Francis Chan recently explained to Facebook employees the inspiration behind the We Are Church ministry based in San Francisco, California. Chan had shocked many in the U.S. Christian community seven years ago when he stepped down as the lead pastor of the megachurch he had founded. Cornerstone Church was averaging approximately 5,000 attendees each Sunday when Chan unexpectedly walked away.
In 2010, Pastor Mark Driscoll of the Mars Hill Church in Seattle offered commentary of Chan’s choice.
“I’ll be honest. Everybody thinks you’re cuckoo for cocoa puffs. You got a good church going on and you hit the eject button and now you’re the international man of fu Manchu mystery,” Driscoll said.
Seven years later, Chan addressed Facebook employees leading a prosperous We Are Church ministry. We Are Church has 30 unpaid pastors, in pairs of twos, ministering to 15 homes across the San Francisco metropolitan area. The four core values of We Are Church are family, mission, training, and gathering. The idea of the Christian church being a family is what Chan highlighted to the audience at Facebook headquarters. He said it was a leading catalyst for his departure from Cornerstone Church seven years earlier.
Chan used the story of a former gang member he had baptized to emphasize the family idealism that is absent in the contemporary megachurch environment.
A friend of Chan questioned the gang member about why he left Cornerstone Church in such a short time span after being baptized by Chan. The new Christian convert answered dejectedly.
“I didn’t understand church. When I was baptized, I thought that was going to be being jumped into the gang where it’s like 24/7 they’re my family, because I didn’t know it was just somewhere we attend on Sundays.”
Chan reflectively revisited that moment in time before the audience at the Facebook headquarters. The pain of that reality filled Chan.
“That makes me so sick that the gangs are a better picture of family than the church of Jesus Christ,” he said.
Chan had become disenchanted by the lack of connectivity amongst the 5,000 congregants at the megachurch and the millions of dollars it cost to run it.
“And I’m like 5,000 people show up every week to hear my gift, see my gift. That’s a lot of waste. Then I started thinking how much does it cost to run this thing? Millions of dollars! So I’m wasting the human resource of these people that according to Scripture have a miraculous gift that they could contribute to the body but they’re just sitting there quietly.”
Of the ministry costs at We Are Church, Chan explained the following.
“We’ve got a few hundred people now and it costs nothing,” he said. We Are Church plans to double the amount of houses involved in the ministry each year for the next 10 years. This projects to expanding membership to 1.2 million regular attendees over that span of time.
Chan also admitted that it was easier to preach at the megachurch. He would preach before audience members he may not ever meet. In the intimate small environments offered by We Are Church, congregants are forced to collectively confront each other’s personal issues.
“But when it’s family, it gets messy. And you start finding out people’s dirt. Just like you know about your brother and sister every Thanksgiving. It’s messy because it’s family. That’s what Christ wanted. And so we fight for it. And it’s been a blast.”
Chan uses the proceeds from his best-selling book, Crazy Love, to donate to charitable causes around the world.
[Featured Image by Barna Group/Vimeo Public Domain]