By Elizabeth Prata
**Phil Johnson and Todd Friel discuss this article and the issues within on Too Wretched for Radio, below. Phil articulates the issues so much better than I did, please take a listen
Apostasy is defined as ‘a defection or revolt’. It is the formal disaffiliation from or abandonment or renunciation of a religion by a person. One who commits apostasy in religion (or who apostatizes) is known as an apostate. In Christianity, it is important to remember that apostates never really were saved. 1 John 2:19 says,
They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.
Apostasy is a process. No one wakes up one day and says “Gee, I hate Jesus and I’m not going to church anymore.” The first part of apostasy is a (usually slow) drifting away of the key doctrines of the faith. That’s the beginning. With that comes an eventual abandonment of the things of God and an attraction to the world and to the false teachers of the world. Unless a drastic repentance occurs this slide will grow and grow. Demas apostatized, we don’t know if he ever corrected course.
The second part of the process is the final abandonment of Christianity. Apostasy is in fact a process that progressively reveals the truth of one’s inner self, that one was never saved at all. Judas is the example here. He enacted a total repudiation of Jesus and what He stands for. Judas’s apostasy was hidden from even his close intimates, the disciples, until the very end. But it was there all along.
Apostasy begins with sinfulness. Sometimes it’s corrected by repentance, sometimes not. If not, it’s the first slide toward apostasy. An example of how apostasy is born of sinfulness might be that a woman wants to live with a man in sexual sin. Someone from church approaches her about her sin, and she rejects it as sin, perhaps saying that “The Bible never explicitly addresses this,” or “Only Paul wrote about that, not Jesus”. They present an excuse that in some way rejects the authority of the word of God. They might be approached about it again, and reject again, saying, “The Bible never says we have to gather for church, I’m going to worship at home.” Then after a while they don’t worship at all. They hang around with like-minded people who affirm their sin, they sin some more, and eventually they abandon the faith totally.
Francis Chan has been the object of much ink of late. Chan is a former graduate of The Master’s Seminary. He started Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley CA in 1994 with his wife and 30 other people. Eight years later the church had grown to 1600 members. By 2010 the church was a bona fide megachurch, and Chan decided to resign.
His reasons were, among others, due of the failure of the people in the church, Chan said. They ‘weren’t using their gifts’ and they were only ‘sitting around listening to my sermons’ Chan explained. It is ungracious and unhumble to blame your members for your departure. After 16 years no one would really fault a pastor for ‘feeling called’ to move on to another pastorate or position, though leaving the church you started IS a very big deal. However, to blame the resignation on your congregants and not yourself reveals a great deal about a pastor. It wasn’t even true. According to this essayist, the members were using their gifts and vibrantly serving.
If your members are not using their gifts, whose fault is that? Were they false converts allowed in as members to a rapidly growing church focused on growth and not souls? Or were they genuine converts not using their gifts due to unaddressed sin and thus a failure of church discipline? Both of these reasons lay at the pastor’s feet.
His second reason for resigning from Cornerstone Church was that his church ‘cost too much to run.’ He felt that there were too many wasted dollars. Chan continues at length in the above link and in other interviews about the money. In fact, his subsequent project, We Are Church, a house church movement, touts that it’s free and costs nothing. Not even the pastor gets paid. Hmmm. Isn’t that a violation of 1 Corinthians 9:14?
Anyway, that was the beginning, and a clue. He left his church, and not well, either.
Secondly, the We Are Church movement is another clue to Chan’s growing apostasy. Chan was obviously disillusioned with his megachurch, Cornerstone. Did you know that Chan founded Cornerstone in the first place because he had been disappointed and discontent with his previous church? That same old discontent reared its head again. Here is what he said about his discontent with Cornerstone:
But over the years, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was still missing. It wasn’t a problem with the church members or with the staff that God brought to help me lead. We were successful in staying on target with the goals that had set the DNA for the church. But something was off.
