- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: David C. Cook - TBG (September 1, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780830776580
- ISBN-13: 978-0830776580
- ASIN: 0830776583
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 171 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #319 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Letters to the Church Paperback – September 1, 2018
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From the Publisher
Why Write This Book?
There is a growing and unacceptable discrepancy between God’s vision for the church and ours. Consumerism has to leave. The Church requires more.
God’s Church started as a radical, spiritually intimate gathering of believers that ultimately changed history. Yet millions today are content to be mere observers at church. Many more have left, brokenhearted and cynical. But God is waking up His people—people who will risk anything and sacrifice everything to be the dynamic, world-changing Church of Scripture.
Speaking out of deep love for the Church, Chan guides Christ followers to live out God’s magnificent and beautiful vision for His Church-a vision we may have lost but God has never forgotten.
When He returns, I want Him to find me giving everything I’ve got to bring health to the church—and that’s what this book is about. My hope is that you also will see the need to repent from this casual attitude and treat the church as sacred again. –Francis Chan
Francis Chan is a pastor, speaker, and bestselling author. God used the death of his parents early in childhood to give Francis a deep understanding of the brevity of life. This has shaped his life and teaching with an eternal perspective, as he continues to challenge believers to live on mission, willing to surrender everything.
Francis has been used powerfully by God to author books Crazy Love, Forgotten God, Erasing Hell, Multiply, and You and Me Forever. God’s blessing on these books has spread millions of copies around the world in many different languages.
Read this book, and let Francis Chan lovingly bring you face-to-face with God’s Word while humbly challenging you to consider what needs to change in order to experience the wonder and beauty of the church according to God’s design. –David Platt
Letters to the Church Study Guide
The Letters to the Church Video Series walks with this generation, showing what it can look like to be the Church God desires.
Join Francis as he takes you on a journey through the chapters of Letters to the Church, hear his heart for the Bride of Christ, and join him as he leans in to God’s desire for the Church. You’ll also see first-hand stories of transformation and be encouraged that you too can pursue God’s heart for His Church.
See the difference you can make, right where you are.
The Letters to the Church Study Guide practically equips this generation to do whatever it takes to restore the Church to her former glory.
Journey with those around you—whether your church or small group—and take practical steps to live out fundamental principles from the Bible. Be challenged, guided, and encouraged to passionately pursue God’s magnificent and beautiful vision for His Church.
Come experience what it means to be part of this family. His family. His Church.
|Crazy Love||Multiply||Forgotten God||Erasing Hell|
|Description||God is love. Crazy, relentless, all-powerful love. Have you ever wondered if we're missing it?||Jesus gave his followers a command: 'Follow me.' And a promise: 'And I will equip you to find others to follow me.' We were made to make disciples.||A follow up to the profound message of Crazy Love, Pastor Francis Chan offers a compelling invitation to understand, embrace, and follow the Holy Spirit’s direction in our lives.||How could a loving God send people to hell? Will people have a chance after they die to believe in Jesus and go to heaven?|
About the Author
Francis Chan is the bestselling author of Crazy Love, Forgotten God, Erasing Hell, Multiply, and You and Me Forever. He is currently a pastor of We Are Church, a house church network that is planting churches in Northern California. Francis and his wife of twenty-five years, Lisa, have seven children and one beautiful granddaughter.
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Let me be clear: I love Francis Chan. His conviction and passion for Jesus are absolutely infectious. The BASIC video series and book Crazy Love were extremely formative in my faith journey. I believe his We Are Church network of house churches may be the most Biblical and compelling portrait of Church in America right now.
However, I have absolutely no idea what a reader is supposed to take away from Letters to the Church.
After telling the reader that God may kill you for criticizing the Church, Chan proceeds to explain why he left his megachurch at the height of its (and his) popularity to explore church movements in India and China. The rest of the book is a series of "letters" that document areas where the American Church doesn't line up with the first-century church described in the New Testament.
It's no secret the American Church is fraught with consumerism, individualism, and laziness. And much of Chan's observations are spot-on. However, instead of tackling the systems that create passive churchgoers, Chan appears to level a bulk of his criticisms at church leaders and churchgoers.
In other words, if your church isn't a house church (that is consistently reproducing), you're going to feel awful about your church experience after reading this book. And then you'll feel guilty about feeling critical of your church.
Chan tells some truly inspiring stories about what is happening in persecuted churches around the world and in his house church network - stories that appear exclusive to that environment. And I think the reader is supposed to compare these stories with their personal experiences at a seeker-friendly church.
