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Chan’s Letters to the Church Reviewed

Francis Chan. Letters to the Church. Colorado Springs: David C Cook, 2018. 219 pp. Paperback. ISBN 978-0830776580. $16.99.

Francis Chan shocked the evangelical world when he stepped away from Cornerstone, a megachurch platform, and moved with his family to Asia. The shock was that Chan stepped away willingly not because of some moral failure or internal scandal. He walked away from the church he planted in 1994 because of a stirring in his soul. Out of the wake of this life-changing move, Chan has written this book to “point out areas where the Church is lacking” (p. 211). When Chan talks about pointing out the flaws of the Church, he primarily focuses his work on the church in America.

Chan’s book was written with a tone of complete humility. He does not want to condemn the church in America because he loves the church (p. 22). However, he loves the Bride of Christ with such passion that he desires to help point out some of the ways the church might be displeasing God from the Scriptures. Chan desires for any of his writings to be checked by the Word of God (p. 24). In other words, the author desires to bring to light issues while maintaining a posture of humility. His humility becomes more prominent by his own admittance that he contributed to some of the issues he points out in his book (p. 44).

The author begins by providing a theology of the church from Scripture. His main emphasis is on the church as sacred. As sacred, the Bride of Christ requires that all members are to be “devoted” (p. 55). The motif of devotion really drives the rest of his understanding of the church as a place of worship, but also as a family. The family dynamic of the church seems to be Chan’s emphasis in his newer model. The family dynamic he proposes is one of both love, unity, and service.

Chan concludes his book with a note to pastors, a theology of suffering, an empowerment of children and youth, and his model for church out of his reflections. Chan concludes with his “afterword” on killing pride from a posture of complete humility. Throughout the book a reader can sense the pain and the love for the church and the people within the church as he speaks this exhortation.

I admire Chan’s humility in this work. I think the church should always been in a posture of reformation or change (p. 190). Chan seeks to change the consumer mindset that has intruded into the Bride of Christ in America. He does present some problems that he has observed, and he provides a solution through his own model of ministry for those problems. We must not be resistant to change as the church because we are always changing to become more like Christ and more like the Scripture we hold as both innerant and authoritative. Chan doesn’t propose a one-size fits all model for the church, but a way to think about how to be a more biblical church in America.

While this book does well in presenting some of the problems within the church, I want my readers to be aware of two concerns I have with the content. First, sometimes Chan’s writing can be more experiential rather than biblical. I don’t want to downplay his theology because I think his view of the church is correct. However, he does posit his arguments for the church through many of his experiences overseas. His experiences seem to indicate that the persecuted church is better off than the church in America because of our freedoms. He creates this “fear of missing out” in America with his experiences. The Bride of Christ-no matter where it is located-has problems that are in need of change. We all must be cautious of elevating experience with special revelation-even unintentionally. The Bible explains and helps us understand our experiences and feelings.

Second, Chan concludes with what his new model of ministry looks like in the present. I think we must be careful to heed Chan’s warning that this is the way he is working at doing church, but he would not claim this as the ONLY way to do church. My concern is that some reading may scrap the whole church in America to do their own church design like Chan. Chan can do this because I think he is strong theologically, but I fear that others might launch this same model with a minimal understanding of theological clarity or accuracy leading to heresy. Some may be able to reform in new ways, but others might have to think through solutions to Chan’s observations in other methods for established churches. My question is, “Can we reform without abandoning ship?” I think we can by God’s grace and the power of the Spirit.

Nevertheless, this book is worth you to read. I would recommend it to any believer who wants to think more biblically about the church and the issues that are plaguing the church in America. May we prayerfully search the Lord, his Word, and be guided by the Spirit to change the consumerist mindset within God’s bride. May we become more unified in our congregations to reach more people in our communities and across the globe. I encourage you to read Chan’s work with an open mind and heart. Reform is needed, but the Scriptures are our standard for any reform.

Amazon has this book available for $13.72

No Answer; No Position

What is God teaching you?

As a leader within Christ’s church, I have one simple rule for anyone who serves alongside me. If you don’t have an answer when I ask you, “What is God teaching you?” you will be immediately let go. It sounds harsh, right? What if they are a great asset to the church? What will happen to their family? What will happen to their future in ministry? Those are great questions, but before anyone joins our staff, they will be forewarned ahead of time about this simple rule.

The reason for this rule is greater than how harsh you think this rule is. As elders, leaders, and pastors in the church, we better be growing and learning from the Lord daily. How can we expect to make disciples if we are not being disciples devoted to prayer, the Word, and worship ourselves? That would be like going to an obese trainer and saying, “Make me fit and healthy like you.” How can they train you to be fit and healthy if they are not fit and healthy themselves? The same concept applies to undershepherds, too.

