David Platt and Francis Chan: Two Calvinistas I Could Grow to Love

I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love.                                                                       Mother Teresa
 

As our readers know, we have come up with a term “Calvinista”, which we use to describe Calvinists who take this doctrine to a whole new level. Calvinistas are very sure that they are interpreting the Bible absolutely correctly and leave little room for disagreement amongst the faithful regarding secondary issues. In fact, secondary issues take on primary importance to his crowd because they are utterly certain of what every verse in the Bible means. In particular, the role of women and authoritarianism are hot button issues. However, they fuss with one another on the issues of paedobaptism versus believer’s baptism, with both camps being 100% certain of the correct Biblical interpretation.
 

These men hang around in groups such as The Gospel Coalition and Together for the Gospel. They write lots of books, endorse each others’ books, and fly around to lots of conferences where they hear each other speak, etc. They stress big churches and pull in big incomes. They are so sought after that they are asked to autograph Bibles by their admirers. Some of the big boys in this movement (it's important to stress that this is a predominantly a male thing since women have no place in church leadership) include: Mark Driscoll, CJ Mahaney, Joshua Harris, John Piper, Matt Chandler, Mark Dever, Al Mohler, David Platt, and Francis Chan, among a growing throng of leaders who want to catch the Calvinista wave.
 

However, several of these guys are going “off message”, which is causing a stir in the Calvinista network. First, John Piper took a "leave of absence" to get his life in order. Here is a link to our article John Piper Jumps the Shark.

 

Two other members of the club — Francis Chan and David Platt — are causing some waves, and a few of the big boys appear to be none too happy. I am focusing on some decisions that these two men have made about their lifestyles. There is no question that I have disagreements with them doctrinally, but that is for another day. Also, I believe that some of their doctrine may be in flux as they begin a new emphasis in their ministries. Only time will tell…
 

My daughter attends Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, and she has recently been attending David Platt’s 4,000 member Church of Brook Hills (SBC) in a very lovely suburb of Birmingham. A couple of Sundays ago, she asked me to attend church with her. I have to admit, I was rather impressed. The stage area of the pulpit appears to depict street life in a desperately poor third world country. My daughter confirmed that this is a permanent setting.
 

During the service he introduced a couple who will be going to Seattle to reach out to the large immigrant population of that area. They indicated that only 4% of  Seattle's population claim to be evangelicals. There seemed to be a great emphasis on missions during the service, and my daughter says that it is par for the course.
 

Platt is a soft-spoken man, not given to histrionics, cussing, or other new or hip preaching methods. He gave an excellent presentation on the book of Habakkuk. The music combined contemporary and traditional lyrics by a decent worship band that did not engage in over amplification or lots of jumping around and emotionalism. I actually knew most of the songs, but I wish I could sing them on key.
 

What struck me was Platt’s own commitment to living amongst the poor. He has sold his house and moved his family, which includes three adopted children, to a two-bedroom home in the inner city of Birmingham, which is known for its high crime rate. He is urging his well-heeled congregation to do the same. Why? It appears that this Calvinista had a crisis of faith.
 

In an interview with the Biblical Recorder earlier this year we learn:

 

“He could no longer ignore the fact that children starve to death and people die from chicken pox and Christians are martyred. His heart became burdened for the needs of others. 


“If these needs are real, and if I believe the gospel, then my life has to reflect a radical abandonment to Christ,” he said.  Platt came to understand that “to be serious about living the gospel out” he had to restructure his values and priorities. 


Platt and his wife sold their house and moved into a smaller one. The goal is to “establish a cap on our lifestyle to free up as much as possible to give away” and he is challenging Brook Hills to do the same.

 

“We challenge families and individuals in the church to look at the way they are spending their money. Just because we have a certain salary doesn’t mean we have to live up to that standard of living,” he said. The question becomes not what can families keep, but what can they give away?

 

The church budget got a serious makeover and staff started asking what could be cut so more could be given away. Some events that once cost $1,200 now cost about $25. Instead of spending money to print posters advertising events, cardboard and magic markers now get the word out around Brook Hills.

 

Eighty-three percent of the worship ministry was cut as Brook Hills came to learn they really can do more with less. A plan to revise the budget was in place in just a few weeks because the people were ready.”

 

Meanwhile, over on the west coast, Francis Chan is stirring up all sorts of controversy. Francis was the pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California. His church draws 15,000 on an average Sunday. He has been a best selling author and darling of the Reformed set, until now. Chan has decided to quit his pastorate. From the Christian Post we learn:

 

“The well-known preacher is still unsure of what his next adventure will be or where God is calling him to though he's feeling drawn toward Los Angeles. Part of him wants to go somewhere where he is unknown, he said. He also has a sense that he's being called to do church differently, not necessarily with formal Sunday services.

"I've really tried to search my heart on this because when you feel led by the Lord you have to first look at the Scriptures and make sure you're going because of the Scriptures," he stressed.

Checking his motives, Chan said money wasn't drawing him, nor was fame or comfort. In fact, he believes he's being led to greater obscurity and to lift other people into the limelight, and he expects there to be more difficulty and pain wherever he's going.

