Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Taking a step of faith" — a few thoughts

There are two kinds of people in the world:
  1. Those who know about Francis Chan's decision to leave his pastorate for an array of various activities
  2. Those who'd say, "Who's she?"
"She" is a he, Francis with an "i." He's an author, a pastor, a surferdude, and whatever fame he had was multiplied by Justin Taylor finding him newsworthy. Now, that's fame.

Chan did at least a video and some written communication explaining this decision, which you can see at the link. Doubtless there will be more. I have not watched the video, I won't make it a focus of study. I just want to offer a few remarks about his written explanation. My focus is really the remarks, and not Francis Chan himself. His words form a springboard. Clear enough?

They're a springboard because they reflect phrases one hears among "evangelicals," phrases which I think haven't been examined closely enough. I'll single out two.

The target quotation
...Lisa and I believe God is calling us to take a step of faith. We believe we are supposed to move into a major city such as LA, San Francisco, or New York. ...I’m still not completely sure of everything, but it feels great to be living by faith.

"God is calling us... we are supposed to move"
The whole picture summons to mind the call of Abram, which I think is probably either deliberate or semi-deliberate. Is that a fair allusion?

This is what a Biblically-minded interviewer would ask Chan. "Are you likening this move to Abram's move from Ur?", I would ask. To anything like an affirmative response, I would follow up with this: "So are you saying that you received an inerrant, verbal, prophetic, morally-binding revelation directly from God, apart from Scripture, telling you that you needed to walk away from your pastoral commitment abruptly and go off doing other unspecified things?"

If he means anything else, Chan is drawing from some spiritual authority other than Scripture. That is what a Biblical writer would mean, unless it were Paul speaking of the effectual call to salvation (which clearly does not fit). "God is calling us" must mean that, to a Biblically-oriented Christian.

If Chan is saying he receives direct, prophetic, inerrant revelation, he should be made to say so up-front, so that all Christians can see his orientation and respond accordingly. If he is not, he should be held accountable, encouraged to drop the spiritualized lingo, and made to say whatever the truth is. "I was bored"; "I was curious"; "My kids hate it here"; whatever. Say it, and take responsibility for the decision. Don't try to put it off on God.

This matters, for reasons I've explained literally countless times. Note: "we are supposed to move."  That is the language of moral obligation. If Chan does not do this, then — if he disobeys a commandment from God that he leave his pastorate — he is committing a Hell-worthy sin.

Again, Chan needs to be called on this. Christians who look up to him need him to be called on it. Should they do the same? If they "believe" God is calling them to leave their jobs in IT Support or truck-driving or whatever, the jobs by which they feed their families and pay their creditors, are they similarly morally-obliged to lurch off in that direction? How can they tell? How did he?

One more.

"...take a step of faith... it feels great to be living by faith"
What does Chan mean? In the Bible, faith was defined by its first mention. Remember where that was? Why, it takes us back to Abram once again: "And he believed [Yahweh], and he counted it to him as righteousness" (Genesis 15:6). What we have here is two things:
  1. A word from God
  2. An embrace of that word
That's faith, in a nutshell. That is what it is in Scripture. It is a response to a word (or words) from God.

Brings us right back to the first issue, doesn't it? Did Francis Chan have a direct word from God? I know of no Bible verse saying "Francis Chan should bail on his church." Or anything like it.

So how is this a step of faith? I know, I know it's common Christianoid coinage. And I think that's bad. We should mean what the Bible means, or stop saying it. Specifically:
  1. When I trust Christ alone for my salvation, with no backup plan and no supplements, I am stepping out in faith.
  2. When I invest my time and energy in studying the Bible, worshiping God, laying up treasures in Heaven, I am stepping out in faith.
  3. When I fix my hope completely on the grace to be revealed at Christ's return, I am stepping out in faith.
I could go on and on, with about as many specifics as the Bible has verses. But you catch my drift, I hope.

Further, Chan says it "feels great" to be living by faith. No doubt. So, the guys who go to work 5:30-2:30, 8-4, 9-5 — are they living by faith? Can they feel great? The guys who count the cost, who make plans, who take counsel, who are responsible and rational and God-honoring in their use of their brains and means, who do not try to blame God for decisions that are theirs to make, who maybe stick with a job for 5, 10, 20, 40 years — can they feel great too?

I think they should, because that's the Biblical way to make decisions.

Now, perhaps Chan means, "I have come to the conclusion that this is the best stewardship of the gifts God gave me. I did so for the following reasons: ____." Or, "I did so for reasons I discussed thoroughly with my wife and with some wise, Biblically-faithful counselors." Then he should say, "I still have a responsibility to provide for my family and pay my bills in the following way. I would never presume on God to foot the bill for irresponsible, impulsive behavior, and I would not want to encourage anyone to behave that way. We trust God to bless the preaching of His word in new venues, as He has promised."

But he didn't say that. And he needs to be called on it.

I've already said, but repetition is sound pedagogy, so here goes: because Chan has chosen to become a leader, and people look up to him.

There are scads of impulsive, glandular, irresponsible Christianoids trying to blame God for their immaturity, impulsiveness, and irresponsibility. These are precisely the terms they use as a pretext. It makes them look holy and spiritual, but in Biblical terms, they are not.

As I do the math, I just am not seeing the numbers indicating that God benefits by being shamed by more irresponsible, immature Christians blaming Him for their lame behavior. Just do not see it.

Maybe — and I really mean this, sincerely — Chan has a bevy of wonderful, solid, God-honoring reasons for making this decision. He should feature those reasons centrally, if so.

Otherwise, I see this as a harmful example. Teachers are judged harshly for what they say and how they phrase it. We should know that, going in (James 3:1).

Therefore, I'm not asking too much, and Christians at large should ask no less.

UPDATE 1: I have written a response to the suggestions that I am obliged to listen to Chan's video, or read this or that other statement, before I may this letter he wrote. That post can be found here.

UPDATE 2: one of the comments in this meta became the feature of another post.


David said...

Well, someone had to say it. Well done.

DJP said...

Life can be funny. Sometimes, hysterical.

I wrote in this post, "whatever fame he had was multiplied by Justin Taylor finding him newsworthy. Now, that's fame."

After posting, I looked at some of my stats and figures, and saw folks coming here from Justin's blog. Goodness, could the trackback from this post be drawing readers? Already?

But no.

It's from a post where Justin refers to me, by name, and links to this post.

Now, that's funny.

Tyler Wallick said...

Good stuff Dan. Not knowing Chan other than his blogged-about surfing evangelism (?) video and hearing him speak to the Masters College once, I didn't find his leaving surprising at all - as it seemed to fit what I saw/heard.

Does anyone in your circle talk about (but do not blog about) what seems to be going on recently with people who previously seemed to be "solid"? Piper, Chan, Mohler Regarding the first 2, it seems their charismatic leanings would explain somewhat. Mohler's more due to the fact that his ministry appears more culture-battle related. There does not seem to be much talk about an overall view of what seems to be happening. Even the hysterical responses to the hysterical responses are surprising by guys who I have admired. Just wondering.....

John said...

I was thinking the same thing. I'm surprised no one has accused you of "putting God in a box" yet.

DJP said...

Wait for it, John. The day's young, and the post fresh.

John said...

Upon reflection I don't feel like you were too judgmental. I believe that I should write and express my feelings and thoughts because I sense that I am supposed to do that towards people I love. I also felt like it would be a good thing to write - no matter what I sense was right or wrong about your conclusions. And it feels right and good to share these things.

Therefore I must be in the will of God.

Dan: excellent analysis. I CRINGE when I hear language as used in Mr. Chan's "announcement" or from professing believers who have the objective truth of God's Word in their home and which had (has) nothing whatsoever to do with a decision they have made or are contemplating.

DJP said...

It's the ultimate "get out of responsibility" card, isn't it?

I hasten to say that I AM NOT SAYING that Chan is using it that way. But those exact words are used that way, and if Chan means them otherwise, he should be a whole lot clearer.

Phil Gons said...

I had this same post brewing in my head, but I'm glad you wrote it instead. It came out better and saved me some time.

Well said.

Sam said...

Thank you for this post. I have struggled for years with people using the term, "called".

Do you believe that this is a valid term to use when it comes to ministry? Does someone have to be "called" into the pastorate? This phrase is used alot. Especially when a pastor changes churches. They tell the congregation that they feel they are being "called" to another church.

Then you have the young person who gives their testimony and often points to a moment in their life where they say they sensed a "call" into ministry.

Do you feel there is ever valild biblical support of the use of teh word "called"

And i know this is somewhat unrelated but the word "vision" seems overused today as well and it often is accompanied by the leader received a vision from God for the church. I relate it to the use of the term "called" because both seem to imply extra biblical revelation of some sort or another.

FX Turk said...

hey -- DJP has a blog! WOW!

Dan --

as a friend and as someone who would endorse every word of what you wrote here -- completely own it -- I'm wondering whether we can listen to what Pastor Chan has said here and filter it with what he said in the various videos and letters to find it somewhat-more biblically inclined.

