Note from the editor: This blog post was originally published here on the Christian Leadership Alliance blog on March 7, 2014.
CLA President, Tami Heim, recently interviewed Francis Chan, who will be a keynote speaker at the 2014 CLA National Conference in Dallas (April 14-16, 2014).
Chan is the best-selling author of books including: Crazy Love, Forgotten God, and Erasing Hell, as well as the host of the BASIC.series (Who is God & We Are Church). He has also written children’s books: Halfway Herbert, The Big Red Tractor and the Little Village, and Ronnie Wilson’s Gift.
Currently, Chan is working on a church planting movement in inner city San Francisco. Recently, he joined with Pastor David Platt to co-author a new book Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples (David C Cook, 2012), and to launch a nationwide discipleship movement called Multiply (multiplymovement.com). Chan is also the founding pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California, and founder of Eternity Bible College. He lives in northern California with his wife, Lisa, and their five children.
What inspired you and David Platt to start the Multiply Movement?
I was traveling with my family, and we were pretty set on living in Asia. I was in Hong Kong after we were looking at apartments and schools for the kids, and I had a strong sense that the Lord was telling me I had not finished what I started in America and needed to go back and complete that before going anywhere else.
That work relates to discipleship and the way we do church. Currently, people expect their pastors to lead their friends to the Lord and for the church staff to disciple them. Meanwhile you have this whole army of people who attend services and Bible studies but aren’t out doing evangelism or discipleship.
I felt led to help equip people to make disciples. It was a massive vision, but I didn’t want to go out in the flesh and find people to make it happen. I asked the Lord to bring people to me so that I knew it was really from him.
One of the first guys I met when I came back was David Platt. We had read and were impacted by one another’s books, so there was an instant connection. I asked him what was on his heart. It was the exact same thing on my heart — making disciples who make disciples.
The more we talked, the more we thought, “Why not do this together?” That was the start of the Multiply Movement.
How is the Church doing in discipleship today?
Bluntly, we’re doing terribly. When Jesus said go make disciples of all nations, he wasn’t saying form circles and disciple one another. There was a world of people who had not heard of him. His point was to get to them. Jesus wants his story known all throughout the world. He gave us that responsibility.
So let’s take your average church, say of a hundred people. On any given week how many shared the gospel with an unbeliever? One? Maybe two? That’s terrible. Jesus was looking at the small group of people on the mountaintop — specifically those eleven disciples — and telling them to get this message to everyone on earth. He said he would fill us with his Spirit to do that, yet most go a whole year without ever sharing the gospel.
What’s is the lie, the stronghold holding the church back?
In a nutshell, we don’t expect people to do it. We’ve set up a system that says bring people to church and let the pastor lead them to the Lord. Bring your kids to church and let childcare workers teach them Scripture. Bring your youth to the church and let professional youth pastors guide them through their teenage years. It takes the responsibility off of people.
It got to the point that people were even asking me: “Pastor will you come to work with me and share the gospel with my friend?” And it’s like, oh, no. You do it. I know they’re saying, “I hear the way you speak, and you speak better.” But Paul said he didn’t come with eloquence for he didn’t want to empty the cross of its power. There’s something powerful about a simply spoken message.
I fault leaders like myself who at the time didn’t really think through how to equip the saints for works of service. Instead I just did it myself and hired a staff that would do it for them. Now that we’re trying to release the average person to go share the gospel, we find that there’s a lot of insecurity and people feeling ill-equipped for the job.
What’s the breakthrough that can cause a seismic shift in that thinking?
It starts with placing responsibility back on people. Just think, what if I had told my five kids, “Hey, you guys can just live here as long as you want. In fact, I’m going to build a swimming pool and batting cages and a golf course in the backyard.” As long as I allowed them to stay, without getting a job or their own place, they would likely take the path of the least resistance.
There’s a reason why God allowed the early church to be scattered. They made disciples everywhere they went.
We have to think through the structures we’re creating and the message those structures send. We must create new structures that require people to go out and launch new works, making disciples on their own.
Your book Crazy Love says the love of Christ compels us to go. Where’s the disconnect?
We are bombarded with messages urging comfort and safety. That’s what our flesh desires. We seek security through where we live or how much money we have in the bank. We’re so clouded by the world’s messages that we can’t see straight. We try to make American principles biblical principles. We’ve created a Christianized version of “the American dream.” We are tainted by the world, and it’s a fight every day not to conform.
People could read Crazy Love and for a moment say, “I want to live for eternity,” but they will hear contrary messages within a minute of putting the book down. Every day we’re pushed towards complacency and selfishness.
We’re pleased you’ll be speaking at CLA Dallas 2014. Do you have any closing thoughts for leaders who comprise CLA?
Probably a lot of these leaders are like me. We’re doers. We get frustrated at people who sit around the church and talk, talk, talk, but don’t do. It drives us crazy. Look at Christ (1 John 3:16–18). He came. He sacrificed. We should do the same.
But because I want to get a lot done, I can sometimes do that in the flesh. If I don’t rest in the Lord, and enjoy him as I should, my action doesn’t spring from my identity and enjoyment of Christ. When that happens, I end up getting the glory rather than Jesus. People say, “Oh, look at what Francis has done and what he accomplished.” People see only my actions. Instead, if I focus on Christ with thanksgiving, people see him. I would urge all leaders to be careful of that. Once we get away from time in the Lord’s presence, we are just doing things in the flesh. We are not abiding.
The second thing I would say is to make sure you absolutely, radically, passionately love and help build the local church. I can get frustrated with the church [universal], and sometimes want to do the work apart from her. Yet that’s not what Christ called us to do.
I would ask nonprofit leaders to stay close to and come under the leadership of the church. If all the workers just go off and do their own thing apart from the church, the church just gets weaker and weaker. However, Christ came to build the church. Let’s be the church’s champion.