Leading people for God’s glory isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it. However, leading people in the church mandates that you are being led by God first and foremost. Paul told the Church in Corinth, “Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). Could you say that if you are not learning and growing in Christ? Leaders are by nature examples to those they lead. I want to ensure that those who serve alongside me are growing in their imitation of Christ so they can be examples to the disciples God has given us to steward. Therefore, this question is not harsh, but rather a means to help my staff be gospel-driven and effective leaders.


Leading God’s people requires leaders to be spending time with God as redeemed people.

I’m not the only one who has this type of rule either. At a preaching conference last year, I heard James Merritt make a similar statement about leading his staff. Francis Chan commented, “I once told my staff to let me know if they were not praying at least an hour a day. This way I could replace them with someone who would. I would much rather hire someone who prayed and did nothing else than someone who worked tirelessly without praying” (Letters to the Church, 113). Leading God’s people requires leaders to be spending time with God as redeemed people.

This rule is not only to help them be effective, godly leaders, but this question serves as a means to protect them from moral failure, also. We are seeing a massive amount of church leaders falling due to various moral failures. In my conversations with my mentors, I have seen a trend in moral failures of pastors. The trend seems to be a lack of daily time with the Lord. Make no doubt about it. Pastors who are not spending time being taught by the Lord in personal quiet times are pastors who are getting ready to fall.

Therefore, this rule does not seem to be as harsh as you originally thought, does it? This questions is designed to create healthy, accountable, pure, and effective leaders who serve God’s people. However, this question should not be reserved only for leaders in the church, but rather all believers. So, “What is God teaching you?”

The Importance of Team Values

I am going to date myself in this post. Do you remember The Flintstones? Fred, Barney, Betty, and “W-i-l-m-a?” The Flintstones was one of my favorites growing up as a child. I really loved the cars they drove. The cars were propelled by their feet. Everyone in the stone-age car had to move their feet together to gain speed and plant their feet in the dirt when they needed to make an abrupt stop.

Leadership teams work like a stone-age car ride with the Flintstones. Everyone on the team has a job to do. Everyone on the team must contribute to keep the vision of the organization moving in the right direction. However, one person in the car or on the team can destroy the momentum of an entire organization. For example, if everyone on the team is peddling in a certain direction and one team member is digging his or her heals in the sand, the entire team will feel the effects of that one team member. The leader driving the car will definitely notice when his team is not working together properly.

How do you keep your team on your stone-age car ride peddling in the same direction? This post contends for the importance of team values for your leadership corps. Team values operate like core values for any organization. Team values are like measuring tools to ensure that the people on your team are moving their feet, and they serve as standards for anyone who wants to join your team. As a local church pastor, here are our three team values:

  1. Teachable: Teachable can be closely connected to the biblical understanding of humility. We expect all our leaders to be teachable in that they are willing to learn and endure positive criticism. This value implies that a person desires to be challenged and get better at their calling.
  2. Trustworthy: Teams that have no trust among its members are teams that are doom to fail. Our leadership team discusses many sensitive and difficult issues. We are constantly confronting one another, and sharing ideas that if were brought before the church would stir up strife and dissension. Our team thrives on trust. I have to know that my staff has my back, and they have to know that I have their back in front of our congregation.
  3. Team Player: Sometimes the team must come before the individual. With any organization, resources are limited. Individual team members might get looked over for a particular resource because another area of ministry needs it more at that moment. If we are all fighting for our own ministry, we will fight against each other and our team will become dysfunctional. Dysfunctional teams lead to ineffective leaders.

These values are an example for you to see how important something like this is for your leadership team. With these values, we are able to keep our stone-age car going down the road, and prevent anyone from getting into our Flintstones car that might drag their feet. I encourage you to create your own set of team values for your organization because they are important for the overall health and momentum of your team.

The 4 Cs to Corporate Church Conflict

Ministry is a lot like riding a roller coaster (if you like roller coasters). Ministry has moments where God is moving in the church and you feel like you are climbing sky high. You feel like you are about to touch down on cloud nine. However, sometimes things begin to fall apart and you feel like you are spiraling downhill out of control. This is when you feel like loosing your stomach.

Ministry can be difficult, but in my opinion, serving the bride of Christ can be one of the most fulfilling positions on the planet. Nevertheless, when a conflict in the church arises, many pastors either don’t know how to respond or respond wrongly. Conflict can be a breeding ground for growing your leadership influence within the church you serve.