For example, there's no question there is some sense of over-riding calling in his rationale -- but would we really disown the idea of 'calling' entirely? Aren't you and I "called" to be bloggers in some sense? Isn't that part of what we would list as the reasons we are doing this -- that in some sense, it comes out of the bones God has made for us? I think we wouldn't disown it -- and we would say that this urge we have has been not merely felt but also validated through the ordinary means of other godly folk, our friends with good conscience and biblical wisdom, etc.

And I think that the messages as I have read/listened to them from Pastor Chan reflect this methodology -- not just impulse without control, but consultation with friends and fellow elders.

I think it would be easy to scan the announcements and videos and take in the "emotive" quality of the messages, but I think that's more Chan's style than his substance. His series from a couple of years ago about the work of the Holy Spirit wasn't all gushy and charismatic, and maybe I'm reading that as a subtext of this change for him.

If I find a link to those messages (or find them on my hard drive), I'll link to then. However, I think that it's useful to take what I think are really useful concerns (as you voiced here) and measure them against the guy's basic theology and process and see if he's riding the pneumatological butterfly around his ministry, or if he's simply saying that he has a strong drive, confirmed by his fellow elders and family, to make a change in ministry for the good of lost people.

2 cents from me. back to the serious people.

DJP said...

Totally agree with you, Sam.

No, I do not think there is Biblical warrant to speak of a "call" to pastoral ministry. You can say that you are gifted for pastoral ministry, that you are gifted and qualified, gifted and trained, gifted and burdened — and that really should be sufficient.

I wish there were another word for "vision." Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) has to be one of the most brutally abused verses in the Bible. Say "goal" or "target" or... I don't know. There should be a better word.

spencer said...

Thanks for your thoughtful commentary Dan.

The bottom line for me is this:

"We should mean what the Bible means, or stop saying it."

Your article makes me think again about how I use biblical phrases and categories in conversations about decision making. And that is a good thing.

Arthur Sido said...

Sam beat me to it. The language of being "called" is used all the time to describe a man leaving one church for another. It seems to be a cover for leaving one church for another to get a bigger salary. Well, I was called to do it!

DJP said...

Turk If I find a link to those messages (or find them on my hard drive), I'll link to then

So, in other words, "Nice blog. Come see mine"?


LeeC said...

I believe the way to find out if you have been "called" to do something is to make a biblical choice, pray about it, act on it. Looking back you will see that you were "called" to do it. :)

The whole "I felt "called" or "led" to do something has long saddened me.

For instance I have heard very few
missionaries who don't talk repeatedly how they were "called" to do this, and then "called" to do that. Like one of those car rally scavengter hunts where you follow the directions and find a note with more direction etc. :(

Usually I find when talking with them enough that "called" means that "I really, really wanted to do this".

And you know, that's OK,there is nothing wrong with acting on desires that the Lord has put in your heart to honour and glorify Him. But to say that you were "called" seems dangerous for a variety of reasons. Overall it seems to be a way of absolving oneself from responsibility. I mean who am I to go against Gods calling? And how can anyone who claims to love God challenge me on something that God has called me to do?

VcdeChagn said...

Thanks for this. I go to a church with a lot of "I feel God wants us to do this" in it.

I'm struggling with some changes they've made without Biblical justification because they feel God wants them to do it.

I've read Frank's series on leaving churches and the BIBLICAL reasoning in the series is the only thing keeping me in place right now and trying to work within the system.

HSAT (to borrow a phrase), is there a way to get a nice printable copy? When I try to print I get the sidebar, etc.

DJP said...

Click your mouse at the end of the post, drag it through to the title, copy and paste into Word. Should work.

cubs34 said...


I am a follower of Pyromaniacs, and have linked to your blog on occasion to read a post or two. I tend not to leave comments, but I have been wrestling with this issue for some time, pastors leaving the pulpit in the guise of a "call", and thought I would just say a brief thank you. You have helped put words to thoughts and clarify an issue that has weighed on my heart and mind these past months. Why would a shepherd leave his sheep? Why would he lay the blame at Christ's feet? "The grass must be greener on the other side."

Family Blogs said...

Hi Dan,

Good thoughts, and I think I follow what you're saying here ok. I'm just wondering if this particular beating is a bit more merciless than it need be.

Does the issue have to divide up into binaries for instance? A subjective word from God or follow your God-given logic? Could it not be that *through* (sorry don't know how to do italics in comments) Scripture God speaks and lays a call on our hearts to follow Him in a certain direction? Now I'm not talking about Russian roulette randomness here, but faithful, sequential Bible reading which gradually lays a certain sense on one's heart that God is asking for a certain step to be taken, a certain move to be made. Could this not qualify some of the terms which Chan uses here? Is this not what you meant when you used 'gifted and burdened' as one of your categories?

Just wondering...

I'm reading Kevin De Young's 'Just Do Something' at the moment and so your post has piqued by curiosity even more.

God bless,

Fred Butler said...

I am curious why when men like Chan (who by the way graduated from my seminary the views of which are hardly charismatic), feel they are "called" to make these radical transitions in their lives and ministry, they always feel they need to live in the inner city or some third world country. Why? How is living and ministering in inner city NY or Thailand more spiritual than say podunk OK? Or boring ole suburbia? He really couldn't find spiritual fulfillment ministering in Simi Valley?

beaconlight said...

I'm struggling with this 'calling' thing myself.
Dan, if you don't believe in a calling from God to a specific area of ministry then am I forced to dispose of a favorite axiom of mine:
'Those whom God calls he will equip'?
Is it more like this then: 'God gives gifts of service and we then exercise those gifts in ministry'?
I guess I've always been of the mind that in our weakness God makes us strong. I apply this to ministerial calling in that sometimes he calls us to do things we naturally have little ability to do, so that God's grace may shine through us and he will be glorified in it.
I feel compelled to teach bible studies yet have always been absolutely terrified of public speaking. Yet, I hold studies every week now and am loving it.
Not arguing against you, just pondering.

kateg said...

Thanks for this...I have wondered why I didn't hear much thought given to this pastor walking out on his congregation. Although I understand this is not the focus of your post, as Mr. Turk has written previously, if there are very few reasons for a member to leave a church, it seems there should be an even higher bar for a pastor to leave his church. An ill-defined, perhaps hipper and more prominent, future pasture, does not seem to fit that bill.

I have also wondered about the difference between being "burdened," and being "called" or "God is directing me," or other such phrases.

Christians using the "God called me" card, does its job of squelching expressions of true concerns.

Gregg Metcalf said...

I do not how to cleverly original so I will simply say, first, I agree with your entire post.

Second, risking repeating what others have said, I think this is an example of very bad behavior, first for other pastors, and second, for the body of Christ as a whole.

I have no biblical data here to support me, other than closely reading the pastoral epistles but I don't think God moves men out of churches as often as we blame him, oops I mean give him credit for.

I agree with your "language" he is simply bailing out on his church. I would have him be truthful rather than pass the "fault" back to God.

Thanks for writing what I was thinking.

greglong said...

Thank you, Dan. I had some of those same thoughts after watching the video here.

Note that the video ends by highlighting on the screen a quote from the interview: "I would hypocritical if I didn't go..."

DJP said...

Andrew, those are great questions.

Yes, I think it is binary, in this case. Don't use the language of special revelation, if you don't mean special revelation. And don't model bad decision-making.

You're going to have to give me Scripture for "a subjective word from God." See, to me, that's a contradiction in terms.

BTW, you may know, I love that book by deYoung! Terrific book! But he's a little friendlier to semi-revelation than I might wish.

Now, to the rest of what you say, I think you have a good point. But again, that isn't revelation. Talk about it as it is, for what it is. No need to garb decisions in faux-pious language or (worse) faux-revelatory language.

I think perhaps the fullest explanation I've given of my concerns and rationale are in a two-part post that starts here. I commend it to you.

Family Blogs said...

Thanks Dan...I get you more clearly now, and agree totally with what you say. Ex cathedra-esque evangelical statements claiming some kind of revelatory weight to back them home are unhelpful, and very difficult to contradict. I used 'subjective word from God' as an intentional redundancy - I agree it's a contradiction in terms, but does stand at the opposite end of the spectrum from following logic.

This is all very very live for me at the moment. I left the pastorate of a local church 3 years ago, acting on a 'clear sense of call' to go abroad to the missionfield (along with my wife and baby daughter). Long story short, it didn't work out and we had to make the *logical* (will someone please teach me italician?) step to return to our own culture and seek to reintegrate to ministry for which God has gifted me and set me apart. That has thrown up so many questions for me about the nature of guidance full-stop (or period as I believe they say stateside!).

The thing is...I still believe that it was God's will for us to go, that we've learned enormous lessons, been humbled and had our hearts broken. But I might be a bit more shy about using the strength of language I used in 2007 about the way in which God was leading.

