I have appreciated Francis Chan’s heart for the church and for ministry for the last few years, and appreciate his willingness to challenge and push people out of their comfort zones. He speaks openly about issues like poverty, injustice, human trafficking, etc. and also embodies less “cause-related” issues such as humility, guidance by the spirit, etc.
I ran across this video this morning and thought it was interesting thought provoking.
A quick note to preface the thoughts that follow: I fall outside of the theological “camp” of this video and do not keep myself up to date on all conversations, dialogues, and personalities involved. Please take my thoughts as an outsider asking questions about what is, in a sense, a private conversation. As I watched this video where two other pastors ‘converse’ with Chan about why he’s changing ministry roles, I found myself a little disappointed (and confused) on two fronts: the state of the church (ecclesiology) and our responsiveness to the spirit (pneumatology).
Pneumatology. Chan wrote a great practical and accessible book on the work of the Holy Spirit (Forgotten God) and, I would say, has a deep understanding of the Spirit’s role in guiding and directing us through the journeys of life; I believe he has done a great service to the church through his public discourse regarding his sense of the Spirit’s call on his life. In light of this, I was caught off guard a bit when, in the video, Chan is accused (is this too strong?) of having a “pre-conceived” method of sanctification reliant on simplicity, poverty, and suffering (which Driscoll later calls the “poverty gospel” which he sees as theologically dubious as the prosperity gospel).
I am not sure why this would be the primary response to Chan’s decision, given that he has been fairly open about his sense of the Spirit’s work in his life, particularly in the area of pushing beyond the wealth and safety of the suburban church. Why is there not more room to respect the work of the Spirit calling people to new things and to allow our churches to be challenged by that? I think Chan has passionately and explicitly been calling the church to a richer and deeper experience of the Holy Spirit and feel like this was missed in the conversation with Driscoll and Harris, who instead pushed Chan to defend his understanding of sanctification.
Ecclesiology. This conversation conveyed the recognition and acceptance that Cornerstone Simi Valley is ‘Chan’s Church’ (rather than a church that Chan currently/previously led) and that him leaving may be/is irresponsible and misguided, particularly because there is some concern over “who is going to preach” (and the priceless follow up, “is he good [enough]?”) or “what is going to happen to your church.” I think that churches too often give an unhealthy level of attention, celebrity, and expectation to the senior/teaching pastor.
There is an underlying assumption that Chan leaving Cornerstone is somehow a reckless move that will leave this church leaderless and preacherless. Chan helped plant Cornerstone 15 years ago. If, after that amount of time, he was the only person capable of teaching and leading that church, I would say that he would have done a poor job of leading, training, mentoring, and equipping others. It seems that the first question asked when someone leaves a church should not be “who is going to preach.” Somewhere along the line, those priorities just do not make sense to me.
What do you think? Am I missing something here? Are my comments off-base (due to my self-acknowledged “outsider” status in this conversation)? Am I too critical in not giving these guys the benefit of the doubt on these issues?