He plans to take his family to a third world country – possibly Thailand – where they will care for victims of the slave trade and orphans while spending time seeking the Lord.”

 

It has also been reported that Chan wants to concentrate on urban ministry. Wikipedia reports that “Chan gives away about 90 percent of his income … Chan doesn't take a salary from his church, and he has donated all of his book royalties, which total about $500,000 to various charities. Much of it goes to organizations which rescue sex slaves in foreign countries.”
 

Both Platt and Chan seem to share some similar concerns. They are giving up an upper middle class lifestyle to live among the poor and abused. They are emphasizing missions in order to serve the poor and forgotten.
 

Now, one might think that their fellow pastors and authors would commend them for being willing to live a radically different lifestyle. Mark Driscoll, who wrote a book entitled Radical Reformission, seems to be rather perturbed about Chan’s sudden departure from the lifestyle of the rich, reformed, and famous. In other words, it appears that Driscoll is threatened by real radicalism, as lived out by Chan.

 

In an interview with Chan and Joshua Harris, Driscoll appears disapproving. Click on the link for the actual interview.

 

The following is a synopsis of that “round table” palaver. Driscoll exhibits his unusual aptitude for the English language in the following exchange.

 
"I’ll be honest. Everybody thinks you're cuckoo for cocoa puffs. You got a good church going on and you hit the eject button and now you're the international man of Fu Manchu mystery," said Driscoll. (Editors note: I promise that is a direct quote. You cannot make this stuff up)!

 

"It seems to me that if the primary view of sanctification comes through simplicity, poverty, suffering, if you don't get those things it's almost like when God blesses, it's hard to be sanctified because you don't know what to do with it," Driscoll said. "And so you almost have to get rid of that which is complicated, make life hurt a little more, go to a third world country, and/or adopt poverty and give it all away because you're only allowing God to sanctify in the preconceived ways.

 

"What if God wants to sanctify you through not poverty but generosity, not suffering but blessing, and what if it's not through simplicity but complexity?"

Driscoll cautioned that Chan could be following a "poverty theology", which he said is "the same error as prosperity theology – that holiness comes from have or have not, not who is".

 

Joshua Harris, a close friend of Mark Driscoll and one of the golden boys of the oft-criticized Sovereign Grace Ministries, joined in on the fray.

"Driscoll and Harris, who are council members of The Gospel Coalition, expressed some concern over starting something and leaving and wondering if he would repeat that pattern in the future. The two appear to gang up on Chan in this exchange.

"How long do you think you'll be at the new work before discontentment or frustration sets in because if I was in the core group I would ask that question. Is this a discontentedness in your soul that won't ever be satisfied?" the Mars Hill pastor (Driscoll) asked.

Harris also offered, "If everybody out there just said 'hey, let me go start something new' … that's an important thing to realize. We do need guys who are in an established church and go 'you know what, maybe it's not alright but here's how I can slowly over time build and redirect in certain ways and so on'."

I think that there is a crack in the façade over at The Gospel Coalition. It is well known that one must carefully toe the party line on secondary doctrinal issues. One is also expected to endorse GC members’ books and attend each other’s conferences so that maximum profits and notoriety might be obtained. After all, travel is the spice of life.
 

But, it appears, that it is totally and absolutely against the rules to make any sort of suggestion about lifestyle. It is far worse to go beyond the suggestion and actually live a radical lives. Men like Driscoll and Harris lead well-to-do lifestyles and it is evident that they like it this way. They also like their big, fancy, high-tech churches. They are even so bold as to suggest that their churches might be in trouble without their presence, if their above critique about Chan deserting his church is to be believed.
 

And when one of their own begins to express doubt, it is time to call in the troops. Calvinistas are so cocksure of their paradigm that being unsure about one’s calling really rattles the cage.
 

I find Driscoll particularly interesting when he seems quick to point out that God might be sanctifying people through generosity. Although, at its very core, there is some truth in that, the Bible makes mention of the fact that it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

 

Driscoll then goes on to point out poverty theology as being as bad as the prosperity gospel. I am not sure what planet Driscoll is living on, but I know very few people who are willing to sell all that they have and go to live amongst the poor. The vast majority of Christians would far rather embrace a God who wants them to be comfortable. Driscoll need not be too concerned about a sudden rush to embrace “poverty theology”.

 

I think the underlying issue is rather clear. Both Platt and Chan are being called to a simpler lifestyle, which emphasizes sacrificial servanthood, and are encouraging others to do the same. The real problem is the same one that the rich, young ruler had to face. How many Christians are really willing to question their lifestyle, their mission, and their lives and reject the status quo to follow a less traveled road? Frankly, this blogger finds the lives and theology of Platt and Chan far more intriguing and challenging than the ho-hum “bless me” club of the typical Calvinista. And anyone who irritates Driscoll and Harris can't be all bad.

Comments

David Platt and Francis Chan: Two Calvinistas I Could Grow to Love — 57 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for sharing the story of the Church of Brook Hills! I graduated in 1982 from W A Berry High School (since renamed) in Hoover, Alabama, also a suburb of Birmingham. How I would have loved to be a part of this type of life ministry. Having been a witness to the fiasco also known as Wonderland I am moved to tears! May God continue to bless David Platt and this church he leads by example.

