Category Archives: Letters to the Church

Book Review: “Letters to the Church” By Francis Chan (Chapter 1)

I have had a lot of people tell me that I need to read Francis Chan’s book, “Letters to the Church.” I began reading it a few weeks ago and am going to share some thoughts here. I also want to involve you in this conversation for any of you who want to read through this book with me.

I will be posting reviews of each chapter and then engaging in conversation over what we read over at our Facebook Discipleship group. You are welcome to comment here on the blog as well. The FB group has several people already committed to reading through this book so I believe you will find that group helpful as we walk through “Letters to the Church” together.

Chapter one details Chan and his wife leaving a church in their mid 20s to start a house church. This would become Cornerstone church in Simi valley. He had three things he wanted to emphasize in this new church: participatory singing, engaging with the Bible, and to live holy lives. (p.11-12). “It didn’t make sense to teach the scriptures without expecting change.” (p.12).

What do you think about his three emphases? There is no cookie cutter or repeatable pattern to these things. We do need values to drive our behaviors. In essence, values always drive our behaviors, we just might not have a solid set of values and then something less than adequate results in our behavior.

As they grew they moved. From house to middle-school to a converted liquor store to finally buying a building. The growth continued and worship services were added to accommodate those who were coming. People were being converted and God was being praised but Chan still felt something was missing.

Here was the issue – giftedness. Too much of it became about Francis Chan and the crowd coming and receiving. People were not being challenged to identify and use their gifts in that environment. This is not just a problem for megachurches. This is a problem for churches of all sizes and this has been on my mind for some time.

How do we identify and encourage the use of the gifts of the congregation for ministry?

How do we fully embrace the priesthood of all believers in real time?

This has been on my mind for well over a year. I don’t think many churches do a very good job of identifying gifts and encouraging people to find ways of using those gifts for the kingdom. Instead the church does what the church has always done and you can take it or leave it. We can be more creative than that.

The story continues with Chan and family leaving Cornerstone and moving to Asia for a season. I appreciated his willingness to answer God’s call even when it meant leaving something you love. If he is unwilling to be obedient to God in that, how can he/we expect others to do the same?

Next, Chan tells about coming back to the states and having a more organic outreach in San Francisco. Again, something was missing – it wasn’t part of a church body as we see in the New Testament. He had no elders, no accountability, etc. I appreciate his seeing the need to continue to connect these things back to a church body. I believe that is healthy and humble on his part.

This line really hit me on page 24, “Many want to change the Church, but it is often motivated by personal preference rather than biblical conviction.”

What do you think about that line?

I think it is a solid reminder that everything we do needs to be discerned through what we can best tell God’s will is, even if it isn’t our preference.

Chan ends the chapter talking about the urgency of doing what is pleasing to God. We don’t need to get distracted by infighting and petty arguments. We can’t let social media weigh us down. We need to do our best to please God and do what we would do if we knew this was our last week before meeting Jesus.

What challenged or convicted you from chapter 1?

How might we live a more full and free life in Christ?

What would church look like if we took the Bible seriously?

Go to chapter two review, “Sacred,” here.


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