Archives For Mission

This entry is part 19 of 22 in the seriesBook of the Month

You & Me Forever Cover - Francis & Lisa ChanOn August 26, you’ll get to read another powerful book from Francis Chan.

Francis has been hinting at writing a book about marriage for years now, but other important projects have taken priority. But now the wait is (almost) over. Francis and Lisa have been working together on this book, entitled You & Me Forever, and it will finally be available at the end of August.

 

The Premise

Francis and Lisa will tell you that there are many good books on marriage available. If you’re anywhere near the “marriage arena,” chances are you’ve read at least a couple. While You & Me Forever isn’t going to replace the best marriage books out there, it does offer a unique approach—an approach I’ve never seen before. Honestly, I wish this book had been available when I was preparing for marriage, and I plan to use it when I do premarital counseling with engaged couples.

The unique approach is evident from the first pages, when Francis says:

“Even now, I am working to make sure that my family is set up for the future. When most people make that statement, they are talking about financial security for their last few years on earth. When I say it, I’m referring to the millions of years that come after that.”

You & Me Forever is all about viewing marriage in light of eternity. With chapter titles like “Marriage Isn’t that Great” and “Don’t Waste Your Marriage,” the emphasis is on how marriage fits within God’s overarching plan, how marriage displays God’s glory, and how marriage functions as a part of God’s mission for us on earth.

What you won’t find here is a handbook of communication principles, advice to strengthen your sex life, or guidelines for handling finances. It’s not that these things are not important, but Francis and Lisa have written a different type of book—partially because that book has been written many times over, and partially because they wanted to write a book about marriage that didn’t focus on marriage.

To be sure, every chapter is about marriage. But Francis and Lisa insist on every page that while marriage is good—wonderful, even—it’s not ultimate. Our marriage-mania can easily push us to idolize marriage, idolize our spouses, idolize our kids.

You & Me Forever provides an excellent model for thinking deeply about marriage while always subordinating marriage to its proper place in relation to the God who made it and the mission he has given us.

What you will find in this book is a high view of God, a genuine delight in God’s gift of marriage, a passion to work on our marriages for the sake of God and his mission, practical stories that show the beauty and tragedy of marriage, and a call to put God first in everything—which is the only way any of us will survive marriage in the first place, let alone glorify God in it.

 

The Format

Francis and Lisa wrote this book together. In every chapter, the bulk of the material is written from Francis’ perspective (that is, the first person pronouns refer to Francis) and then Lisa adds a section to each chapter from her perspective. At times Lisa’s sections are nearly as long as Francis’, at other times it’s significantly shorter. But even the material that Francis wrote from his perspective was a team effort. Both are great writers, and the combination of their voices adds strength to the book.

Francis and Lisa ChanAnother interesting feature of this book is that Francis and Lisa want to use the book as a donation tool. So 100% of the net proceeds will fund a variety of important charities. As has always been the case, Francis is not looking to get rich off of his books (though he certainly could)—he just wants the book to be used for God’s glory at every possible level.

 

Where to Get It

You will be able to get a copy of the book at regular book outlets and at youandmeforever.org. Once the book releases, there will also be videos corresponding to the each chapter that you’ll be able to access for free at that web address. A workbook is also in the works that will facilitate group discussion and premarital counseling.

A big thank you to Francis and Lisa for continuing to follow the Lord and for sharing their insights in such a gospel-centered way.

 

You and Me Forever – Francis & Lisa Chan (Trailer) from Marcus Hung on Vimeo.

Francis Chan 3I recently read Francis Chan answering those who call him crazy, and it brought me to a realization. He is crazy. He calls us to the impossible. He advocates giving up our dreams, lowering our high view of our families, giving away our hard-earned wealth, letting go of our most valued possessions, and structuring our lives around other people rather than ourselves. He insists that we should make decisions that will actually produce pain in the short term simply because God promises to reward us in eternity.

By nearly any standard, this is crazy. But that’s the crazy thing. The standard Francis is trying to operate by is Jesus’ standard. If we were honest with ourselves, we’d probably all agree that Jesus’ standard is crazy. Who says, “You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48)? Who takes commands against committing adultery and applies them to a person’s thought life? Or commands against murder and applies them to hatred? It’s hard enough to love a friend; who would command a person to love—to bless—one’s enemies?

