched her die and we were in the room as
the doctors turned the EKG offyou know the machine that was keeping
her alive. Watching the EKG go flat was so disturbing to methe
thought that she was going into eternal punishment and it was so hard
for me to bear and accept. I was very tempted to just walk away from
everything I knew. But my logic wouldn't allow me to do that. I would
have to throw away all the knowledge I knewthe knowledge of prophecy
and history and I would have to throw away all that I knew to be true
to my heart. But at that moment that I wanted to walk away from God,
because if I was right my grandmother would be spending eternity in
hell and that was just too much for me, but I couldn't turn away from
what I already knew. I just had to deal with the pain and I have to
deal with the pain even to this day.
EN: How do you deal with the pain?
FC: Honestly, I try not to think about it, which probably isn't the
right thing to do. Maybe it is the right thing because I'm supposed
to dwell on things that are excellent and praise worthy and lovely. I
think it's painful and it's meant to be painful and it's supposed to
spur me on to not want to feel that pain again and so I do everything
I can to tell people what the love of Christ has done for them. It's
just like every other pain in the world. You don't know how you get
through it but you do.
EN: What would you say to people who find it difficult to surrender
their lives to God because of unsatisfactory answers about God?
FC: I have this belief that everyone either longs for God or they
suppress, deny and want to run from God as far as they can. When
someone has a question that's a road block for them, if they really
want God, they'll find answers to those questions that will satisfy
them. If they don't want God, they won't find the answers and if they
get an adequate answer, they'll just find another question but that's
not really the issue because it's a heart issue. So I don't put too
much stock in the questions that aren't answered to their
satisfaction because at the end, even if the questions are answered
to their satisfaction, they won't be satisfied. It's not the real
EN: Who has been the most influential person in your Christian walk?
FC: In the early days it would be my youth pastor who discipled me
and met with me every week for four year and really walked the walk.
I'm still friends with him today. We still get together so he's been
this long-term model. His name is Stan Loubeck. There have been
several men who have taught me along the way. Now, someone who has
influenced me just through his writings is John Piper. He's discipled
me without having more than one conversation with me. I've only had
one conversation with him but the rest of it has just been through
his teachings and reading his books. It's really changed my
perspective on God.
EN: What are some areas in your life that you feel are easier to
surrender, relatively speaking?
FC: Not that anything is totally easy. I think the money thing has
never been a real issue for me, unless I'm just blinded, but I feel
like I really don't care. The less I have the happier I tend to be.
GivingI love giving and seeing what giving does and caring for the
poor and seeing what it does for them. There's no greater joy for me.
I've never been possessive of my things. If anything I'm more scared
to have things because I feel like it might be so much better if I
gave it away and got something eternal for it. That part I would say
is the easy part. The harder things are loving people, being able to
look at people and really care on a regular basis. It's hard for me
to overcome my selfishness in that area. When it comes to my time and
really giving of my time and my affection, sympathy, passion, it's
EN: What are some areas where God is challenging you right now?
FC: I would say in the area of faith and my prayers. Having so many
things to do, God's challenging me to pray more and trust that the
praying I do will accomplish more than preparation time, study time,
counseling time, speaking time. To really believe that rather than
spending eight hours preparing for a sermon and studying, to spend
six hours in study and prep and the other two hours in prayer, if you
want to break it down in a ratio, and believing that's better than
crafting a sermon with the perfect transitions. So, it's just
EN: What's your favorite book?
FC: Besides the Bible?
EN: Yeah, besides the Bible.
FC: As far as a Christian book, Don't Waste Your Life by John Piper.
That really resonates with me. It's so simple. It's so obvious. God
is the Gospel, also by John Piper.
EN: Favorite movie?
FC: Cinderella Man, Gladiator.
EN: What's your favorite food?
EN: Describe your perfect day.
FC: My favorite things to do personally would be surfing and golfing
and then just playing with the kids and having dinner with the wife.
That would be my perfect day.
This past Easter, as I was preparing another "please come back and
worship with us all year" message, it occurred to me: Jesus never
begged. On the contrary, He made others beg. God sees Himself as so
valuable that He expects us to beg to follow Him! When people did beg
for Him, he made sure they knew how difficult it would be to follow
Him. His point: God is only interested in those who desperately want
Him, treasure Him, and would give anything up to follow Him
Why haven't I answered people like Christ? I hate rejection. I'm
scared of loved ones rejecting God, so I don't share too much of the
commitment Christ requires. That would increase the likelihood of
rejection. I share the benefits of Christianity. Then beg them to
agree. I don't ask too many questions because I'm scared of how they
might answer. I don't really want to know if they're not true
followers. I just want to keep believing that they are. In doing
this, I've preached a message that cheapens the value of God.
