Francis Chan and his family have left Hong Kong after authorities rejected their visas, the minister says. Chan is back in the San Francisco, Calif. area after spending 2020 in Hong Kong. While Chan says he is appealing the Hong Kong visa rejection, he is convinced that no matter what happens, “God is sovereign and he is in control.”
Chan and his family members had been planting house churches in Hong Kong before they had to leave in late December, 2020. The author of Crazy Love and Letters to the Church told a group of leaders in a video update that he and his two sons-in-law saw the Lord plant three house churches during their time there.
The house church model is something Chan championed while he and his family were still living in the San Francisco bay area before moving to Asia last year. Relying on lay leaders rather than trained clergy, the model is designed to be self-replicating as the leaders or elders of the house church are training other members of the group to be able to lead a group on their own.
Hong Kong Visa Rejection Caught Family by Surprise
Chan said he was caught by surprise when their visas were rejected, and initially his house church worried about whether they would be able to keep going without the leadership of Chan and his two sons-in-law. Chan said he shared two thoughts with the potential new leaders of the group.
The first thought Chan shared is that the Apostle Paul would go to a city where people had never heard the name of Jesus before and leave after just a few weeks of planting a church. Despite having no seasoned leaders, no Bible, and no other resources, these church plants not only survived but became flourishing churches. Chan argued that all these early churches had was the Holy Spirit. He then asked the group “Do you not have enough information or not enough faith?”
The second thought Chan shared was from Ephesians 4:11-12, which says Christ gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” When Chan first encountered this verse as a young pastor, he felt as if he needed to fill all of these roles himself. However, as Chan explained to the house church members, God intends for different people in a body of believers to fulfill these roles–they don’t all fall on the shoulders of the pastor or the leaders of the group. He instructed the leaders of the house church that all they had to focus on was shepherding the group.
Chan says after he shared these thoughts, the new group leaders were ready to take over. Considering leadership is a skill that requires practice in order to master, Chan speculates that if he had stayed too long leading that group, it “might have hurt the church” in the long run.
Drawing a parallel from Scripture, Chan pointed out that Jesus told the disciples it was to their advantage he go away because of the power (the Holy Spirit) that would come to them.
Still, Chan said he “hated leaving” and that his whole family loved their time in Hong Kong. It was a “stretching experience,” according to Chan. Explaining a bit of the nature of their ministry, Chan said he and his family were trying to band together believers from different socio-economic groups. One group even had some “street kids” paired with “crazy rich Asians” from the other side of town. It was thrilling and wonderful seeing them come together as one, Chan said.
Ministering in Hong Kong also stretched Chan as a preacher. Since his Chinese is “horrible,” the language barrier forced Chan to rely almost exclusively on Scripture to preach. Scripture says our elegant words can diminish the power of the cross. “I can barely get the gospel out in Chinese,” Chan said, but, he reasons, that’s “good enough.”
The Chan family also experienced God’s grace in the midst of uncertainty with their visas. While they were unsure what to do or where to go, Chan said he looked around the room during a time of prayer and saw that his family members were praising God. No one had a plan worked out or even a home to call their own, and yet not only were they not worried, they were seemingly at peace with their situation. This, said Chan, and not necessarily the visa situation being sorted out, was evidence of God’s grace.
One of Chan’s daughters and her husband ended up going to Los Angeles while another daughter and her husband went to Ireland. Chan is back in San Francisco, although he has since reapplied to re-enter Hong Kong. The minister said he doesn’t know if they will be approved this time, but either way he is up for whatever task God calls him to in the near future. Perhaps, he speculated, God has something for him to do in the United States at the moment.