Letting go of a megachurch - taking on a new adventure
From a talk at Facebook by Francis Chan
In June 2017, Francis Chan spoke at to employees at Facebook in California. In part of the talk, which was very much him speaking from his heart, he spoke about why he stepped down from leading the Cornerstone megachurch in California in 2010, which he had started as a house church and at the time was drawing around 5,000 people and growing. He felt the church was not as God intended it to be.
Here is an edited excerpt from the talk:
What do you think God hates the most based upon your understanding of the Bible? I think it is pride. A proud man is an abomination in his sight. Those are some serious words. God, how can I become like a child again?
A few years ago I wrote this book [Crazy Love] and I didn't know I could write. I seriously didn't. I had no clue. I was never good in English. I just felt like God wanted me to write down my thoughts of things I was learning about Him and, but then suddenly publishers wanted it. Next thing I know, it's a New York Times best-seller and I remember the prayer I told God one time. "God, I'm so frustrated with the rich people in church. I feel like they give five, ten percent and they still live off millions." I said, "God, would you just raise up a new generation of rich people that actually live for eternity and live like normal people and just give it all away because they believe in eternity." At the end of the prayer I go, "God, make me rich." I seriously said this. "Or make me rich. I'll give it all away. I'll give it all away." - to show that you're better than all that. The next year I make a million dollars. I'm like, "Oh my gosh." I told my wife to pray. I go, "Look honey, we're not taking a dime of this. I don't want a dime of this. This was my prayer. Let's just give it away. Let's just give it. Let's just start building hospitals, schools, whatever."
Over the years, making all this money going, "God, I don't want any of it." I signed it over to a charitable gift fund so that I can't even touch it. I can't even buy lunch with that money. It's not in my hands. I can only give from the charity. It's been the best thing. Now I spend my days going and looking where are the needs around the world and how can I contribute to it, how can I get my friends to contribute to it.
Why was I saying that? Just to let you know I'm rich. No, no, no, no. Here's what it was. Here's what it was. There was a period with the rise of social media where I'd think, "Wow, I like what they're saying about me." The pride. I remember getting at a conference and seeing my face on a magazine. Just my face. The whole thing and hearing whispers and this and this and this and walking in the room and actually liking it. I was getting ready to speak and the Lord just convicted me during the worship time, I'm on the ground and not just teary-eyed but out of control going, "What did I just become? Everything I didn't want to be, everything you said you hated, that's me right now." As I'm having this moment with God, suddenly the guy goes, "Now let's welcome Francis." I just started crying and just going, "God, I got to confess man, this is ... I'm becoming who I didn't want to be. I'm losing my soul. I miss the old Francis."
I wasn't worried about what everyone thought. They had put up some sort of image. I miss that stupid kid who fell in love with Jesus in high school and starts calling everyone in the yearbook that he knew to tell them about Jesus because he was so concerned about their eternal destiny. I started church in southern California just out of my living room, end up growing to 5,000 people - not in my living room. We did the typical church. That's all I knew what to do, but got frustrated at a point just biblically. I'm going, "Wait a second, according to the Bible, every single one of these people has a supernatural gift that's meant to be used for the body."
I'm like, "5,000 will show up every week to hear my gift, see my gift. That's a lot of waste." Then I started thinking, "How much does it cost to run this thing? Millions of dollars." I'm going, "Gosh, how come people in other countries go to church for free?" That seems like a waste.
I'm wasting the human resource of these people that according to scripture have a miraculous gift that they could contribute to the body, but they're just sitting there quietly. Meanwhile they'll go to their companies and they're running big companies or doing this and that and yet they just sit there and listen to me year after year.
Then the Bible says that we're supposed to love each other. That's not a small command. That's said over and over. He says, "This is how they'll know you're my disciples by the way you love one another." There's over 50 one anothers in the New Testament.
I'm going, "God, I'm so sorry. Our people don't even like each other. I make them greet each other for 30 seconds. That's extent." It's not like we're mean to each other. We like people if they were like us and we pick little cliques, but I was like, "God, this, you wanted a church that was known for their love. You wanted a group of people where everyone was expressing their gifts"
And he talks about we're a body. I'm one member. Maybe I'm the mouth, but if the mouth is the only thing that's working... What would a body look like where everyone is using their gifts and everyone is eagerly pursuing the spiritual gifts like 1 Corinthians tells us to do.
What could that be like and is it even possible that if we were a church and started one right now, could we literally by the power of the Holy Spirit love each other so much that people ... It would blow people's minds where none of us have a need.
[Today, Francis leads a house church movement in San Francisco called We Are Church.]
I now just want to go and just talk to people and pray for people. I now want to gather people. Gatherings where they can actually use their gifts. Starting with just leading a small group, maybe I can just start multiplying that, teaching other people to lead and shepherd these groups. Maybe we get everyone reading the Bible so we're on this reading plan. All of the people in the church in homes. I remember we've got guys coming off the streets, out of prison, doctors and people that work here or Google and everyone is on these same reading plans and everyone is in these homes.
It costs nothing. We now have 30 pastors and all do it for free. We have 15 house churches and we just plan on multiplying that, doubling every year. In ten years we could have 1.2 million people. Multiplied and free.
I'm like, "Whoa, we've got a few hundred people now and it cost nothing and everyone is growing. Everyone is having to read this book for themselves and people are actually caring for one another. I don't even preach." They'd just be in their homes, they study, they pray, they care for one another, they're becoming the church and I'm just loving it and releasing these 30 guys and women that are leading this.
They've grown because they suddenly have responsibility and I never realised that's what happened. It's just like those of us when we first brought our first child home from the hospital it's like the fear, the absolute fear ... What do I do with it? How do you keep it alive? It's a nightmare in a way because you're just like, "No one taught me this." I got to figure it out, but then you figure it out and you grow and you learn and now these guys are like my best friends as we're all in this thing together versus one guy trying to teach everyone. There's one guy who put it like this, "It's like being adopted rather than being at an orphanage."
See also a previous blog - Francis Chan shares about ministry to the poor in San Francisco.
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From a talk by Francis Chan, 18/07/2017