Originally published in 2012.
The good folks at the Patheos Book Club asked me to review Francis Chan’s book, Multiply, co-authored with Mark Beuving. And I agreed.
Let me say a few words about Francis Chan to begin with . . . things I’ve never stated publicly, until now. Since 2008, I’ve received a steady stream of emails about Francis Chan from readers. Here are some examples:
Hey Frank, I just saw a video of Chan talking about the church. Looks like he’s been reading your earlier work on the church, he even used one of your titles.
I’m curious about your thoughts on him [Francis Chan] since it seems like a lot of his views have shifted recently (and dramatically). I’m sure you’ve been an influence.
Frank, you and Francis Chan need to get together. He’s saying many of the same things you have been saying in your books. Does he know you?
I respect the fact that Francis Chan has taken the bold step he has in leaving his mega-church to go after more “organic” style church. However, I think he could learn a lot from your writings and influence.
Did you hear that Francis Chan stepped down from being a pastor? I’ve heard him speak a few times and it sounds like he’s been reading your work. I’d like to see you two do something together. Do you know each other?
Frank I just heard Francis Chan at a conference and it’s like he’s speaking straight from your books. Have you two met? If not you both need to get together.
I’ve lost count of the emails and Facebook messages I’ve received like the above, all humming the same tune. My answer has always been the same.
Chan and I have the same publisher (David C. Cook). And I’d be happy to chat with him if he so desires.
I’m accessible to anyone. Though I’m not sure how easy it is for people to reach Chan (?).
2016 UPDATE: Since Mr. Chan hasn’t yet replied to Frank’s five questions, we have removed this book review, which was published in 2012.
Frank is still completely accessible to speak with Mr. Chan. His email address is Frank@FrankViola.com.
Here are the five questions Frank asked Mr. Chan in 2012:
1. Most of the discipleship books and programs today fail to mention the essential ingredient of being a disciple according to both Jesus and Paul. That ingredient is – learning to live by the indwelling life of Christ. This is the central tenet of New Testament revelation, yet it’s grossly neglected today. What is the reason why this wasn’t discussed in your book?
2. While there’s a lot of discussion on how to read the Bible, I didn’t see a presentation of God’s Eternal Purpose, which is the grand narrative of Scripture. It is also God’s ultimate intention in creation, redemption, and discipleship. While there were elements of it referenced here and there, there was no discussion on what it exactly is and how all Scripture and authentic spiritual experience is tied together by it. Why was this left out?
4. One thing I’ve observed is that many of the authors who are promoting “discipleship” today are unaware of the history of the Discipleship Movement in North America in the 1970s and the tremendous damage it caused. I believe that if we don’t learn the mistakes of the past, we will unwittingly repeat them. Given that you are now promoting the modern-day discipleship movement, what are you doing to safeguard God’s people from falling into the same errors of the former discipleship movement?
5. The modern idea of discipleship is intensely individualistic. So I was glad that you and Mark talked briefly about community in the book. But talking about community is one thing. People recontextualize what they read into their own experience. In my on-the-ground experience over the last two decades, I’ve not seen discipleship be very effective unless believers were living in a close-knit, face-to-face community that is seeking the face of Jesus Christ regularly outside of scheduled corporate gatherings and which includes a regular gathering for every-member functioning under the direct headship of Christ. Every letter in the NT was written to such face-to-face communities. Those face-to-face communities were the native habitat in which spiritual growth and transformation took place. Many churches are nothing like what I’ve described here, despite the fact that they might use the rhetoric of “community.” So if we get the church wrong, we get discipleship wrong also. Do you think that’s possible?
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