After taking heat for speaking at a stadium event with pastors described as prosperity gospel preachers and “false teachers,” Francis Chan has publicly responded to those concerns and vowed to continue speaking at events that feature people with whom he theologically disagrees.
The 51-year-old popular preacher and author who co-founded Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley California issued a lengthy statement over the weekend in an attempt to refute any negative “conclusions drawn” from his decision to speak at The Send conference in Orlando in late February.
The Send is a stadium conference that has been hosted in cities nationwide since 2011 by The Call, an organization run by charismatic Christian evangelist Lou Engle. At such events, a number of pastors and Christian leaders are invited to come and give a message.
With over 60,000 gathered at Camping World Stadium, the 10-hour Feb. 23 event was hosted by Youth With A Mission, Christ for All Nations, and Engle. The lineup included the likes of Chan, Benny Hinn, Todd White, Daniel Kolenda and music from Hillsong Young & Free, Jesus Culture, Tasha Cobbs-Leonard, and Bethel Music.
Although The Send event was a major production in which Chan was simply invited to speak, pictures emerged online of Chan with Hinn and White. This sparked some critics to question why Chan would choose to speak at an event with “charlatans” known to “promote the prosperity gospel.”
“From what I hear from friends and critics (I stay away from social media, etc), there have been a lot of conclusions drawn from my decision to speak at The Send conference as well as other venues,” Chan, the author of Crazy Love, wrote in the statement.
“Some people have questioned my willingness to take pictures with anyone who asks for a picture with me. So I thought it might be helpful to explain some of my theological beliefs which have come under scrutiny as of late, as well as some of my practices/decisions.”
Chan first addressed the question of the prosperity gospel, which refers to teachings that imply that followers of Jesus will be healthy and wealthy. Sometimes, prosperity gospel preaching has been used to encourage Christians to make donations to a certain ministry in exchange for supposed divine blessings in their lives.
Chan asserts that the prosperity gospel is a “dangerous teaching.” In Chan’s opinion, the prosperity gospel “contradicts the teachings and example of Christ and the apostles.”
“Jesus taught His disciples ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’ (Matt 16:24),” Chan wrote. “It was not a call to come and prosper but rather the opposite — a call to come and suffer. The New Testament is full of passages explaining the suffering that comes with a decision to follow Christ.”
Chan said prosperity gospel teachings also provide a “false hope” that can “result in confusion and discouragement.”
“Prosperity preachers often promise greater wealth if their listeners will give more to their ministries,” he added. “This is never promised in Scriptures.”
Chan explained that he once gave a sermon where he showed how suffering is a theme found in every book of the New Testament.
Chan, who is invited to speak at over 500 events a year, went on to explain why he sometimes accepts speaking engagements at “places that tolerate theology that is different” from his.
According to Chan, he speaks at events almost every week of the year and said that it is part of his calling in this season of his life.
However, he doesn’t normally ask event organizers who else will be speaking at a particular event. He wrote that he normally does his own research on others invited to speak. While other speakers at events can many times be friends of his or close acquaintances, there are others that he knows “little about.”
“This current experience has caused me to consider exercising more caution and to develop a team to help me research,” Chan declared. “That being said, I speak in many places where I am not in alignment theologically. I actually believe that is where I can be most effective, as long as they give me the freedom to address anything I believe the Lord wants me to address.”
Chan plans to work with the elders of his church to come up with more safeguards for future events.
Chan stressed that he now recognizes that sometimes his participation in an event can give an “impression that I align with every other speaker at the event.”
“I’m not sure what to do about that other than to tell you that I don’t,” Chan assured. “Unless the elders of my church direct me differently, I will continue to be found preaching in venues with those I disagree. I will preach in just about any kind of setting if I’m given freedom to preach from any passage of scripture.”
Chan stated that while he strives to call out and denounce false preachers, it is hard to collect “accurate data” on their teachings and beliefs. He admitted that in the past he has erred in calling out the false teachings of preachers and pastors.
“Over the years, many things have been said about me that simply are not true. I can’t know the motives, but I am sure it is untrue. In the same way, friends of mine have been misrepresented and their reputations unfairly tarnished,” Chan wrote. “I want to make sure that I am not guilty of the same thing.”