After a 4 year absence from writing, Francis Chan returns with his sixth book. He writes on a much needed topic: Gods vision for His Church. He claims that Letters To The Church is his most difficult book yet. That is a bold statement considering he wrote a book on Hell which one would think be the most difficult topic. Chan's manuscript was so difficult to write that he almost decided not to publish it and even delete it. One of his greatest fears was that his writing would cause more damage than good. The type of damage that could create division within American churches. With how Holy and sacred the Church is as the bride of Christ, that is the last thing Chan would want his writing to do.
There is a pattern when it comes to Chans book covers. He has taken the 'less is more' approach which has been successful. He uses basic symbols and patterns that have a very powerful meaning. This still holds true with his latest work. There are five painted strokes across a white cover. Very clean, simple, yet profound. I actually do not know the significance of these five colours of painted strokes.
With each release, Chan writes on a different yet important topic. His previous publications spoke on the importance of Gods love, the Holy Spirit, Hell, Discipleship, and Marriage. Now, his latest work focuses on the American Church.
I have not discovered an author that makes readers stop and think about certain passages in the Bible the way Chan does. He helps readers realize how phenomenal and important scripture is that Christians too often gloss over. Letters To The Church is an honest book. Chan calls out the mistakes Christians have made. But he is also not afraid to call out himself and share the mistakes he has made. He walks a fine line between criticizing and challenging the culture of the American Church. To my amazement (and not surprise), he once again walks that line in persuasive fashion.
You are a part of something much bigger than yourself, something sacred. Through Jesus sacrifice you have been joined to His Church. Because of this, you are not only a part of Gods sacred temple but also apart of the heavenly community. This is huge! What is a tremendous, unspeakable honor may feel insufficient for those who are used to being god of their own blogs and Twitter accounts. It feels insignificant to those who have erected their own shrines on Facebook and Instagram, filled with beautiful pictures of themselves.
Herein lies the danger of clamoring for attention: we dont realize that true joy comes from the opposite. Joy comes as we stand among those Jesus has redeemed and get lost in a sea of worship, becoming fully a part of something sacred. - pages 39 & 41
Chan is at a major disadvantage. Jesus wrote seven letters to seven different churches in Revelations chapter 2 and 3. Francis wrote nine letters to thousands of churches in North America. The obvious and greatest disadvantage Chan points out is that Jesus is a better writer than him. Letters To The Church reads as a collection of connected but independent letters. Each letter addresses a different issue for each chapter. It is easy for authors to point out mistakes and problems with the Church. It is far more difficult for authors to provide solutions. Chan rises to that challenge. His ninth and final chapter shares ideas that may help bring Church back to its original purpose. At least these are ideas he is trying to live out through his ministries. These solutions while creative and credible, are not definitive ones. Chan reminds readers that these are not one size fits all solutions. If anything, he hopes his ideas will help spark the reader's imagination. To pray and think of creative ways that bring back the power and glory of Gods Church.
Chan almost deleted Letters To The Church which may not have ever seen the light of day. I am thankful he did not. I too hope this book does not create division. Quite the opposite; It has opened my eyes. I hope it does the same for others. I beyond recommend this book. I urge all North American churches to read this. Not to rebuke or convict, but to challenge our thinking. To re-examine and remind. To understand the danger of Church operating with a consumerism culture. This could be one of the most important books either of this decade or Chans writing career. Neither accolade matters. What matters is are Christians caring for Jesus' Bride? This is an irrefutable question in light of scripture.
From mediocrity, consumerism, and complaining, to gossip and slander against Church leaders. There are several important messages Letters To The Church provides. They are clear and Biblical. That does not mean Christians should shove these messages in the face of Church leaders. Division is what Chan feared most when he published this book. He does not want his 'Letters' to create ammunition for division. That would be exactly the opposite of what Chan desires. He makes it clear that there is already too much pride happening in so many ways.
There are two important messages I have walked away with. The first message is how God sees what the Church actually is. It is Sacred. It Serves. It Sacrifices. It Suffers. It is the Bride of Jesus. The second message is that in an era saturated with social media and self promoters, it is imperative to embrace humility. Humility is needed for the American Church to not only stand in unity, but to stand out from the rest of the world.
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