I'm looking forward to reading the other article you link to, and will when I get back from preaching tonight at a local church - another emblem of God's grace to someone who is still in the elementary class in terms of learning about guidance.

Your blog is as good/thought-provoking as ever. I'm sure you'll be glad to get that imprimatur from someone who can't even use html tags in the meta!


Fred Butler said...

Maybe its just the practical realist in me, but my first question was simply: How is he going to support his family? I mean, traveling to three major American cities to go on a walk-about to discover God's will costs money. Let alone going to a third world country to live for three months. Where is the family gonna stay?

Now maybe in the third world country he has some contact he can hook up with who will be providing a place to live while he serves.

I know for myself, I have rarely, if ever, had one of those George Mueller experiences of having bags of money fall on me from out of the sky. Maybe strike it up as a "lack of faith" on my part, but impulsively loading up my family to take them across the seas to live strictly on a "whim" or "feeling" seems more like I am flying by the seat of my pants than stepping out on faith.

Tom Chantry said...

Biblically, the word "calling" refers to the work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration. It is arguable that the word should never be used in any other sense - theologically.

However, in point of fact, the word does have a historic meaning, and that meaning is also trampled by the common use of "calling" today. Historically, churches spoke of a "calling" to office as something issued by a church. As distinguished from what you call "gifted" in this post, which is a whole other issue, although an important one.

As an example, when I began to consider the pastorate, I asked pastors how to know whether I was called. Careful, biblical pastors responded, "Simple. You're not. You can't know if you are until such time as a church calls you to be in office. Until then, ask yourself (and others) whether you are gifted, and whether that gifting justifies the pursuit of the office."

You can argue that this is not a biblical way to speak and should be dropped. Fair enough. But at least we should understand that what the church first meant by "calling" to office was a question of being called by a specific ecclesiastical body to fill a specific office - not a vague sense that God is acting. It was called "God's call" out of the sense that God's Spirit does work through His church, but it was never meant that God speaks through vague, personal sensations.

Today when Christians say, "I am called to..." they mean, "I want to..." You make that point very well in this post.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

""Taking a step of faith" - a few thoughts"

John Piper took a step of faith in inviting Rick Warren to the 2010 Desiring God conference.

Colloquist said...

(will someone please teach me italician?)

Put this: in front of the word(s) you want in italician. Put this: where you want the italician to end.

Substitute b's for the i's and you'll get boldiferous print.

greglong said...

In my comment above I left out a word from the video quote: "I would be hypocritical if I didn't go..."

Which sounds awfully close to, "It would be a sin if I didn't go..."

fredsgirl said...

My dear hubby (Fred) referred me to this article, because of all my questions to him about Chan's decision. I have often been bugged by people saying, "I am not called to be a missionary, pastor, or what ever." They also get quite bugged with me when I reply, "how do you know?" "what does this non-call look like?" Seems to me we would all be quite busy if we stick to all Scripture DOES call us to! Anyhow, thanks for the clarity!

Becky Schell said...

As I mentioned elsewhere, I am so pleased you wrote this post. Though I didn't attend the Masters College, my son did and he used to send tapes of chapel speakers and one of those was Francis Chan. I really enjoyed his teaching at the time, but I am frustrated with this issue as well.

Thanks for an excellent biblical analysis of what Chan has said, as well as your qualification that he may indeed have sound reasons…though he has not articulated any. We can watch the interview; we can even sit in on the "so long" sermon he gave to the faithful attenders of his church (many of whom he says saw this coming and were nodding their heads as he made the announcement), and we still won’t hear him say his decision is based on more than obedience to this call he feels, the feeling he gets when he sees the lights of LA at night, his desire for "obscurity" and the like. I hope that this post comes to his attention and he will give it a fair hearing and be convicted to think about his words.

Becky Schell said...

Rabbit's explanation didn't work because the HTML symbols did there job. :)

The missing symbols are right underneath the "leave your comment" box. You put a lower case letter "i" inside the greater than and less than symbols (without the quotation marks) at the beginning of the word or phrase you want in italics and the same thing at the end with "/i" inside the symbols. A "b" will give you bold, not sure what the "a" will do, so I will try it...

Ahh, that underlines and makes it look like a link, but it isn't one. Hmmm....

Colloquist said...

Well! My attempt to show Andrew how it works didn't work. It just italicianicized what I typed. I'm sorry to have cluttered the meta thusly, Dan, feel free to remove the mess. Andrew, put the words you intend to italicatianate inside these marks in the combox (or use b's to make bold):

Barbara said...

Thank you for this. I was hoping you would say something. After all you've written on Blackaby-ism and after all Turk has written on the issue of "you better have a better reason than what I'm hearing for leaving a covenant body like a local fellowship of believers" for the sheep, how much more so for the under-shepherd?

My pastor was speaking out of John 10 on Sunday night, and he brought out the Good Shepherd and how it worked in those days with the enclosure but no door and how the shepherd would actually lie in the opening as physically be the gate at night, lying between the sheep and any wolves who might approach. That was just profound to me. I'd love to see that portion of the image of Christ conformed to by more and more of our pastors out there.

Barbara said...

Let me help Rabbit out, if I may.


I'm going to do something here. Where you see commas, understand that that is where you should hit "Shift-comma" for the symbol above the comma. Where you see a period, that is where you should hit "Shift-period" to get the symbol above it instead of the period itself. Confused you yet? Okay. Ready? Here we go:

,i. type text to be italicized here ,/i. text not italicized here

,b. type text to be bolded here ,/b. text not bolded here

practice makes perfect
Hope that helps...

John Notestein said...

Sometimes I have felt the same way about 'church planters', those people who feel the need to start churches, get them up and running, then leave to start another church, etc. I would suppose that as long as you leave a stable church in the hands of faithful leadership, it would be fine. On the other hand, I have seen people start churches and stay there for a long time, faithfully ministering. I kinda like the second ones. They seem more like the faithful shepherds to me. But I can't say the former are wrong.

SandMan said...

Thank you for saying this... and I mean the idea of being "led," or "sensing," or whatever. (Chan may or may not have a good reason for leaving the church he is at). But you raise a good point... and one that it seems almost no one is talking about. I have a very devout, well-meaning, committed Christian family member. This person believes that God had preferences, and (somehow) shares them with us about the color the wall should be painted (and I am not making this up). Every decision has to be filtered through the question "What is God's (specific, not moral) will in this situation?
I was hurt badly (in two ways) by this type of thinking when I was younger.
(1) I vasilated from this thing to that convinced this moment that God is leading left, and tomorrow leading 180 degrees in the opposite direction. I looked and felt foolish on many occasions.
(2)(In my opinion this one is worse). I began to question if I had the real salvation others had who were so convinced that God had "spoken" to them had. God is talking so much to so many, why not me?
I think that there is a big hole in our teaching in many churches... how to discern Biblically. I wish more Pastors would spend time explaining how to make a major decision Biblically... and that Christians would then "own" their decisions. My apologies for the length of my comment.

DJP said...

SandMan, I particularly appreciate comments like yours. Some people read me on this issue, and think I make much out of little. I don't. It's a ruinous doctrine.

Craig said...

Modern evangelical Christians tend to be very sloppy with their language. Even for many of us who have some theological differences with much of modern evangelicalism can find it very easy to fall into their jargon. I catch myself from time to time and have to remind myself to be precise with the words I use. I would think that if I was making a momentous and possibly controversial announcement, I would write it out, go over it several times myself, and have trusted advisors read it over to make sure it came across saying exactly what I wanted to say.

Rachael Starke said...

Is it possible that the sermon series you're looking for is what just got published as "The Forgotten God"? I just read it and was on my way to being a certified Chan fan until I read about this. Now Im a slightly disappointed fan, but not wanting to throw up my hands yet...

And I'm appreciating the discussion on defining "calling" as biblically as possible. My husband and I grow increasingly frustrated with seminaries who are graduating and laying hands on eager young men who want to preach,

but aren't actually gifted at it.

But if a church has affirmed a man's calling to a church, how are they supposed to affirm his un calling?

Angie B. said...

DJP--soooo refreshing. Thank you for saying this clearly.

Sam--the same two issues have often bothered me as well.

Phil said...

I don't think anyone has said this yet (although I might have missed it with all the comments- but I don't think so) this is why Thou shall not take the Lord's name in vain is in the big 10.
You don't say stuff like "God said to do this" because when people listen they get confused, and muddled, and can't figure out what God really is after.

Dan you are 100% right - he needs to just say "I don't like my job anymore" and not blame God or muddy the waters.

~Mark said...

I've tried to carefully look at the post and all the comments to be sure I haven't missed the answer to what I'm about to ask, and I don't think I have.

Is a pastor supposed to stay at the first post he takes until he dies? If he is not, just exactly how is he supposed to recognize the time to leave if the congregation hasn't kicked him out or other such circumstance?

CR said...

Frank is a blogger?

