It has been five years since I have left working in (“full-time / occupational”) ministry. I have continued to serve in several different areas of the church as a volunteer. While in ministry, I was a prolific reader of ministry books, I have three rows of a bookshelf and a couple of donated boxes to prove it. But since leaving, I haven’t read a Christian book geared towards church leadership until I got my hands on this book “Letters to the Church” by Francis Chan.
Not being in occupational ministry makes this book by Francis Chan easier to consume and harder to implement. Francis does not hold any punches when he writes about the last couple of years of his life. But this book feels a little different than what Francis is known for with his writing. Crazy Love and Forgotten God are more of a “here’s what you need to do” and “rah-rah, you can do this” kind of material. This book rips into the current practices of churches who are not reflecting the concepts of Christianity.
Francis‘ approach? If it doesn’t work in Scripture, you should not do it. This is a tough pill to swallow because it dismisses some practices in the Church’s history. I think it doesn’t work when you apply digital ministry or global missions. I have a tough time in saying “It’s all bad, let’s leave it all behind” because most of the time that is not true.
The thing that disconnected me the most throughout this book is that most of the “all these churches” were not churches I had ever experienced. Maybe I was good at finding churches who practice what they preach and preach with God-given authority. Or it’s possible that Francis has had a lot of bad examples. Either way, this was my biggest disconnect.
That being said, many of the scenarios that Chan directly addresses are 100% on point. It’s hard for me to say that as an individual Christian looking for a church two years ago when we moved to Ohio, the things we needed in a church were 1) proper doctrine and theology 2) safe for our children 3) ministry that our children can grow up in 4) community / missions focused. Two of those are very self-focused. But Jesus is not about being safe, but being holy.
I love his quote from the book:
While we can’t force people to be devoted, it may be that we have made it too easy for them not to be. By trying to keep everyone interested and excited, we’ve created a cheap substitute for devotion. Rather than busying themselves with countless endeavors, the early followers devoted themselves to a few. And it changed the world. It seems like the Church of America is constantly looking for the next new thing.
I feel like the biggest solution should actually be that Christians within their family need to take it upon themselves to be better, do better, serve more faithfully, be more kingdom-minded, and seek holiness. This, of course, would negate some of the specific grievances that Chan discusses in the book, but still, there are too many Godly critiques in here to be ignored. I’d highly encourage you to read Letters To The Church book with an open mind and open heart.
I give this book a 4 out of 5.