As my first entry into this series, I am going back to my days as an Evangelical. Francis Chan. Let me start by saying that this man was my hero in my Protestant days, and in some ways is still a hero to me. Francis was the former pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley. This man built up that Church and turned it into a "mega church". He felt a call from God to get away from the fame he had built for himself, subsequently resigned from his position at Cornerstone, and immigrated to China for a few years to find God in his roots. He felt the Holy Ghost calling him back to the United States and now resides in San Francisco, CA as an evangelist/ inspirational speaker.
In my days as an Evangelical, I received my first "retreat high" from this preacher. I was on a college retreat in Forest Home in CA, and he was the speaker leading the retreat. I had never before, nor since, encountered a Christian who can captivate and bring silence into a room the first few seconds into his talk. Francis has a definite gift for engaging the hearts of every person in the room. God bless Francis, but I think he would say it is all God. If so, then that is not really fair to anybody else with a mouth to speak and the Holy Ghost living inside of them. So I do want to give Francis a tiny drop of credit.
Now, how did Francis Chan make me Catholic?
It doesn't take much time into any of Chan's sermons to feel a sense of guilt being dropped on you. That is one of the aspects that makes Chan's talks so impacting, the challenge of being complacent in the presence of Almighty God. If you look at Chan's life, you can see the same guilt occuring in his heart and soul. If you know his background, his Church had a huge fortune being thrown at him, but he did not want to take any more money than he needed. When his fame got too big for him, he quit and ran away to a Communist country to get away from it all. When he came back to the U.S., in his talks he explains that he couldn't justify being in a building for Jesus, but had to go out into the world. All this is wonderful and inspiring! Yet, one then understands another aspect of why Francis Chan is so restless. It is really up to him to figure out what God wants. Whatever may be good in whatever ministry he is involved in, he worries that he may be too comfortable and then worries about the judgment of God- and then runs in another direction. What does God want from Him? Well, his faith, love, and devotion. Yet, Chan cannot be settled into any ministry he has been a part of. Again, one just walks away thinking that Chan is looking for God still in all of these ministries.
I have read all of his books, and while they hold some water to all that is Chan, it is dry in comparison. In his book Erasing Hell: What God Said About Eternity, and the Things We've Made Up, Chan is confronting fellow emerging movement, and former Pastor, Rob Bell. Rob Bell's book Love Wins was written to begin the removal of the doctrine of Hell from Evangelical Theology. Chan wrote a book defending the doctrine of Hell as a rebuttal. In his book, he acknowledges that Hell is a traditional doctrine as defined not only through the bible, but historic Ecumenical Councils. In a footnote to that point, he then goes on to then dismantle the use of Ecumenical Councils as a valid reason to hold any Christian belief, as the councils were corrupt and defined doctrines and dogmas that they should not have. So already, even though Chan uses councils as a reason, he then removes them as a reason.
When I read this, it became clear to me what the true "protest" in Protestantism was: authority. Even though a Protestant may say that all authority comes from God, but through the bible. Yet, they really cannot mean that, because the bible does not define the bible. The bible needs an interpreter. So, a Protestant may not understand this (does understands, but disagrees), but they place the authority on themselves, and I would say at the expense of God's authority.
So bringing this back to Chan- to me it seemed that even though Francis is such a profound speaker and evangelist, he is still looking for God. What he doesn't believe or accept is that the God-man, Jesus Christ, established ONE Church. We can see in history that one Church, that then had people separate themselves from her. In it Christ has given us the gift of the sacraments, to ground us and to lift us into the Kingdom of Heaven. Chan wants Christ in his heart so bad, but his uncertainty
is his own enemy.
What Chan showed me is that God left us with an authority. We are physical beings who cannot sense God on our own. God has to spell things out for us. Therefore, it did not make sense that God would just leave us a book that none of us can agree on. Yet, in that book He left us a Church. In that Church, He set up an authority that He is Sovereign over. That Church gives us the lines that mark the path to God, where I do not have to figure this path out ALL by myself. We all must walk the path, but without a map, how do you know where the treasure is? The bible is just one part of the map, but we need the interpreter as well.
I love Francis Chan. Again, this man is still a hero to me in some ways. Even though he finds himself unsettled, he would give everything to God if he knew that is what God asked. That is to be admired. I pray often for his conversion to the Catholic faith. Every good gift he has is Catholic, whether he knows it or not.
Also, small side note. There was another man who became so unsettled with his life, that he gave up every worldly possession he had. He felt so drawn by God that he left his home and ran into the wilderness to care for the leapers. He felt called by God to evangelize the Mohammedans, and made a venture to visit and try to convert the Sultan himself! Yet, he did not do anything without the approval of his Bishop, and also the Pope. This man was confident that even though he gave all to God, that without adhering to the authority that God left for His Church, that he was to just be a wanderer without a home. That man was St. Francis of Assisi.