I think Frank makes an interesting point and I think "calling" can still be used today. said...

As I have said to Todd Friel repeatedly, shall you need to be reminded of the Biblical accounts of the direct leadings of the Holy Spirit? Or would you like to try and explain how you frame every decision on the Bible alone? Do you not have the Holy Spirit who will lead you into all truth?
When you ask for prayer to be lead by God in a decision exactly what do YOU mean by that?
Patrick Burwell,

DJP said...

~Mark, he can make that decision just like any Christian makes any decision — which was discussed in the post.

Patrick, first you should read the post, and interact meaningfully with what is actually in it.

Zack Skrip said...


You said above that you can say you are "burdened" to do something, and that is ok. I guess I have typically considered "calling" to be somewhat synonymous, all the while realizing that kind of "calling" is different than the example left for us in Isaiah or such.

Where does such burdening come from? I agree with your entire post, but at the same time, there have been examples in my life where I felt "burdened" to do something. It could just be my own conscience, sanctified by the HS, guiding me to apply the gospel in a very particular way. I could agree to that. What do you think?

Randy Talley said...

Please forgive me for not reading every comment that has already been posted. I will eventually, but don't have the extra time right now.

Given "I believe God is calling us to take a step of faith" and "it feels great to be living by faith", it sounds like he's saying he HASN'T been doing that up to this point - a dangerous place, indeed.

David Kyle said...

Wow. Patrick knows Todd Friel?

DJP said...

If that impresses you: Friel uses my articles on his show... but never talks to me. Only to Phil.

Unknown said...

Your critique of Christianese phrasing echoes Kevin DeYoung's "Just Do Something". I find the counsel from both you and Kevin helpful in my own life. I was raised in a pentecostal church, so there were lots of "words from the Lord" in my formative years. As I grew up, I moved away from the pentecostal/charismatic manifestations, but there is a lot of thick underbrush in my speech and writing. I hope your work proves to be a clearing fire, destroying the choking stubble of God-dishonoring excusisms.

One illustration from DeYoung really stood out for me. A young lady told a young man, "The Lord told me I shouldn't date you." Oh, the pain of double-rejection - not only the young lady, but the Lord too. [cringe]

It is so easy to don the robes of hyper-spiruality when describing everyday life. All it takes is "the Lord told me...".

trogdor said...

I was guessing you'd write something like this when I first saw the announcement. At best, it's an extremely carelessly worded statement, and it could wreak havoc if people imitate what he says.

For as much as I've seen people claim irresponsibility is "stepping out in faith", it's just as dangerous the other direction - putting off a reasonable decision until getting a subjective feeling as "God's leading". I don't know how many guys (they didn't yet deserve the label 'men') I've known who delayed mawwiage, or even axing a lady out, until they sensed some prompting that she was the one or some nonsense. Or my old roommate who studied Japanese long enough to speak it fluently, prayed frequently for specific missionaries and churches in Japan, ministered to Japanese students while we were in college, stated his career goal as missionary to Japan, was personally axed to join a missionary team headed to Japan - and turned it down because he wasn't sure God was calling him to it. Ugh.

I shudder to think of the times I've claimed God's name as the unanswerable trump card, when it's just to cover a decision that's just my own desire.

Anonymous said...

Dan, you should do a post on how God gets blamed for so much bad theology.

"God told me to..."

"I heard God say..."

Usually the end of the sentence is something that directly goes against the Scripture, you know, what God actually did say.

I would do the post myself, but Justin Taylor has never made me popular like you.

Stefan Ewing said...


My thoughts were exactly the same as yours, upon learning of this.

All the biblical counsel I've heard from godly teachers on not attributing decisions on a whim to God's prompting; on searching the Scriptures when about to make a major decision; on not leaving one's church unless in exceptional circumstances...and if these are marks of obedience for us sheep, how much more should they not bind our shepherds? Is there not a sense of duty of care?

teddy said...

Francis Chan had a "crisis" in May 2006....

Colloquist said...

Let me help Rabbit out, if I may.

You may! You may!

You did! You did!

Thank you!

John said...

Todd Friel should definitely have you on his show. That would be awesome. I bet he would be all over this post as well.

I searched the comments. Nobody actually used the phrase "God in a box". I wonder if that was intentional because of my earlier comment.

John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
threegirldad said...

When you want to show someone how to use html tags in a blog comment, you'll need to type the corresponding html escape codes instead of the literal characters:

Use <b>[string]</b> to bold a word or phrase

Use <i>[string]</i> to italicize a word or phrase

And so forth...

This post is yet another great example of why I love this blog.

~Mark said...

~Mark, he can make that decision just like any Christian makes any decision — which was discussed in the post.

Ok, I read again and I think I'm grasping your point this time, but as always please correct me if I'm misunderstanding. What I see is that you're saying it isn't the "what" but the "how".

(I gotta stop reading important stuff right after class- my brain needs time to rebound to shape!)

Unknown said...

This is a case of destroying a straw man.

I did not read all of the comments, and I don’t plan to, (so, sorry if this was already mentioned) but if you actually watch the video that you linked to you would see that Francis explains what he means by feeling called to take “this step of faith”:

He says he felt unsettled and restless.
He had the idea for years.
He searched Scripture
Checked his motives
He used the wise counsel of the elders of his church.
His wife was feeling the same “calling.”
He believes he can reach more people with the Gospel
it seems like the right thing to do.

But, nowhere does he say or allude to receiving special revelation. Not one time.

DJP said...

Wouldn't it be ironic, Brian, if in faulting me for destroying a straw man, you were yourself destroying a straw man?

I don't fault you for not reading the comments. I do fault you for not appearing to have read the post.

DJP said...

~Mark, I think you've basically got it, and well-put.

I suppose my only adjustment would be that the "what" called for a pretty good "how" — and the "how" that I analyzed fell well short. To say the least.

DJP said...

Zack SkripI guess I have typically considered "calling" to be somewhat synonymous, all the while realizing that kind of "calling" is different than the example left for us in Isaiah or such. Where does such burdening come from? ...It could just be my own conscience, sanctified by the HS, guiding me to apply the gospel in a very particular way. I could agree to that. What do you think?

I think you're on to something.

I actually think I need to rethink my own use of "burden." It is a Scriptural word, or at least it is in the KJV (modern vss have "oracle"). I use it similarly to you: something one feels very strongly about, deeply and passionately. Perhaps it would be better just to say, "This is something I am very passionate about," or "a need I feel very keenly."

What many don't seem to get is that our choices aren't

A. Direct, morally binding, inerrant, objective, prophetic revelation

B. Semi-revelation that is hazy and subjective, errant, but still morally binding

C. Deism

Rather, the hand of God is all over how He made us, how we think and perceive and feel, what facts and situations and opportunities confront us. But in those situations, we are as Adam was in the Garden. God told him what he could eat (all edible vegetation minus one), and what he couldn't (one). Among the former, Adam was free to choose what, when, where, and how much, all equally to God's glory and with His blessing.

For a great analogy, think Nehemiah. Not one prophetic revelation in the entire book. Just Nehemiah, his Bible, his brain, his situation, and the providential hand of God.

Got a lot done, though, didn't he?

rwt said...

Recently, a woman in my church told several people that God was leading her to quit her job and that God would provide for her a specific job with another enterprise where she could minister. Well, she quit her job and now she is unemployed.

The pastor and I were talking about this incident earlier this week and he mentioned how the woman said that God was leading her and nothing happened.

I responded by saying that perhaps her god was leading her to quit her job. What I meant by that is that people often create gods in their own image and follow what they believe they hear. Their gods are not the real God of course, only a deception.

I believe God speaks of this matter in Psalm 50:21:

"These things have you done, and I kept silence; you thought that I was altogether such an one as yourself: but I will reprove you, and set them in order before your eyes."

Aric said...

Timely blog post. The issue of “God told me” keeps rearing its ugly head as my wife and I try to shed our old Charismatic/Pentecostal skin. I typically try to go down the “How could that person prove/know/be assured that it was God speaking” or “If they would just say it without needing to throw the ‘God told me’ into the mix it wouldn’t be so bad” (yeah, I was surprised to see that you made similar comments. I’d like to say great minds think alike, but I think it was more along the lines of a blind squirrel finding a nut – with me being that squirrel). My wife struggles a bit more with how we can be sure God would never speak to someone that way (or not putting God in a box :)

Your post will help us continue to think through this issue and formulate a better (read: more biblical) response when friends and relatives start the “God told me” conversations.

Unknown said...

"If even ten percent of the evangelicals of our nation moved into the largest cities and lived out their lives of love, truth, and servanthood, the culture would be fundamentally changed."

-James Montgomery Boice, Two Cities, Two Loves. p. 165

Couldn't this include pastors of suburban mega-churches who sense God's calling to take a bold step of faith?

DJP said...

Your quotation raises a legitimate point.

Your question sounds like you didn't read a word of the post.

