(Photo: David Molnar)
DULUTH, Ga. – With contagious passion, uncensored honesty, and rock-solid conviction, preacher and best-selling author Francis Chan took the stage at the Catalyst conference last week to “brag” about his relationship with God and to counter critics who say his recent ministry decision is “weird.”
Chan declared to an arena packed with 13,000 young Christian leaders that he wants his life to fit in the Bible and that there is nothing weird about believing in the Holy Spirit and following the calling of God.
“When I don’t think biblically, I go nuts. I just go, ‘This is crazy,’” said Chan, founding pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, Calif., last Thursday evening. “But whenever I read this book (the Bible), I think my life fits perfectly.”
Critics have called Chan radical and questioned his theology after the Southern California preacher announced six months ago that he would step down from pastoring his megachurch to pursue a new adventure God is calling him to. Even fellow megachurch pastors have questioned Chan’s ministry decision to forsake everything to pursue a yet unclear calling.
Moreover, Chan shared Thursday during the nation’s largest gathering of young Christian leaders that his wife, Lisa, recently proposed to even sell their house before the family of six (four children) embark on their trip to Asia this week. The Crazy Love author noted that his family would not have a house to return to if they do come back to the United States.
While acknowledging that his life is crazy by most people’s standards today, Chan explained how un-radical his life really is by comparing it with the early disciples.
“If you put my life’s story in the book of Acts, chapter 12, [it would be] James killed, Peter imprisoned and Francis went to Asia,” said Chan to the laughter and applause of Catalyst attendees.
“Whoa, that is radical. He is so weird,” joked Chan, who says he’s been accused of subscribing to “poverty theology” because he gives away about 90 percent of his income and has donated all his book royalties to charities.
Continuing, the popular Christian speaker challenged those in the audience to compare their lives to the Bible and see if it also fits. He said it is more weird that some Christians change churches because of the service time, the music style, or the fight they got into with someone.
“Think biblically ’What is weird?' 'Who is weird?‘ based on the scripture and whether we fit in it,” Chan stressed. “So many things don’t make sense. I got to look at scripture and go ‘Does my life make sense?’ I want my life to fit in this book one day.”
Chan noted how his 14-year-old daughter, who he was the most nervous to break his decision to, ended up being the most supportive of his plan. She told him that she was proud of him for trying to be more like Jesus.
“The Bible says that 'if you try to save your life, you will lose it. But if you lose your life for my (Jesus’) sake then you’ll find it,'” Chan stated. “It’s like my kids; if I try to keep them safe and try to make them happy, I’m going to lose them. But if you let go and start to pursue the things of God, then God says, ‘I’ll take care of them.’”
Chan, who spent 16 years building Cornerstone Church, plans to travel to Asia to witness what God is doing in the Christian body there. He said he might work at an orphanage, but has no clear plan for ministry yet. But he and his family are willing to do anything that the Spirit leads them to do, he shared.
“I don’t know how to defend everything. All I know is when I try to listen to what God is asking me to do, when I take some of these passages, when I made that turn in my life and said I want to just be like Jesus,” he said, “all I know is the more I pursue that the more God listens to my prayers.”
The Crazy Love author shared at the beginning of his talk how God has been answering all his prayers lately to the point he wonders if God has anything else to do but listen and respond to him.
He said that he wants to get up on stage and brag that he knows and understands the God of the universe, and he hopes those in the audience will also brag that they know God.
“I am pursuing this thing,” Chan stated. “I am just trying to walk by the Spirit and it has been amazing.”
Chan was one of about a dozen speakers at this year’s Catalyst conference, which drew young leaders in for a three-day experience aimed at exposing them to cutting-edge ideas from top leaders in business, education, non-profit, and the church. Since its founding in 1999, the annual event has been attended by more than 90,000 leaders.
This year’s conference concluded Friday.