  2. Very interesting. While there is truth in what all the players say (Platt & Chan, and Driscoll & Harris), I always tend to question those who are critical of what others believe is the Lord’s direction for their lives.

    Driscoll & Harris could have just said something like “More power to them, I hope God blesses them as they seek to do His will.” Then I’d be more inclined to think that Driscoll & Harris were comfortable that they themselves are doing what God wants of them. But they sound like may be insecure and feel they have something to prove when they are critical of another family’s decision to live out their faith in a way that family feels is most pleasing to God.

    On the other hand, if Platt & Chan are expecting everyone else to share their priorities and choices, they, too, may be being overly critical of those who don’t do what they are doing. It’s commendable that they are not seeking after what this world has to offer, and it is good for them to challenge others to have God’s priorities. But they need to be careful not to take on the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of other believers and condemn them for something the Spirit hasn’t brought them to embrace for themselves.

    We all need to beware of the legalism of expecting everyone else to do what we personally believe God has directed us to do.

  3. Great points, Junkster! It will be interesting to follow these ministries in the years to come.

    May God be glorified!

  4. I find it interesting that much of Chan’s income “goes to organizations which rescue sex slaves in foreign countries”, according to Wikipedia.

    My daughter, who is a freshman at a large public university, was required to read a book called HALF THE SKY, which focuses on the sex slave industry. The author came and spoke at the convocation, and I thoroughly enjoyed her presentation and concern for these young women. It amazes me that a secular university appears to have more concern about this travesty than the Christian community.

  5. My wife and I have experienced some rejection because we chose to move into one of the poorest (and highest crime) neighborhoods in the city. Friends at church could not comprehend it and others cannot fathom why people with our backgrounds would choose to live here in a house continually undergoing rehabilitation (currently being painted on the exterior by an ex-con). Most Christians are at least a little into the wealth is a blessing and poverty is the result of not being “blessable”.

    I have intentionally non-wealthy people who refuse to be call “Christian” and prefer to be known as either a “follower of the way of Jesus” or as a “follower of Jesus”. Of course our Lord was homeless during his ministry.

  6. Be careful tooting David Platt’s horn, as he may have downsized his personal abode to look good to his underlings, he does like playing with the Big Boys who don’t follow his new teachings. See David Platt at a upscale restaurant http://yfrog.com/fvtpbaj (notice it was not a McDonald’s with a Dollar menu unless he is only going to just eat those crackers) with Steve Gaines and associate pastor, Drew Tucker. (formerly from Ronnie Flyod’s mega church) They both flew $$$$ from Memphis,Tn to Birmingham,AL (only a 3.5 hour drive) to dine with David Platt the Thursday before David Platt spoke at Bellevue Baptist’s Awesome August the following Wednesday. At which he was lavished with a Dinner Party with 40 selected Bellevue men.

    Surely not the “commitment to living amongst the poor” that you mentioned.

    Note that Steve Gaines is Anti – Calvinist (but pro lavish personal spending) who just in july stated that NO CALVINIST could teach at Bellevue,

    http://bellevuepastor.org/2010/07/calvinism/

    So then why David Platt at their Awesome August? Could it be that best selling book had anything to do with it?

    David has also stated that unless you are doing the things he prescribes, you are not following the Jesus of the Bible. So where does that take you?

    Hmmm, a new cult?

  7. Oops, after only reading the headline title of the entry…I did not realize much of your blog post is devoted to the very conversation. :)

  8. Once again I apologize for making a string of comments filled with typos and for having made one in the first place after only having read the entry’s title!

    Anyhow, one of the other interesting things I noticed about Chan’s ministry is how his wife often joins him in teaching/preaching at his (now former) church. Usually, it’s clear that her message is meant for and directed towards women specifically, but she speaks before the *entire* congregation–ultimately implying that the message is relevant to members of both sexes.

    In this video, Lisa Chan speaks on “Christ-Centered Relationships” (specifically marriage.) This is definitely not your average complementarian “Titus 2″ lecture. For one thing, the focus is on centering the marriage around CHRIST, not on idolatry of the husband. The focus is on the GOSPEL, not on the in’s and outs of homemaking. In fact one of the examples Lisa gives about serving as a helpmeet to her husband was by taking a job (in the workplace) as he began to devote more of his time to starting and planning a church.

    I encourage those of you to watch some of the video if you have the chance. (** Lisa comes on about 20+ minutes in…)

    http://vimeo.com/13465374

  9. I have to agree with Anonymous. That plastic Coca Cola cup doesn’t look very upscale to me. On the other hand, the photo shows that these high profile pastors never know who’s watching…

  10. Each one of the people you have mentioned in this story has made valid points about the Faith.

    I applaud Platt and Chan for doing what they believe God has called them to do. I have enjoyed listening to them, the few times I have heard them.

    I suspect that these men will continue to be held in high regard by Mohler, Dever et al.

    I do not care for what Driscoll said. It seems defensive.

    But there is a valid warning to be taken from all this. Despite your lack of concern that many people will want to rush to poverty build their spiritual bona fides, it is still an error, in my opinion to suggest that one must adopt a certain lifestyle to be truly spiritual.