God calls us to accurately describe the glory of God and invite
people to treasure Him and pursue Him whole heartedly. Our goal
should be to act like Christ and teach like Christ. Jesus humbled
Himself to take the form of a servant, not a beggar. Let's keep
serving people, sacrificing for people, loving people . but let's
stop begging. It cheapens the value of the God we're called to
magnify. Let's tell how great out God is, and let them beg.
Francis Chan, founding/teaching pastor of Cornerstone Community
Church in Simi Valley (California), is a graduate of two Macarthur
schools and an enthusiastic student of John Piper. Chan has made a
15-minute Gospel presentation called "Just Stop and Think." He is
the President of Eternity Bible College and serves on the Board of
Children's Hunger Fund and World Impact.
After being raised by his Buddhist grandmother in Hong Kong, Francis
came to America at the age of five. His mother died at his birth, his
stepmother died in a car accident when he was nine, and his father
died of cancer when he was twelve years old. Francis came to know the
Lord in high school in Stockton, CA.
In 1994 Francis and his wife Lisa started Cornerstone Community
Church in Simi Valley. Over the past ten years, the church has grown
to over 3,000 regular attendees. Cornerstone has many ongoing
ministries including Cornerstone Television, an evangelistic cable
The church is focused on teaching the Bible verse by verse. Their
commitment is to teach the exactly what the Bible says, even when it
is unpopular. The elders voted that 50% of the budget go to
ministries outside of their church at Cornerstone with the commitment
to give to others as much as we give ourselves. Church is
considering meeting at a amphitheater instead of a building to save
money. (Note: Recently, he led his church to forgo building a multi-
million dollar worship center and instead to start plans to build an
amphitheater. The outdoor facility will be completed for a fraction
of the price and the money they save will help fund ministries that
feed hungry children around the world. What a vision! -
Pastor Chan is a highly sought-after speaker at many Christian
colleges and youth conferences nationally and internationally. He is
also currently active with Children's Hunger Fund, African Renewal
Ministries and World Impact.
Cornerstone set-up a church that addressed these concerns:
1) Students don't lose touch with the world be being isolated from
it. This was done by partnering with sescular colleges where the
students take their general education classes.
2) Students instructed by professors who aren't in ministry. This
was addressed by having credentialed pastors teach the courses
3) Students graduating with thousands of dollars of debt which
prevents them from entering the ministry. This was addressed by only
chargine $50 per unit.
Cornerstone Community Church Purpose Statement:
To give every individual an accurate picture of God, and to help
those who believe become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
When one begins to study the Bible it doesn't take long to determine
what God values the most: he values himself above all else and then
his "own image" creation, humans. Jesus Christ summed this truth up
by leaving two integral commands for those that choose to follow him,
the two great values of loving God with everything that we are and
loving people as ourselves (Mark 12:29-31).
Love God: The love of God is to be summed up in our fear and awe of
him (Eccl. 12:13) and our passion towards him (Matt. 10:37-38)
through obedience (1 John 5:2).
Love People: The best way to sum up love towards people biblically,
is to understand it as John did, "We love because he first loved us"
(1 John 4:19). John also intricately connects this love of people to
obedience of God's commands (5:2). Therefore, it seems that love of
others is rooted in the understanding of our love for God.
- The Bible is the inspired, inerrant and authoritative Word of God
for the Christian faith and living. (The Bible)
- That there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father,
Son and Holy Spirit. (God the Father)
- In the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, His virgin birth, His
sinless life, His miracles, His vicarious and atoning death, His
bodily resurrection, His ascension to the right hand of the Father
and His personal return in power and glory. (God the Son)
- In the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling
every Christian is able to live a godly life. (God the Holy Spirit)
- That all people are lost sinners and must turn to Christ in saving
faith and repentance for regeneration by the Holy Spirit. (Salvation)
- In the resurrection of both those who believe in Jesus and those
who do not believe: those believing to eternal life with Christ and
those unbelieving to eternal punishment in hell.