And that puts the reader in an interesting position. As critical as Chan is of people being critical of the Church, how can talking about the church in this way not sow seeds of discontent in one's own church? Or is this Chan's point?
And this dilemma forms the well-intentioned but schizophrenic heart of this book.
What is the average churchgoer suppose to do? What is a pastor's next course of action?
To be clear, I'm not defending a traditional model of church. I fully agree with Chan's grievances. But if our church doesn't look like what Chan is describing in the (fantastic, by the way) final chapter of Letters to the Church, should we leave? Start our own house church? Or seek to reform our church from the inside-out? Talk about it with like-minded individuals? And how are we suppose to do any of that without openly discussing our church's shortcomings (i.e. criticizing)? Is there a difference? If persecution is good for the church, what does that look like in a country built on freedom of religion? Do we seek out persecution by doubling down in an already polarized culture?
Letters to the Church won't answer any of those questions. Maybe it's not meant to. But any book that's sure to send its readers spiraling into frustration, guilt, and disillusionment at their own church experience should at least come with some form of recourse.
I'll probably get ripped for writing an overtly negative review. But there were nuggets of insights in Letters to the Church that were absolutely fascinating - Chan's chapters on the pitfalls of professional ministry and the final chapter on the structure of We Are Church were well worth reading.
I just can't recommend a book that's not going to leave anyone better off (unless you happen to be a member of a We Are Church community). People will praise this book as "hard" and "convicting," but comparing the American Church to the first-century church or persecuted church in Asia isn't exactly a hot take - especially if you limit your take to observation and don't delve into the 'why' or 'what next.'
For a better deconstructive/reconstructive view of modern church, I highly recommend Skye Jethani's With (and The Divine Commodity), Shane Claiborne’s The Irresistible Revolution, Bruxy Cavey's The End of Religion, Kent Carlson's Renovation of the Church, Rachel Held Evan's Searching for Sunday, and Aaron Niequist's The Eternal Current.
For a great take on how capitalism and consumerism took over the American Church, check out Shopping for God by James Twitchel, One Nation Under God by Kevin Kruse, and Christianity Incorporated by Michael Budde.
But take my review with a grain of salt. Maybe I'm an arrogant "son of hell" who airs his grievances online that is better off being disfellowshipped by the Church (again, something the book actually says).
UPDATE: I really don’t want to get dragged into ‘Review Wars’ on Amazon, but no - contrary to other reviewers’ claims - I did not expect a “one-size-fits-all” manual to reform the Church from a book less than 200 pages long. For clarification, the primary issue I had with this book is that by comparing the worst of the American Church with the best of the first-Century Church, persecuted church in Asia, and his own house church movement, most readers will be at a loss of how to move forward within their own faith community.
From the book: "To the lovers of Jesus who are feeling discouraged, I pray this book gives you hope for what is possible. To those who knowingly or subconsciously are harming the church, I pray God gives you the grace to repent."
I've felt the conviction over the state of the church--and my own wandering from the ideal pattern--for a while. To the point that four years ago, hubby and I thought maybe we needed to just find a home church or buy a house and have one. It's a vision that got sidetracked (spiritual war, God testing, not sure), but we were completely dissatisfied with spectator-church. And then I started hearing from more and more fellow believers how church has become a ritual, a consumption, an entertainment, a thing you do on Sunday, and not full of power and humble service, with everyone manifesting the gift(s) they have received from the Holy Spirit. I have especially been pained by the lack of prayer. Prayer, so important and essential to Christ and the apostles and the early believers....where is prayer on Sundays? Why is the time given to so little prayer? Communal prayer matters in Scripture, not just solitary prayer. I have been obsessed in my prayers and thoughts with those building blocks of the early church...and Francis expounds on them: apostles teaching, fellowship, prayer, breaking of bread/Lord's supper.
When I saw this book, saw Francis addressing this, I preordered the book and am reading it. It's taking me a while, though I began 1 AM last night, when Amazon sent it to my Kindle. I keep stopping to repent, to pray, to praise, to ask God for help for me and the church, American and global. But especially here, on my continent. He provides many passages of Scripture, and I stop to meditate on familiar words, to see them fresh.
So, while I am not done with the book yet, know that he does talk about what is very wrong with our modern way of doing church. How it doesn't look like the NT church. How we lack the power we should have. How we give in to gimmicks to draw in visitors. How we don't trust God to rely on what God has asked us to do.