    Tony Campollo wrote a book long ago stating that sincere, intentional disciples of Christ could not own BMWs. That it was contrary to what being a Christian meant.

    That is legalism, pure and simple. The church has seen it over the years, though it’s usually focused on other lifestyle issues. It is a mark of monasticism, which promises a deeper spiritual life, but does not really deliver one from the complexities of modern life.

    Vows of poverty have been around for a long time in the Christian faith. They are not a ticket to the next level or necessarily a mark of being spiritual.

    Let’s just applaud Platt and Chan for their concern and their action which the Lord has led them to take.

    And let’s be glad that this message is present in the Evangelical world in the presence of these men.

    But let’s don’t swap one form of legalism and idolatry for another.

  11. They were at a bar-b-que place (bottles = Southern style sauce). Probably a mid-price place like a Chili’s or O’Charley’s would be. And I would surmise that Bellevue paid for their meal, not David. Just my $0.02. =)

  12. Both Driscoll and Harris are big into their own authority over others in the Body. Driscoll proved it with his internal ‘coup’ a few years ago. Harris has patriarchy bonafides going back years even before he was chosen for SGM (which is a cult that he fit into perfectly)

    I would not put Platt and Chan into the same category. Platt still has a 4000 member church of folks who follow him and a stage set is not reality.

    I did like using old fashioned posters instead of expensive printing. I know mega’s that spend hundreds of thousands on that sort of printing a year!

    The wealthy do have more to fear. When you have wealth you are not as dependent on God for basic needs..even in the West. We would see a basic need as being able to have a medical test. But cannot afford it? Must depend on God. then, one see’s God working in their life and their faith grows.

    Pity folks who are so comfortable they never have that level of dependence on God in their life. And in effect, cannot know the Holy Spirit that well for guidance.

  13. You know, Lydia, dependence on God is really KEY. Unfortunately, most who profess the name of Christ are relatively self-sufficient.

    I think of this sometimes with regard to agriculture, which in days gone by used to be the livelihood of the vast majority of our predecessors. They were dependent on God for their very sustenance, and their prayer lives likely reflected it. “Lord, please water our crops,” for example.

    Living the good life is not always conducive to living a spirit-filled life because it often hinders our understanding of how much we really need Him in our day-to-day existence.

  14. Anonymous,

    I agree with what you have shared. LIBERTY over LEGALISM is the clear teaching found in the New Covenant.

  15. It was Chan actually that drew my attention to a Proverbs verse I often overlook:

    “…Give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
    Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the LORD ?’
    Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God.”

    ~ Proverbs 3:8-9

  16. It doesn’t seem to me that Chan and Platt have taken vows of extreme poverty — they have simply realized the dangerous trappings of “celebrity pastorhood” and American materialism.

    With all due respect, most of the criticism they are being met with seems to stem from people who are reflexively defensive of the attachments they have to the comforts of their own lifestyles or their own ambitions for attaining more wealth and power. It’s easy to want to make excuses.

    When looking at the American church, it’s clear that the idolatry of wealth is far more of a problem than some would like to address. It’s this very wealth, that makes for lukewarm professions of faith and holds us back from keeping an *eternal* perspective of the lives we lead.

    JESUS specifically said our treasures are to be stored up in heaven — this runs completely contrary to the entrenched American emphasis on 401K’s and fat retirement accounts. Jesus never once said “be careful you might become too poor,” but he ALWAYS warned against the dangers posed by riches. Jesus never said “be sure to save up your money,” but he ALWAYS commanded his followers to GIVE and SHARE everything they had.

    Platt and Chan are not encouraging people to become “poor” in the literal sense of the word– I think they are merely saying keep your material blessings in perspective. Focus not on “how much you can have” but “how much you can GIVE away for the sake of the kingdom and the glory of GOD.”

    Our hearts need to be in the right place.

    The focus should be on what we NEED, not on what we WANT or think we need but don’t. We should not waste money that does not to be spent — flashy signs and expensive marketing gimmicks may draw people to church, but it’s not what will draw people to Christ…Storing up large amounts of church profits rather than spending it on charity and missions runs counter to the teachings of Jesus and we risk failing to trust Christ’s promise that He will always provide *enough*…

    Rejecting the culture of materialism and celebrity is one of the few ways Christian Americans have to set ourselves apart from the culture and from members of other religions.

    It’s true the monastic practices of monks and nuns in the Middle Ages had their trappings, but they also had merits worth our consideration and re-examination.

  17. Indeed Junkster & Anonymous make great points:

    The issue is not “let’s have a competition to see who can have the smallest house and cheapest car” or “God will love you more because if you move to a crime-ridden neighborhood.” The issue is about our HEARTS needing to be in the right place, regardless of whatever station in life the LORD has put us in.

    A believer can be just as much of a needed light in a spiritually dead, upper class suburb as one can be in an impoverished, inner city ghetto.

    It’s not WHAT we have, that is the problem. It’s what we make of or DO with what we have that is the issue.