CORNERSTONE was started twelve years ago and has been growing ever
since. We are committed to teaching straight from the Bible every
Sunday to help everyone learn more about our Creator and His desire
for our lives.
FRANCIS CHAN MESSAGE
"But there is GOOD NEWSGOD LOVES YOU, IN FACT HE IS CRAZY ABOUT YOU
AND HAS DONE SOMETHING SO THAT YOU WON'T HAVE TO GO TO HELL. He has
provided the way to be declared not guilty. This is why Jesus
came .To know Jesus Christ personally and have your sins forgiven,
you must acknowledge that you are a sinner separated from God and
that your only hope is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came and
died for your sins.
To stop here, however, would be to stop short of salvation There are
two things you must now do to enter into a relationship with the God
from whom you have been separated:
1) Repent .You see, there are some things only God can do and some
things only you can do. Only God can remove your sins and give you
the gift of eternal life, but only you can turn from your sins and
receive Jesus as your Savior ..
2) Believe in Jesus Christ and Receive Him Into Your Life." Having
seen the enormity of your sin and having decided to turn from it, you
then must believe in and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and
Becoming a Christian, however, is far more than following a creed or
trying to live by certain standards. Jesus said that you must
be "born again," or more literally, "born from above" (John 3:3).
This spiritual rebirth happens when we personally believe in Jesus
Christ, receive him by inviting him into our lives, and turn from our
In other words, we ask Jesus to come and take residence in our lives,
making the changes he deems necessary. A person must take this all-
important step in order to become a child of God. Notice that this
offer is yours for the asking, and it is free. You don't have to work
for it, trying to clean up your life before you make this life-
The Bible says: "The free gift of God is eternal life through Christ
Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23) To hear God calling us, we must know
how he speaks. One way in which God speaks to us is described in the
Bible as a "still, small voice." This could be described in another
way as that tug you may have felt on your heart from the Holy Spirit
showing you your need for Jesus. He may even be speaking to you right
now! It is at that point that you must "open the door." Only you can
do that. Jesus will not force his way in.- Francis Chan, "Just Stop
This cross is not about you, but about God.
God does not passionately love you.
God has decided your eternal destiny, and no decision on your part
affects that decision.
We must not make God out to be the passive Lover of our souls.
Somewhere along the way, those of us who communicate the gospel to
others are confronted with some decisions regarding what we will say
and how we'll say it. If you have been influenced by reformed
theology to any extent, these choices will be unavoidable,
particularly as you become aware that many Calvinists believe the
gospel is commonly shared in a way that is problematic.
If you are an evangelical of some kind, and if you are involved in
evangelism or preaching, you are going to have to decide how you are
going to make "the offer" of the Gospel. "The Offer" is the offer of
salvation by grace, through faith, by Christ. When you evangelize,
you are offering the message of Christ's salvation as a gift to those
who hear and believe.
For example, Paul said we are God's ambassadors and we make God's
offer of reconciliation to the world.
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this:
that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died
for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but
for him who for their sake died and was raised.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even
though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him
thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new
creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All
this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and
gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was
reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses
against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal
through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him
we might become the righteousness of God.
The most fundamentally sound summary of the Bible is John 3:16. "For
God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever
believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
Is John 3:16 an offer of salvation? Is it the story of God's love? Is
this a verse about an active, pursuing love ? Does it mean God is, in
some sense, awaiting your response? Or is this the story of your
already determined eternal destiny, and no response from you does
anything except reveal God's predetermined choice of where you'll
Once you start down this road, a lot of questions will follow you.
Perhaps there's not an "offer" at all. Maybe there's just Christ, and
you believe in him, trust him, or not. In other words, "the offer"
implies that something is incomplete, and salvation in Jesus is not
incomplete. It's a totally finished work of God done entirely for us.
We not only have to articulate the "offer," we must explain faith,
the human response to that offer. Some will say that faith in what
God has done for us isn't ever an offer to conduct a transaction for
us if we do something. Faith is believing that God has done
everything for those who are the elect.
Of course, that faith response doesn't do anything but believe in
what has already been done, so faith isn't a necessary part of
salvation in the sense of completing an incomplete offer. Faith is
necessary in one wayit's always present in those saved by Christbut
it's not necessary in any way that makes salvation complete.