Ask rather: might it be wise for...? Might it be fruitful for...? Might it be bold leadership to...? Might there be a strategic way to...?

Then we've something back in Biblical range of discussion.

Unknown said...


Francis made his announcement on Sunday then wrote a short letter to his congregation on Monday, which was made public together on JT’s blog. The letter was not meant to be a full “explanation,” …Sunday’s message was. Francis directs the reader to the message for more details…

In this post, you lay out all the things he should have said, but didn’t, and that “he needs to be called on it.” The thing is, he DID address these things – in the video, which is where, when and how he decided to announce and explain his decision.

I understand your focus for this post, I read it all, and I agree with you on how many Christians misuse language in statements like being “called’ or “led,” etc, I’m just disappointed that you jumped all over Francis Chan without watching the video.

I would be curious to hear your comments after viewing his full message. Is that something you are willing to do?


philness said...


I feel you. Maybe Chan is living by faith and can't quite communicate satisfactorily the evidence of things unseen?

Chan not mentioning the abandonment or replacement of his flock should be paramount in discerning the authenticity of his "we believe we are supposed to move to a major city" verbiage.

He could at least mimic Pipers exodus tonality.

Jim W said...

I cannot trust Pastor Chan's credibility after reading "Crazy Love". The book was extremely convicting and brought out lots of my own failures, but...The problem was that he closed with a chapter on examples of Godly living which included Shane Claiborne. Now, Claiborne may look like he's living a Godly life, but his words are complete works-righteousness. He doesn't appear to believe in salvation by faith, he doesn't even seem to believe in Christ as our salvation. So, Chan loses much credibilty by his lack of discernment.

100 Mile Pants said...

This is the kind of post that makes me want to stand and applaud!

My wife and I have discussed this issue for years with increasing frustration. Many, many times I have seen people in leadership positions follow the "calling of God" only to leave all sorts of mess and damage which, of course, they are not responsibe for as they were just obeying the Lord!

Having come out of the Vineyard (many years ago) via the halfway house that is Calvary Chapel, I have seen so much abuse of this and so much damage caused by it that I would only say that Dan understates the significance of his case if anything.

But I do see the temptation to play it that way. Without boring you with my own lengthy story, I am in a situation where I pastor two churches - one small and one tiny. I preach at the larger one in the morning and then rush to another town to preach to the smaller one in the afternoon. Had I followed the example of those who had pastored me, I'd have left the tiny one completely, content in my ministry in the larger church and the wage it provides me and my family. But I have felt first hand on more than one occasion the damage wrought by blaming God for the choice that suits a selfish pastor. Tiny though it is, the people are great and they have no alternative source of decent live Bible teaching. It is a pain logistically and practically, often exhausting, and I continue to search for a suitable replacement to serve and teach them, but in the meantime I stay for this reason: God has not set me an example of desertion.

Thanks again, Dan! Fruitful as ever!

Fred Butler said...

Chan not mentioning the abandonment or replacement of his flock should be paramount in discerning the authenticity of his "we believe we are supposed to move to a major city" verbiage.

More irksome about his comment is that HE LIVES IN A MAJOR CITY. Simi is maybe 40 minutes from downtown LA, 20 from San Fernando. Simi itself isn't a small town. They have all the problems that New York and San Francisco have. Why doesn't he look out his back door for change.

Family Blogs said...

Rabbit and Barbara -,i. thank you so much for your help ,/i. And Dan I'm ,i. sorry ,/i. for bringing the spiritual tone of this comment thread down!

DJP said...

Andrew, it's no problem. I was afraid that one comment wouldn't work for you, and it didn't. It's okay!

Go to this page and look at numbers 2, 3 and 4. That will show you how to do effects.

This page will show you how to link to another web page.

Family Blogs said...

Oh man, I feel like that slow kid at the back of the class!!

Is this any better?

Thanks for the links!

DJP said...

You're not, and it is.


candy said... did see Pastor Pant's predicament right? He has to rush to a small church to preach because they have NO pastor. Wonder where this is? Wonder if God wants to provide a pastor, from say...Sacramento, or sumpin.

Just thinking.

DJP said...

Thanks, Candy, I actually had that same thought. But they're in England, and while my wife and I would love to be able to move there, I doubt they could afford to make it a wise thing to do.


Unknown said...

Aren't we all supposed to be living by faith? What on earth else can we do? What has Chan been doing for all these years?

Thanks for this!!

Staci Eastin said...

I worked one year at VBS with a woman who kept "feeling led" to abandon her assigned tasks to go and do more glamorous, visible things. Even though this may not be Chan's intent, the language he is using feeds this kind of thinking.

As a new Christian, I heard way to many stories from people who told of feeling a "sense of foreboding" about something they were getting ready to do, only to later learn that the grocery store they were headed to exploded later that day (okay, a slight exaggeration, but not much). This nearly turned me into an agoraphobic. Was the "sense of foreboding" I was feeling about the grocery store the Holy Spirit, or was it just that going anywhere with young children is hard work?

Thanks for this post.

Unknown said...

Hi all -

Just a brief note: it seems as though many on this post have assumed that Pastor Chan's only reason for leaving was a simple response to the nebulous phrase "God is leading me."

Actually I don't believe this is the case, as outlined in his first, and official declaration to his congregation, which can be seen in the video.

I would encourage all of you, who may have come to the conclusion that Chan is in serious error, to consider the video and his total message before you assume his position.

I think your criticism would be better suited and more informed if you checked out the actual source. What do you think? Any takers?

DJP said...

Steve, Brian, you tell me: what does this post purport to analyze? Please, look at the post. It says, in so many words, what the scope of analysis is, and is not.

I'm actually planning to do a separate post on this whole ongoing phenomenon of "Wait, you can't talk about A until you've seen/read/listened to B! ...which you can't talk about until you've seen/read/listened to C! ...which you can't talk about A until you've seen/read/listened to D!" train.

100 Mile Pants said...

@Steve - welcome to the ranks of those who have been / will be accused of not reading the post! I thought I'd get in there before DAn.

@Candy - If the money was there and he was up for teaching 10-15 peeps max, I'd put him top of the list. They are almost all calvidispibaptists too and would all appreciate his straight talking and sense of humour. They'd love him!
Sadly, it would need to be someone who was able to work fulltime in the UK. Those numbers don't pay.
It's a great job for a British, calvidispibaptist guy with no greed issues who needs humbling and to learn faithfulness though...

100 Mile Pants said...

Darn it! Dan beat me to it! Posted while I was typing...

Brad Williams said...


Oh man, I got to the party late!

I want to say "Amen" to your post here. I also want to briefly touch on why this sort of Christianese talk bothers me and hinders discipleship.

For one, it hinders Christians from expressing and pursuing valid, Spirit-directed passions by faith. That is, I became a pastor because I desired to do it. It's as if a pastor/missionary/business owner needs to be ashamed of feeling personal joy at the thought of doing their vocation. So instead of saying, "Guys, I am stoked about the thought of planting a church in LA." We give ourselves an out by saying, "God is calling me to plant a church in LA." That way, we can't be blamed for wanting to do it.

As a pastor, who is on constant watch for folks gifted to do various ministries, I often want to shake people and say, "Brother! It's not un-spiritual to want to do this! I see your gift. The church sees your gift. You have a pattern of wisdom in your walk. Now, quit waiting for a burning bush and get after it!"

Secondly, and I have already gone too long and should really start writing on my own blog, I think people do this to soften the blow, which is a lousy reason to do things. That is, if God told me to do this, I have to, so, nothing personal, okay? It is harder to look your church in the eye and say, "Guys, I have fallen in love with the idea, the possibility, of planting a church in a major city. It consumes my thoughts to the point where I am becoming disconnected to the ministry you deserve here. By God's grace, I am going to pursue this dream."

That's my 2 cents.

DJP said...

Totally agree, Brad.

Unknown said...

Dan -

Do you believe its important to understand someone's message in its intended context?

I'm not asking you to view the video because it changes what Francis wrote, but I believe he intended his Sunday sermon to be the communication for the "why", the letter was written for the congregation so that those who missed Sunday would hear the news immediately.

Is it wrong to ask those on this post to inform themselves of the entire message before coming to a conclusion?

DJP said...

Yes, Steve, what you are asking is unfair. As I will explain.

Unknown said...

Dan -

I do understand, you are claiming your post is not meant to criticize Francis's leaving Cornerstone, or the reasons, only the words he uses in his letter, that so much of Christendom throws around too flippantly. A very important point, and one that I wholeheartedly agree with.

But then why do you repeatedly bring the issue back to Francis? Why do the posters on this board share comments such as "I am so disappointed in Francis, he has lost my respect, how could Francis go to Masters and the come to this conclusion?" It appears that whether this was your intention or not, many on this post have taken this post to be a direct criticism of Francis' decision to leave Cornerstone based upon a false pretense.

You may not have intended that, but I'm not addressing the part where you explain what you intended, I am purporting merely to address the "merciless beating" you are enjoying giving Francis and encouraging your followers to engage in.