  18. Thank you for the video. I appreciate your insight into Chan’s wife. Maybe a change is brewing.

  19. Some of the world’s most celebrated restaurants got their start in holes in the wall. I cite Legal Seafoods of Boston and Grimaldi’s of NYC as examples

  20. Anonymous

    Point taken. I am well aware of Campolo. However, I still say that many of today’s American Christians (and I include myself in this) are used to fancy churches, fancy coffee at church, and spend precious little time contemplating a lost and poor world. I had many mothers tell me that they would not want their children to be missionaries and live in foreign countries. Jesus spent a fait amount of time in His ministry living amongst the poor. He chose to be born in poverty instead of being born in a castle. It is said he had no place to lay His head.

    I doubt very many people in America’s churches idolize poverty over riches. I also do not believe most Christians would say that one has to live and work amongst the poor. I think many of them fun in the opposite direction a fast as they can.Look at FBC Dallas, adding a $120 million dollar “addition.” Doubt many there will ever idolize those who live amongst the poor.

  21. Corky’s perhaps? Have you ever seen the picture of the rich and famous who go out of there way to visit there? I love their ribs!

  22. The only reason that I put them in the same category is that the two of them are shaking things up around the Gospel Coalition. Driscoll seems most displeased.I find it all rather interesting and a bit, I must admit, amusing as I watch Driscoll try to not be convicted by Chan’s choices.

  23. Who do you think the world respects more, Mother Theresa or Ed Young Jr? I think, deep down inside, we all realize we could do with less and give away more. Stuart Briscoe made an interesting statement a number of years ago at one of the Lausanne Conferences. When they suggested that one of their stated goals should be to live simply, he suggested, “live simpler.” And believe you me, I am pointing straight at myself!

  24. I think that if we are too comfortable in our lives, that probably means we need to live a bit edgier.

  25. My question of the day: Do we want to be CALLED “Christians” or do we want to BE a “follower of Jesus the Christ”. I hope the latter, because a lot who are called Christians do not seem to follow the teachings and example of Jesus.

  26. Exactly! Look at all the agricultural/animal references Jesus uses! From sowing seeds to grape vines and sheep!

    Another reality for depending on God is that God usually works through people. So, the next time someone says to you, God will take care of you…think long and hard about what they are really saying, “If you have enough faith, God will fix it”. That is a dangerous position. What they really should be thinking is, “What would God have me do since I now know about this need?”

  27. Oh, I agree! I was chuckling at Driscoll and Harris. They have a lot to lose they are holding onto.

    The big thing is Chan walking away from all the influence he has. He seems to get it– that it is a dangerous place for any human to be. So many of our leaders have more in common with Levite priests than they do with any function within the New Covenant of the Priesthood of believer!

  28. Arce

    Amen and amen. So many times we Christians (myself included) pay a lot of lip service to the faith. But, when it comes to time to actually act on our beliefs, we hesitate because it is too hard. Instead we stay in our nice, safe enclaves and never fully live out the faith we profess. Following Jesus is simultaneously hard and easy. Once we do the hard thing, we find the hard becomes increasingly easy.

  29. Lydia
    God called many in the early church to martyrdom. I remember when my daughter was so sick with her brain tumor, people would say to me that God was obviously going to heal her and that I should have enough faith.

    I remember thinking that having enough faith meant I could accept that God might take her home. People would raise their eyebrows when I stated such things.

  30. I love it when people reject the status quo.I hope he stands firm.

    Also, Platt’s church is an interesting phenomenon. He is regularly advocating that some of these people should consider following him to live in the inner city. I will be interested how this plays out in the long run. Will the well heeled of his congregation stay or leave.

    My son has also applied to Samford, and if accepted, he will be spending 6 or more years there due to his major. I will have fun watching this over a longer period of time as I go there for visits.

  31. Dee:

    No doubt. In this culture, particularly the South, the more common error is to love riches. I think that is probably true of all humanity, and it’s probably why there are more warnings in the Bible against that than there are in the other direction. Making an idol of denial is a tough mission, one that not many people gravitate toward. But when they do – look out. They will either try to force the same denial on others, or more usually, just claim to have reached a higher level with God because of their denial.

    Robert Stein’s book, The Method and Message of Jesus’ Teaching, has a simple but fairly comprehensive discussion of the meaning of the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven. One take, which has been prevelant in the church’s history, is to divide believers into 2 categories. The ordinary ones that live typical lives and do not follow some of Christ’s statements about possessions etc. The super spiritual are those who take Christ’s statements literally. The give up all possessions, never marry etc. These are seen as more holy and devout.

    I have lived through and been around my share of legalism, however. There is almost no good or noble deed that cannot be quickly prostituted into law.

    I find that there a not a few people who drive Christians in this direction. We don’t need this in the evangelical circles.

  32. Anonymous

    Well stated. The difficulty is in the application. One must be willing to look carefully at one’s life , willing to be ruthlessly honest.I think Christians who are too content should wonder why. We should, as Christians, be willing to live a bot on the edge. As I have heard many preachers say: “Not how much should I give but how much should I keep.”

    Frankly I m a bit weary of preachers living lavish lifestyles and pushing for lavish churches. Somehow, Driscoll talking about home theaters and Ed young Jr pontificating about $10,000 espresso machines rings hollow to me.