If you haven't heard this or similar ways of discussing faith and
salvation, you will. And you will need to make up your mind about how
you are going to present the Gospel.
Francis Chan, pastor of Cornerstone Community Church, has made that
decision. A graduate of two Macarthur schools, an enthusiastic
student of John Piper and recent speaker at Louie Giglio's
Passion '07, Chan has made a 15-minute Gospel presentation
called "Just Stop and Think." You need to watch it, and you need to
listen to how Chan presents the Gospel.
In particular, you need to listen to the language and the theology
Chan uses. According to some reformed critics, it's commendable for
zeal, but Biblically way off base and an example of "the problem" in
Chan's presentation has much in common with evangelism teachers like
Ray Comfort and Will Metzger. Chan talks about the wonder of
creation. He uses the Ten Commandments to explain our relationship to
God, our sin, and the certainty of judgment. He unapologetically says
that God loves us, that God passionately loves the world, that Christ
died for you, and that God is inviting you to say "Yes!" to a
relationship of repentance, faith and God-glorifying obedience.
In the process, Chan says that the cross was the way a God of love
saved sinners. He says that God passionately loves and pursues sinful
people. He believes that sinners must respond and he urges them to do
so in intense, emotional terms. He says that God wants the viewer,
right now, as they watch the film, to pray a prayer of faith and
surrender, and then begin living out what it means to appreciate a
God who sends his Son to love, die for and save undeserving sinners.
Chan, like a lot of young pastors who are influenced deeply by John
Piper, isn't frightened by the language of traditional evangelical
invitations, and especially isn't afraid of the language of
passionate, pursuing love. I can appreciate that, because in my
encounters with Calvinism as a pastor and a preacher, this was a
never-ending controversy: What could you say to unbelievers, and how
would you say it?
Here are some very familiar sample comments and conversations,
probably similar to conversations many of you have already had if
you've been in reformed circles. They are typical of the reactions of
some critics to language like Francis Chan's:
"Jesus died for you." Better not say that, because Jesus only died
for the elect. You will confuse people.
"God passionately loves you." Wrong. God is actually very angry with
you, and people don't need to hear about the love of God when the
Bible says God is angry with the wicked every day. They need to hear
about God's wrath and anger. Don't tell unbelievers that God loves
them in their rebellion.
"God doesn't want you to go to hell." You don't know that. According
to Romans 9, God does want some people to go to hell. That's why they
go there. That we all don't go there when we all should is the good
"Right now, God is inviting you to give your life to Jesus." That
makes it sound like God is passive and helpless, waiting on sinners.
God doesn't do that. He regenerates sinners and they believe on him.
"Give your heart and your life to Christ now. Don't wait until
tomorrow." This is rather manipulative and emotional. You have
nothing to give to God. You belong to him anyway.
"Pastor, your invitation today asked people to make a decision for
Christ, and the Bible never says that. The Bible tells people to
believe. Making a decision is something we do, and we do nothing in
our salvation. You need to be Biblical in what you tell people to
do." I heard this a lot when I was a pastor, and I gave a very modest
I don't want to sound unsympathetic here. I'm against the public
invitation and have three essays on this site kicking it. I'm aware
of the problems of non-Biblical language in evangelism and have
written on that. I'm aware that romanticism and emotional
manipulation are cultural idols that Biblical Christians can't ignore
or treat as neutral. I've written an entire essay on the problems
with romanticism in worship music.
Many evangelical Calvinists have been able to use evangelistic
language such as Chan's without gagging or choking. Spurgeon was a
master of direct, evangelistic invitations. Many of the Puritans were
as well, in ways that would shock some of their contemporary
promoters. D. James Kennedy is a Calvinist. Certainly John Piper, as
serious a Calvinist as exists in evangelicalism, can use the language
of passionate intensity in evangelism.
Notice Piper's language in his presentation of the Gospel
called "Quest For Joy."
Do you desire the kind of gladness that comes from being satisfied
with all that God is for you in Jesus? If so, then God is at work in
What should you do?
Turn from the deceitful promises of sin. Call upon Jesus to save you
from the guilt and punishment and bondage. "All who call upon the
name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:13). Start banking your
hope on all that God is for you in Jesus. Break the power of sin's
promises by faith in the superior satisfaction of God's promises.
Begin reading the Bible to find his precious and very great promises,
which can set you free (2 Peter 1:3-4). Find a Bible-believing church
and begin to worship and grow together with other people who treasure
Christ above all things (Philippians 3:7).
