Francis Chan identifies No. 1 'mistake' American churches make

Pastor and author Francis Chan delivers remarks as part of the Q Commons event, broadcast internationally on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019.
Pastor and author Francis Chan delivers remarks as part of the Q Commons event, broadcast internationally on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019. | Courtesy of Q Ideas/Parker Young

Francis Chan has warned that the American Church’s “obsession” with church attendance has led to its current state of division and encouraged the Body of Christ to return to an emphasis on unity and love.

“I really believe there are some serious mistakes we made in the U.S. [that have] led to the church being in the state that it's in right now: Super divided, and the reputation of evangelical Christians in the U.S. has never been worse,” Chan, the bestselling author and former California megachurch pastor, said during a Zoom meeting with 150 church leaders from all around the world.

“I mean, you just say that word and it's just like a cringing. It’s just an assumption that it's some politically driven group that they want nothing to do with. It's never been this bad.”

According to Chan, the “number one mistake” churches in the U.S. make is being “obsessed with church attendance.”

“We panicked and thought, ‘we've got to do everything we can to get as many people as we can there,’” he said. “We rationalize, ‘well, it’s better for a big group to keep coming [than none] at all.’”

“Where do you get that in Scripture?” he asked. “That is not the message of Jesus.”

“Jesus could have kept thousands. All He had to do was water down the message, water down the commitment,” Chan added,” but He didn’t do it.”

The church should be about having relationships: Loving one another, praying together, and caring for one another, the pastor stressed. 

“We have to stay on track in our prayers, believing in those prayers, believing in our love for one another,” he said. “And I know it looks like there are other methods that might work better. ... My logic would say, ‘no way. No way would God want me to do this.’ But that's not the way He works.”

Earlier this year, Chan moved to the Sham Shui Po neighborhood in Hong Kong with his family. He told pastors gathered at the Zoom meeting that the idea of “loving one another” is foreign to many Christians in Hong Kong. The region, he said, is so “westernized” that even family dynamics are “weird” and “distant.” 

“It’s either just a hardcore helicopter parenting, that only deals with grades, or it's just totally uninvolved and, ‘let my servant do this, you know, take care of my kids,’” he said. “They’re good at accomplishing ... but relationships [are] such a foreign thought.”

“Just having pastors come over to my house is a weird thing for them,” Chan said, stressing the importance of “love” and “unity” within the church. 

Chan also recently participated in a roundtable video discussion — "Why Is There So Much Division in the Body of Christ?: And What Can We Do About It?" — along with author K.P. Yohannan, and ‘Bible Answer Man’ Hank Hanegraaff.

During the discussion, Chan warned that the fighting and discord within churches today is tearing apart the “family of God.”

In particular, he cited an increase in blogs attacking fellow believers online, along with church splits over non-salvation issues. 

“It looks like this family is in shambles, and who would want to join (it)?” he said.

The pastor also criticized modern Christianity for focusing too much on “charismatic personalities” and “popularity contests.”

“Many lovers of Christ, that are part of His true church, are misunderstood,” said Chan. “All of us know, in part, and see in a mirror dimly. How do we become ‘perfectly one’?”

The pastor urged believers to “get back to love,” warning that it seems churches in America are “at war” and “screaming at each other” instead of seeking to be “in one accord.”

“When I read the Scriptures, Christ wants us to be one with Him. Perfectly one with Him, perfectly one with each other. I'm hoping that somehow in this conversation, we can move toward that,” he said. 

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