Archives For Francis Chan

How many graduation ceremonies have you attended where the speaker tells the graduates that they may well have wasted their years of study, that the degree they’ve earned doesn’t matter all that much, that they are no more self-sufficient than they were when they started, or that they now stand in a more dangerous position than they did when they started studying? I’m guessing not many. But I’ve been to several. In fact, every graduation ceremony that Eternity Bible College has ever held is full of such warnings. Watch this 9-minute video to hear Francis Chan and others warn our graduates about the danger of what they’ve just accomplished.

The reality is, there are lots of bad reasons to get a Bible education. These reasons are so bad, in fact, that if any of these describe your motivation for pursuing a Bible education, then that’s a good reason to reconsider.

1. Don’t get a Bible education to fuel your pride.

Biblical knowledge should not lead us to see how great we are. It should make us better servants. So if you find your head swelling because of the Bible facts you know, then you have prostituted God’s word and made it into a means of social capital. You have turned saving truths into damning lies. As long as you view the Bible as a source of doctrines that you can use as weapons to shoot others down and bolster your own self-importance, you’d be better off to stay away from the book altogether.

 

EBC GRAD W09 672. Don’t get a Bible education to become more self-sufficient.

If you want to study the Bible so you don’t have to rely on others, so you can get your study out of the way, or so that you can stand on your own two feet spiritually, don’t bother. In God’s economy, self-sufficiency is the equivalent of blasphemy. If you don’t see your need for God, his wisdom, and his provision at every moment, then you’re guilty of self-reliance—which is the opposite of faith.

Believing that you are not dependent on continued study of God’s word or the insights of other Christians shows that you believe you have what you need. Some pursue a Bible education in order to confirm what they already know. Then they get upset with their teachers for not teaching something they believe ought to be taught in this or that course or not teaching it with sufficient force or emphasis (I’ve seen this happen many times). If you already know everything you need to know, then no educational experience can help you. You’ve destined yourself for a life of ignorance.

 

3. Don’t get a Bible education to become a speaker or an intellectual.

We all look up to intellectuals. To those who have the answers. And we look up to speakers who can forcefully proclaim the truth. But if either of these is your greatest goal in life, a Bible education won’t serve you well. God’s truth is meant to be lived, not just understood or even proclaimed. Now, being a brilliant thinker or a convicting speaker may well be the outflow of a life lived in submission to God’s truth and mission. But if all you’ve ever wanted is to be a Bible scholar or an arena-preacher, then you should put your Bible education on hold until your goal is to live in accordance with God’s truth—whatever that might end up entailing.

 

There are many good reasons to get a solid Bible education. I would switch careers if I didn’t believe that. But I’ve seen students come for many of the wrong reasons. We have to work very hard to ensure that our students develop a godly motivation for their studies in addition to developing solid theology and ministry training. So we begin the warnings at orientation and, as the video at the top of this post shows, we keep the exhortations rolling right through to graduation day.

 

Eternity Bible College is running an end of the year campaign. To help support the mission of Eternity, please visit http://eternitybiblecollege.com/campaign. All of your donations are tax-deductable and will be used efficiently to train our students to live and die well. 

2013-14 Giving Campaign

I went through what I consider to be a dramatic change in my spiritual life during my college years. There were a number of factors involved in this, including my stage of life, some great mentors, some new ministry opportunities, and a great group of friends. But I want to single out another component that helped to shape me spiritually during that time: I started to read books on theology and listen to sermons from big-name pastors. Three of these pastors/authors in particular had a big impact on me in different ways.

First there was John MacArthur. When I first heard John MacArthur preach (via Cassette tape), I was struck by his careful explanation of the Bible. There were no gimmicks, relatively few flourishes, and almost no extra-biblical illustrations. He just walked through each passage a phrase at a time and explained what it meant. And I loved it. I credit MacArthur with teaching me the value of the Scriptures and the endless supply of insight that can be drawn from each passage.