    I am definitely not legalistic in my lifestyles much to the chagrin of some former pastors. But somehow I am not fully content either. I am currently reexamining my life in regards to service and find I need to do more in this area.

    I neither want legalism or excess and I think there should be a constant evaluation between the two.

  33. You said, “It amazes me that a secular university appears to have more concern about this travesty than the Christian community.”

    This is not true. Several Christian groups have taken the lead in dealing with this (including the Georgia Baptist Convention, some Baptist universities, and numerous Churches – you would be interested to know that Mark Driscoll has done a great deal in this regard, as well as several Acts29 churches). They just don’t get the publicity for it that secular groups do.

  34. I think you ladies are way off on this. I don’t think Driscoll is upset in any way at either Chan or Platt. I think he is trying to understand Chan and his decision. And he is not alone in that regard. Lots of people don’t really understand why Chan is doing what he is doing (or not doing). And as several of you commentators have pointed out, we need to be careful to not exchange one sin (materialism) for another (legalism and asceticism).

    There’s no controversy that I see. You might check out the review of Platt’s book that Kevin DeYoung did where he critically evaluated the possibility of a new legalism arising out of being “Radical”. Platt agreed with DeYoung’s assessment and noted that his intent was exactly for people to live “simpler” and not in poverty. Platt’s challenge has repeatedly been to live as though you made $50,000/year (a relatively high amount, though probably the low end of his congregation, which is generally pretty wealthy, especially given the Church’s location).

    Thus, I would say Driscoll’s interview and evaluation of Chan says little about an arising controversy and even less about his views of David Platt or a new partial monastic movement.

  35. D R Randle

    I agree that legalism can be as much a trap as materialism. But, I do not think that the church in America has to worry about people taking up vows of poverty anytime soon. I can count on one hand people who have deliberately given up their lifestyle to live among the poor. On the other hand, there are not enough stars in the sky to count the number of American Christian who have pursued the lifestyle of the rich and famous.

    After seeing the well heeled folks at his church, I don’t think he will need to worry about the rush to join him in the ghetto. Asceticism? Radicalism?In the American church? Those are two problems that I don’t think we should loose sleep over.

    Perhaps you are right that Driscoll is merely trying to understand Chan’s decision. If so, he needs some lessons in learning new facial expressions because his sure conveyed disapproval.

    Of course few understand what Chan is doing. The American church has made a God out of rich and large churches with fancy coffee bars. Most of these guys understand FBC-Dallas’s attempt to build a $120 million addition without batting an eye. But they can’t understand giving up a great lifestyle and living amongst the oppressed and poor. That just isn’t done here in America.

  36. Dee,

    As as pastor, I can tell you there is asceticism in the American Church. I’ve met several who indeed have been modern ascetics. But certainly they are a minority group. Still, it is a issue that goes along with legalism that we do need to make sure that we are conscious of (certainly the inspiration of the Holy Spirit upon Paul in Colossians 2 indicates to us that asceticism is an issue that will always need to be dealt with by the Church). And as I noted, Platt, when confronted with the possible ramifications of his book and teaching, consented that DeYoung’s was indeed a legitimate criticism and a needed reminder for us. So there is no controversy there.

    As for Driscoll, I am pretty sure that his concern is not with Chan giving up a large Church or a “successful” ministry, but rather the assumption that whenever we are feeling too comfortable, we need to run from that comfort to something difficult or even dangerous. Indeed God does not always call us out of our comfort zone. Often He uses that comfort in order that we might not be distracted in our ministries by our discomfort. John Piper had a good word regarding pastoral suffering at Together for the Gospel 2 years ago. While we are called to suffer for the sake of the Gospel, all of our suffering does not have to look the same.

    Again, I think this is much ado about nothing. This is a discussion among friends as to what the Christian life ought to look like when we take seriously the commands of Christ and the call to suffer for His sake.

  37. D R

    I would like to press you on this point a bit further. My observation of the American church it more readily reflects the values of a rich culture than the values of Christ. For what you say to be true, we should see far more people seeking a simpler lifestyle than I see in today’s churches. America’s churches today focus far more on building coffee bars and large additions than on the issues of poverty and suffering in the world. Our churches are quite comfortable or maybe even too comfortable.

    Chan is doing something different that is making some people feel uncomfortable with their comfort. Suffering for the Gospel in America today is almost nonexistent. I have had people say that they suffer when someone criticizes prayer on a television show or their kid is told not to wear a Jesus shirt to school.

    In light of the true suffering for the Gospel that takes place all around the world, American Christians should be ashamed to even compare our comfortable suffering with true sacrifice.

    I can honestly say that, although I have been bold with my faith, occasionally shot down, had a few people laugh, I haven’t even come close to true suffering and neither have most of the Christians I have know in my life.

    I think American Christians have it easy and have gotten soft and are more concerned about rising taxes and the concomitant decline in our large salaries (Driscoll loves to talk about home theaters) than the pain and suffering in a dying world.

    I don’t know, D R, I’m not sure I buy the fact that almost all of us “suffer ” for Christ. Convince me

  38. Dee,

    I would certainly agree that most of our supposed “suffering” in the American Church is weak and amounts to mere inconvenience. It does indeed cheapen true suffering when people whine over simple acts of censorship.

