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Book Reviews books Religion

The Megachurch Pastor Who Disappeared – Letters to the Church by Francis Chan Review

Francis Chan is an interesting person to me. I don’t have my finger on the pulse of Christian culture, so I had no baggage when someone recommended Crazy Love, a book about what it means to love God and that should look like in action. I’m wayo careful to say that I agree with every word that another person says, but I do make a habit of reading through Crazy Love every few years or so. It’s a good discussion and it gets me thinking about what I could do better.

Reading it also has the side benefit of getting Van Morrison’s Crazy Love stuck in my head for a few days, which is no problem at all.

Van Morrison
PICTURED: Not Francis Chan at Spring Sing in Boston Common, April 20, 1968

Letters to the Church is Francis Chan’s third book that I’ve read over the last year or so. It seems likely I’ll pick up the next one. A picture in my head has formed of the kind of guy who never stops questioning whether he’s doing the right thing.

I can relate to that. It’s very easy to take for granted that each decision on the path you’re on is the correct one. To me it’s always seemed like other people have an easier time reaching the part of their brain that reassures you that you’re doing the right thing. It can build up to quite a burden.

It’s really hard if you’re making decisions for other people. In this case, Francis Chan was making decisions for a lot of other people. He’s the pastor of the Crossroads megachurch in Simi Valley, California. Or at least he was the pastor. At some point around 2010, Francis Chan left the church of 5,000 that he helped grow from his living room because he couldn’t fight some of his questions any more.

Letters to the Church is Francis Chan’s heartfelt examination of what the Bible says about Christians worshipping God together, the tools that Christians use get people to attend church, and a nagging question on why modern American churches require so much funding in order to function. It’s interesting to hear those thoughts from the perspective of someone on top of (or, if you prefer, in front of) a megachurch.

The conclusion of the book is a call for more Christians to meet together in each other’s homes, to invite people to worship together in a space that is more conducive to personal interaction. The idea being that this engages a wider portion of believers than the select few who are capable and willing to stand in front of an audience of 5,000 people. It also makes it so that if someone stops showing up, the probability that they will be missed goes way up.

Under this model, whenever a new congregation starts to grow, eventually that growth can lead to a point where the congregation can financially sustain certain conveniences, like a building, staff, or other… expedients. Instead of moving to a building when a church gets too big, the idea here is that instead they split and grow separately and start the process again (at least as far as Sunday mornings go).

I can see the point and I appreciate it.

I come from a religious background that is big on Biblical authority. Because of that, it’s foundational to me that if a Christian chooses to do something, especially if that something has God’s name attached to it, they need to be able to say that God is okay with it. And the only way to do that is to appeal to the Bible. The early church definitely met house to house, in large public spaces, or in any place that could fit them. In short: seems legit.

I’m not here to preach the Gospel according to Francis, but I can say that Letters to the Church is a good read.

If you’re looking for more by Francis Chan, you might try Crazy Love or you might also try You and Me Forever, which he wrote with his wife Lisa Chan. You and Me Forever is listed as a relationship book, but it’s kind of a bait-and-switch book about spiritual attitudes (in classic Francis Chan fashion). Of course, if you’re a Christian looking for a good source for authority on biblical matters, you just might try a series of 66 books penned by different authors written over the course of thousands of years inspired by a single source collected into a single volume.

Letters to the Church is the seventh book I’ve read in 2019. If you’ve got any suggestions for other books, I would love to hear them since I’ve decided to read 100 books again this year. If you want to see this year’s list so far, just check out revengemethod.com

Keep it real.

Letters to the Church by Francis Chan

Millions are satisfied to sit through hour-long, weekly religious services. Millions more have left the church, brokenhearted and cynical. But God is waking up his people – people who will risk everything and sacrifice anything to become the dynamic, powerful church seen in Scripture.  

We Are Church calls Christ-followers, young and old, to hold fast to their biblical roots while seeking radical change. Scripture promises an exuberant and unstoppable church. That wondrous early church of acts can be our reality today – but not until we devote ourselves to her original priorities.  

Listen to this book and be challenged, guided, and encouraged to passionately pursue God’s magnificent and beautiful vision for his church. Come and claim your part in this body of believers that is not just possible – it’s promised.

 

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