Francis Chan bared some of his struggles with doubt and being a model disciple of Jesus Christ Tuesday during the opening session of the 2013 Exponential Conference attended by thousands in Orlando, Fla.
Chan spoke before 5,300 in-person attendees at First Baptist Church of Orlando, the chosen conference venue, and another 20,000 viewing the event live via the Internet. Chan was the second minister to take the stage to address the need for Christian discipleship, or "discipleshift," the theme chosen for this year's Exponential gathering.
However, instead of delving into his prepared remarks on discipleship, a subject he has been on a mission to revive in churches and faith communities since leaving his California church, the evangelical Christian minister confessed that he felt convicted by the message of the previous speaker, Pastor Jim Putman, on the issue of ministers letting the opinion of others sway their messages and define their work.
Veering back and forth between his apparent intended message and confessing his own struggles, Chan began by sharing with Exponential 2013 attendees how he was recently invited to speak at an Easter service and decided to look through his portfolio of sermons for inspiration.
"I go and look at these old messages and I start going, 'This is good...'" said Chan of his reaction to reviewing his old sermons. He added, though, that while he could notice that he has grown in certain areas of his life, he could also see areas where he has "slipped" by compromising his messages to avoid conflict or criticism.
"I noticed that there were areas in my life that started to slip," said Chan, identifying some of those things as a loss of boldness, confidence and some of his faith that the Holy Spirit could enter people's lives and change them.
"I'm still struggling with some of my doubt, still struggling with some of my joy," the married father of five confessed before sharing an anecdote about speaking "20ish years ago" at John MacArthur's The Master's College, his alma mater.
Chan shared how after delivering his remarks, he was commended by MacArthur for being able to have fun and exude so much joy while giving the message. "'Francis, don't lose that,'" Chan said he was told.
"But here I am 20 years later and I feel myself losing it," he declared with an impassioned pitch to his voice. "When was the last time I was so excited with the same passion to do what I do?"
"Where did that go?" he wondered, asking of himself at another point during his Exponential 2013 remarks, "Are you even a prophet anymore? Are you saying what God Almighty wants you to say?"
The Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples author referenced the Apostle Paul's first letter to the Corinthian church community in which he writes in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5: "When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power."
"He chose to sound dumber than he was," Chan said of Paul's preaching of the Gospel at Corinth. "When was the last time that you did that?"
He added that Paul kept it simple because the apostle believed that simply preaching the unadulterated Gospel would change people.
"The reason why sometimes I don't do that (keep it simple) is because I'm scared He (God) might not come through," confessed Chan. "I don't want to do a service that's lame."
The former Cornerstone Community Church teaching pastor said that he has often retreated to his "safety zone," instead of just relying on preaching the Gospel, which he believes "empties the cross of its power."
Chan revealed that he felt as if God had been bringing to his mind Jesus' exhortation to the Church in Sardis as found in Revelation 3:2 – "Strengthen what remains and is about to die."
He said Jesus' message moved him to write a list of the areas in which he has slipped, and he has been asking God to bring back his boldness and joy. "I realized that there was an old me that used to enjoy Jesus more," said Chan.
"I'm willing to bet that there's some of you (who feel the same way), so before we move on before we move forward in discipleship … let's look at ourselves and ask if we really want people following us," he added.
He implored his listeners to "strengthen what remains, get that boldness and courage you once had back up."
"Don't let Satan rob this from you," he concluded, before closing out his session by dropping to his knees in prayer.
Chan, known for speaking passionately about being an effective Christian witness, is a best-selling author and founder of Eternity Bible College, located in Simi Valley, Calif., as is Cornerstone Community Church. Most recently, Chan has been focused on planting churches in inner-city San Francisco and launching a nationwide discipleship movement.
Exponential describes its mission as existing "to accelerate movements" inside individuals, inside churches and inside networks and denominations. The organization's 2013 conference opened Tuesday with Chan and Jim Putman, founder and senior pastor of Real Life Ministries in Post Falls, Idaho. This year's Exponential Conference theme is "DiscipleShift," and addresses how Christians and churches can "make disciples who make disciples." The conference runs through Thursday, April 25, and can be viewed for free online.