He readily admits that the church was loving, giving, hearing the word of God, and vibrant. Yet “Something was missing.” I recall Sarah Young saying much the same thing when she stated why she wrote the heretical book Jesus Calling. ‘The Bible wasn’t enough’, and she yearned for more.
So Chan resigned from the church he founded, even though he said “God was stirring hearts,” “There was so much life at our services”, and “Lives were being changed.” He said, “There was no church I would rather have been a part of.” Yet…for Chan, something was missing. Remember, apostasy is inner sin, the flesh wants something other than Jesus.
When Chan resigned from Cornerstone in 2010, he took his family traveling in Asia to rethink church. At this point in his publicly recounted history Chan admits that his “theology leaves some room for hearing directly from God.” And on a certain day, Chan says he did. Yes. He heard directly from God. What did God say? “He was telling me to go back to the States and plant churches.”
That is clue #3. First it was disappointment with the churches he had been a part of, despite his own church admittedly doing well. Secondly it was a feeling that he needed to “rethink church”. The normal church model had disappointed Chan. Chan wrote that many people want the early Acts church’s “unstoppable power, miraculous love, and outrageous sacrifice of the first church” and in order to get that, it is more likely found in home churches, not the regular structure of churches ‘in big, expensive buildings’ we have come to know. In other words, he yearned for more.
It can be said that though megachurches are more difficult to manage, Charles Spurgeon’s church was mega, and clicked long just fine. There were regularly 800 or so weekly in his “Boiler Room’ AKA the prayer closet in the basement. John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church is a megachurch that also does well. 900 volunteers last week served in various areas at The Shepherds’ Conference. There are many small groups and fellowships ongoing. Megachurches can work just fine.
But Chan’s disappointment with Cornerstone generalized to the point where in 2013 he decided that home church, not a traditional church, was the way to go. Sadly, these home churches have as part of their model, an unhitching from the traditional sermon exposited by a qualified leader or pastor. Instead, they just all get together and “as a body we can wrestle with Scripture together.” (Source)
He also places man-made numerical limits on how many can join a home church until it needs to split and form another one. Nothing about submitting to the authority of the Spirit who sends however many people He wants. Nothing about 2 Timothy 2:15, only another man made limit on how long the home facilitator (not pastor) can speak (5-10 min, and only if he really feels the need).
Pastors shouldn’t be the ones to speak for the majority of the time in our gatherings. If they do, it subconsciously teaches people that they don’t have as much to offer. Source
Well they don’t have as much to offer, at least as far as biblical insights go. A new Christian needs the word explained to him so he can be trained in righteousness and teaching. (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
This is stepping stone #3 on the dark road of apostasy. We’ve seen Chan’s disappointment with his former churches. His ungracious throwing of his former church fellow members under the bus. His discontent with traditional church model. He mourns that “all the gifts aren’t being used” (Code for being a secret continuationist). He leaves church. He hears personally from God. He rethinks church. He creates a home church model that has no eldership in authority. He unhitches from the Word explained in a sermon. He begins to speak at heretical churches and partners with heretics.
In addition to being busy in 2013 planting home churches with that aformenentioned numerical limit, it was also in 2013 that Chan spoke for the first time at OneThing conference, the heretical International House of Prayer annual gathering. Chan stated that he loved its main speaker and founder, Mike Bickle, affirming him as a brother.
Chan spoke again at OneThing in 2015, 2016 and again in 2017, which included a Catholic Ecumenical track and a speaker who is a Catholic nun in the Society of Our Lady.
In 2018 Chan revealed that he is a continuationist, and likely always has been. “All his life” he’s felt a “disconnect” between voices in his head & inner feelings, and “what I would read”. He said he previously preached through Acts, but he “didn’t like reading Acts.” [the 6:40 mark & onward]. He now believes it was “the worst sermon series in history.” Why? Because though he preached, it “I didn’t believe it” [that the gifts in Acts were only for that generation].
