This morning’s two sessions with Francis Chan were the last of the Exponential pre-conference. Chan is the high-profile lead pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California. Just two days ago, however, he announced his resignation, and this topic dominated his powerful message.
Chan shared his upcoming transition as a response to Jesus’ call to deny himself and simply trust in the Lord again. He looks forward to “serving in obscurity” and “being a human” again. He says Sunday’s announcement made for a rough day, but was so thrilled with his wife’s part of the announcement that he played it on video. She described feeling a “gravitational pull to safety” for her and her family, but will push against it in order to follow Jesus out of the suburbs, and into the inner city. Chan suspects his resignation will lead him to inner city Los Angeles, but plans to do prayer walks in other major cities first, as well as spending time in Thailand to fight human trafficking.
He describes this as a return to following Jesus as the Bible describes. He laments the contemporary Christian ability to take Jesus’ commands metaphorically, particularly the Great Commission. He illustrated this beautifully describing a scenario where, if he told his daughter to clear her room, she might respond by saying “Dad, I’ve memorized your command” or “I’m having friends over to discuss how making disciples might look in my life.” Chan wants to move on from this disobedience, so that he and every Christian can identify whom they’ve discipled in response to Jesus’ command.
He describes the church as a “system that makes it okay to disobey” commands like the Great Commission. He says he instead feels called to “humble myself to give a picture of Christ”. He goes on, “I’m not called to be an awesome megachurch pastor, but am called to be a picture of Christ.” He takes inspiration from the story of Vaughan, a youth pastor whose trips to impoverished villages are described by youth as “the closest thing I’ve every experienced to walking with Jesus”. He realized, “my life does not look like Jesus. I can rationalize and justify it, but…”
Chan was a convicting speaker, not least because he was actively living out his message. He is sacrificing the fame, fortune and safety of suburban megachurch ministry to follow Jesus. He “wants to go back” to a childlike faith. “If I read the Bible for the first time, I would never conclude I needed to pray some prayer, but I would conclude I need to follow Jesus. If I read the Bible on a desert island, I’d never decide I needed to start a Sunday service, my priority would be discipleship.
We then watched the first public screening of the new BASIC video series, watching the session on the “fear of the Lord.” Chan convincingly recaptured the fear of the Lord as the beginning of faith, and the responsibility that “teachers” of faith have to model this, and all Jesus’ way of life, to our congregations. “We can’t get mad at the people, we’re the leaders.”
Lots to ponder, hearing Chan’s teaching, and seeing him live it.