Francis Chan's Crazy Love

Jennifer Schuchmann, Copyright Christianity Today International

Given that opportunity, Chan realized he'd work overtime to make sure his daughter had the best of everything. She might complain about hard work, but that would build character. There would be times she wouldn't like what he'd have her do, but ultimately it would all be for her good. Chan began to appreciate the fact that if he, an imperfect earthly father, could do this for his daughter, how much more would our heavenly Father do if we trusted him?

Chan decided he could trust God—follow him anywhere, allow him complete control. But he worried that his zealous new commitment might destroy the church he founded. In September Chan had a conversation with his wife, and then with his executive pastor. He told them he planned to leave Cornerstone and start a new church.

Their identical responses surprised him. "These people have followed you this far, it's not fair to leave them now. Give them a chance."

So he did. In October, Chan returned to the pulpit. In his sermon, called, "Lukewarm and Loving It" (available on YouTube), he explains riches and security make it harder to enter heaven. Consequently, many Christians settle for a lukewarm faith.

"I don't want to stand before God and watch him spit church members out of his mouth," Chan says. Instead he wants to stand in front of the throne with sold-out Jesus followers, even if there are only a few.

The sermon marked the beginning of a new Chan and a new Cornerstone.

'Meet me at the park'

Convicted by the verse to "love your neighbor as yourself," Chan showed up at the next board meeting with an agenda. In the early years, Cornerstone gave away 4 percent of its budget. Chan asked them to give away 50 percent. Cuts in staff salaries and serious sacrifices in programs would have to be made, but it only took a half hour for the board to agree.

Rick Utley, an elder, says that decision "has produced a heart in Cornerstone unlike any church I have ever been involved with. The blessings that have come with it are hard to quantify." Utley says it would now be hard for him to worship in a church that didn't make the adjustments and sacrifices Cornerstone made to give at this level.

In 2008 the church will give away 55 percent of its budget to the poor and hungry through various ministries, including a $1 million annual commitment to Children's Hunger Fund and a sizeable contribution to World Impact, which plants churches in urban America.

The growth continued. With it came the need for more space. The elders researched a solution and laid the plans on the table for Chan to see. "This is repulsive!" said Chan, who later regretted his outburst. "When I saw all the buildings, it was just so hard to stomach. The price tag on it was 50 to 60 million dollars. It looked like a mall."

Chan didn't want any part of it. "I kept thinking about all those people I'd seen in third world countries and it made me sick."

Chan thought he knew what Jesus would do. He'd say, "Meet me at the park." That was what Chan wanted. Just a patch of grass where the church could gather.

The solution was an outdoor amphi-theater, a simple structure enjoyed by the community during the week and used as a gathering place for worship on Sunday. The plan would save tens of millions of dollars. Even the elders got behind the idea.

If it rained, they'd get wet knowing their money was feeding the hungry.

Crazy love

Chan's new book, appropriately titled Crazy Love, explains the theology behind his actions. Reading the book is like eavesdropping on a schoolgirl's first crush. Chan is in love with Jesus.

But is he crazy? Chan readily admits some of his ideas are, well, kuh-ray-zee.

There is, of course, the radical practice of giving away more than half of the church budget. But the "craziness" shows up in more typical practices too, such as baptisms. There are no baptismal robes at Cornerstone. When someone wants to be baptized, they just come on down for the dunking—no matter what they're wearing. Chan says that people remember their baptism when they go home in dripping-wet clothes.

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