Aaron said...

I'm really, really late to the party.

Chan's written explanation is dangerously irresponsible. It leaves the impression that Christians should be seekiing out that "still, soft voice" to determine God's will for their life. I know defenders of such theology will say that you always view such "calling" through the lens of scripture, but really, the guy who says he's "called" to leave his wife is going to say he had the exact same feeling as the man who was "called" to leave his church.

Secondarily, Chan's message leaves me with the intimation that one is more faithful to God by giving up everything to go walkabout through the heathenous lands of our inner cities. Jesus did tell the rich man to sell everything and follow me, didn't he? It must therefore, follow, that I should do the same and walk aimlessly through the land of the pagans. It's this type of thinking that led to monasticism.

"If even ten percent of the evangelicals of our nation moved into the largest cities and lived out their lives of love, truth, and servanthood, the culture would be fundamentally changed."

Or if all the Christians moved to one state we could change set an example for all the other states that everyone would want to emulate (and somebody already tried that concept).

There is no legitimate point here. There are already numerous Christians in most major cities. I presently live in the outskirts of Houston, the fourth largest city in America. There are Christians everywhere. Just like in Los Angeles, the downtown mission is Christian organization. Some of the largest churches on the planet are in and around Houston. And yet, Houston still voted in its first lesbian mayor. So how's that working? And if the culture is so affected by our presence, what do you think would happen to the areas that we leave once we move to the major cities? What if all the Pastors in small towns left to Pastor in major cities? We've lost the culture because we've decided that relational evangelism is preferable to telling people the hard truth, which is that they are going to hell unless they repent and believe in Christ. And you don't need to wear sackcloth and ashes in the worst part of town to do that.

~Mark said...

~Mark, I think you've basically got it, and well-put.

I suppose my only adjustment would be that the "what" called for a pretty good "how" — and the "how" that I analyzed fell well short. To say the least.

I can dig that. My first radio mentor drilled us with "Use fewer words but say more" and I think what you just said speaks volumes!

(Not that your post didn't, missing that point was my fried brain! 8-D )

Mark Patton said...

A guy in my church and I where talking about this just the other day. All you have to do is say something like "it's God's will" or "I feel called" and you are suppose to be let off the hook. I have seen churches left with plenty-o debt from guys who "feel called". Not saying this about the Chan-man, but most of the time it doesn't seem to add up to me.

Anyway, another great post.

Plus, I felt like I neeeded to comment just in case this goes on to be your most commented column so I can say I was involved. I'm shallow like that.

DJP said...

The way I figure it, Mark, a distinction is a distinction.

I once tied a trout fly for John Dehner.

100 Mile Pants said...

On the one hand you say to Dan that you understand, you are claiming your post is not meant to criticize Francis's leaving Cornerstone, or the reasons, only the words he uses in his letter, that so much of Christendom throws around too flippantly. A very important point, and one that I wholeheartedly agree with.

And yet you then say: Why do the posters on this board share comments such as "I am so disappointed in Francis, he has lost my respect, how could Francis go to Masters and the come to this conclusion?"

If you "wholeheartedly agree" with the problem of the words used, you will understand why people would think less of Francis for using them.

I make no judgement on Francis' ministry as I had not really heard of him before. I would simply say that what he said in the written statement that Dan was addressing was wrong and potentially harmful.

I think you will find that that is all Dan said too. He addressed what was said. He didn't judge the entirity of Chan's ministry or his character as I read it.

If you "wholeheartedly agreed" with the problem with the words he used surely you would have the same concerns too?

Unknown said...

Hi Pastor Pants -

I appreciate the clarity. Thank you for your time, but I think perhaps you misunderstand me, or I am not being clear in my words, I apologize.

I will try and be as clear as possible so as not to confuse. When I said that I "agree" with Dan, what I meant was that I understand "the issue" of Christians who base a decision or important action on a simple turn of the phrase such as "God lead me" or "the lord is calling me." So I understood Dan to say that he was using Francis' words to showcase how this is incorrect and improper use of God's name. If it was merely a discussion of that issue, I do concur.

However, I called Dan and others here to specifically engage with the video, and then pass judgement. I am asking this for the reasons (which another poster here has already clearly articulated) that the letter was not meant represent Francis' sole reason for leaving Cornerstone, and also that it was not the main way that he intended to communicate to others. And further, because Francis explained to his congregation how he arrived at this decision, and it was not due to some whim or a "feeling" as some are intimating. I would explain how he arrived there, but an earlier post by Brian has already illuminated this, and it was largely ignored.

The letter was written as a follow up to the video to let his congregation know that he was leaving, not the why, just the what. It was not intended to be a theological statement, nor to make a claim to the world that God speaks to Francis audibly on a daily basis.

Yes, I realize that he wrote words that ended up on a blog, so for that single issue I would challenge Francis that if he didn't mean that, he should have been more careful in what he says.

Now, Dan explained that seeing or viewing the video was not necessary, because he is not intending to criticize Chan for why he is leaving Cornerstone. (If I am interpreting that incorrectly, please correct me).

However, the ENTIRETY of the blog was not simply a critique of this type of action or incorrect application, it was a directed and pointed criticism of Chan himself, followed by a resounding "beating" from the faithful followers of this blog.

So, my only point is this: If you seek to criticize Francis, you would do yourself a favor in reading and listening to his words as he intended them. If you are not trying to criticize Francis, or give him a "merciless beating" but rather criticize this type of foolish Christian behavior, then why has Chan become the focus of this entire post?

DJP said...

It's not necessary. I have put up the promised post explaining why. Go to the home page, it's at the top, Steve.

You have a point about "merciless beating." I actually lifted that from Phil, who (I'm pretty sure) is the one who created it as a tag for Pyro. At least there, and at least from Phil, I thought it a pretty obvious hyperbole, and I thought it chuckalicious. Obviously, it isn't to you; so to you, for me, it's a clear FAIL.

I think you could hardly say the post is merciless towards Chan in total. But I'll admit it: I am merciless about words leaders use that I think are irresponsible, misleading, and potentially harmful. I think Chan spoke just so in this letter, as I did my best to explain.

Now I refer you to the other post.

CR said...

And we have 100! (Unless Dan hasn't released some of his moderated posts). Is this a milestone for you? Have you ever had 100 comments on a blog topic. Do I get a prize or something.

DJP said...

Oh, surely some of our election-season posts got 100, didn't they, Carlo? Or the Karsten Piper poetry meta (still one of my very favorites)?

Stefan Ewing said...

Does hitting 100 comments on a post make you a centurion?

Stefan Ewing said...

...with due respect to Frank.

Moushs said...

I really think you should have heard the man out and watched the video completely before you passed judgement on his phraseology. I understand your beef with the phrase "God is leading us," but this is splitting hairs over a man who is giving up a comfortable life to serve the Lord in the cities, which most conservative evangelicals who scoff at the phrase "God is leading us" would never do.

threegirldad said...

Oh, surely some of our election-season posts got 100, didn't they, Carlo?

"A Lament for America" is a contender for current champ with 111 comments. I haven't found any other election-season post that got anywhere near 100.

That post and this one are the only ones I've found with 100 or more comments. "Sarah Palin's stupid mistake" ended up with 98, and "So... is it true? Fathers control their children's every choice?" ended up with 90.

Or the Karsten Piper poetry meta (still one of my very favorites)?

Surprisingly, no. It finished with "only" 69.

DJP said...

3GD, I name you the unofficial (so that you aren't actually shackled to any responsibilities) BibChr Blog Statistician. Or is there a better title?

DJP said...

But Moushs, "phraseology" is another way of saying "what he said." I'm not supposed to analyze what he said? Then he need to leave pastoral ministry altogether, because a great deal of the ministry is what you say.

Otherwise, please read the followup post, which I've linked to as an update.

DJP said...

Steve, I've pondered the "merciless beatings" tag. If you take the phrase literally, rather than the way I took Phil as meaning it (and the way I meant it), it's misleading and distracting. I will admit to giving the words and rationale a "merciless beating," because I think it's merited. But I've no desire to do so to Chan.

So I'll remove it.

Mark Patton said...


Trying to actually have the distinction become a distinction, I comment again.

Something else I thought about. How many times have we as pastors had people leave our congregation ... and you KNOW somithing is amiss.... but they simply say, "I feel God leading." It doesn't sit well with us so why should we use the same with them? Even if a member is leaving for "good" reasons, I appreciate knowing why without "cloudy" language. How do you counsel with "God is leading." You can't. Members cut themselves off from guidance when they do this, and when pastors do this they seem to be doing the same. If the real reason(s) is(are) put on the table, then saftey in counsel can be had.

PS. Edifided greatly by the udate also, but that one is way too far away from "champion comment status," so obviously I had to add here. Verification word is presses. Am I pressing the issue?

Scot said...

Can I get an award for the latest to the party?