Then I came across John Piper. In addition to being forever changed by Desiring God, I got ahold of his sermon series on Hebrews. In addition to the careful explanation of the Bible that I learned to value through MacArthur, John Piper showed me the importance of following the argument a biblical author uses. Piper would trace the flow of thought in a given passage and in that way show how these seemingly unrelated verses fit together to form a more cohesive (and persuasive) whole. (For my fellow MacArthurites: I know that MacArthur also pays attention to the flow of argument in a passage, I’m merely saying that I noticed this important concept while listening to John Piper.) I can’t overestimate how important this lesson has been in my subsequent study of Scripture.

Francis Chan 2And then I found Francis Chan. Francis has always carefully explained Scripture and followed the logical flow in the passages he preaches. But something about the way he preaches struck a chord in me that I hadn’t experienced previously. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why Francis Chan is such a powerful communicator, but for me it comes down to this: he presents obvious, familiar truths in surprisingly fresh ways. He’s the master of the obvious. Francis will often preach on a passage that I’m sure I’ve understood and have been convinced that I’m applying to my life appropriately. But he’ll somehow get me to look at that passage in a new way, to see it with a fresh urgency, and to see that I haven’t truly let it sink into my heart and flow out into my life.

Now, there are many other preachers and authors that have had a huge impact on my life. But these three lessons strike me as extremely significant in my own personal development. And thinking about these lessons reminds me that while each of us is different, God uses us for different things. For example, I know MacArthur and Piper preach with passion, but God really used Francis Chan to show me the importance of passion in preaching. We’re all growing all the time, so it’s important to stop on occasion and take stock of where we’ve been and how God has brought us along the way.

Multiply CoverEarlier today, Frank Viola wrote up a review of Multiply at Patheos.com. The review was positive overall, but he brought up five great questions he’d like to hear Francis respond to. I think Frank’s questions are important, so I’d like to take a minute to respond as the co-author of Multiply. I’ll let Francis speak for himself if he so chooses, but mainly I think the necessary response comes down to clarifications.

Here are Frank Viola’s questions, with my responses listed below each question:

 1.  Most of the discipleship books and programs today fail to mention the essential ingredient of being a disciple according to both Jesus and Paul. That ingredient is – learning to live by the indwelling life of Christ. This is the central tenet of New Testament revelation, yet it’s grossly neglected today. What is the reason why this wasn’t discussed in your book?

The only disagreement I have here is the assertion that it’s not addressed in the book. It’s true that we spent the first sections of the book exploring the command to make disciples, but we definitely discussed the indwelling presence of God as a necessary empowerment for the task. When we discussed the New Testament in Part V, we included a whole chapter on the Spirit of God. (We also touch on it in Part IV in the chapter on God’s Presence on Earth.) Perhaps we’re talking about a difference of emphasis, but this is a reality that both Francis and I consider essential and all-important for the Christian life, and I don’t believe we short-changed the role of the Spirit. No one would expect you (Frank) to keep up on every book that Francis has written, but he has demonstrated his concern for the church trying to fulfill its mission apart from the Spirit in Forgotten God and in his BASIC video series.

 2.  While there’s a lot of discussion on how to read the Bible, I didn’t see a presentation of God’s Eternal Purpose, which is the grand narrative of Scripture. It is also God’s ultimate intention in creation, redemption, and discipleship. While there were elements of it here and there, there was no discussion on what it exactly is and how all Scripture and authentic spiritual experience is tied together by it. Why was this left out?

I don’t know what to say to this. In Parts IV and V, we devote nearly 200 pages to God’s eternal purpose as revealed in the Old and New Testaments. In discussing how to read the Bible (Part III), we are trying to give people the tools to begin reading the Bible so that they can hear directly from God’s word as to what his grand purpose is. Then we guide them through God’s mission as it is revealed in the storyline of the Bible. I’d be curious to hear if there is something specific you were hoping we would say in this regard.

3.  There’s a recent emphasis in Christian circles today about making disciples rapidly. We know from the book of Acts that the way that the apostles carried out Jesus’ word to make disciples was to plant ekklesias. Paul, who was the premier church planter, strove for quality rather than quantity (he planted about 14 ekklesias in his lifetime). How do you distinguish the emphasis to make disciples rapidly from the principles of network marketing in the business world?