The best news in the world is that there is no necessary conflict
between our happiness and God's holiness. Being satisfied with all
that God is for us in Jesus magnifies him as a great Treasure.
Now it is clear to anyone who reads this that Piper is a careful
Calvinist. He avoids things that would violate his reformed faith,
such as implying Christ died for all persons or that faith precedes
regeneration. At the same time, he commands sinners to repent, turn,
call, start banking, have faith, obey and so on. He explicitly tells
his hearers to find a desire to submit to Christ and to follow it. In
no way do these commands imply that God is passive or that the sinner
is completing salvation by his/her response.
This is solid, evangelical evangelism that one would have heard from
Wesley or Whitefield.
But there is also a puzzle. Piper does demonstrates the reluctance of
some Calvinists to speak of the love of God in personal terms.
Nowhere in "Quest for Joy" does it say that God loves sinners or that
God loves you.
Listen to Piper in point 5.
5) God sent his only son Jesus to provide eternal life and joy
"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ
Jesus came into the world to save sinners " (1 Timothy 1:15)
The good news is that Christ died for sinners like us. And he rose
physically from the dead to validate the saving power of his death
and to open the gates of eternal life and joy (1 Corinthians 15:20).
This means God can acquit guilty sinners and still be just (Romans
3:25-26). "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for
the unrighteous, to bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18). Coming home to
God is where all deep and lasting satisfaction is found.
There are 326 verses in the ESV New Testament that use some form of
the English word "love." Most of them refer to our love for God or
for one another. But a substantial number refer to God's love for
people and individuals.
In John's Gospel, God loves the world. Jesus loves Lazarus, Mary,
Martha, the disciples, the church and John himself. A typical
Johanine use of love would be something like this in John 15: 6 As
the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. From
Jesus, to all those he met and ministered to, to those who believe.
We need to decide, did Jesus love Lazarus? The woman at the well? The
woman caught in adultery? Did he love Pilate? Did he love the men he
prayed to forgive at his crucifixion? Did Jesus command love for
enemies but not love his enemies?
Can we talk about God's love for the person in front of us? The
person we are having coffee with and talking to about the claims of
Christ on his/her life? Does God love them in the present? Is the
death of Christ "for" them in the present? Is there a response on
These are crucial questions, because Romans 5 says:
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the
ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous personthough
perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die 8 but God shows
his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for
Does the "us" in this passagea limited group in some senses, but an
unlimited group in othersmean that we cannot say to an ungodly world
that God showed his love for each one of them by Christ's life and
death? No one can argue that New Testament language doesn't
eventually narrow down to an "us" that are believers only, but is the
language of the coming of Christ for the world, the death of Christ
for the ungodly world and "the offer" of salvation to the whole world
appropriate for evangelism to every person or not?
This is not about buying the worst of evangelical language. It's not
about saying Chan's presentation couldn't be improved or Piper's
improved as well. (See the "Two Ways to Live" presentation.) It's not
denying the legitimate criticisms of many Calvinists. I've made many
of these same criticisms. I'm not buying all that revivalism has done
or taught. I've seen the results up close. Language does matter.
Ultimately, it is about whether you can look at the children that you
see at the playground tomorrow and can say to them all, "God loves
you and gave his only son Jesus so you can know and enjoy His love
forever." Can we say to all the people we meet this year, "Jesus
passionately loves you?" Can we invite all peoplenot just all kinds
of peopleto believe on the Lord Jesus Christ because he loves them
and he died to save them? Can missionaries go anywhere and say to
everyone, "God loves you passionately and Christ died for you?"
The critics of Chan's language say that we cannot portray God as
a "passive Lover of our souls." This is an odd phrase. The love of
God in the Bible is not passive. It is active and pursuing in both
testaments. But some reformed critics seem to be saying that unless
God does everything, then he is passive.
As a classroom teacher, I do many things for my students, but I do
not do everything for them. They make a response to my teaching. I
would find it odd if someone said that giving my students the
opportunity to respond means that I am "passive." Is it possible to
believe in depravity and regeneration and not condemn Chan's gospel
presentation as presenting a "passive" God?
