Francis Chan and His Exodus to Asia

I want to be used by God, but I think we have this desire to make heroes out of people rather than following God and the Holy Spirit. Francis Chan


courtesy of NASA

  Sunset Over the Sahara 

Courtesy of NASA



Can you imagine a young pastor who (1) builds a mega-church with over 4,000 members, (2) becomes a speaking sensation at Christian conferences far and wide, and (3) hits the New York Times bestseller list moving far away to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit?

As incredible as it may sound, it really happened…

Erie Marrapodi of CNN wrote an article entitled “’Christian famous’ pastor quits his church, moves to Asia”, which describes exactly what happened. 

Why has Chan escaped to Asia to follow Christ? The CNN article provides some insight into Chan’s decision. Marrapodi writes:

“Before selling his house and packing up his wife and three children, Chan was becoming “Christian famous” in Evangelical circles. “Even in my own church I heard the words ‘Francis Chan’ more than I heard the words, ‘Holy Spirit,’ he said. That was a big part of the reason he walked away at the peak of his professional career. I think there has been too much emphasis on me. I want to be used by God, but I think we have the desire to make heroes out of people rather than following God and the Holy Spirit.”


According to the article, Chan’s rise in popularity began when he founded Cornerstone Community Church in 1994. It is a non-denominational church that began with around 30 people. Prior to entering the pastorate, Chan earned a B.A. from The Master’s College and M. Div. from The Master’s Seminary.


For background information on Francis Chan, here’s the link to an interview that was conducted about four years ago.

The introductory comments include this heartbreaking revelation about Chan:

“After being raised by his Buddhist grandmother in Hong Kong, Francis came to America at the age of five. His mother died at his birth, his stepmother died in a car accident when he was nine, and his father died of cancer when he was twelve years old. Francis came to know the Lord in high school in Stockton, CA.”

The CNN article reveals that “Chan was not drawing a salary at Cornerstone before he left, and never made more than $36,000 a year. “I wanted to make sure I wasn’t doing things just because I was paid to,” he said.”

Dee has previously written a thought-provoking article on David Platt and Francis Chan, which I highly recommend.


In the post, Dee writes: “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”.


Some commenters disagreed with Dee’s conclusion that Mark Driscoll was disapproving of Chan’s decision to leave his church, as demonstrated through his words and body language. Now several months after that interview, Chan writes on his own website.   Note the following update.


Living the Dream!!!

I woke up this morning realizing that I am living the dream! In other words, I do not know how my life could be any better. I am leaving for Asia with my family of six. We love God, love each other, and are excited to minister to people in need. We are free to go anywhere His Spirit leads and for as long as His Spirit leads. What more can a guy ask for? I know it doesn’t sound like the American Dream. It’s far better.

It has been an emotional week for the Chans as we said good-bye to our close friends and family. Though we are excited, it’s hard to leave those we love.

This will probably be my last update for the year…. I have decided to disconnect from the public for a couple of months. I have even ditched my cell phone and email. Most of you are probably too young to remember the pre-internet days. Believe it or not, we survived just fine without being accessible to thousands of people 24 hours a day. So I’m off the grid for a while, but feel free to continue dialoging amongst yourselves about whether or not I am doing the right thing. Many of you are pretty confident that you know God’s will for my life, pray that he would tell me also. (Like my sarcasm?)

Seriously though, I really would love your prayers. I want to believe that I have surrendered my life to the will of God, allowing Him to lead my family and me to any place on the earth. I pray He shows me any areas in my life that I have not truly surrendered. I pray that I would know Him more deeply, experience His power more fully, and minister more effectively than ever.”


The CNN article concludes with an explanation that Chan will be returning to the states in January 2011. According the article: “He is already scheduled to appear at the Passion Conference in Atlanta, which has drawn a crowd of more than 20,000 in the past, and do a stint in the chapel of the NBA All-Star game in February.” Chan is also scheduled to speak at the Desiring God 2011 Pastors Conference.

It appears that Francis Chan is attempting to fulfill some previous commitments with these speaking engagements; however, there can be no question that 2011 will be a new and exciting chapter in his life. It appears that Chan’s “radical” move to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit has been extremely threatening to just about everyone who professes Christ here in the states. Dee and I will be keeping the Chans in our prayers as they inspire a watching world through their faith. May we all strive to get out of our comfort zones this year and touch the lives of those who do not have a personal relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 


Lydia's Corner: Leviticus 1:1-3:17 Mark 1:29-2:12 Psalm 35:17-28 Proverbs 9:13-18






Francis Chan and His Exodus to Asia — 23 Comments

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    I enjoyed listening to Chan at the SBC last year. I am glad that the SBC invites speakers like this, and doesn’t limit the speaking list to denominational bureaucrats. He wasn’t my favorite speaker, but I was glad to have the opportunity to hear him.

