Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Francis Chan at Catalyst 2010

In Summer 2008, my good friend Josh Vance introduced me to a Christian communicator named Francis Chan. He told me in particular that I should listen to a sermon called Lukewarm and Loving It. I have a lot of respect for Josh Vance, so I took his advice and gave the message a listen. I had listened to a few other messages from Chan before this one, but I still remember it well. I had just arrived back in Morgantown, WV after spending part of the summer helping run a summer leadership program for college students near Wilmington, NC.

I was actually working on my daily practice of environmental stewardship by walking to a mid-morning meeting that was taking place with my friends Trey Dunham, Cameron King, and Mark Byrer at Trey’s house. I walked through Morgantown, and listened to about half the message by the time I arrived at Trey’s. After the meeting, I immediately proceeded to continue listening, and about the time I passed by the Mountainlair in the center of campus, I started weeping. I don’t think I stopped until I had arrived at my house 10 minutes later. The message touched my soul deeply.

Well, I had never actually seen or heard Francis Chan communicate in person, and I was told that his talk at Catalyst would be his last message before he left his church and community in Simi Valley to travel to Asia with his family and serve the poor of that part of the world. In three Catalyst events I have attended, I had never gone in to hear one of the messages given. I wanted to make sure I heard this message from Francis and I’m glad I did.

Some people are not fans of Francis for his communication style, his demeanor, or for any number of reasons, but the thing that strikes me most intensely about him is his passion and sincerity. He speaks with an authenticity that leaves people listening intently. As he spoke to this group at Catalyst, he challenged this group of leaders to examine their lives, and the lives of their churches. He asked, “Would what you do on Sunday morning, or during the week make sense if it were placed in this book?” “Would your personal life and daily experience, fit in with the stories that are found in this book?” He went on to say that much of what happens in our practice of Christianity really doesn’t make sense in light of what is seen in scripture. He listed a few examples, and then became laser focused on the issue of poverty.

He told 13,000 leaders that sometimes God doesn’t want to hear our worship. Sometimes our prayers our hindered because we don’t care for our spouses. Sometimes he is disgusted by our fasting and our ceremonies because we ignore the poor. He shared Isaiah 58 (a personal favorite of mine and Bono’s) along with many other references from the old and new testament to build a case for why our care for people who are suffering in extreme poverty matters.

After hearing a message like that, which just served to affirm so much of what I believe, I just found myself incredibly hopeful that the 13,000 in attendance would act on what they heard.

I am not quite sure what it looks like, but I am hopeful that it will involve the church taking a more active role in the greatest humanitarian crisis of our generation. As Francis Chan leaves the United States to serve alongside his family, I’m grateful for the encouragement I was given through him to keep pushing onward.

And beyond the encouragement, the talk and the discussion that took place with a few friends after the talk reminded me of some unbelievable spiritual experiences that I had in the desert that solidified my decision to leave my work in vocational ministry to work to serve the poor.

May all who call themselves followers of 'the Way' take up Francis’ challenge and strive to live a life by the grace of God that would make total sense amid the pages of the sacred scriptures.

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