ATLANTA – Bestselling author and pastor Francis Chan shared details of his time in Asia on Sunday to 22,000 students at the Passion conference.
He talked about persecuted Christians he met in India and China who think it is normal for Christians to suffer for Christ, and orphans in Thailand who sing praise songs with so much joy that it left his whole family in tears.
"I heard these stories all my life and I got to meet some of these people. I just wanted to see if this is for real," said Chan about his shocking decision to leave his megachurch and travel with his family across Asia.
Chan, the author of Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God, had not shared much publicly about his trip to Asia since leaving the country in October with his wife and four children. He announced earlier last year that he was resigning from the Southern California megachurch he founded, Cornerstone Church, to pursue a new adventure God is calling him to. He said his life, including how famous he has become in the Christian circle, no longer fit the Bible and he wanted to take time off to realign it with Scripture.
On Sunday, Chan clarified that he is not holy or godly for leaving the stability and comfort of life in the United States to pursue God in Asia. But rather he was "weak" and "ungodly" and that is why he left to seek wisdom and strength from persecuted Christians who are spiritually stronger and whose life he felt matched with the Bible.
"Can people look at your life and tell that you believe in hell? Can people look at your life and tell that you have been saved from that? Do they see that ultimate joy in you?" asked Chan.
In India, he met a woman who shared that her whole village tried to pressure her to reconvert to Hinduism after she and her husband became Christians. Everyone in the village came to her hut with lizards whose head was cut off and told the couple to drink the blood and convert back. At the time she was pregnant with their first child. The couple grabbed only their Bible and ran into the jungle where she gave birth with only her husband at her side. She shared that her husband struggled to find food to feed her and the baby during that time.
Another believer in India showed Chan scars on his head and body that resulted from his faith in Jesus. He told stories of incidents where he barely was able to crawl away alive from the crowd that was beating him.
Similarly in China, believers in the underground church told Chan about the persecution they endure from the government. But what surprised the American pastor was that they had so much joy and were laughing when they told stories of being chased by police and authorities shooting guns to scare them. They thought it was normal to be persecuted and that Christians everywhere suffered like them, explained Chan. The underground Christians in China pointed to Philippians 1:29, which states, "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him."
Chan shared that in America, Christians change churches over better worship music, service time, or daycare program. The Chinese Christians laughed at him thinking he was telling a joke because it did not make sense to him, Chan recalled.
"I think more and more of us are aware of that. Don't you just look at certain things in your life and go that doesn't make sense?" he posed.
"God, can you just raise us all up? Make us a whole new generation that sees the foolishness of a consumer-driven church. This is about us suffering for the sake of Christ and making disciples ourselves, not just hoping that our pastor would lead them to the Lord and our pastor would disciple them."
He urged students to reflect on their life and check if it matches the Bible that they claim to believe. His message was based on Philippians 1:27-30, which says in part: "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ …"
"I am not asking you to be radical. I am not asking you to be extreme. I'm just asking you to make your life make sense," Chan stressed.
"People go, 'Francis, you are so extreme, you're so out there.' No I'm not. I'm not even trying to be those things. I'm just looking at what I say I believe and my actions don't match up sometimes."
While telling stories about his family and their trip to Asia, Chan also revealed that his wife, Lisa, is pregnant with their fifth child and the couple is in the process of adopting a handicapped boy that they met in China.
The Jan. 1-4 Passion conference in Atlanta will also feature speakers Andy Stanley and John Piper on Monday. Lead worshippers at the event include Chris Tomlin, David Crowder Band, Matt Redman, Charlie Hall, Christy Nockels, and Kristian Stanfill.
In 1997, Louie Giglio organized the first Passion conference in Austin, Texas, which attracted about 2,000 people. The conference, which is part concert part Bible study, has grown to over 20,000 student attendees and began to take place outside the United States in 2008. In 2010, there was a Passion seven-city world tour that included cities: Kiev, London, Tokyo, Manila, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo and Vancouver.