Francis Chan is a well-known Christian author and preacher. His books have landed on the New York Times bestseller list and his sermons have collected hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. So when he speaks, people listen.
Last month, the “Crazy Love” author spoke at The Send conference, a gathering of charismatic leaders headlined by evangelist Lou Engle, founder of The Call.
The 10-hour convention, held at the Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida, on Feb. 23, featured messages from Chan alongside prosperity preachers like Benny Hinn and Todd White with music from Hillsong Young & Free, Jesus Culture and Bethel Music.
Now Chan is in the hot seat for daring to speak in a stadium where the prosperity Gospel was front and center. But he was absolutely right to do it.
I think the concerns are valid, and I'm glad Chan clarified his stance. At the same time, we need to be careful not to label everyone who differs from our theology a heretic. We also need to guard against guilt simply by association.
— Julie Roys (@reachjulieroys) March 20, 2019
In a statement responding to the criticism, Chan clearly condemned the “dangerous” prosperity Gospel — a false religion promising material comfort and worldly success in exchange for faith — but also warned against guilt by association.
“Jesus taught His disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’ (Matt 16:24),” Chan wrote. “It was not a call to come and prosper but rather the opposite — a call to come and suffer. The New Testament is full of passages explaining the suffering that comes with a decision to follow Christ.”
The prosperity Gospel, Chan continued, offers “false hope” and can “result in confusion and discouragement.”
So what’s the upside?
Chan wants to do more than just “preach to the choir,” as the saying goes.
With more than 500 speaking invitations every year, the 51-year-old pastor said he often tries to preach in “places that tolerate theology that is different.” In fact, those are the places to which he feels most called.
The California native doesn’t want to just share the Gospel where it’s comfortable, in spaces where his words aren’t challenging or unique; Chan wants to venture into the uncomfortable places where his uncensored Gospel message stands in contrast to the words of those around him.
“My reasoning is that it may be a waste of Kingdom resources … speaking largely to people who already agree with us,” Chan explained. “It seems more effective to speak where there is less Bible teaching.”
Chan went on to say he will “continue to be found preaching in venues with those I disagree,” unless the elders of his church direct him differently. He did note he and his fellow church leaders “are trying to come up with more safeguards for future events to hopefully prevent misunderstandings.”
Regardless, his mission to preach to the lost will continue.
The upside to Chan’s philosophy should be clear: We don’t have to persuade those who are already in our own camps. But we do have to persuade those who disagree with us.
Getting the Gospel right is a matter of life and death, and Chan recognizes that. Christians need to be comfortable evangelizing to other believers, speaking truth to those who are misguided and in need of reproof.
It’s important to hold leaders like Chan accountable, because the concerns are valid. But from what I can tell, the only thing he’s guilty of is preaching the Gospel to some 60,000 people who needed to hear it.