One part speaks of an experiment they did just reading Scripture. Not preaching or expounding on it. Just reading it. IN one case the whole thing in 72 hours. In another, all chapters of the book of Revelation, one person reading one chapter until all were done. I can't help but think this is something more churches need to try: just read Scripture. Read it, aloud, to the congregation. Have people come and read it aloud. When was the last time we did just that--not select verses, but just READ it, lots of it, out loud?
I will update this when I finish, as I expect to savor it slowly ,weep more over it, pray over it, praise in moments--and you should read it like that, too. Just stop and address the Lord on the subject. Intercede. Praise him. Weep some more. Ask for His leading on how you (and I) can be agents of change and use our gifts in the Body, as servants.
Please, read this book. It's for such a time as this.
I continue to slowly read this, with prayer and pondering. I woke hubby at 5:30 in the AM today and said, "I want to talk to you about things from the Chan book." We talked for an hour and then wept and then prayed. Things I'd noticed wrong, he's noticed. But anyone reading would immediately see applicability--if you WANT to.
It's like Scripture. It says be filled with the Spirit. Does it give step by step instructions on how to do that? But you know when you are because the fruit follows and you look back and think--oh, I prayed more deeply and longer, and I spent more time in the Word, and I made an effort to keep my minds on things above, and the fruit followed.
Chan speaks many ways to apply changes--to pastors mainly, but to laypeople also. Here are some takeaways:
1. Pray a lot more. It's more important than activity.
2. Be ready to lose everything for Christ: look at your spending, look at what your goals are, look at your home, your savings. Are you hoarding? Are you spending yourself out of concern for the lost, giving away possessions as led and not focusing on a bigger house or a new car or a fancy vacation. Declutter your life of materialism.
3. Read the Scriptures, unvarnised. Just spend time during a worship service doing nothing but reading the Word aloud. No preaching. Just reading and hearing.
4. Allow young children into services. Stop assuming they should be off coloring and seeing talking vegetable cartoons. Childresn can learn, can worship, can pray for adults, can use spiritual gifts if they are saved. They can minister, too. Stop underestimating children who are in the Lord.
5. Stop underestimating the Holy Spirit. Expect miracles.
6. Expect suffering and embrace it. Tell yourself you must change your mindset to expect suffering/persecution and that you look at that joyfully, not fearfully. (I see a lot of fear in myself and in the American church and discomfort at the idea of persecution. That is not the apostolic view.) He gives an example of the Chinese Christians saying, "Lord, send me to a dangerous place. I will give my life for you. I'll die for you" and saying it with joy. He writes of the Iranian church that has those who will be new members understand the cost and sign a document that says they are wlling to lose all possessions, jobs, and lives for the Christ.
7. Simplify worship: get bread, get wine, get a Bible, sit and just worship together with these three. No videos. No fancy displays. No choir. No spectator sport or entertainment mentality. Word and the bread and wine and see what God does in an intimate worship.
8. Stop trying to attract people to churches (this was more for the ministerial staff) with fancy worldly elements. If they don't come to pray, worship praise, and love....they're not coming for the right reasons.
9. And this one is fundamental, I think, and it is also one pastors must focus on: Change the very basic structure of how we do church so tht every spiritual gift can be used to equip the church. We have church where teaching/preaching and music are the gifts utilized. Where is the ability for people to speak words of wisdom, pray for healing to see if a gift of healing is given, prophesy if the Spirit so moves. Have we stopped valuing the other gifts? How do we alter the very structure to allow for gifts to manifest and people to serve, not just observe? It may mean eliminating paid ministers. Shepherds/elders who work to support themselves outside of offerings. This forces everyone to use their gifts, since they can't say, "Well, we pay THEM to do that."
10. Expect to grow believers who will be able to leave your particular church body and start a new church. Believers who stop being babies and children spiritually, and grow up and grow OUT. Maybe expect staff to leave every few years (he names "five years" as one pastor's sign to move on). Move on and grow new flocks. Move on and learn from someone else.
And all that and I'm still not finished with the book. Seems to me anyone who doesn't think there is applicability doesn't understand that CHANGE and REFORM are hard as heck. It can be done, but people must be willing to SEE the fundamental problems and be wiling to REFORM....ditch tradition and follow the Spirit. Be the church, not go to church.
So, yes, there is applicability. We can all start applying it today, and may God move many pastors to undertake the harder work of looking closely at what they have created, upheld, supported, continued that should not be continued, upheld, supported.
And sometimes ,you have the voice that shouts out what is wrong. Then others come in and say, "yes, now, here's what we can do to make that happen." One book doesn't have to be the how-to manual to be effective as the wake-up call.