em>Rethink Monthly: Is there anything that God is saying to you that is causing you to rethink, anything that God is personally doing in your life or in your church as a whole?
Francis Chan: There are a couple of things. One, it’s getting pretty pathetic how people call themselves Christians and how terrified we are of everything. There’s just not the courage, boldness, and the strength that I see in Scripture and there isn’t an emphasis on that. We have people who are scared to talk to their next door neighbors; there are people who are scared to disciple. It’s just nothing like it was in the beginning. There seems like there was such boldness and you couldn’t shut the believers up back then, now we can’t prod them to speak. So, the big thing is just praying for a spirit of boldness in the church again and encouraging people to believe that they can share the gospel powerfully, and that they don’t need their senior pastor to do it for them. So, that’s been a big emphasis in my own life as well as with the church.
RM: What do you think has happened in the church, and specifically in American churches, that has caused us to forget about or maybe lose that boldness that we read about in the New Testament?
FC: I think what happens is that new believers get fired up and start sharing their faith with everyone they know, but once they get into an established church, they realize that no one else really lives that way. Instead, they just attend Bible studies and show up to service and so they just get sucked into that kind of mindset. In fact, people even encourage them to slow down and get educated rather than fanning that flame of evangelism and being on mission. I think the church itself kind of deadens these new believers as the Holy Spirit comes into them, we tame them and slow them down.
RM: What’s encouraging you personally to change that mindset in your own life to be more bold and to interact with the community more than what you think the church has had a reputation of doing?
FC: Well the elders in my church are very much that way, and they encourage me to do the same, so it really is the leaders who I meet with. It’s my closest Christian friends that are being very bold and outspoken for the gospel.
RM: And in your church, Cornerstone, is there anything that you and the elders are being encouraged to do there to motivate people to live out this radical stage or this crazy love that you write about in your book; anything that you are encouraging them to do that you see working in that, that’s encouraging you that they are doing?
FC: What we are learning is that the Sunday morning platform of a guy speaking up front and people nodding their heads hasn’t been the most effective means of moving people to action. It’s a great entry point, and people can change a little bit here and there, but the majority of the people hears the Word and deceives themselves, and does nothing about it. We have really been pushing things in the community. We have been pushing people to literally pastor their neighborhoods rather than looking for a church system or structure to do that for them. We now have lay people in neighborhoods who are acting as pastor, who are separating those people in the communities and doing all the marital counseling, doing weddings, and some even teaching them on Sunday mornings.
RM: Can you share a specific story or testimony of someone in your church that you’ve seen God use in amazing ways to live out this style of life?
FC: Right now there are several guys and there are going to be more. We have a group of fifty people or so that are used to driving in from a town that is about a half hour away and so we encouraged the most spiritual guy we saw there and said, “Hey, why don’t you just start shepherding these people and be their pastor. There is no point in driving a half hour or forty-five minutes every time they need to talk to someone or be counseled. In fact, they started meeting there on Sunday mornings so they don’t have to drive all the way here and either he will teach a lesson or take my lesson, or use a DVD or whatever, then they will eat together, break bread together, and talk about how to reach that community or that neighborhood. So that is happening in a few different areas now. These are all guys that work full-time jobs. It is just really encouraging because they are realizing they don’t need a building and they are just training leaders and when it gets too big they split it up into a couple of houses. Basically they are doing everything one would do in a building on Sunday mornings, but now it is by volunteers that’s in the home so it doesn’t cost thousands of dollars, and there is more accountability of practicing the “one another’s” as in Scripture.
RM: It sounds like it’s the one key that God can show us as ministers and churches and leaders, is to give the power away that God gives them to the people so they can minister to their communities and not feel like they have to be part of an organization that tells them what to do. Would you agree with that?
FC: Yes, it’s basically teaching them that they have power, they have the Holy Spirit in them, rather than the typical model which basically you need one spirit-filled guide for five-thousand people. To lead a service and it would be fine, now suddenly you have all these leaders and they have to be walking closely with the Lord, and they have to use their gifts as well as the people in those homes.
RM: That’s encouraging. Just one more question: Is there any passage of Scripture, or any addition to that, or any book, or song, or film right now that is inspiring you and encouraging you to change your own life as well as the people in your community?
FC: I would say the book of Acts has been the biggest thing lately. I think more and more people are frustrated that the church looks so different than it did. And I’m not saying that God has to have everyone speak in tongues and different languages, and all the miracles in that way like He did back then, but I am also saying that there is no reason why He wouldn’t if He wanted to, that He still could. My main point is that I just don’t see that supernatural power in the church and that has to change. So I would just say that it’s the Book of Acts that none of us have had peace about. Our whole Christian lives we always look at it and go, “Gosh it is so incredibly different” from what we see today, but we resolve ourselves to say, “Well it’s cultural,” or “It’s not for America; it can happen in other countries, but not ours.” I just don’t believe it. I really think the Holy Spirit can do whatever He wants, even in this nation.
Francis Chan is pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California. He is also the founder of Eternity Bible College and sits on the board of directors of Children’s Hunger Fund and World Impact. Francis spends much of his time speaking to students around the country, committed to teaching directly from the Bible. His passion is to see the church display a much deeper love for Jesus. Francis lives in California with his wife, Lisa, and their four children.