    Seems like he loves the Lord. So, if he feels God is moving him to Asia, great. Who am I to take issue with that? I would take issue with it if moving to Asia becomes a rule for every Christian, but I don’t see that happening.

    On a completely different note, one thing I noticed in the post was that Chan came to know the Lord in high school in Stockton, CA. So, most of his inner circle of family die, and he comes to know the Lord in high school.

    This makes me wonder if Chan is the product of youth ministry directed at teenagers, supplemented by the influence of ministries like Campus Crusade, Young Life, FCA etc. I suspect that he is.

    That’s the world that I grew up in. I still admire a lot of people working in that world.

    I believe it is unfortunate that many churches have turned away from youth ministry and adopted FIC and other models that de-emphasize the particular calling to youth.

    Ministries like that can reach people like Chan – kids that have no family or hardly a traditional family.

    FIC and “closed” model youth programs provide only for the kids already in church, and they have very little potential impact on unchurched kids in public schools or private non-Christian schools. Homeschooling further complicates this issue.

    I am glad that the church I started attending by myself (without my family) in the mid 1970s had a dynamic youth ministry and a dynamic youth leader – Dave Busby (no one on this blog will have heard of him, but he was a pioneer and “lifer” in youth work until his death a few years ago).

    Sorry to take the comment thread in an odd direction, but it is a relevant question.

    How many unchurched kids will ever set foot in our churches if our programming and emphases create “closed” church socieites?

    Will our churches be reaching future Francis Chans?

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    I really appreciate your comment, and I am in total agreement with you regarding FIC. In case you’re new to TWW, we wrote about the trend toward Family Integrated Church a while ago. Here’s the link:

    We will be exploring FIC again in the new year as a follow-up story, so thanks for expressing your deep concerns.

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    In reality, having your church “family integrated” is far older than Sunday school and the para-church movement. It’s in some ways perhaps the first way the church worked (think house churches and the family conversions described in Acts). There are ways to be somewhat “family integrated” it that aren’t associated with NCFIC and are, I think, positive. The fact that churches that are family-integrated have existed for milenia also puts a lie to the idea that NCFIC is doing anything new with regards to having a service that children are present for throughout (as one quote in the post Deb linked to said). The only new things they might be doing are the weird notions of “generational faithfulness” they have prooftexted and other ideas that aren’t nearly so old as post-Reformation orders for worship.

    It’s not having Sunday school or not having Sunday school, having youth group or not having youth group, etc. that make a church closed or open. It is the attitude of those in leadership and whether or not they foster a culture where folks are driven to evagelism. It’s whether your church is a place where you want to say “Come with me and meet this awesome Jesus whom we proclaim!”

    You can have the world’s most inviting youth group and not be teaching Jesus to the youth (I’ve seen that done). You can have no youth group at all and be bringing up children who are so excited to share the Lord that they gladly bring their friends on Sunday morning to hear God. Just last Sunday I saw one of our teens at my church doing that.

    None of this is to throw my support behind NCFIC – far from it. I just don’t know that any one model of ministry is automatically more positive than another unless it is something that Scripture directly speaks to. For all the rest of how a church runs, it’s a matter of wisdom.

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    I understand what you are saying; however, based on my observations, those who promote FIC are fairly exclusive — Doug Phillips, Scott Brown, Voddie Baucham in one camp, Southern Seminary in another, and Sovereign Grace Ministries in yet another. I’ll never forget when Dee and I visited our local SGM church. We talked with some parents after the “family meeting”, and they explained how their youth activities are organized. The parents of the teenagers lead the group. One couple explained to us that during the youth group meeting, they sometimes divide up with the parents asking THEIR OWN children questions.

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    FIC =Parental control

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    Deb, you have a point that unfortunately exclusivity and these big name FIC types tend to go hand in hand.

    The churches I know which, say, choose not to have children’s church and might have the kids discussing the sermon in Sunday school and have been around since long before NCFIC have no affiliation with Vision Forum, SGM, etc. You’ll find those kind of churches throughout the OPC, PCA, ARP, URC, and elsewhere that I’m sure I don’t know about happily in association with churches that have programs galore for different ages, life circumstances, and genders. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that for some churches it is less about adding on to the commands of God and more about varying understandings of what Scripture says about worship.