Jesus’ standard is crazy, so Francis’ earnest desire to call the church to this lifestyle is crazy by association. And yet, we should wonder who is truly crazy in this situation: the person who makes it his aim to live like Jesus or the people who claim to follow Jesus and yet call people crazy for trying to follow Jesus?

To my mind, it’s crazier to say that the followers of a rejected, crucified, mocked, despised Savior (who promised that his followers would be equally hated and rejected) should expect to be accepted, pampered, praised, and indulged. It’s nuts to say that a follower of Jesus shouldn’t be following Jesus. That insisting on obedience to Jesus’ command to love him more than our own families is somehow unchristian. I don’t see the logic in it.

I’m not really trying to bolster Francis’ reputation or publicly praise him or anything like that (though I am a huge fan). But Francis and others like him give us a great opportunity to ask ourselves about the nature of Christianity. Is Christianity about a modern subculture? Is it about the modus operandi of the average American churchgoer? Is it about stated beliefs and occasional Bible reading and other religious identifications? If so, then Francis is the crazy one. Why go to extremes? Why give up so much comfort, and why bother the church to do the same?

But maybe—just maybe—Christianity is about Christ. Maybe being a Christian means being like Christ. Maybe being a follower of Jesus means following Jesus. Maybe when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet and then told them to do likewise, he meant that they should do likewise. Maybe when he told us to pray for those who persecute us, he wanted us to do just that. Maybe when he told us to pursue his kingdom and righteousness before we seek our very real and very urgent daily needs, he was actually giving us a command, rather than a religious platitude.

Let’s just say that both sides are crazy. It’s crazy to say that we should actually be like Jesus. I’ll be the first to admit it. But it’s also crazy to say that we can be like Jesus without being like Jesus. I know which kind of crazy I want to pursue, and by God’s grace—by his love that surrounds, invades, and transforms me—crazy will increasingly replace normal in my life.

Eternity Bible College GraduationIn the unrelenting stream of life, the significance of each event, each person, each thing often goes unappreciated. Milestones help us to pause and take stock of what has happened and why it matters.

This weekend’s graduation marks ten years of Eternity Bible College. I’ve been here for eight of those ten years, and looking back, I can testify that God has done amazing things. This weekend we hosted a vision banquet, where we celebrated what God has done and looked forward to what we believe God wants to do through Eternity.

In the midst of lectures, meetings, projects, grading, and all of the other consistent aspects of my job, the significance of it all sometimes hides just out of sight. I’m thankful for this milestone because it forced me to stop, look around, and remember that God has been working in miraculous ways.

I was reminded of the transformed lives we’ve sent out across the world. Of the supernatural financial provision that has carried us to this point. Of the unbelievably gifted staff, faculty, board members, students, and supporters of many kinds that God has brought to the school.

Perhaps best of all, I was so encouraged to see that God has taken the mission of Eternity Bible College and has been making that into a reality. Our graduates are able to bring transformation into so many areas of society, all around the world. Our graduates are able to work hard and graduate without being crippled by student debt—94% of our students have graduated debt free, and the remaining 6% have less than $2,000 to pay off. All of this has been happening in close partnership with local churches around the world, and our graduates are leaving with a passionate commitment to the church.

Looking back at these first ten years makes me very excited for the Kingdom of God. If you resonate with the mission of Eternity Bible College, I’d encourage you to take a look at one or more of the short videos below. We showed these at our vision banquet this weekend, and they tell the story of Eternity from a few different angles. If you’d like to partner with us in some way, please visit our partnership page. And thanks to everyone who has supported the school in so many ways over these past ten years!

How do you reach an impoverished neighborhood with the gospel?

A typical approach is to send in money occasionally. But poverty is actually far more complex than most people imagine. It takes on a variety of forms, and it stems from impossibly deep-seated assumptions, systems, and processes. It’s actually a huge misunderstanding of the problem to assume that poverty is primarily financial. Financial poverty is deeply connected to and very often caused by other forms of poverty, such as relational poverty and spiritual poverty.

La Luz 1So if you truly want to reach an impoverished neighborhood with the gospel, you have to first take stock of what kind of poverty has taken hold. And you need to be ready to respond—not just financially, but holistically. If you find relational poverty, are you prepared to offer yourself so that their relationships can be enriched? So that these human beings can see their value as human beings? So that you can learn to appreciate everything they have to offer each other and the surrounding society that views them as lazy and disgraced? Are you prepared to enter into their spiritual poverty and show them (not just tell them) the depths of the riches available to them in Christ?