Much appreciated post Dan. I have this same discussion with a few friends. They say is mostly a matter of semantics, i.e. "feeling called" is just the "Christianese" of our times. I give them this point, but like you said, it leads to a lot of confusion.

As one who has felt like a second-Christian because I don't get "assignments" like Abraham (and sometimes still), I hope this post is good reminder that we need to be careful with how we use words.

Jugulum said...

I wonder what would happen if people didn't say "step of faith" or "walk in faith"? What if they always filled in "faith in what"?

Sometimes it turns out they're having faith in their own decisions, instead of faith in an actual promise of God.

If people had to think that through, maybe they'd realize the problem. More often, at least.

Anonymous said...

To the original post: I think you raise a very interesting subject, and you have been very charitable in how you've discussed it. But I'm wondering if we are being too picky on the semantics. I have used the term "called" before, and it had nothing to do with special revelation from God. It simply meant that God affirmed my "call" through various means, e.g. biblical study, encouragement from godly individuals, etc. What other word(s) should we use?

To some others: to imply that Chan is "bailing" on his church is nothing more than gossip. Unless we know the cold, hard facts (which, on the other hand, Chan should reveal if there are any), we should refrain from speculation.

DJP said...

But Ethan, that is the entire point of the post. "Semantics" is often just another word for "what you say." Communication is what a pastor does, in distinction from other believers. Give a pastor a pass on that, and what's left?

You may be fond of Chan, and want to give him a pass. "Oh, he's just talking like he talks. He says God told him, he felt moved, he is supposed to do this and that thing that isn't in the Bible... it's just semantics."

But (A) "semantics" is what every sermon and every book is; and (B) impressionable Christians don't know they shouldn't take him seriously.

PAUSE: btw, is that a great thing to have to say, to bail out a leader? "Don't take what he says seriously"? RESUME:

So this and that glandular, irresponsible, restless, immature, Biblically-ignorant Christian gets an itch and an urge, calls it a "call," says he's "supposed to" leave his job, declares that it's "fun to walk by faith" — and shames Christ to his creditors, his associates, his family, his neighbors, and exposes his wife and children to ruin.

All that to say, words mean things. If we can't hold leaders to what they say, bring the fork. We're done.

Aaron said...

We can sense the direction of God but as often-deceived-by-our-own-hearts humans we should express it that way: "I believe God is directing me..."

Yesterday I had a big discussion with two believers here. One prayed for 2 minutes about and used the words "Oh Lord" 36 times. The next day in class i gave him some advise while praying in public: "Don't fill it up with repeating the Lord's name like he forgot you were talking to him." The other guy said, "Hey, you can't say that. The Holy Spirit is directing his prayer." So we had to take the next hour or so to figure out in the Bible if the Holy Spirit really was speaking THROUGH him or if he was the one speaking TO the Holy Spirit. Of course we know that every word in prayer is not ordained by God. Look at all the requests we ask amiss!

Likewise, we have to admit while making every step that we may be mistaken BUT that we must follow as we believe the Lord is directing. I believe God directed me to North Africa and I believe I can see proof of that. If I did make a mistake I believe God has promised to bring good out of it. I believe I followed the heart of his great command in coming: to preach to those who had not heard.

Therefore I can stand before God with a clear conscience about that decision because it was based firmly on obedience to scripture. I have a friend who came BACK to America to obey the same command that caused me to leave. Every man must be fully convinced in his own mind and let his brother stand or fall to his own master....I think.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your quick response. I'm starting to get you, and I do think he was a bit careless in his speech. In fact, I often shudder when people say things that begin with "I feel God...". First of all, feelings are deceiving. Second of all, God's cannot and should not be used as a chess piece. So, like I said, I get you, and I appreciate your wisdom on this.

Continuing this discussion on a more personal level... I am a youth worker with the privilege of being able to preach on occasion. I have had very good feedback, not only from the congregation but from elders as well. I have been advised by said elders that I should strongly consider being a preacher based on my skill set. I guess in my mind, this would be affirmation of God "calling" me to pastoral ministry. But based on this blog post, I assume you would disagree with my choice of the word "calling". So would you say this is a "burden" instead of a "calling"?

DJP said...

But Aaron, on what authority does one make decisions like that? With what Biblical precedent? Where do we EVER see saints making such decisions?


1. They have inerrant, morally-binding direct revelation from God (prophets, apostles, those under their teaching); or
2. They pray, search Scripture, figure out a plan, pray, act - with no phony God-talk (Nehemiah).

That's my whole point, again and again. Is Chan saying he's a prophet? Then he should be made to say so, up-front.

Did he just decide to make this switch? Then present the reasons, or refuse to do so and take the consequences. Don't cast it in revelatory, moral terms. Un-Biblical, and horrible example.

DJP said...

1. Ethan, cast it this way.

Guy just quit his job, leaving everyone in a bit of a lurch. Does not have another job lined up.


He blames God.

Bad guy.

2. Ethan, that's discussed up above, I believe. No Biblical warrant for calling it a "call." Being a pastor is one's spiritual gift and office, for which he must demonstrate qualifications. Unfalsifiable holy hunches are never listed among them (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1).

Jim said...

I greatly appreciate your blog. You have clearly exposed the wrong thinking so prevalent in the Christian community. Thank you so much.

Aaron said...

He didn't just quit his job, like he works at the corner store. He left one of the most important jobs to exist. For what? To go walkabout? IMHO, the language was intentional.

Fred said...

DJP, you said,
"But Aaron, on what authority does one make decisions like that? With what Biblical precedent? Where do we EVER see saints making such decisions?


1. They have inerrant, morally-binding direct revelation from God (prophets, apostles, those under their teaching); or
2. They pray, search Scripture, figure out a plan, pray, act - with no phony God-talk (Nehemiah)."

What about the gentlemen in Mark 2 who were convinced that they needed to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus. I'm certain that they didn't know exactly what was about to happen. No doubt they questioned if they were about to do the right thing. However, in the end, Jesus was pleased with their act of faith (Mark 2:5) and responded with a much greater reward for their faith than they could have anticipated ("Son, your sins are forgiven"). Chan is acting, with faith in Jesus, and leaving the outcome to the Savior.

DJP said...

How does that connect with the post, Fred? They had faith in Jesus. That's a good thing.

What does that have to do with making a decision and investing it with God's authority in (at best) ambiguous language? Are you saying "faith" served as a revelatory, morally-binding voice from God moving them specifically to dig that hole of those dimensions in that roof at that time, so that if they had found any other way of getting their friend to Jesus they would have been committing a Hell-worthy sin?

Because that's what we're talking about. Are we free and responsible for making morally-permissible decisions, equally pleasing to God, within the bonds of the revelation of Scripture? Or must we lay Scripture aside, pursuing holy fog-banks, held morally-accountable for how we interpret them, and authorized to put the resultant decisions on God?

ryan said...

Problem here though is that Chan is deeply comitted to a believing that the Holy Spirit is in the business of guiding, directing, counseling, rebuking, and helping us in our sanctification.

While you may not buy into this Dan it is horrific to you to use such absolute dogmatic language about Chan and his motives. He even wrote a book about the Holy Spirit and has preached countless times about living a Spirit-filled life in which we follow and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as long as they mesh with scripture.

DJP said...

I don't know enough about Chan's view of the Spirit to have an opinion about whether he has a Scriptural view of those ministries, or a Charismatic view.

"Horrific"? Strong word. Should be simple for you to give and explain several examples of "horrific" examples. Please do.

Whit said...

Good post. I agree that we must be careful with this type of Christian jargon--especially coming from a high-profile pastor. He ought to know better than to use charismatic trigger phrases.

But, I am wondering if we're not missing out on a healthy discussion regarding a different topic which relates to Pastor Chan's situation. What are we supposed to do with these feelings of restlessness we all get from time to time?

Sometimes they go away, but other times they are so persistent that "calling" seems to be the best way to describe the experience. Personally, I feel more comfortable reserving this term for soteriology. But, certainly the Holy Spirit can place an overwhelming burden on my heart. So we use these phrases like "God is tugging at my heart" or "God called me to go".

Be that as it may, some folks just seem to be more spontaneous than others. They don't feel alive unless they are living at the end of themselves. I've noticed these dear friends are often associated with the arts or extreme sports. It didn't surprise me to hear that Francis was a surfer (does he play the guitar, too?) Does Francis just need to learn how to stay put? I don't know. As Dan suggested, an explanation would be helpful instead of "God called me."

Though, many times a restless nature is a sign of immaturity, I'm not so sure that the Lord doesn't use a little restlessness to get us to "pick up our mats and walk" sometimes. (I've never posted on this blog before. Am I going to get in trouble for using Scripture out of context?)

Since I'm not receiving direct revelation from Him, could it be possible that the Lord used a restless spirit in me so that I would sell my house and leave my job as a credentialed, tenured math teacher to go to seminary when my wife had a scheduled c-section the day after my first Hebrew class (her 4th c-section in 6 years, no less)? That move didn't seem to make much sense on paper, either. But I felt "called" to go. I HAD to go, so to speak. Feelings don't always fit nicely into our systematic theologies. I know I wasn't violating a command. And I had a plan to provide for my family. I'm no Kierkegaardian, but it sure felt a little like a "leap of faith."

