Showing posts with label Francis Chan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Francis Chan. Show all posts

Saturday, December 21, 2013

If Jesus had a Church in your Town, It Would be Smaller than Your Church

I just watched this excellent video from Francis Chan.

Remembering how I reviewed his book "Crazy Love" back in '09, I went back and reread that review.  It's here in case you were wondering.  I would consider it one of my more open and honest posts, not that any of them aren't honest, but we all guard ourselves a little.  In fact consider this a sequel.

Looking back at that post, wow, I have all those same questions now.  All of them.  I do feel that I've gotten an answer on one of them.  I am moving to Boulder Colorado to help start a new church.  Like Francis mentions in this video a few times, Bible Belt Christianity is sick and I am incredibly uncomfortable being here.  I know God loves these people too and I know there are strong believers here too, but I cannot handle it.  I've realized that worse than having to give up all my worldly possessions, I'd consider it the greater chore to have to live here for the rest of my life.  God could tell me in an audible voice "I am going to have you win the lottery and you will live in opulence and comfort for the rest of your life, but you have to do it in the Bible Belt," and I'd be like "I don't ... really want to do that."  I mean, I would, if God wanted me to do that, but I don't want to.  This is not my homeland.

If I had to compare it to something, I guess I would compare it to Laodicea in the book of Revelation.  There's a whole lot of "I believe in Jesus and vote Republican (or Democrat as the case may be)" but there doesn't seem to be much beyond that.  I see people whose life purpose has little to do with the work of the Kingdom.  The only difference between them and any normal person on the street is that they go to church on Sunday and I can't really see much difference otherwise.  They drive the same cars, live in the same houses, watch the same shows and movies, eat the same food, take the same vacations, and do the same thing everybody else does.  And there's so many people going to church that really, the members of the church actually is everybody else.

I come from a different environment.  I grew up in Oregon, polled at one point as the least churched state in the nation.  In high school, I was one of just a few in my circle of acquaintances who went to church and the only one of my group of friends for some time.  I describe it like this.  In Oregon, if you don't want to go to church, you just don't go, and Mr. Chan mentions that attitudes are similar in California.  It's not like that here in the South.  Church is much more of a cultural thing, but it's such a consumeristic thing.  There is such church hopping you wouldn't believe.  Our church staff was talking the other day, that you have to bring in hundreds of new people every year just to maintain a steady population.  They were talking about how Discovery Classes (new membership thing) are massively full and yet the church's population is not growing rapidly like you'd expect.

I remember one small church I went to for a couple years back in Oregon before I moved here.  It was quite a diverse church, and I don't just mean racially.  There were a whole lot of significant sinners, addicts, alcoholics, people who'd done prison time.  I feel like that's Jesus' sort of church.  It's a place where people know they are wretched, blind, poor, and naked.  (Revelation 3:17)  That looks to me like the sort of place where Jesus would hang out.  Most churches I've seen appear to be nursing homes for Christians stuck in that awkward and embarrassing parenthesis between baptism and death.

That's not where I want to be.  So I prayed "come get me."  And as far as I can tell, He has.  And I am very excited about moving, even though it will take a hit in our finances, it's a colder place, and I will leave some good friends.

Jesus said:  "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters-yes, and even his own life-he cannot be My disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  "For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn't first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?  Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation and cannot finish it, all the onlookers will begin to make fun of him,   saying, 'This man started to build and wasn't able to finish.'  "Or what king, going to war against another king, will not first sit down and decide if he is able with 10,000 to oppose the one who comes against him with 20,000?  If not, while the other is still far off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.  In the same way, therefore, every one of you who does not say good-bye to all his possessions cannot be My disciple.  "Now, salt is good, but if salt should lose its taste, how will it be made salty?  It isn't fit for the soil or for the manure pile; they throw it out. Anyone who has ears to hear should listen!" 

I don't necessarily think that everyone will need to be martyred, or that everyone will have their families abandon them or that they must live in their car or any other specific thing.  But some will.  Some will be asked to die.  Some will be asked to give everything.  Some will lose their home.  Some will lose their family.  It may not be you.  It may be.  But what you are asked to do, you better do it.  And if you're not living in the tension, then I don't think you're in tune with the Holy Spirit.  I wish Mr. Chan would have mentioned one of the most important things Jesus said when he was busy running people off.  

"How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!  For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God."  Those who heard this asked, "Then who can be saved?"  He replied, "What is impossible with men is possible with God."  Then Peter said, "Look, we have left what we had and followed You."  So He said to them, "I assure you: There is no one who has left a house, wife or brothers, parents or children because of the kingdom of God,  who will not receive many times more at this time, and eternal life in the age to come." There is a Midrash on the Song of Songs that uses the phrase to speak of God's willingness and ability beyond comparison, to accomplish the salvation of a sinner:  "The Holy One said, open for me a door as big as a needle's eye and I will open for you a door through which may enter tents and [camels?]."  God wants you.  Camel through a needle, God can do that, and he wants to.  And he wants some effort on your end.

I get harangued when I say things like this, but if you're the sort of person who gets mad at the church parking attendant when you're trying to leave early after pulling your kids out of Sunday school early so you can leave early and avoid traffic, I'd appreciate it if you would just not come back.  If you don't want to attend a church because service times changed, by all means, don't.  If you want to find another church because you don't like the music, please do.  If you don't feel like coming to church this morning, don't, and don't worry about it next week either.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Book Review: "Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God" by Francis Chan

I just finished reading (listening to) Francis Chan's Crazy Love. I downloaded the audio book read by the author from iTunes and it's a good listen at about four and a half hours. It cost about two bucks less than buying it, plus there wasn't the hassle of needing to leave the house or paying taxes or burning gas to go somewhere to pay too much for it at the local Christian bookstore (no names.)