    I’m not saying it’s always done well. I’m just saying that it’s not always done wrong.

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    Thanks for the caveat. There is no ideal model that every church has to follow. And just because a church has a ministry model, it may not be proclaiming Christ.

    My concerns are that churches that have been able to reach into non-churched areas in times past, may, inadavertently, be programming themselves into closed situations.

    If a church does away with a youth group, that removes the opportunity for youth to hear speakers/teachers that are immersed in the youth culture and can communicate effectively. I think it is very helpful to have specialized presentations in large group settings based on age. I believe that is especially necessary in teen settings. The regularity of that, how it is done, etc. is all a matter of programming, and can be done in a variety of ways.

    Teenagers who are alone (no family to go with them) and who only sit through family oriented gatherings with adult oriented speakers and enjoy it are a rarity.

    And if the kids are homeschooled and in an FIC church, which is often the case, they don’t have any non-Christian friends. We have seen this in our church. Our youth pastor has asked the homeschool teens about their non-Christian friends with whom they share Christ. They don’t have any. They are all in homeschool, homeschool coop or church or with their family. They may have extended family members in other states, but they don’t really see or hang around non-Christians on any regular basis enough to share the Gospel with them.

    That’s what I am concerned about.

    What would be the point of access for a young teen like Francis Chan to our churches? I am sympathetic to the plight of parents with no good school choies, and I strongly support homeschooling as an option.

    But the church has to think strategically. The independent Baptist movement has declined significantly. Not because of unfaithfulness or lack of interest. But because they built a cradle to adutlhood Christian culture with Christian schools etc. that is hard to enter unless you are already a part of that culture.

    Churches need a proper balance of being both part of the culture and yet different, at the same time.

    Sorry, guys. Didn’t mean for my questions to hijack the post.

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    You are making some extremely valid points, and I have appreciated your input. Rest assured that we will explore FIC soon here at TWW. It’s an important topic. I have lots of research to do!

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    Anon, I could not agree more. Both my brothers were very involved in YFC and later we were involved in inter varsity in Canada. I cannot tell you how important those groups were at one time to share the Gospel with those who would hear it no where else in their lives.

    We put the cart before the horse. We invite people to church to hear the Gospel (many times they don’t) when we should share the Gospel and offer them fellowship with other believers when they believe.

    Deb and Dee,

    The irony of this post is that Chan would not like to be praised for what he is doing. Ain’t that refreshing?

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    Hi Lydia

    Actually, I chuckled while posting this article because I thought the same thing. You really do think like us!

    I was first introduced to the faith through the outreach of a tiny Methodist Youth Fellowship that was run by two Gordon Conwell students. They got me on track after my conversion and I will forever be grateful for this group.

    My parents were not Christians. I would not have felt comfortable in a FIC type of environment. It would have been embarrassing not to have my parents present when all the other parents were there. In fact, I would not have attended such a group.

    I think that FIC is made up of parents who are already very involved with their kids. For some, too involved. They hover. It is really good for kids to get with youth leaders and other folks who reinforce the values of their parents yet express if in different ways.

    At the SGM church I visited, there was such a depressing atmosphere. The smiles seemed forced and everyone was trying too hard to do what they were told was right. The parents sat in the room and asked their own kids questions and “interacted.” Most of these parents also home schooled and interacted all day, every day. I don’t know. It just seemed a little much.

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    A blog is made up of those who comment. So, no one hijacks the conversation. In fact, it is the commenters who determine the direction of the discussion. The post is merely to get the juices flowing. So, thanks for all of your thoughts.

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    I do not like the FIC model but I do agree with you-it is the leaders who make a difference. I watched one church, who had a successful youth group with tons of kids attending,stop the gathering, move it to a different day and time which interfered with school activities and sports. The attendance went way down. The leadership just got too tired to run such a group and they gave up a real potential to bring in many unchurched kids. I think they have seen the effects of this decision years later as the congregation declines.

    I personally believe that lively youth groups contribute much to the growth and witness of a church.

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    The conversation regarding Francis Chan started off great, but then devolved into a pro or anti-FIC discussion. It would be nice to get the conversation back on track. For instance, that video featuring Chan and the two pastors who seem threatened by what Chan was talking about. Why do you suppose they come across that way? And does anybody really put much stock in such staged video “conversations” packaged for the Vimeo/YouTube audience?

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    “My parents were not Christians. I would not have felt comfortable in a FIC type of environment. It would have been embarrassing not to have my parents present when all the other parents were there. In fact, I would not have attended such a group.”

