Do what pleases God most. Francis Chan
Pastor Francis Chan walked away from his megachurch to start over with a collection of home churches. His spiritual journey is an enormously valuable lesson for all Christians. In his book, “Letters to the Church”, Pastor Chan details his experience and his concern for the Christian church in America. His observations are enlightening and insightful; however they are, in my view, incomplete and I believe invite further discussion. To that end, my goal here is to expand on Pastor Chan’s experience by balancing his vast experience in ministry with my personal experience as a worshiper. It is my hope that these two points of view blended together will inspire the reader to carefully consider the path forward for the Christian church in America.
If you haven’t read “Letters to the Church,” I highly recommend you do. I’ll be offering my point of view chapter by chapter. It is not necessary to read the book before reading my response, but you will benefit greatly from Pastor Chan’s teaching and his inclusion of the scripture from which he bases his conclusions.
In this final chapter, Francis Chan goes into some detail about the home church structure he has implemented in the San Francisco area. He begins by noting the New Testament does not specifically tell us how to build the church; however, Biblical structure, in his view, means everyone matters as much as the pastor and staff. Everyone in the church needs to be given a mission and a purpose. He wants a New Testament church with “deep familial love” and everyone using their gifts. He wants discipleship that would lead to new home churches with newly trained pastors on a regular basis. He wants his church to have devoted worshipers that lovingly sacrifice for one another, who make disciples, who are spirit-filled missionaries regularly sharing the gospel, and who are willing to suffer and go without.
The basic home church structure includes: Daily Bible reading – Meet in homes with 10 to 20 people – Multiply Leaders and expand – Elder Authority – Everyone Discipled – Everyone Disciples, Everyone Shares the Gospel – Everyone Exercises Gifts – Regular Multiplication of Churches – Simple Gatherings, no extra elements that distract – Share Possessions – Assume Missions. Francis believes that this church model is closer to the New Testament church than anything else he has encountered.
The home church is a wonderful church model that I believe appeals to a specific segment of the Christian body, but the overall majority of worshipers will find this format limiting. First of all, most Christian worshipers don’t feel called to disciple, go on mission trips, or even share the gospel on a regular basis. For many, these practices are intimidating. While I agree that everyone should be moving in this direction, many will avoid this church model because it makes them uncomfortable. Beyond this problem, many churchgoers count on childcare to make their worship more enjoyable by allowing them to shed their need to look after their children while worshiping. In addition, many churchgoers thoroughly enjoy a robust music ministry – not because it’s entertaining, but because it is spiritually uplifting. Finally, a professional ministry staff can be far superior to a part-time staff with limited training.
It seems possible to me to develop many of the aspects of this home church model into a typical small group church program. In fact, many small groups resemble this structure already. While I think it’s commendable to go back to the New Testament church, I don’t believe it’s right for everyone. It seems to me that rather than going thousands of years back in time, God would prefer we adapt the church to have the greatest impact in today’s culture. I believe what pleases God most will be what encourages the largest participation. From my point of view, the home church model is only a small part of what is needed. The entire body of Christ needs to be linked together in dedicated service to God through serving others.
Francis makes the point that in persecuted countries it is impossible to build big churches, and home churches are the only thing that works – therefore we should be developing believers who know how to build a church in this way. This is a good point for a certain group of believers who have been called to this kind of work, but for the large majority of believers in America, the large church model is likely more practical – childcare and age appropriate programs are very good things in my experience.
Francis makes the powerful point that home churches don’t have enormous exploited budgets. Church can be done for almost nothing. He goes on to suggest this may be the best way to grow the church in expensive areas that make building a large church facility too expensive. These are good points and it’s possible a version of his home church model could be useful for that reason, but there is no reason to abandon all the large churches – I believe there is room for both church models. What is needed is a way to link all Christian churches together in a way that allows them to share resources, talent, and space.
Francis Chan says we need to, “Kill the consumer mindset in the Church” and I totally agree. He says we need to, “Restore the missional focus of the Church” I agree completely. He says we need to, “Discard the elements of Church that lead us away from God’s heart rather than toward it.” I can’t argue with that. He says, “God wants something more for His Church than what you’re experiencing.” This is absolutely true.
All of the above can be accomplished in a typical large church structure. I honestly don’t see any real advantage in the home church structure other than the fact that it’s free. Operating a church with little or no concern for funding is an enormous burden removed from the equation. What’s lacking are important elements like age-appropriate ministry, an inspiring music ministry, a highly trained professional staff, and a facility that offers many different ways to attract seekers and open-minded unbelievers. In a way, the home church model seems like a private club and the large church model appears to be open to the public. I believe both systems are valuable to the total body of Christ, but neither one is superior.
As I have made clear throughout my response to Francis Chan’s book, and in the creation of this blog, what is of primary importance is the church getting out of its buildings and homes to reach out to the community in service. The entire body of Christ should come together in dedicated service to God by serving others. By using today’s technology, it’s entirely possible for the church to implement a system which connects those in need with those who have the talent and resources to resolve those needs. The body of Christ needs to come together and start spreading God’s love at every opportunity.
“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” Ephesians 4:14-16 (NASB)