Francis Chan’s Message

After having heard so many people say so many positive things about Francis Chan, I was looking forward to his presentation this morning. He seems like a great guy, committed to his family and well-grounded. His stories were fun and even repeatable (great illustration on asking his daughter to clean her room), but on the whole, I have to admit, the message was a little less than I expected.

Fred Craddock always says listeners are looking for insight. He is right. I am listening to sermons for inspiration, for sure, but mostly I am seeking new insight. Didn’t get much this morning. I guess my overall opinion was that he aimed a bit low for his audience. I’ve done that. I understand.

I am not sure he knew who we were. I don’t mind when people refer to us as a denomination, but I prefer when they preface it by saying, “I know you guys don’t see yourselves this way, so let’s say denomination with a small ‘d’ and go with that.”

I was sitting next to Don Wilson and he said, “We know the importance of discipleship, we just haven’t figured out how to measure it.” Yep. So let’s talk about that. How do we measure discipleship? Why should we measure discipleship? Or maybe let’s get a bit more specific about discipleship.

What I did enjoy was his Chan’s ease with the audience, and the authenticity of his faith. I always like the phrase, “You can’t preach beyond who you are.” Who Francis Chan is seems beyond doubt. I get why he and Todd Clark are friends – cut of the same cloth – genuine and sold-out committed.

Whether Francis Chan or any other “big league speaker” of this current age, I am fascinated by our fixation with the current celebrities. I imagine Peter would have been a faith celebrity – maybe even Paul – at least in theological circles. Jesus – I’m not so sure.

And so it goes.

Paul Williams

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16 Responses to Francis Chan’s Message

  1. Perhaps you could give more context in conjunction with your judgment of Chan’s message…I’ve heard Francis speak several times and, as a pastor, was never left feeling unchallenged. I can only assume he spoke about discipleship according to Don Wilson’s comment. Regardless, while the post honors Francis as a person, it seems to slight him as a speaker. And as someone who did not grow up in the 4c’s or 2c’s or cc/dc, I wouldn’t know who “we” were either. Any context of the message? What did he say that the Spirit used to speak to you? Thanks for writing.

    • What spoke to me was the genuineness of his faith journey. He is an engaging speaker to be sure, but his faith struck me most.

      • Patrick says:

        I just watched the message today in our staff development time. It only served to reaffirm my comments. Moreover, I wonder what the response to Francis would have been in he had been from the Christian Church (d)enomination?

  2. Tim Sherfy says:

    Wow, I am at a loss to understand how you were underwhelmed by Francis Chan. I felt his message was powerful, as did the person sitting next to me. As to your question of “how do we measure levels of discipleship?” you apparently missed the entire point of Chan’s message. There are no levels to following Jesus. One is either “all in” or left out. Western Christianity has become so watered down that we don’t even understand what it means to truly follow Christ anymore. It’s not programs, it’s not levels of faith, and it certainly has nothing to do with denomination. Following Jesus means being passionately, madly in love with Him. It means being willing to give up everything for Him and to do everything He commanded us to do. I feel that Mr. Chan made these points brilliantly. I am truly sorry that you somehow missed it.

    • I’m pretty sure I did not miss the whole point of his message.

      I responded, as we all do, not from a vacuum, but from my own journey.

      Mary Oliver begins a poem, “One day you know what to do and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice…” Sorry I was one of those voices for you.

  3. I’m with you, blogger. I actually left before he was done because I was bored. I felt Brian Jones gave the same message in terms of establishing the importance of discipling yesterday and did a much better job with it. I was hopeful that we might hear HOW to do it or some practical insight. Instead we got a tangential chat that seemed unfocused and perhaps a little ill prepared.

    I appreciate bringing in a “name” but he did seem like he didn’t know who we were or what we are all about. Don’t get me wrong; Mr. Chan’s charisma and charm were evident. There’s no doubt he’s passionate about what he’s preaching and that he is sincere and an awesome human being. He just wasn’t saying anything that we haven’t heard before. Perhaps my expectations were a little high given his reputation. Perhaps I was tired of sitting after hearing a great sermon from George Ross minutes before. Or perhaps it just wasn’t great.