Is it possible that in seeking to give God credit for all of
salvationas we must in all ways that pertain to the essence of what
salvation meanssome make the mistake of distorting obvious Biblical
aspects of God's genuine, bona fide invitation and offer? In saying
that the cross is not about us, but about God alone, are we going too
far in the way the New Testament presents the "offer?" It seems that
the critics are attempting to theologically correct Biblical language
and imagery so that we are always describing what was done for us and
never offering a real invitation where our response is crucial.
I'm firmly of the belief that we have to find a way to be faithful to
the Gospel and say exactly those things to the world that God gives
us to reach and influence, whether it be a world of Muslims or a
world of three co-workers.
The Bible portrays God's love as creator, father, husband, mother,
judge, redeemer, and many other ways. It uses the language of law,
business, marriage and intimate sexuality. It tells stories and uses
illustrations of marriage, families, courts, farms and judgment. The
Bible is diverse and exhaustive in its language explaining the Good
The most basic Biblical words are Jesus' first words: Repent.
Believe. Follow. They are words of recognition of what is, and of a
faith response to what must be. With due respect to Dr.
Piper, "Delight yourself in the Lord," is a good command, but it
cannot replace the Bible's call to repent, believe and follow.
And if our theology has brought us to the point that we are careful
to not speak too extravagantly about the love of God, something is
seriously wrong. If we can read the Prodigal Son or the woman at the
well and not see the passionate Lover of our souls, we've simply gone
too deeply into our own theological mazes.
At that point, whatever we're defending simply doesn't matter
anymore. When we can no longer articulate an offer of salvation,
we've lost what it means to evangelize.
I think this is a very important issue to many younger evangelicals.
If "Just Stop and Think" is the wrong Gospel, then we need to have a
much longer conversation.
08.07.07 Chan and Change
Francis Chan is just a guy who pastors a large church in California.
He's not the smartest, most famous, most respected, most
anything...I'm guessing. He's just a guy. But the direction he lead
his church in, or so the legend goes, is remarkable and unheard of.
Or perhaps it wasn't lead as much as allowed. Anybody know?
The story is - correct me if I'm wrong - that his church was on track
to spend 20 million dollars to build a new building. What happened,
and I don't know how, was that the decision was made to build an
outdoor meeting place instead. Much cheaper. Much much cheaper.
And the money that was saved would then go to the truly poor around
the world. And, the story goes, meeting outside on rainy days or hot
days would serve to remind folks in the church of the discomfort
others live in every day.
Spend less. Create empathy. Mobilize to show mercy. Sounds like
church to me.
I've never met Francis Chan. I saw him in the hotel lobby in Austin
a couple weeks ago and didn't want to interrupt to say hey. But this
weekend I'm looking forward to interrupting him just long enough to
say thanks for the story and to get more details. Even if it's not
entirely true - what do I know? - it's inspiring. What could church
become? How does it become it? What is the pastor's role in that
becoming? Can it happen without him?
There are (8) comments.
He told this story at the National Worship Leader Conference. He
said that he told them it was repulsive to spend that much money on
themselves, and he could never pastor such a group of people. He
said that he, as a pastor, would be responsible for that before God.
He suggested that every time an offering was taken that it was
divided equally - half spent on their church, half spent on others
outside the church. This is the only way Christians can claim that
they love their neighbor as much as themselves.
He said that if we really believe Jesus is starving (cf. Matt 25),
then we can't sit back and let that happen and expect to call
So, he told the elders it was repulsive to spend that kind of money
on themselves when Jesus was starving on the other side of the
world. He suggested building a park with an amphitheater that the
community could use and they could hold services in - and would cost
less money; the rest could be given away. When one asked about the
weather, Chan reminded them of the Green Bay Packers fans who sit
through a blizzard for the season every year. Packers fans are that
dedicated for the team; are Christians that dedicated to sit outside
in Southern California weather so that Jesus, who is starving on the
other side of the world, can be fed?
His sermon was one of the best I've ever heard. An audio copy is
available from the Worship Leader folks.
This guy and his church are an inspiration to me. As a missionary
who is often discouraged by the lack of engagement of the American
church to reach the poor and disenfranchised, he is truly a pastor to
me through his podcasts, and he gives me hope that somebody "gets" it
when it comes to missions.
His church, Simi Cornerstone, has committed to giving away 50% of
what comes in at their church this year to care for the poor around
the world - estimated to be $4 million this year alone. God bless
I'm pretty sure that is his wife, Lisa, singing in the video.