    But suffering directly because of our relationship with Christ is not the only kind of suffering that God calls us to. We suffer because of our sin and other’s sin. We suffer at times when we make choices that are moral and ethical, as opposed to making small compromises that make our lives more convenient. We suffer when we pour our lives out to help others grow in Christ. We suffer when we spend hours upon hours teaching and disciplining our children. And we suffer when we experience death, sickness, martial problems, pain, and any number of other issues directly related to the human condition.

    Ours is a world of suffering. Some suffer more than others. All suffer in different ways. Ultimately the way God is glorified through our suffering is a matter of how we handle whatever suffering does come our way. Do we turn from God? Do we blame Him? Or do we entrust our souls to our faithful Creator? Do we continue to praise and give Him glory through pain? Do we use our pain and difficulty to point others to Christ and His sacrifice?

    Certainly we all need to be seeking active ways to give move of ourselves and be less selfish. And I am not an advocate for the American Dream. I absolutely agree with David Platt. The difference between the reaction to Platt and the reaction to Chan though is that Platt has found ways to give of himself in his own context. Chan seems to think he must leave his Church in order to seek suffering. Driscoll and others are simply wondering out loud why Chan felt he needed to leave, rather than model what he believed to his congregation, even as Platt has done.

    That’s the only controversy I see. People don’t get Chan’s move. And so far, Chan doesn’t really get it either. My point from the beginning is that I don’t see the Reformed community being uncomfortable with either Chan’s or Platt’s overall viewpoints. They simply question the wisdom of Chan’s move and seek to prevent an extreme move in an ascetic direction.

  39. “The difference between the reaction to Platt and the reaction to Chan though is that Platt has found ways to give of himself in his own context. Chan seems to think he must leave his Church in order to seek suffering. Driscoll and others are simply wondering out loud why Chan felt he needed to leave, rather than model what he believed to his congregation, even as Platt has done.”

    Chan knows how easy it is to become too tied into that higher level existance of mega church and big name pastor. It is insular and it is very easy to start believing you really are as wonderful as the pew sitters tell you, you are. They start following the man instead of Christ. It is happening all over.

    He is a true threat to the likes of Driscoll and Harris who LOVE their position and authority. They can’t allow popular guys like Chan to make them look shallow. It is real easy to become arrogant when you think you are in charge of people. It is a huge sin trap for the ‘title’ of pastor. And we see that happening everywhere. This blog is about that fact and what is going on out in what is called “Christendom” which is really a business venture and has NOTHING to do with the true Body of Christ.

    So how to handle the Chan decision? Vaguely suggest his decision like you are doing now and in a very nice indirect way, is actually sin. Chan gets it. He just knows who he is talking to and is being very careful. He is obviously not the dolt you try to make him out to be. Because you would NEVER leave such a gravy train.

  40. “Chan is doing something different that is making some people feel uncomfortable with their comfort. Suffering for the Gospel in America today is almost nonexistent.”

    What was it that some Russian Christians said to Paul Washer when they came here? They said it must be really hard to be a Christian here with all the jacuzzi’s and other stuff.

  41. Hi D R

    As you know, I have written about my daughter who had a large malignant brain tumor when she was 3. Her prognosis was less than 10%. It is the worst thing imaginable, watching your little child suffer. Although we were new to Dallas, many people reached out to us. Even Ed Young Jr. took a break from his busy schedule to stop by the hospital. In fact, we got so many stuffed animals and food donated to us that the hospital administrator visited the room and said we would need to clear some things out because of the fire code.

    So, my dear daughter, head wrapped up from neurosurgery, wanted to give some other children on the floor some of her stuffed animals.We asked the nurses who pointed out children who had nothing. Children whose parents were strangely absent. One little girl, 11 months old, had to have both of her arms and legs amputated due to a terrible illness. There she was, lying in a bed all alone, no one.

    You see, in spite of our sufferings, we were blessed with so much wealth and companionship. And these other children, with similar devastating illnesses were all alone or members of families that were poor or had addictions and violence.

    D R ,even in our sufferings we have so much more than the rest of the world. Yet these people are invisible and we can easily ignore them. We spend much time bemoaning our lot in life without ever seeing those around the corner from us.

    I have another observation for you. It is amazing to me that Driscoll and Harris sat with Chan and were so shocked but have not sat at a similar table with Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church Dallas and asked him what in the world is he doing building a $120million “addition” with similar shock. If they were just concerned about what he is doing ,then they should be equally concerned about FBC. But they are not because they most likely hope to build a similar castle.

    Ascetic direction? Really? Or is it a move back to the reality of the depth of pain and suffering in this world? Maybe he is following the Son of God who chose NOT to be born into a palace and spend time cavorting with the wealthy Jews and Romans. And I’m sure some of them were suffering as well.

    Instead Jesus focused on the average people: prostitutes, fishermen, children, tax collectors. But, in today’s American church, these folks are of no use. They don’t have enough money to give to to build a really cool coffee bar in the sanctuary.