I’m not sure there is an emphasis on making disciples rapidly. That’s a slippery term, anyway. What we wanted to emphasize was not the rate at which disciples are produced, but the ratio of Christians who are involved in the disciple-making process. In Part I, we explore Jesus’ command to make disciples and define what a disciple looks like. But in Part II, we explain that discipleship and the church are inseparable, that an isolated Christian is a contradiction in terms. So I agree with you completely in this concern, but I don’t believe we gave the opposite impression. Multiply in itself is designed to help people understand what discipleship is and to get them in the game of making disciples. But we certainly didn’t intend to put a growth rate on it or suggest that each disciple must be making x disciples per month.

4.  One thing I’ve observed is that many of the authors who are promoting “discipleship” today are unaware of the history of the Discipleship Movement in North America in the 1970s and the tremendous damage it caused. I believe that if we don’t learn the mistakes of the past, we will unwittingly repeat them. Given that you are now promoting the modern-day discipleship movement, what are you doing to safeguard God’s people from falling into the same errors of the former discipleship movement?

I’d love to hear what specific mistakes you have in mind here, and specifically how Multiply falls into those traps. Our intention was not to look back to the 1970s and revive an old movement. Rather, we were looking back to the overall mission of God as expressed in the story of the Bible and to Jesus’ command to make disciples. You are right that the church has latched onto these things in misguided and even harmful ways at times, but that’s no reason not to promote biblical concepts like discipleship. So I’d be curious to hear if this was a concern relating to the way discipleship was presented in the book or if it’s a general concern that comes to mind when you hear people talking about discipleship. Either way, it’s an important concern that we’ll want to address.

5.  The modern idea of discipleship is intensely individualistic. So I was glad that you and Mark talked briefly about community in the book. But talking about community is one thing. People recontextualize what they read into their own experience. In my on-the-ground experience over the last two decades, I’ve not seen discipleship be very effective unless believers were living in a close-knit, face-to-face community that is seeking the face of Jesus Christ regularly outside of scheduled corporate gatherings and which includes a regular gathering for every-member functioning under the direct headship of Christ. Every letter in the NT was written to such face-to-face communities. Those face-to-face communities were the native habitat in which spiritual growth and transformation took place. Many churches are nothing like what I’ve described here, despite the fact that they might use the rhetoric of “community.” So if we get the church wrong, we get discipleship wrong also. Do you think this is possible?

Amen. The church living as a vital community is essential. I’m not sure if this is a straight question or a concern about the book though. It’s a book, and all we can do in a book is “talk about community.” I agree that modern people read things individualistically. That’s why we emphasized the church and the essential nature of community. We were careful to emphasize it throughout. To answer your question at the end: I think you’re right that when we view church as a service we attend rather than a community or a body of which we are an essential part, we end up getting discipleship wrong.

 

I hope that’s helpful. We certainly don’t claim that Multiply is perfect or that we will agree 100% in content or emphasis with every solid Christian. Whenever you emphasize x, it can be difficult to convince people that you are not inherently denying y. What we wanted to do with Multiply was renew the church’s focus on discipleship—a focus that we believe has gotten lost in the church-activity shuffle—and give people a tangible first step in guiding others down the road of true discipleship.

I’d love to continue the discussion, Frank (and anyone else interested in chiming in). Thanks for treating the book so carefully and for raising your questions with a gentle and edifying touch.

 

Most of us could think of a lot reasons for not becoming missionaries. Some of these reasons may be legitimate. Many will probably be excuses. Today I’m going to share the story of one of my co-workers. Kristen’s reason for staying off the mission field is mind-boggling.

Indian SlumsWhile serving on a short-term missions trip in India, Kristen saw Christians effectively ministering to people in the slums by teaching them English. She thought, “I can do that—maybe this is how you want to use me, Lord.”

Logically, her first step was to get trained to teach and to be a missionary. So she attended a well-known, prestigious Christian college. Kristen loved her college experience and felt genuinely prepared for years of ministry ahead. She saved a ton of money by completing two years of her education at a junior college, so she only had to foot the bill for two years of Christian higher education.

