The famous pastor and author led Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California for years and had a congregation of about 5,000 members.
Although he grew the church to be known all over the world, Chan decided to step down because he felt that the church had become something other than what God wanted it to be.
Why He Decided to Leave
Chan recalls that he remembers reaching a point of Biblical frustration.
“I got frustrated at a point, just Biblically”
He then mentions that the Bible speaks of how everyone in the body of Christ has at least one gift and how each member is valuable and can positively affect lives.
Chan says that 5,000 people showed up weekly merely to hear his gift; they didn’t show up to share their gifts with others or to ask other members to share their gifts with them.
Chan felt that Cornerstone’s members were simply letting their gifts go to waste. Aside from them not sharing their gifts with one another, they were also not making any real effort to speak to or to get to know one another.
For 30 seconds, everyone in the congregation would greet one another, as instructed. After that, however, people would walk away and settle back into their own cliques.
A Clear Example of the Church Not Witnessing the Gospel of Christ
One of Chan’s most heartbreaking memories is that of a young male. The kid was a part of a gang, and Chan baptized him. However, the kid later stopped attending church services.
When asked why, the boy responded that he thought church was going to be like being in a gang where people loved on and looked out for each other all the time.
Instead, people were only interested in each other on Sundays. Hearing this was painful for Chan and made him sick to his stomach.
“That makes me so sick that the gangs are a better picture of family than the church of Jesus Christ. I can’t live with that…We’re going to do something different.”
Deciding That Enough Is Enough
While he was thinking about how the church wasn’t sharing their gifts or interacting, he was also considering how much was spent annually to keep the church up and going; millions of dollars were being spent yearly for a church body that wasn’t really reaching out to one another.
Chan cried out to the Lord. He told the Lord that he knew that God wanted a church that was known for having and showing love and a church where people shared their gifts.
Chan decided that since he’s a member of the church body, perhaps he’s the mouth, but if the mouth is the only body part that’s working, how is the body going to move forward or reach out; the only thing a mouth can do is try to move the rest of the body forward merely by chewing on the carpet.
Chan’s resolve was to leave the church. This announcement came as a shock to many, including other evangelical preachers, but Chan’s mind was made up; he was tired of feeling restless and comfortable and wanted a new adventure.
Another reason Chan left the megachurch is the pride that he began to feel. Francis Chan is a man after God’s own heart. That being said, pride had begun to well up inside of him after the success of his book, Crazy Love.
“I freaked out during that time in my life,” Chan recalled. “The pride … [going to] a conference and seeing my face on a magazine … and hearing whispers … and walking in the room and actually liking it.”
This pride, along with the excitement of him becoming more famous and sought-after, was not the type of thing that Chan wanted to have in his life.
“Everything you (God) said you hated, that’s me right now,” he realized. “I gotta get out of here. I’m losing my soul.”
He began to feel convicted and decided that he should stop being in the public eye so much if he wanted to ensure he was following God’s will.
Starting a Home Church
Chan believes that it’s perfectly fine for people to meet at each other’s homes to have church services, and he now leads a movement where people are doing just that. He calls his house church movement, We Are Church.
We Are Church congregations are much smaller, giving people the opportunity to reach out to one another, share their gifts, and form relationships.
Another perk of house churches is the financial costs. While Cornerstone Church required millions of dollars annually to run, running house churches is free.
Currently, there are about 15 house churches with two pastors leading each church, and it’s working out well. Chan’s expansion plans include doubling the amount of house churches each year.
If the amount of members doubles as planned, there will be over 1 million We Are Church members loving on each other, sharing their gifts, and being a family.
What Do You Think?
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