“Many today treat the Church as optional, as some outdated way to connect to God that has long outlived its usefulness.” 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.
Chapter Two of Letters to the Church, is a beautifully crafted walk through the Bible demonstrating the awesome sacred nature of the Church. Before Jesus arrived, when God came to earth, He resided in His Holy Temple. Now, through the shed blood of Jesus, those who have placed their faith in Him have become the body of Christ. God now resides in us! Who we are, what we do with our lives, how we worship, is all a reflection on God’s Holy Temple. If we are true followers of Jesus Christ, we should consider our every action sacred. When we attack the Church with our negative criticism, we are attacking the temple of God. Francis Chan makes the point that our world has become used to criticism of anything and everything. When we lump the church into “anything and everything,” we disregard it as being sacred. Those who believe in Jesus Christ are all part of God’s glorious plan and therefore sacred. We should consider that fact before we start talking behind the backs of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Francis Chan goes on to make the case that much of our world has turned its back on the church. He says, “Many today treat the Church as optional, as some outdated way to connect to God that has long outlived its usefulness.” He then goes on to say, “Heavenly beings are shocked by God’s Church while many on earth yawn.” Finally, he compares today’s church with the early church found in the book of Acts, making the case that they didn’t need energetic music, great videos, attractive leaders, or elaborate lighting. He laments the fact that he and other church leaders have ignored the awesome sacred nature of the church in an effort to keep the growing disinterest in the church at bay. He now believes it is time for profound change.
This all rings true to me with one exception. Worship music, worship videos, and even elaborate worship lighting is not always an empty endeavor. When done right, from a pure heart, these things can be an awesome expression of the sacred nature of our love for God and a sacred expression of worship. Just as the elaborate construction of the temple was filled with artistic expression, it makes perfect sense to me that God would be pleased with artistic expression from our current culture. I do agree that far too often, the artistic expression in our worship service is designed to attract a larger audience rather than bring glory to God. That’s backwards thinking. When we start with a sincere desire to please God, it’s hard to go wrong no matter how we express ourselves.
For whatever reason, Francis Chan has left out the mention of the enemy’s relentless effort to divide and conquer God’s church. We need to keep in mind the devil has been at work for a couple of thousand years trying to convince us this world is more valuable than anything God can offer. The devil is trying to distract us with elements of our desire found in this world. He further dilutes our understanding of the sacred nature of our relationship with God by keeping us busy earning money to buy those elements of our desire. How will we have time to worship God, and to serve Him by serving others, if we are spending most of our time trying to pay the mortgage, keep up with the car payment, and send our kids to the best schools? Eliminating the devil’s distractions has to be a central element in renewing the sacred nature of the church in the hearts of floundering believers.