After finishing her degree in education, she moved back home to get to know the Bible a little better by studying at Eternity Bible College. She was following the responsible, textbook path to the mission field.

But then she looked at her financial situation. Her two years of Christian training left her in significant debt, and the time had come to pay up. God providentially opened up a position for Kristen at Eternity Bible College as the Assistant Registrar, and she has been a huge blessing to all of us. God has also opened up her heart to continuing her ministry with the college students here. So Kristen’s story has a happy “ending” (of course, the story continues), and God has faithfully led her every step of the way.

But the dark side of the story is the reality that if Kristen was still convinced that her calling was to the mission field, she would not be able to follow that calling. Why? Because she got trained for ministry.

Does that sound a bit off? Before a missionary leaves the country, he or she works hard to partner with churches and individuals who are willing to support the ministry overseas. But if that missionary was trained at a typical Christian college, he or she could not even begin the hard work of raising those funds until the nearly impossible task of paying off many tens of thousands of dollars in student debt had been settled.

Here’s where the shameless plug comes in. One of the reasons that Francis Chan and his team started Eternity Bible College was the problem of student debt. They saw potential missionaries being turned away by sending agencies because of outstanding student loans. The world needs schools that can train Christians for effective ministry without binding them hand and foot with financial fetters.

Let me insist that it is not easy to train students for $175 per unit. We all—board, staff, faculty, students, supporting churches and individuals—make big sacrifices to make it happen. But stories like Kristen’s assure us that what we are doing is essential.

Watch the video below to hear more about Kristen’s story, and visit our site to learn more about partnering with us or studying at Eternity.

Francis Chan David PlattThere has been a renewed emphasis on discipleship in recent years, and I see this trend exploding in the years ahead. Francis Chan has teamed up with David Platt, and the heartbeat that they share is discipleship. I was able to partner with Francis in creating Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples (available for free at multiplymovement.com), and David Platt will continue this emphasis with his forthcoming book Follow Me (due out in February). They also wrote the forewords to each other’s books. You’ll be hearing much more on discipleship from these two leaders, plus many others.

This discipleship emphasis is a big deal. It’s not a gimmick or marketing campaign. This is the identity of the church. In fact, this has always been our identity, but we keep losing sight of who we are.

I see an analogy here with the Old Testament. God chose Israel to be a light to the nations, to show the world who he is and to embody his ideal for what redeemed human life looks like. A crucial moment in the history of Israel was God gathering his people at the base of Mount Sinai and making a covenant with them. God said that if they would obey his law, he would bless them. If they disobeyed, they would be cursed. Many have rightly repeated that the rest of the Old Testament (after Sinai) can be viewed as a commentary on how faithful (or faithless) Israel was to this covenant.

Enter Jesus. He forms a new covenant with his people, established in his own blood. It was clear that Jesus’ mission was nothing less than God’s mission of redeeming this fallen world and restoring God’s reign as king. He himself embodied God’s intention for mankind, and he died to enable us to embody this reality as well.

When Jesus rose from the grave, he gave the mission to us. His words cannot be overemphasized:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20).

Jesus was setting the agenda for the church. Make disciples of all nations. This is our mission. And we can look at church history as commentary on how faithful (or faithless) the church has been to Jesus’ command.

Whatever goals we may have for our churches, this has got to be the big one. I would go so far as to say that any goal we have for our churches that does not move us closer to discipleship needs to be reconsidered. And any goal we have for our churches that leads us away from discipleship needs to be abandoned.

Discipleship is not easy. It requires us to get involved in the lives of the people around us. It means that we have to teach and confront and challenge and encourage. It means that we’ll definitely run into icky situations that we’re not prepared to handle.

I’m not at all surprised that the church repeatedly deviates from the discipleship agenda. Any other focus we can dream up would be easier than discipleship. But then again, if discipleship is commanded by Jesus, then we don’t have a choice.

So I am excited that the church has been recovering its emphasis on discipleship. And I am encouraged that this focus is picking up steam. Let’s pray that this chapter in church history is recorded as a high point in terms of faithfulness to the mission. And let’s not stop at praying. Let’s also get out there and make disciples of all nations.