The first three chapters of the book are kind of a foundation for what the whole book is about. I woke up a little sick this morning and decided to take a long hot bath as I often do when I'm sick. So between last night and the bath, I listened to about the first four or five chapters. Apparently I stayed too long in the bath because I got out and threw up all the grape juice I had been drinking. The first chapters left me with a feeling of "yes I know that." He was talking about how great God is and how much he loves us and how the story of the universe is really about him and not us. Very important stuff. One point that struck me was about our relationship with Jesus and how we should seek that first. He quotes statistics about how most Christians pray only a couple of minutes a day and watch TV for four hours.

But later on came the real good stuff. You know the kind of stuff that you sit and listen to (or read) and you know in your soul that what is being said is the truth and that all these years I have been making excuses for not taking certain parts of what Jesus said literally. I was sitting in the Civil Engineering lounge in Bell doing my homework and listening to the meat of the book and I started to cry. I have always lived in marginal houses and have always wanted to build my ultimate dream house, an earth sheltered ultra efficient super sustainable house that would have virtually no utility bills and would be the paragon of virtue in a green world. But I realized that if I were going to follow Jesus and give what he wants me to give, I don't think I'm ever gonna get my house. I'll never be able to fulfill many of the dreams I've had growing up the way I did. I already know I'm not going to be rich and I'm okay with that. But will I ever get to live in an efficient house? Will I ever ever get to own an electric car? Do I get to see my dreams come to fruition?

I want to be a Christian, I want to be a disciple of Jesus, but the question is, what will he ask of me? And when will I have to tell my wife about it? How much do I give? How much is enough? Can there be too much?

I want to do what is required of me, but I don't want to do the minimum. And my flesh tells me I certainly don't want to do the maximum. I don't want to go the Financial Peace way and simply save my way into financial security, that's not what Jesus calls us to do.

Francis goes through a near comprehensive list of what it is to be a lukewarm Christian. He says there won't be any lukewarm Christians in Heaven. I recently encountered a lukewarm Christian or two when they demanded that I prove my care for the poor by telling them everything I had done for the poor. And as he read through the list, I thought, I do more than all of those, I give more money, I give more time, I serve more, I'm less demanding, I'm less worldly, but in the end, what is enough? What on God's green earth am I supposed to do exactly? What do I do?

Much of the last half of the book I spent waiting for the punchline. I waited for Francis to tell me what it was that I was supposed to do to fulfill God's will. Was I supposed to sell my house? Am I supposed to give all my possessions to the poor? What do you want Francis, I'll do it!!! If you tell me to sell my house I'll do it. If you tell me to be a nominal Christian and give sparingly to missions, I'll do it, just tell me. Neither poverty nor riches, I'll do it. Do you want me to save up and retire early so I can be a volunteer at my church for the rest of my life? Do you want me to move into the city... never mind, I don't want to do that. But anything else Francis, I'll do it. How is my life supposed to be? I don't want to just do enough so I don't feel guilty anymore. I have enough guilt already.

However, in typical fashion in nearly all Christian books, Francis didn't tell me what to do. He did give me a few examples though, including Shane Claiborne and Rich Mullins (though I would like to remind everyone that Rich would probably still be with us if he'd been wearing his seat belt.) And they are great examples, even Shane is a real Christian Greenie like me, but he doesn't get to live in a super insulated house either. He lives in the city and plants trees in toxic waste sites and feeds poor people.

Lately I've been coming to the conclusion that I'm not supposed to be a goer, but a sender. I like that, it's comfortable, it's nice, it doesn't require me to step out on a limb or be adventurous or anything, and maybe I might get a foundation or a building or something named after me. WHAT THE HELL AM I SAYING?!? Actually, just skip the second sentence in this paragraph, it was entirely untrue and only said to make a point, I've never felt that way. But now, I'm wondering what I really am supposed to do. I'm left with the last thing God definitely told me to do and that was to become a Civil Engineer. He hasn't really told me anything since then, not that I haven't asked him to, but we haven't really been close lately in all honesty.

Am I supposed to live on my engineer's salary? Do I drive that electric car? Do I build that house? Do I do short term missions like my Hydraulics professor, you know the one I wanna be like when I grow up? The big question is, did God make me with the inborn desires that I have, the car, the house, the wind turbines, the third world water filters, or are these my way of trying to slip into the file cabinet of "just above mediocrity?" Should I really have been crying about not being able to have the house? And it's not just the house, do I really have to give up all that I want to do with my life? Should I sell my $110,000 house and buy a $55,000 house and give the rest to the poor? I already live in a house that's a square foot and a half bigger than exactly half the size of the average American house, how much further down do I need to go? Can I build a 600 square foot really efficient house to house my wife and future four to five children (two adopted?) Can I have an electric car or can I convert my 24 year old mini pickup to electric and use that? Or should I sell my cars and ride my bicycle the nine miles into town? Or should I sell my house and live in a 600 square foot apartment in town? Do I sell everything, give it to the poor, live in my truck and have my wife leave me? Am I supposed to keep blogging, can God use that?


Fantastic book, I give it 10/10. Read it, if it doesn't change your life, you should really think about shooting yourself because you're just wasting your time anyway. $5.95 on iTunes.