Time to Re-examine

Francis Chan thinks we need to take a serious look at how we do church.

In his book, Letters to the Church, Francis Chan calls on church leaders to re-examine their approach to church and ministry, and on Christians to reassess their understanding of the life of faith. This book is a call to break out of the cultural chains that keep us doing church according to the priorities and paradigms of our self-centered, pragmatic, entertainment-driven culture, and to recover the Biblical model for discipleship and church growth.

Chan explains that he came to the convictions he outlines in this book after having been a successful megachurch pastor, with a congregation of thousands, but few disciples to show for it.

He looks at critical components of Christian life: what it means to be a disciple; why saints should be equipped for ministry; why love and unity should be the guiding priorities in church life; how pastors should work as shepherds to equip their flocks; the priority of serving; and more. He does a good job exposing the failings of contemporary models of church life and discipleship, and turns to the Scripture for answers to the questions he raises.

This is a serious subject, and Chan treats it as such. However, I find his comments at times to be a little too flip, although he uses absurdity to make a point very well at times. His many references to self are largely intended to be self-effacing; however, at times they are off-putting, when what we might prefer to hear about are examples of his teaching from other times or places.

Chan writes in bullets at times, and that can be helpful as a way or reviewing main points. But there is little detailed unpacking of, for example, how to start and grow a house church; what it takes to train leaders and pastors; what disciples look like when they are sent into their community. The details are spare, but the outline is clear and reliably Biblical.

Letters the Church itself sounds, frankly, a bit arrogant – a trap of many snares the author addresses in an Afterword, but which he does not entirely avoid in his writing. A book like this, which is on the order of “Here’s what I’ve learned about what I did wrong, and what I’m trying to do right,” cannot avoid first-person references; and Letters to the Church contains many. Nevertheless, this is a book thoughtful church leaders will find challenging, and with which they will have a difficult time disagreeing.

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