It’s the depth and complexity of the problem and the high non-financial cost of truly addressing these needs that ensures poverty will remain around the world.

My geographical area is affluent. Everyone around me has more than they need. Way more. And yet there are pockets where poverty has an iron grip. In one of these pockets, in one particular neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley, the people are what you’d call “working poor.” They have jobs, and they work hard. Yet their wages do nothing to bring them above the poverty line. This kind of poverty can’t be eradicated by telling the people to work harder, or even by sending in money. It requires incarnation.

When Jesus wanted to help human beings who were trapped in their cycle of need and deep-seated spiritual poverty, he did more than send us a message of hope. He did more than sending us laws or even forgiveness. He sent himself. He entered into our mess so that he could lead us out of it. Personally. Profoundly. We call this the “incarnation”—God took on flesh.

La Luz 2One of the churches that Eternity Bible College partners with is incarnating the gospel in this particular impoverished neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley. They’re not inviting these people to join them for their suburban church services. They’re not sending in money or work crews. The leaders of this church moved into the neighborhood. Incarnation. The life of the working poor has become the life of these church planters. Church is in the neighborhood. The gospel is in the neighborhood. The gospel is not foreign, coming in from the outside. With this team of church planters, the gospel took on flesh and dwelt among the working poor.

This church will soon be hosting an event that is a great example of this approach. The church is called Living Stones/Piedras Vivas (the church is bilingual because the neighborhood is bilingual—incarnation), and the event is called La Luz. And there’s a way you can help them with it. One way that the church wants to help the poverty in the neighborhood is by providing the children of these working poor parents with the opportunity to play soccer. The local parks and rec department has had to raise its fees for soccer. This instantly excludes many of the neighborhood children from organized soccer, which means instantly increased relational poverty.

So Living Stones is doing two things to address this need. First, they are putting on a week-long soccer clinic for the neighborhood kids, taught by Division I collegiate coaches and players. This clinic will also give them opportunities for displaying and sharing the gospel, thus addressing the spiritual poverty. Second, they are raising money to give 100 scholarships to neighborhood kids so they can play in the soccer league. Members of Living Stones and their kids have been investing in this soccer league by playing and coaching, so allowing more neighborhood kids to participate is a means of addressing their needs on a number of levels.

To learn more about this event or to invest financially, click here. For more fundraising opportunities, click here.

Those of us who are living and serving in more affluent suburban contexts have a lot to learn about incarnation from churches like Living Stones. It may not mean hosting soccer clinics or offering scholarships (though it may). The important thing is that we deeply consider how to present the gospel in a clear way to the people God has placed around us. How do we portray the gospel with our lives, and not merely with our words?

Art Night 051This weekend we hosted our annual Art & Music Benefit. You and I both knew I would say this, but it was an amazing night. Many of our students, graduates, and other friends of the school displayed and sold their art for the event. Three great bands featuring some of our students and alumni played. We had great crafts and baked goods. And we had a great turnout!

So I’m posting to thank everyone who took part in the event, because an event like that matters. It matters because art matters. Nothing connects us with our humanity like good art. It reminds us that while we’re on this earth, we find this world meaningful, and we explore that (often elusive) meaning in passionate and creative ways. Art reminds us that others are wrestling with the human experience as well, and it offers us an opportunity to see with their eyes. It allows us to step into their joys, sorrows, and questions. So thank you to all of the musicians, artists, bakers, and crafters who made Friday night a deeply human experience.

Friday night’s event also matters because Eternity Bible College matters. As we shared at the event, our passion is to see this generation trained to discover the riches of biblical truth and to creatively apply that truth in every area of their lives. Art Night 052We saw a taste of this played out in the art on display, and we shared about other students and graduates who are pursuing God’s glory and furthering his kingdom in traditional ministry and in a host of other creative ways. So thank you to everyone who came out to support the school and to affirm that art and music created by Bible students matters! We believe that it matters, and we were encouraged to discover that you think so as well.

If you’d like to see photos from the night, including some of the art on display, click on the images in the gallery below. If you’d like to see the videos we played during the event, scroll to the bottom of the page. And if you would like to invest in what we are doing with Eternity Bible College, click here. We charge our students roughly half of what it costs us to train them because an essential part of our mission is sending them out into the world without the shackles of student debt. To make up the rest of the cost of fulfilling our mission, we depend on the sacrificial investments of people who are also committed to the mission.

 

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