Lighten Up Francis
A few weeks ago, a video made the rounds on social media that featured Francis Chan speaking to a group of employees at Facebook. I watched it and after a few quotes, my heart sank. Francis said "I'm going wait a second. According to the Bible, every single one of these people has a supernatural gift that's meant to be used for the body. And I'm like 5,000 people show up every week to hear my gift, see my gift." He went on to share why he left his megachurch, why the mega church concept is flawed, that he started a house church movement, yada yada. Francis went on to say "I was like, 'God, you wanted a church that was known for their love. You wanted a group of people where everyone was expressing their gifts. … We're a body. I'm one member, maybe I'm the mouth. But if the mouth is the only thing that's working and … I'm trying to drag the rest of the body along, chewing on the carpet …" This. This is what made my heart sink. "Why did my heart sink" you might ask? All I could think about was all the people that served in the background at Cornerstone in Simi Valley (the church Francis is speaking of), all the people who gave of their time by serving in Kids Ministry, the staff that worked hours on end behind the scenes to make church a reality, people that gave generously to build a building in one of the most expensive zip codes in the country, and even the current staff members left to pick up the pieces of these kinds of statements. It doesn't sound like the church was the problem, this just sounds like bad leadership.
I'm so over people exclaiming that their method is the ONLY way this can work. I'm sick of people claiming their way is the RIGHT way of doing church. I'm sick of people making it all about THEM! Trends come and go, yes. House churches are good...yes! But, is it possible that mega churches are good too? Why does it have to be either or? Why can't it be both? We've worked in churches both big and small, rural and urban, and traditional and contemporary. It's one thing to say "that's not for me." It's another thing to say "that's not for anybody." The arrows that were being slung at megachurches on social media in the wake of this article were so sad to me. So sad, because we can't celebrate that God is using multiple methods to reach people for Him! Why is it either or? Is it possible that God can use both small and large churches to reach people? And what about the the folks that Francis left behind at Cornerstone Church in Simi? Should they feel bad for even existing?
Life.Church, out of Oklahoma City, is one of the largest (maybe the largest) churches in the United States. Craig Groeschel would say it over and over: "We'll do anything short of sin to reach people who are far from God!" They are quietly changing the world in big and small ways. Strong but humble leadership are hallmarks of their ministry. I was a lead pastor at a church in a rural city in North Carolina and Life.Church graciously gave away thousands of dollars of resources to us every. single. week. They empowered us to use our gifts and reach over 800 people in a town of 3800. We baptized over 100 people in 2 years and saw tons of lives changed for eternity. They created the Bible App and give it away to hundreds of millions of people. In the grand scheme of church history, we're going to look back on their impact on the Kingdom of God and realize that they were a catalyst in the digital movement of the Bible!
Since starting The Ministry Mechanics, Hope City Church has become our church home. Hope City Church is just over 2 years old and they had 14,000 people at church on Easter weekend. God is doing something really incredible at our church and Jeremy Foster, our pastor, constantly reminds people that this isn't something that they could do...it's a move of God!
As great as those churches are, I gave my heart to Jesus at a country church because of the faithfulness of a local Methodist circuit preacher named Joe Manis. I was baptized in a muddy pond on a farm. Joe would travel every Sunday to preach at an old church near several farms in our town and another Methodist church in our small town. (Now that's multi-site!) He was so faithful to the calling to make a difference in the lives of folks in our community.
Solomon, the wisest man to ever live was quick to remind us that he tried leading with vast resources and he tried leading with nothing and they both left him empty. It's not about the method, it's about the Savior. I am so ready to stop shooting arrows at each other and take that same energy into figuring out how to reach as many people as we can around this world. I want to use any and every method we possibly can to reach the whole world for Jesus. I don't care if it's in an arena, a house in suburbia, a hut in the jungle, or on a computer screen. All of us, all in, and working together to reach the world. The reality is that God CAN use both to change the world. Even more, He'll use something we've never even considered in 50 years to keep changing lives!
House churches and megachurches are preaching the same message with different methods of distribution. I could write a thousand words on this, but I'll let Jentezen Franklin say it in this illustration from a couple years ago better that I ever could:
That's what we need. Inspiration that empowers us to live out our calling. A reminder that we're on the same team serving the same God, even though our churches may be a little different in practice. No matter what the method, God can use any and all of them to reach more and more people with the Gospel. Pastors and worshippers alike, no matter where you are today, we just want you to know that you are loved by God and by us. We know how hard you are working to share the Gospel! We want you to keep pressing and keep serving God, no matter what the local context looks like. Whether it's a house church or the largest megachurch in the world, we're behind you. Whether you're preaching this weekend to thousands or changing dirty diapers in the kids ministry, we're behind you. We're cheering you on because you're doing the hard things and pushing hard to make a difference in the lives of people in your sphere of influence and give God the glory. Find the thing that God has called you to and lead strong.
Francis Chan wrote an amazing book called Crazy Love back in the day and it had this amazing quote: “The point of your life is to point to Him. Whatever you are doing, God wants to be glorified, because this whole thing is His.” ― Francis Chan, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Big or small, it's all his. Lighten up Francis. - Chris