Francis Chan spoke to a group of Facebook employees at the social media company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, on June 22, 2017. The video of his talk is circulating the Internet because of the tough subjects it tackles: pride, money and the megachurch model.
Chan starts his talk explaining why Jesus gave so much instruction about the need to humble oneself. “What do you think God hates most?” Chan asked. Pride was the answer. Humility is the antidote.
With his trademark boldness, Chan tells the group humility might be harder for them in particular than other people. “You’re at a disadvantage,” he tells the group. “There is a status working here. You’re cooler than your friends.”
It’s a problem Chan is intimately familiar with. After the success of his best-selling book Crazy Love, Chan said he had a period where he “kind of freaked out.” The success came rather unexpectedly, even though prior to this Chan actually prayed for God to make him rich. But Chan didn’t pray for wealth for the reason most people do. He asked God to make him rich so he could give the money away. Which is exactly what he did the next year after the prayer. Chan recalls the shock he felt after realizing he had made $1 million the next year after the prayer. Keeping his word that he’d “give it all away,” Chan set up a charitable gift fund to put the money in.
But there was another problem with Chan’s success. The fame it brought was almost crippling. In the midst of speaking in front of thousands of people, having his face featured on magazine covers, and being invited to speak all over the world, Chan realized he was straying from Jesus’s instruction to “humble yourselves like little children.” Again he asked God for something. He asked him to help him “come like a child” when he spoke to people.
Next, Chan went into detail about coming to know Jesus and appreciating the sacrifice he made for us. “You have to come to a point in your life where you say, ‘Are you kidding me? He died for me?’ And that’s not it, either. He rose from the dead three days later to show, ‘Look, I meant what I said. I am who I say I am,’” Chan tells the group.
It is the gospel, after all, that compels us to do some crazy, countercultural things like give money away or help other people to the point of suffering yourself. This is the model Chan and his wife showed their children.
Taking time to answer a couple questions from the group, Chan was asked two things:
Do you have any advice for instilling Christian values in children without forcing their faith?
Chan says it’s really about parents living honestly with their children. You have to live what you believe. “You can fool them when they’re young,” Chan says, half-jokingly, but when they’re older, they know who you are and what drives you. If children see you are hypocritical, they won’t want to follow your footsteps into faith.
What is working well in your We Are Church model?
This question prompted Chan to talk about the problems with the megachurch model. Previously, Chan led a church in Southern California that grew to 5,000 people. At first, Chan said, it was great. He could preach a sermon every Sunday and the church just grew and grew. But something bothered him about the church eventually. “According to the Bible, every single one of these people has a supernatural gift that’s meant to be used for the body,” Chan remembers thinking. Yet what he saw at that church was that most people showed up every Sunday just to see his gift. “That’s a huge waste,” Chan realized. Additionally, it cost millions of dollars to run the church while people in other countries run churches for free.
Now, Chan heads up something he calls We Are Church. This is more of a house church model of 14 or 15 groups at the moment. About 30 pastors lead the groups—and they don’t get paid for doing it. The groups study the Bible together and take care of one another like a family would. Chan says people grow because they have responsibility.
It’s not perfect, Chan makes sure people understand. In fact, it’s harder because “relationships are messy” and it was a lot easier to preach and then leave, like he used to do at his other church.
Chan recalls a time when, at his old church in southern California, he baptized a gang member. The young man said he must have misunderstood church because he was expecting the baptism to usher him into another family where people are in your life “24/7”—like the gang had been. Instead, he came to realize it was more about attending a service every Sunday.
Hearing that story was devastating for Chan. There is a problem, Chan states, when “the gangs are a better picture of family than the church of Jesus Christ.”
You can watch Chan’s full message, which was made accessible (fittingly) through Facebook, below.