    I grew up around teens like you that were always in and out of our house because of my brother’s YFC ministry. Ironically, my mom discipled many a young man in her time. She was “pastoring” men :o)

    My sister in law’s dad was a Methodist minister. How did he get saved? A couple of Baptist college students came on bikes to his home when he was about 13 (a farm off the beaten path in central Michigan) and shared the Gospel with him. They hooked him up with other Christians in a city not too far away when they had to go back to college.

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    “And does anybody really put much stock in such staged video “conversations” packaged for the Vimeo/YouTube audience?”

    Do they want us to put stock in what they say? Why do they make videos for public consumption? Everything you see in most evangelical churches on Sunday morning is “staged” down to the length of the offeratory hymn.

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    I’d be really interested in hearing your personal response to the questions you posed. Let’s get this conversation started with your opinions.

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    I find the Francis Chan saga most intriguing. He is irritating a fair number of people who seem intent on saying that he is inventing a new form of legalism. Apparently one should not upset one’s fellow pastors who are living high on the hog. One must always seek for more fame, more followers, and more money which comes from the first two. Chan is visibly living out the life of the disciples and some of the bigwigs don’t like it. And it is easy to understand why. They like their things and Chan has given up “things.”

    He has become a thorn in the side of those who lobe the Americanized version of Christianity. I find the whole thing amusing, fascinating and convicting.

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    “He has become a thorn in the side of those who lobe the Americanized version of Christianity. I find the whole thing amusing, fascinating and convicting.”

    Ditto to that Dee!

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    I used to work at a mega church, and there I was very convicted about the obvious pastor-worship, the money being spent on glorifying the building instead of meeting people’s needs, and just the overall surface Christianity I saw. I ended up resigning and leaving that church over all over it. I have since started attending a different church, and I’m seeing so much of the same stuff here. It’s very discouraging. I have become aware, eyes wide open, of the sad state of the American church.

    Around four weeks ago my sister told me I might have some things in common with Francis Chan. She said we have a lot of the same ideas. Until then, I’m almost embarrassed to say that I had never heard of him! I had heard of Crazy Love, but couldn’t have told you who wrote it. So when I hung up the phone I googled the guy and found so many inspiring messages, interviews and video clips. Everything I heard, read and watched was almost an exact repeat of the things I’ve been thinking/feeling for the past couple of years. And I cannot tell you how refreshing that has been!!! I thought I was going crazy! But hearing him voice my thoughts and backing them up with Scripture only confirmed my ideas that there is definitely something missing, something seriously wrong with “church” in our culture. And we need to get back to the Biblical definition of it. Kinda like Tangible Kingdom suggests I believe. Thank you to Francis Chan for leading so boldly, and being such an inspiration!

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    You will find many people here at this blog who probably share many of your thoughts. We, too, are grateful for Chan who is shaking things up around the megachurch community. Needless to say, some pastors are not real happy with him. His very life points to who he serves and theirs often points to what they serve!

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    Thanks for this story. Keep us updated on Chan as he returns to the us.

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    Coming from an SGM church, I have for quite some time now avoided any videos with Josh Harris or CJ Mahaney or Dave Harvey. (All way too painful and all bring up too many emotions.) But I finally broke down and watched a little of the Chan/Driscoll/Harris staged chat. Talk about uncomfortable! Was it only me and my past or are there others who have a hard time finishing that? (I’ve made it to the 3:14 mark and had to step away. Maybe I’ll go back, maybe I won’t.)

    What does anyone care about what anyone else says about God when we could be listening to God himself? Isn’t that who we want to grow in our relationship with? It just seems so ridiculously silly to care what a neanderthal or a CJ wanna be thinks. I feel so grieved as I watch this. The hero worship/desire for an authority figure is so much like the Israelites when they demanded a king. It is truly grief worthy while God is sitting up there calling out, “I am here! I love you! Come to me! I love you! Come to me!” and we sit around and give two figs about what some weanies say. (That is me being nice, if you can believe it.)

    I’m not sad about us here watching it as I am that it was ever made in the first place. How could listening to either of these men be worth the time it took to listen to, let alone the cost of getting them all together, the time and cost and effort to tape, edit, etc. Grieved, grieved, grieved. How many people could have been fed real food as opposed to this religious, fake fluff? Oh how totally messed up we all are!

    and saddened

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    I can understand that is is difficult to watch SGM leaders because of the pain you’ve experienced.

    This interview between C.J. Mahaney and James MacDonald is difficult for me to watch, and I’ve never been directly influenced by either of them. Note how C.J. answers James’ question by emphatically stating, “I would recommend you not take comments on your blog.”