Chan has admitted publicly that he wants to speak in tongues. He has asked God to give him that gift. He believes speaking in tongues is possible today. He pleaded with the IHoP crowd to affirm Chan as a brother to them even though he doesn’t speak in tongues.
He uses charismatic language to describe personal revelations from God. “On the plane here, it was revealed to me…” He said the Lord began instructing him to give away specific amounts of money, $50,000, $1M and so on. During The Send pre-rally in January 2019, Chan said he was given a room for an hour alone to commune with God in scripture and prayer. It was during this meditative moment that Chan divulged exact words God said to him,
“the Lord revealed something to me tonight, just a couple hours ago,” … “He said, ‘Francis, you’re not supposed to be Moses. You’re not supposed to go up on that mountain top and have everyone go, ‘What’d He say?’ See, something happened at the crucifixion: The veil was torn. (The Send pre-rally)
And remember that it was allegedly God who spoke to Chan in telling him to start home church network in back in 2013. Note that a “voice from the sky” also told Jennie Allen to start the IF:Gathering, a parachurch discipleship movement separate from the church.
Let me say this. Cessationists that turn into continationists that turn into charismatics, always apostatize. Always. Why? Because they are separating themselves from the Bible as their sole authority, an act that always leads away from Christ.
Very worrisome is Chan’s stance on the role of the sermon. I’ve read and listened to buckets of material in preparation for this essay. One constant thread is that Chan disbelieves that a person should preach from the word authoritatively, explaining it to hearers. It’s one reason he said he was quitting the church he founded. It is a hard and fast practice of his home network not to preach. Chan is fascinated with Acts and the notion of a group breaking bread in homes and poring over scripture together. This is a good thing of course, but it is not a substitute for regular church. To Chan, it is.
He doesn’t think people should ‘show up just to sit and listen to him’. He mentions it again and again in various sermons (But that has not stopped him to speak incessantly through the year at mega conferences where people show up just to sit and listen to him).
In 2019 Chan has been soundly criticized for appearing at The Send event, a pit of percolating heresy and suppurating false teachers. Speakers included Lou Engle, Todd White, Benny Hinn, Bill Johnson, Mike Bickle, Heidi Baker, who are all noted as the worst of the worst.
No excuse. None.
Chan has been coy in his public speech. He carefully crafts responses. I noticed this since the beginning of his downward journey. One response he has made to the current criticism for partnering with the heretics listed above, is to say
“It has not been my practice to ask who will share the platform with me and to research the other speakers.”
Yet at the first IHoP OneThing conference he opened his speech by saying that research was the first thing he did after receiving an invitation to speak there. Quote,
This is the first time I’ve ever been to an IHoP event. It’s kind of crazy to me, because I didn’t know that much, so I kind of went on the internet and started looking things up. And, man, there’s a lot of great things going on here.
As I mentioned, apostasy is a process. Hebrews 2:1 says “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” The moment Chan left his church (and I have not been able to discover if he is in submission and fellowship at any other church since then) and formed a home church movement that deliberately did NOT teach the word of God to the people, he was well on his way to apostasy.
Francis Chan sadly is apostatizing before our eyes. He hasn’t just begun. He isn’t in the kiddie pool. He is in the deep end, swimming with sharks, coyly denying that they’re sharks in the first place, and saying the water’s fine.
If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it. (Genesis 4:7).
Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (James 1:15)
I value what my wiser brothers have had to say on this subject the past month. I’ve read most of it, and I’ve pondered and thought deeply. I’ve watched Mr Chan for many years, because I know many young people who like him and are confused by his actions and words (because they don’t match up). I write this with no joy. I pray he comes back to the fold, and reconciles his errant views on the role of and structure of the church, the role of pastors, his partnering with and affirmation of heretics, his direct revelations, and his stance on the continuation of charismatic gifts, before it is too late.