Letters To The Church {Book Review}

I just finished reading Francis Chan’s book, Letters To The Church, fulfilling my January book for my Reading Challenge 2019. I started this book a few weeks ago, but just finished it, so I’m counting it for January! There’s no way I can summarize this book in a few short paragraphs; please read it for yourself.

Chan’s decision to leave his megachurch in 2010 has been both criticized and applauded. He is definitely making an impact on church culture, and the book challenges us to rethink the American church of today. While Chan has been accused of “throwing his church under the bus” (yes, I read a blog that used those very words), his own words tell how deeply he loved Cornerstone Church and took full responsibility for his own leadership. He writes humbly and simply, sharing what God has done in his life over the last eight years and what he personally has learned about the church.

Today, Chan leads “We Are Church” made up of small groups, each led by two pastors. Small groups of 15-20 people meet in homes to study God’s word together, worship, share meals and communion, meet the needs of one another, and then go out and tell others about Christ.

Hmmm…that sounds familiar.

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

Chan’s passion is to return “church” to what Jesus always intended. There is accountability under a group of elders, and the small groups gather together twice a month. In the book, Chan gives sixteen core values which define what “We Are Church” strives to produce:

  • Devoted worshippers
  • Loving families
  • Equipped disciple-makers
  • Spirit-filled missionaries
  • Suffering sojourners
  • Daily Bible readings
  • Meet in homes
  • Multiply leaders
  • Elder authority
  • Everyone discipled
  • Everyone disciples
  • Everyone exercises gifts
  • Regular multiplication of churches
  • Simple gatherings
  • Share possessions
  • Assume missions

No one gets paid. There’s no overhead, no staff, no expensive programs. Just a few families gathering weekly and caring for one another. Any money that is donated goes directly to missions.

Chan speaks directly to pastors, from a pastor’s heart. He addresses his own failures, weaknesses, and struggles with clarity and honesty, and challenges the church in America to go to the Bible and really seek what God intended the church to be. He makes no plea for anyone to adopt the same pattern that “We Are Church” has set; in fact, he urges that they examine the Bible for themselves, to pray and fast, and seek God’s heart.

You can’t read this book and walk away from it the same. Either you will disagree with Chan and be offended that he challenges the traditions and methods of how we do church, or you will be convicted to ask God to show you if your weekly worship and understanding of the church is really what God desires.  Chan makes a compelling argument for all believers to renew our appreciation of the sacredness of the body of Christ and make church about Jesus again.

People were attracted to the early church. Who wouldn’t be fascinated by a group that shared possessions, rejoiced nonstop, had peace beyond comprehension and immeasurable power, never complained, always gave thanks…? Some people joined them, others hated them, but few could ignore them. They wouldn’t allow people to ignore them as they went out fearlessly sharing the gospel. This is our heritage. This is in our DNA. We must stop creating safe places for people to hide and start developing fearless warriors to send out. (Quote from page 168, Letters To The Church).

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