“Lukewarm living and claiming Christ’s name simultaneously is utterly disgusting to God.”
Francis Chan is one the most emerging pastors and authors in America today. He has written two best- selling books Crazy Love and Forgotten God. He has founded the church, Cornerstone Community, and Eternity Bible College. As a 44 year- old Hong Kong native, Francis has been through more tragedy in a short life than most people do in a lifetime. But God has used everything in his life to bring him where he is today. Here’s his amazing story that you don’t want to miss!
Setting the Stage:
Francis Chan was born on August 31, 1967 in Hong Kong. His mother, Moy Won Chan, died giving birth to him. His father, Paul, was very strict and beat him for disobeying or bothering him. Francis, though, learned discipline and respect through his father despite his dysfunctional relationship with his father. At the age of seven, his father remarried and moved his family to California. Less than 2 years later, Francis’ stepmother was killed in a car accident. Then at the age of twelve, as Francis began high school, his father died of cancer. Shortly after, Francis moved to Stockton, California to live with his extended family. It was there he became involved in a local youth group and came to know Christ. From his experiences in youth group, he began to grow an interest in ministry.
After high school, Chan attended Master’s College just north of Los Angeles where he earned a seminary degree. During this time, Francis worked for a variety of employers including Taco Bell, Mic Pizza, Kirby Company, Ralphs Market, Broadway Men’s Clothing, and hardwood flooring contractors. After graduating, Chan landed a youth pastor position at the Church at Rock Peak in Chatsworth, California. It was during this time, that Francis separated his religious views from his personal life. He would later say this about this period in his life:
“Those were the worst times of my life. I learned more intellectually than any other time, but it was a sinful, hypocritical time.”
Chan would leave the youth position to wait tables at a local restaurant. He was confused and disillusioned; he was “falling apart” and ready for a change. During this period, Francis met his future wife, Lisa, who sang in the worship team at a local church. Over time, Chan slowly gathered ten other families who were also disillusioned with their faith and the church. In 1993 he married Lisa and then shortly after founded Cornerstone Community Church in Simi Valley.
Over the next ten years, Cornerstone grew to over 3,000 regular attendees who come to multiple campuses in the L.A. area. In its twelfth year, Cornerstone was the epitome of success—a vibrant, growing mega-church—and Chan was celebrated as a leader to watch. But something to Chan didn’t feel right. He didn’t feel like a sold-out follower of Jesus. So on a spring night in 2006, Chan faced a personal crisis of whether he was the follower that Jesus demanded. Growth had become the goal of the church and everything seemed to be focused on themselves. Chan said this about that time:
“I was very self-centered, and therefore, I led a church into being self-centered.”
It was an experience a few years earlier, in 2002, that changed his life. He went on a missions trip to Uganda and for the first time saw real poverty. He witnessed daughters going through dumpsters for food and the question: “what does it look like to love my neighbor as myself?” ran through his mind. So he moved his family out of their 2,00 square-foot house into one that was one half that size so he could give more to missions.
So on that night in 2006, Francis wrestled with God’s difficult call to his personal life and announced his plans to resign as Cornerstone’s pastor. During that time he spoke at Passion conferences, but he spent most of that time studying God’s Word. It was then that he began to see God as the perfect father; the father he never had. It was then that Chan decided to trust God–allow him complete control for the first time. He talked to his wife and his executive pastor planning to leave Cornerstone and start a new church. But after an overwhelming response from the congregation to stay and give them a chance; he decided to stay. His sermon “Lukewarm and Loving It” explained why Christians often settle for a lukewarm faith. The sermon marked a new beginning for him and the start of a new Cornerstone.
