Bestselling author and pastor Francis Chan spoke at Liberty University's convocation Monday, admitting to students at the Lynchburg, Va., school that his years attending a Christian college were full of hypocrisy.
Chan, author of Erasing Hell, Crazy Love and Forgotten God, spoke to students at the Virginia university about biblical living and staying culturally relevant.
The founding pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, Calif., said his five years studying at a Christian college in California were some of the worst years of his life in light of his walk with God.
"Hands down, those were the five worst years of my life and I wish I could go back, and I wish I could redo it. It's not the school's fault, it's not the seminary's fault. It's mine," Chan said.
Chan, who earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from The Master's College and his Masters of Divinity degree from The Master's Seminary, said he found it difficult to be genuine because he essentially lived in a Christian cultural bubble that failed at inspiring him to go deeper in his faith, which led to a lack of peace for him personally.
"It wasn't like I wasn't having fun. I was having a lot of fun. I was doing a lot of Christian things, but I wasn't really experiencing God. ... And yet I blended in fine," he said. "It was just a weird time because I look back and I know absolutely there was hypocrisy in my life. You learn the lingo and you can fit in with everyone else and then when you're alone with God, you know who you really are."
"You gotta work so hard to live biblically. I'm begging you, work really hard at living biblically because the natural thing to do is to just blend into a culture and I'm telling you, get alone with this book," the 44-year-old pastor added, holding up his Bible. "What does that passage really say and what should my life look in light of this passage?"
Chan said while reading the Bible as a high school student he often wondered why the church looked so radically different from the lives of believers in Scripture.
He expressed that some Christians seem more concerned with being comfortable than about tapping into the power believers have through the Comforter, that is, the Holy Spirit, when it comes to evangelism.
Chan noted some of the extreme situations believers of the first century church experienced in their efforts to witness for Christ and share the gospel.
The California pastor, encouraging students to be culturally engaged to make their Christian witness effective, drew their attention to 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, in which the apostle Paul speaks of being "all things to all people" for the sake of winning souls to Christ.
"What a great opportunity, what a great mission this school has," Chan said, encouraging students to break out of the Christian bubble and engage the world and telling them "to get in the world and actually build relationships with people who don't have to show you grace" or have to like them or be their friend. "But you do all things so that by any means you might save some of them."
Chan, a married father of six children, founded Eternity Bible College (EBC) in 2004 with the expressed purpose of training young people to be effective witnesses for Jesus Christ.
"Too many people waste precious years of their lives chasing after the temporary and unfulfilling. The college years are vital. Proper training can save us from years of boredom," Chan wrote in his message on EBC's website.
He added, "Our mission goes beyond education to discipleship. Our desire is that students will not only learn from teachers, but know them. We don’t expect students to observe a healthy church, but to be a critical part of it. We plan to place students in secular settings where their faith is going to be challenged, and walk with them through the battles. At the core of all we do is discipleship."
Chan frequently travels nationally and internationally on speaking engagements. He is also working with San Francisco City Impact in its new initiative, called Adopt a Building, to plant churches in 586 apartments located in the city's Tenderloin district.
Liberty University uploaded a photo to the school's public Instagram account during Chan's address Monday:
A video of the full convocation was published online by Liberty University.