    I believe Chan is a breath of fresh air and I think Driscoll and crowd should butt out and watch a man who is asking some really hard and honest questions. They might learn something. I’m getting a little tired of the likes of Driscoll and others discussing their espresso machines and home theaters. We get it-they are quite successful…or are they?

  42. Lydia

    Interesting week for us to begin to use our names. Thanks for letting us to know about this. Brandon’s job is to see that his wife submits to him? That raises many concerns and can be a symptom of a serious control issue. Great Scott! No wonder the faith is in disarray here in the States.

  43. Chan is challenging the status quo and that is why the status quo types have to diagnose him with a new doctrinal concern:asceticism. It sound quite scholarly and Christian but I believe it is a smokescreen in order to avoid having to take a look at the lives of the 99.9% who are “living the dream.”

  44. He said it in a comment on SBC Voices. I was astonished. That if is full blown patriarchy. It is too bad these guys want to marry perpetual little girls. Gives me the creeps.

  45. Lydia,

    Patriarchy is a HOT BUTTON issue for me! If I’m not mistaken, Bruce Ware came to my hometown this weekend to speak at some short of conference. I’m investigating… The church at which he spoke is part of Driscoll’s Acts 29 Network of churches.

  46. Pingback: David Platt and Ed Young Jr. Live in Alternate Universes » The Wartburg Watch UNITED STATES

  47. When I read statements like “live out the Gospel”, which your article attributes to Platt, I cringe. Only one person can and did live out the Gospel, and that’s Jesus Christ. The Gospel happened apart from us. It happened to Jesus! Platt and Chan (I attend Chan’s for 5 years) are under the impression that Christians have to suffer, whether or not they’re being blessed or challenged by God. Job 1:3; “His possessions also were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants; and that man was the greatest of all the men of the east.” Job was blessed by God. Was God displeased with Job because he had accumulated wealth? No! Has God changed? No. This idea that having a nice home, in a nice part of town and a 401k is wrong, is a guilt trip being laid on the American Christian by men who feel guilty about being blessed; and misery loves company. By the way, Chan’s church holds 800 persons in the main room, with a spill over room of about 200. With 3 services, do the math.

  48. Bill

    Why do you think that having a nice home, in a nice part of town, etc., etc., is a blessing? Bill Gates has a huge home in a great section of town, etc., etc. Is he blessed by God?

    Sometimes I wonder if the very things we think of as blessings could be a means by which we hunker down, content in our “blessings” and forgo the true blessings. The Sermon on the Mount did not mention “Blessed are the wealthy”, why not? Why did Jesus say it is harder for the rich man to enter to kingdom of heaven? Could it be these very things prevent us from seeing deeper blessings? I guess I wonder what constitutes a blessing and how do we define it in light of our culture.

    In the Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle, the kingdom of heaven was portrayed as being in a barn but all those, who didn’t follow Aslan, saw was the dung and darkness and they were quite content since the barn protected them from the elements.

    Why don’t you like “living out the Gospel?” Doesn’t the word itself mean “Good News.” Jesus gave us the Great Commission which included sharing the Gospel with every nation.

    Do we not imitate our Lord as we seek to love and serve others? We are not Jesus but imitators of the Christ from which the Romans first derived the word Christian which meant followers of Christ.

    It is interesting to me that Christianity is on the decline in the United States, is almost gone in Europe, and is on the rise in Third World poor (or would you say the opposite of blessed is cursed?) countries. It seems to me that, as wealth (or as you put it blessings) increases, faith declines.

    One of my dear friends who is now home with the Lord but called Sweden his home on this earth believed that, as the standard of living increases and more people are rich (or blessed if you prefer), the quicker and greater the decline of the faith.

    I think we all may have misunderstood what constitutes a true blessing and I don’t think it has anything at all to do with a big 401K. BTW, I live in a what you would call “blessed” circumstances but I am in the process of reevaluating my preconceptions.

    As for church numbers, I rarely believe them. The SBC is famous for kooky numbers as well and most would guestimate the actual membership is half of what is claimed. We have written a post about this.

    Thanks for your comments. I would sign off, “blessings” as I usually do but I don’t want you to think that I am hoping you get a bigger house. :)

  49. I’m just curious as to how Wikipedia knows how much of his income Francis Chan gives away. I think there are many Christians that give very generously to the poor, to missions ,etc, but you sure won’t read about it on the internet, because they do it in secret, as Jesus told us to.

  50. Christine

    Love the Aunt Bee picture. She was from our neck of the woods. I have her cookbook.

    There have been a number of articles written about Chan. Remember, a large church has lots of helpers and leaders who all have access to certain information. Chan is a unique individual who is sacrificing much in the service of God. In fact, his sacrifice is hitting too close to home for some and they are seeking to discredit him for “giving up” material things in the service of God.There are many Americans who deeply believe that we are deserving of lots of money and a rich lifestyles since it is evidence of God’s “blessings.” This is their way of saying I deserve this money and lifestyle and I don’t like Chan doing something like this. It puts my safe paradigm into a tailspin. Chan has attracted much attention and it is very difficult to hide things like this when you are a public figure. But, he is now off to a third world country and will serve in relative obscurity with sex slaves.