One of the most difficult times to deal with conflict is during a corporate gathering. The scenario plays out that a disgruntled member confronts the pastor in front of a small or large crowd of witnesses. This can elevate the tension for everyone in the room. Typically, when tension elevates, so does the emotions and the tone of one’s voice. How does a pastor appropriately respond? What is the best way for a pastor to respond?

Here are the 4 Cs that our staff uses to handle conflict in a corporate setting:

  1. Care for the person. One of the best ways to calm down the disgruntled church member is to acknowledge their anger, and say something like, “I really appreciate you bringing this to my attention.” This reaction shows you care about them as a person and their concern(s). It doesn’t matter if you agree with their anger or not. You have acknowledged that they have been heard as a brother or sister in Christ.
  2. Control the situation. After you have shown you care about them as a person, control the situation by indicating that this is not the time or the place to have this discussion. Say something like, “I had no idea this was an issue. May we schedule a time to meet and discuss this problem further?” Encourage them that you want to hear them out completely, and tell them you want to give them your full undivided attention at a later date. Don’t return with anger or attitude back at the disgruntled member. Respond with gentleness and love. These types of responses will keep everyone else calm, and hopefully calm down the person who is angry, too.
  3. Circumvent back to the intended purpose of your gathering. If you are at church for a service, meeting, or time of prayer, indicate to the group that you are at the church for a particular reason. Explain why everyone has gathered that morning, afternoon, or evening, and follow your purpose of gathering with prayer. Therefore, identify the purpose of the gathering and pray for the gathering in order to quickly move to your designated agenda.
  4. Continue like nothing happened. The fourth C seems to be the most difficult of all the others. Many pastors are shepherds and have big hearts. Public conflicts can be difficult to overcome because some of us take them so personally. Great leaders let those types of out bursts roll off, and they get back to working for the Lord. Continuing like nothing happened creates two reactions from the audience: First, if you continue on like nothing happened, the people won’t think that moment was a big deal to you. They see their leader in a stoic like fashion. Second, it lets the one who confronted you know that they can’t throw you off your game. You are here to serve the Lord, and you are going to follow through regardless of any incident that comes your way.

Leading in the church is the most rewarding, but can also be the most challenging. However, if leading God’s church were easy, everyone would be doing it. My goal is to prepare you and my staff now for incidents that we might face in ministry. Therefore, we can handle these types of scenes with grace and poise, and our godly example will be noted by all. People are willing to follow a godly pastor who responds to a corporate church conflict with the 4 Cs.

Teaching Reconciliation to Children

One of the many joys of parenting comes in the form of teaching our children new things. We all remember the first time we taught our child or children to tie their shoes, to hit a T-Ball, or to ride a bicycle. Most of us were just as thrilled to watch our children learn and succeed as they were in accomplishing the task before them. In this post, I want to encourage Christian parents to teach their children the biblical principle of reconciliation. By reconciliation, I mean restoring a relationship when sin has hurt the relationship.

We need to be honest with ourselves; our children are not perfect. Our children’s hearts are prone to sinful actions (Prov. 22:15). Our children will be sinned against and will sin against others. God has graciously blessed us with our children for only a short amount of time. Which means, God has placed our children with us in order that we may teach them the ways of the Lord. All Christian parents should desire to one day send their children out into the world as godly men and women sharing the gospel and contributing as beneficial members in society (Deut. 6:7, Eph 6:4, and Prov. 22:6).

For this reason, we must teach our children how to reconcile with God and others anytime sin breaks a relationship. How do we go about doing this in the Christian home? I will provide three areas of teaching reconciliation to our children so they may grow in the wisdom and knowledge of the Lord. By the way, if we do not teach our children the biblical principle of reconciliation we may inadvertently teach our children that they are not responsible for their actions in any relationship. This mentality will not only hurt their relationships with others, but will hurt their understanding of the gospel. The three areas for teaching reconciliation are:

1) We must teach our children that anytime they sin they must first seek reconciliation with God.

When we or our children sin, we must first recognize our sin as a direct rebellion against God. We should be like David that pleads with God after his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10). We must teach our children to first go to God and ask forgiveness in order to reconcile their relationship with God. I encourage parents to sit down with their child and teach the child how to pray and ask for God’s forgiveness. Feed the words to the child the first few times. After the child starts to see how you pray to ask forgiveness, allow them to start praying and asking forgiveness by themselves. Don’t forget that you are training and teaching your children the biblical principle of reconciliation. This takes time. It’s just like riding a bike or hitting a T-Ball. Once they get it, get excited and celebrate their accomplishment.

2) We must teach our children that anytime they sin against others they must go and seek reconciliation with the other person.