Running the Race:
Before the sermon in October 2006, Cornerstone gave only 4 percent of its budget to missions and charity. Chan asked them to give away 50 percent. Cuts in staff salaries and other sacrifices were made, but everyone was on board. In 2008, the church gave away 55 percent to the poor and hungry, including a $1 million annual commitment to Children’s Hunger Fund and a contribution to World Impact. As the growth continued, it was proposed that they built a larger church–a $50 million dollar church but Francis wanted nothing to do with it. Instead they decided to built an outdoor amphitheater where the community come meet during the week and a gathering place for worship on Sunday. It saved them tens of millions of dollars. If it rained, Chan would be content knowing their money was feeding the hungry.
In 2010, Cornerstone was attracting over 4,000 regular attendees. Chan’s second ministry, weekly Simi Valley sermons, rank consistently in the top 20 Christian podcasts on iTunes. On April 18 of 2010, Chan announced to the church that he was resigning once again to pursue a new adventure God is calling him to do. Francis says this about his decision:
“I’m excited about it, I’m sad about it. At moments, I’m afraid of it. It’s just a really crazy time in my life right now.”
In 2011, Francis Chan wrote his 3rd book titled, “Erasing Hell”, which is in response to Rob Bell’s highly controversial book, “Love Wins.” He is currently working towards starting a church planting movement in the inner city of San Francisco along with working on launching a countrywide discipleship movement called BASIC. This is a set of seven short films that on the core fundamentals of the Christian faith. His 15 year-old daughter, Rachel, recently released her first music album titled, “Go.” He and his family now live in the Northern California area.
Besides being the senior pastor for Cornerstone Community Church; Francis has made many more contributions being felt across the globe. Chan currently gives away 90 percent of his income and doesn’t take a salary from a church. Also Chan donates his book royalties, around half a million to various charities including organizations that rescue sex slaves in foreign countries. He is the founder of Eternity Bible College and is on the board of directors of Children’s Hunger Fund and World Impact. He speaks at many conferences throughout the year, including Passion Conferences. In 2008, Chan wrote his first book, Crazy Love, which calls us to live a life of authentic faith away from comfort, complacency, and the status quo. It’s sold over 300,000 copies and has made many best-seller lists. In 2009, Crazy Love, was followed by his second book, Forgotten God. The book addresses the church’s need to pursue the sprit-filled life of effectiveness that God desires. Here are a few quotes from his books that are thought-provoking:
“It is true that God may have called you to be exactly where you are. But, it is absolutely vital to grasp that he didn’t call you there so you could settle in and live your life in comfort and superficial peace.”
“The core problem isn’t the fact that we’re lukewarm, halfhearted, or stagnant Christians. The crux of it all is why we are this way, and it is because we have an inaccurate view of God. We see Him as a benevolent Being who is satisfied when people manage to fit Him into their lives in some small way. We forget that God never had an identity crisis. He knows that He’s great and deserves to be the center of our lives.”
“God’s definition of what matters is pretty straightforward. He measures our lives by how we love.”
“?Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter, unless it is about loving God and loving the people he has made?”
Lessons from His Legacy:
Much can be taken away from Chan’s life to this point. First, God uses tragedy and pain for his eternal purposes. Despite his difficult childhood, everything was orchestrated to bring Chan into ministry and to impact people across the globe. Also from his life, we can grasp that God is the Father we ultimately need and will never disappoint us, forsake us, or leave us. God is the Father to the fatherless. Another big lesson to be grasped is that life here on earth for Christians will not be easy and problem-free; in fact the exact opposite is most likely the case. God doesn’t call us to lead lives of comfort and complacency–instead he calls us to trust Him completely with everything we have living lives of sacrifice, surrender, and love. Finally, Chan’s life is a testament to the calling to give back to God and His kingdom. Giving just because we’re commanded to is not the correct response God wants from us; instead we should give because of God’s amazing love for us. Not out of obligation, but joy. The future is still somewhat undefined for Francis Chan, but is predominant fixture in the Christian ministry scene has just begun. Francis lives what he preaches and doesn’t settle for what the world defines as success. He is truly a man of faith, conviction, love, and compassion. To experience a revival in the church, we would best follow his example. The example Christ set out for us and His bride.
Christianity Today October 2009 Pages 42-45, Crazy Passion