Dear Francis Chan;
I like you and I respect you.
But you bother me.
I was distracted the months my church was discussing your Crazy Love book so, sorry, but I remember very little of what you wrote. I didn’t feel I could read your second book, Forgotten God, until I’d read your first (I may be a little obsessive compulsive in my reading habits, but that’s not the point here). Ditto on Erasing Hell. I keep promising myself I’ll read them through like an anthology one day…
Nothing in those books makes me like you nor bothers me. That fact that you’re a wildly successful Christian author has no bearing on this.
I respect you because you don’t have an updated-daily blog.
I respect you because you don’t have a billion and a half podcasted sermons and special interviews available for download.
I respect you because taking Luke 14 seriously seemed to delight you to no end. Kind of like the delighted look on your face when you talked about giving your money away.
I’ve grown up in a celebrity-bloated culture. The Facebook generation that doesn’t know what it’s like not to share the mundane details of our lives, hoping someone will find them interesting. The generation that’s got more teachers and pastors on the radio, TV, podcasts and in bookstores than any other generation
To some of these famous voices I listen and at some I rolled my eyes but what has never been in doubt is that if one can seize the broad stage of fame, then one should do it.
Whether it’s fantasizing about being on American Idol or the next church-worship-leader-turned-recording-artist, my generation’s been conditioned to hone in on celebrity like predator drones.
The thing is, sir, I’ve been reading Jesus.
Just so you know it’s not only you – Jesus also bothers me.
He said what’s done in secret is what the Father rewards. He said that when others see and praise something I do, I should expect no further mention or reward for it from His Father. He said the weak and the small and the insignificant see and are used by God in ways that the rich and the powerful and the famous will never understand.
It’s made me ask myself why I write this blog. Why I search my day for the best sound bite to upload to Facebook. Why I seek out ways to “increase my platform” when Jesus said people who self-promote and seek applause and a bigger audience will suddenly find that the Father was not in the box seats like they thought.
Which is why I respect you. Because you have the opportunity to have a massive stage every day – speaking to millions who would hang on your every word.
Instead you left your mega-church.
You give away the money you’ve made from your books.
You’ve set about making disciples in a normal sort of neighborhood with the down-and-out people you find there.
Which is why you bother me. You and your focus on ministry in the small ways to normal people. Your recent blog update (the first in a month!) where you confess you’re still wrestling with “the balance between leading by example and serving in private.”
You bother me because I suspect you’re having more fun and experiencing more of Jesus in secret than any of us suspect is possible.
There are some days – when the numbers on my blog are especially promising or when I can almost imagine myself in the world of fabulously-famous-Christian-authors and I wish, oh how I wish, I could simply swallow my culture’s lust for fame and influence.
Except then there’s you.
You both stick like thorns in the feet I wish were rushing me to notoriety.
There are precious few voices telling us to be content with the small, to give away all that we have, to be happy with what the Father sees in secret. Is it missing the point to say I wish you had a blog or a book or a sermon recorded showing me how to live life contentedly obscure? You won’t be weirded out if I tell you sometimes I Google your name, hoping against hope that you’ve decided to expand your platform and started churning out podcasts, videos and the like?
Then, when I find out you still haven’t, I’m kind of relieved. Because in the end, I think, it might make me respect you less.
Since you’re not willing to intrude on my life daily with a 30min podcast like every other mega-famous-pastor, I guess I’ll spend more time with the other thorn in my foot – Jesus. I’m sure He has a lot more to teach about small mustard seeds and the least of these.
Your ministry – with so fewer words than any other famous pastor I’ve tried – has pointed me the most richly back to Jesus.
Maybe that’s what you were hoping for all along?