This one will be difficult for your child. Just as this one seems to be the most difficult among Christian brothers and sisters in Christ. Nevertheless, seeking reconciliation with others exists as an essential in the biblical principle of reconciliation. In the sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5: 23-24). When we sin against others, our sin hurts the relationship. We must go and ask forgiveness from the other person that we have sinned against. We must teach our children how to go and ask forgiveness in order to be reconciled to the other person. Teach your child to go ask forgiveness by confessing they are responsible for their actions, and they are sorry for their actions. The child is more likely to do this if you are standing right beside the child during this process. Once they seek reconciliation, praise them for owning up to their actions and seeking reconciliation.

3) We must teach our children that when they are sinned against the gospel mandates that they must forgive the other person.

This concept is another difficult one for children. Just as this concept is difficult for brothers and sisters in Christ. Our children will not only sin against others, but our children will be sinned against by others. They must learn to forgive others in order for relationships to be reconciled. We must teach our children that they have sinned against a Holy God more than anyone has sinned against them. However, Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and glorious resurrection has allowed a Holy God to forgive them of all their rebellion against him. This understanding of the gospel leads Paul to write, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). The best way to teach forgiveness to your child is to forgive them when they rebel against you in the home. Tell them you have forgiven them, and that you will not hold their sin against them. Of course we discipline, but after the discipline has been rendered, forgiveness is immediate.

Reconciliation is a difficult lesson to teach to a child, but reconciliation is a continuous lesson to be taught to a child in the Christian home. A word of example for you as a Christian parent to consider. If you are not seeking reconciliation with others (i.e. spouse, boss, church family, family, etc.), how do you expect your children to seek reconciliation. The lessons you teach are sometimes more effective if you are living out the biblical principle of reconciliation in front of your child. Do they see you asking forgiveness from God, from others, and forgiving others? Before you can teach this lesson, you have to be willing to apply this lesson in your own Christian walk. May we continue to live out 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” That includes our parenting and teaching the biblical principle of reconciliation to our children. 

Make Memories, Not Kodak Moments

From the outset, let me clarify that I am not a Luddite. I am not anti-technology, against picture taking, or opposed to people capturing videos of life on their cell phones. However, I am arguing that some of us may be taking our ability to capture moments to such an extreme that we are missing out on life. We are so busy making memories looking through a screen or lens that we are neglecting to take a step back and experience a greater picture of the world and moments around us in our minds.

For example, my family and I recently attended one of our children’s school performances. The children were singing about making healthy food decisions. You would have thought the children were performing “The Phantom of the Opera” by the amount of cell phones capturing the show. They were literally singing about food. Yet, people were experiencing the performance through a tunnel vision like perception with their cell phone screens.

As I witnessed this cultural trend, it began to overwhelm me with grief. I began to ask various questions to myself: Why have we stopped capturing moments in our memories? Why are we watching life go by with our kids through a technological median? Why don’t we just sit and focus our complete and undivided attention on the sights, sounds, and smells of the situation?

One thing I have learned is that we are always making history. Once a moment passes, it’s over. You can’t get it back. It’s in the past. It’s, after all, history. However, we are so caught up trying to catch these moments on film that we are missing all the intricate details of the bigger picture. Again, I’m not anti-technology. There are certain moments that we should capture in pictures and videos like your baby’s first steps, your wedding, and your walk across the stage to get that diploma.

But, not every moment is to be a captured Kodak moment. We want to experience and see all of the details and experiences in our lives with our full attention. You should want to capture those first steps of your baby, but experience with your child where those steps will take them in life. You should capture that wedding moment, but live to see those vows and your life with your spouse lived out in its fullness. You want to capture that walk across the stage, but never forget all the hard work that it took you to even step foot on the stage.

Sometimes we just need to stop trying to make every moment a Kodak moment, and start making a few more memories. More people spend time sitting around talking about memories than pulling out picture albums or video recordings to discuss past events. Yet, I’m afraid we are missing these precious memories by trying to capture the moment through a small, narrowly focused screen. Sometimes we just need to stop forcing Kodak moments, and start enjoying the making of a memory.

We live in such a busy and sometimes exhausting American society that it might be a good thing to stop on occasion and just “smell the roses.” We should take more opportunities to just make a memory by enjoying the moment with our family and friends. We should be thankful that by God’s grace we are still breathing, and in our gratitude for God’s grace we should pause to take in an special occasion with all our senses not simply through a screen.

From my child’s school performance, I will not forget seeing her big smile as she danced to eating her vegetables and drinking her water. I will not forget watching her face light up as her peers walked in front of her carrying poster size coke cans and noodles. I will not forget that each class was either wearing green, yellow, or red shirts to drive home the point that some foods are good, some process slowly, and others you should avoid. I won’t forget t