  4. michael jackson says:

    I thorough enjoyed listening to Mr. Chan in all three sessions he spoke (student convention, main room @ 11am, and the student minister workshop). I had some of the same reactions that have been mentioned here, i.e. “have heard this before” etc. I thought about this for some time and came to the realization that several people saying similar things, especially the importance of making disciples, can only be a good thing. Mr. Chan does not seem to be one that is into the “nuts and bolts” of how to disciple, how to measure it, and so on. Rather i felt his emphasis was on the starting point – being in love with Jesus. I feel that if we get to that point we can’t help but make disciples, it will come naturally and we will be able to measure by the fruit in the lives of those whom we have baptized and taught to follow all that Jesus has commanded. I was convicted through his discussion about disconnect between sunday morning and the rest of the week. He refered to the fact that Christians enjoy hard teaching but are nearly indistinguishable from unbelievers once they leave the building. There is a disconnect somewhere. I agree he seemed distractable but hearing him three times within hours i found Mr. Chan to be authentic, thoughtful, engaging, and in love with Jesus. In our church culture (demonination, wink wink) it is my observation that we are very much about rock star preachers, name dropping, and wanting to hear a polished professional sounding sermon by a well known preacher from our fellowship complete with witty jokes. We did not get that with Mr. Chan. We heard his heart, and i found it refreshing, and convicting.

  5. Mark Sullivan says:

    I agree with the whole ‘celeb’ pastor deal, but that applies to each ‘celeb’ pastor who spoke, not just Chan. I enjoyed Chan, and was challenged by him. Further with the theme of ‘celeb’ pastors/leaders… I felt Vince A. Tool that to a new level by the whole shtick with ‘heros’ and ‘up and coming’ superstar pastors thing.

    Even more importantly, I am surprised that so many people have commented on the comment from Chan calling us a denomination, while completely ignoring comments by Ben that Jesus was “partly human” and “partly divine.” If it wasn’t a misspeak it is completely theologically wrong.

    • 1. Vince was doing comedy. He wanted a way to utilize his friends on stage and it fit with the theme of the rest of his bit. Relax. But even still, we DO need leaders for our movement to continue and if those young guys are doing good work then it is good for us to see them and hear their names and learn about them. I have no issue with people being recognized for their ministry and hard work. If that makes them “celebs,” well, sobeit.

      2. I didn’t even hear Ben make that comment, but I am confident that it was just a verbal misstep. Though maybe not since he’s not a Cincinnati grad . . . HA!

  6. Leilani says:

    Are we so comfortable on our fire escape that we can’t see the lost people in the building trying to find a way out? Are we not sitting against the only door to safety?
    What are we going to tell the Lord when we see Him face to face, if in fact we do see Him? Discipleship is faith in action, not sitting in a pew. It is stopping injustice, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for widows and orphans. What good is it to have faith with no deeds? “Can such faith save you?” (James 2:14) Can we truly be a follower of Jesus if we don’t do what He says? Mr. Chan made it pretty clear, I think, that just praying “the prayer” isn’t what saves a person. We need to put shoe leather to our faith and rescue the people for whom Jesus died. I believe the “we” about whom he was speaking is anyone who has read scripture and missed the message that is so clear…I am one of the “we” and I can’t believe I’ve missed it for over 60 years. However, since understanding what I’m supposed to do I don’t want to waste another opportunity to be His hands and feet. I’m done with the lie about which Mr. Chan spoke, that praying the prayer and lifting the hand is enought.

  7. Richard Jett says:

    I think Francis showed us the obvious truth in Scripture on how to make disciples…BE ONE! Problem is we try to come up with an easy One, Two, Three program and there isn’t one. Process to discipleship is making God our number one desire and being sensitive to His Spirit in us. As we follow the Holy Spirit we will be the disciple we are suppose to be and will work through us to disciple others.
    As far as the celebrity thing that is a heart check for the hearer. If we make anything or anyone the only way we connect with God then that’s our fault not the person or object. Francis doesn’t want to be considered a celebrity he truly wants to see people connect and follow Jesus. If he was wanting to be a celeb then he wouldn’t be leaving the church where he has served to go serve in a third world country then come back to start another church.

    • Paul Williams here: I am pretty sure Francis has absolutely no interest in being a Christian celebrity – that is refreshing. I’m referring to this age, not the person.

  8. Cathy Comeaux says:

    I don’t believe that any individual speaker was planned into the week’s program line-up with the intention of being a stand-alone feature. The whole point of the week was to bathe us from start to finish with what it might mean to any one of us to Go Beyond; to be disturbed; to drop our nets; to leave something behind in order to move on to reach for a new level beyond ourselves. Each topic touched people in different parts of their thinking, understanding, habits, hang-ups and areas of flat out disobedience.

    Although Mr. Chan may not have given the nuts and bolts of HOW he proposed that we move Beyond, his point was that it’s not OK to be content where we are. Based upon the responses from the audience, it sounded to me like his points hit home for many. I suspect that God used the variety of other main session speakers, workshop leaders, round table discussions, Bible Studies, networking opportunities and worship and arts experiences to make the comfortable more afflicted. I know I was.

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