Now, it's my guess that once the Chan family settles into New SanFrangeloYork, the nesting impulse will eventually override the high-adventure-living-by-faith pangs. Mrs. Chan sounds like a good personality match for her husband's trail-blazing instincts. But every mother has her limits. Eventually you need to plant roots while your children are young. Wait until your daughter has a broken arm and you can't get an appointment with a pediatric orthopod because you have medi-Cal. "Authentic" ministry loses its luster when your babygirl has a compound fracture or your kids haven't been to a dentist in four years.

Wherever the Chans end up, you can bet that they will slowly revert back to a more traditional ministry model with a steady income. Nobody can live on the edge all the time, especially not mothers with small children. Yet, it will only be a matter of time before he feels like he is slipping back into complacency.

So, as a pastor I am learning to run marathons instead of sprints. How do you stay put, without quenching the fire in your bones? I've been the pastor of children's ministry at my current church for two years. I am committed to the long haul. But I would be dishonest if I said that I never get that restless feeling. And it's not because I don't like it here. Sometimes it just feels like my life is too good and I am losing my edge.

So, it is hard to fault Mr. Chan for leaving Cornerstone in the hands of able leaders (there's like a half-dozen TMS grads there), forgoing a steady income at a megachurch and getting back to some grass roots ministry. Perhaps God IS calling Francis to the inner city. That's between him and his God.

DJP said...

Perceptive thoughts and very good questions, Whit. You lose me a bit in the last two sentences... but they came after a lot of good ones!


Larry said...

"...we follow and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit as long as they mesh with scripture."

So sometimes the promptings of the Holy Spirit don't mesh with scripture?

Aaron said...

LOL, Larry. I was thinking the same thing.

living a Spirit-filled life in which we follow and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

This smacks of listening to some mystical feeling that is regarded as "prompting." Usually this means that if I can't find a clear command against what I'm feeling, the Holy Spirit must be telling me to do it. Which, of course, is completely un-Scriptural.

@whit: A lot of "restlessness" is immaturity and selfishness. I can't tell you how many times I've thought of taking another position or leaving my job altogether. Sometimes it's because I want to do more at work, sometimes it's just because I'm bored or frustrated. But almost always its about me and my personal happiness without any regard for my family or my church. Countless times I've turned down overseas details or management positions because while it would have given me pleasure, my family and church would have suffered. In the end, I could find no positive reason for the change other than my personal desires. Hence, I stick with what I'm doing now.

Now that doesn't mean that there aren't times that my desires are never important or that there aren't also wise decisions for certain actions that align with my desires (certainly God could be using my desires or "restlessness" to spark me to change). However, such actions should always have articulable reasons outside of "I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit." And such reasons should withstand scrutiny from Scripture and persons in your life that are there to give you wise counsel.

And finally, there better be a really good reason for leaving your church in the lurch. Being a Pastor carries a lot of responsibility and one ought not to accept such a position if they are going to flitter about after a bout of indigestion.

John N said...

G’day from across the Pacific! I’m probably a couple of days late but we suffer from delayed reaction here because of our time difference. Nonetheless it has been delicious reading this thread. Usually, this type of critique comes from anti-charismatics and cessationists, but as a continuist and post-Pentecostal may I say that I couldn’t agree more with DJP.

‘Extra biblical revelation’, GTMS (God Told Me Syndrome) or the more pacifying labels of ‘promptings’ and ‘impressions’ are fraught with dangers. Whichever way you slice it, the clincher is this: How do you test it? ANSWER: You can’t!!!

Especially on matters where the Bible is silent, how do you assess the validity of someone saying, ‘God told me to buy a house in this neighborhood’ or ‘the Lord told me to start a paper run as an outreach ministry’? There are no legitimate grounds on which to qualify such statements.

So if you can’t test it what are you left with? The subjective interpretation of the individual. Great! What a fantastic assurance, now we can all sleep better at night.

What a miserable, emotionally torturous and dangerous way to live your life! The best kept secret as the antidote to this disease is hidden in one of DJP’s earlier posts in this thread (as much as it pains me to agree with a Calvinist in public!)

DJP said: Adam was free to choose what, when, where, and how much, all equally to God's glory and with His blessing.

On matters where the Bible is silent, we are free to exercise our Christian liberty and our conscience to decide. We have been granted far more freedom than we realize. To quote Greg Johnson (St. Louis Center for Christian Study) …to bind the conscience where Scripture leaves freedom is a very, very serious crime.

As a Pentecostal refugee I am now free from the tyranny of having to ‘have a word from God’ on every decision I made. I can now breathe in the oxygen of Christian liberty given to me in Christ and rely on God’s guidance through Scripture and his overall providence in matters of daily life. I am not guilty for not obeying a ‘prompting’ or ‘leading’ that I can’t verify it’s true. Anything outside the Scriptures is not binding to me. The Pentecostal/charismatic movement is one of the most guilt inducing, burdensome and theologically anemic expressions of modern Christianity. Pentecostals are probably allergic to this blog, but for any drive-by’s, take heed.

Finally, I think the broader problem here is the ‘model’ of charismatically oriented ministry (thank you Mr Finney). I don’t know enough about (Jackie) Francis Chan whether he is a fully fledged charismatic or not, but he certainly thinks and talks like one.
This is a model where the leader’s respect is shaped by his mystical spirituality. Their naïve followers have been conditioned to expect the leader to make regular announcements of mystical revelation. So, if in the ordinary course of business one decides to move house, he has to throw God in the mix otherwise he could be seen as ‘acting in the flesh’!

If you’ve being investing in such a model, these are the dividends it pays you. Or as a wise man said ‘if you sleep with dogs you wake up with fleas’.

... said...


Thanks for this post. Seriously. I have always appreciated the good folks at Pyro, but this post was a pastoral blessing- not just informative- but edifying.

I recently had to decline a ministry position because I believed (after searching the Scriptures) it would have been a very unwise move. I was truly disappointed because I genuinely WANTED to take the position. I FELT gifted to take the position. I SEEMED like a providential opportunity. I DESIRED to move on from my current position. I LONGED to grow and be more useful in the Lord's work. Nonetheless, after much prayer for wisdom, I poured over text after text and concluded that I needed to decline the position.

I take full responsibility for my actions and will answer to God for how I arrived at the decision. I prayed for wisdom, I looked for wisdom in the Bible, and I made the best decision I could. Against my desires, wishes, and hopes, the Word of God gave me guidance that I was not looking for- but truly needed.

Sometimes the Word of God works to restrain us against our wishes. Even when we just keep plugging away at our vocations day after day we can still bring glory to God. It is not always the bigger and better opportunities that are God's will. The sovereign King of the universe was a carpenter for many years- and I'm fairly sure His Father was pleased.

Thanks again, brother.


Lance said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I hadn't heard of Francis Chan until reading this post. I read a bit about him, and it appears that he is 1) not making a rash decision, 2) not hurting financially, and 3) having lost both parents before the age of 12 I would gather that it had a major impact on his view of this life - to hold on loosely.

I can appreciate what DJP has written, however, I question the thought that the public should be privy to every factor that contributed to this man's decision to leave a church to start a new one. I would agree that before encouraging one to "step out in faith" that they count the cost.

Lonnie said...

If God wanted to communicate to me about something that has not been specified in His Word, how would he do it?

I'm talking about a prompting to minister to a particular person or group of people, a prompting to pray for someone, guidance through wise counsel from mentors...

Clint said...

And Paul would have been criticized by you for going to Macedonia based on a dream.

DJP said...

He would? Why?

Amy said...

Thank you, thank you for writing this!

My husband and I experienced a similar situation at our former church. Our long time, well loved and respected pastor surprised and grieved the congregation when he announced that he felt he was being "called" to another ministry.

My husband explained a few months later that there must be a REASON a pastor would want to leave. This nebulous "I feel called" just didn't make sense Biblically or rationally. My husband's comments made a lot of people angry. One member of the congregation even phoned the pastor and he still insisted he "felt called."

A year or two later we found out our pastor's wife had been having an affair and they were now divorced.

I can understand that he was trying to spare our church a lot of pain and scandal in the community. Perhaps he could have admitted there were "family problems" and they needed to leave. But the "I feel called" excuse left room for all sorts of conjecture, confusion, and hurt feelings. It was also dishonest.

Zabur16 said...

Seems like the Holy Spirit does quite a bit of leading, guiding and directing outside of the written Word...

And the Spirit said to Philip, "Go over and join this chariot" (Acts 8:29).

And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, "Behold, three men are looking for you" (Acts 10:19).

And the Spirit told me to go with them, making no distinction. These six brothers also accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house (Acts 11:12).

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them" (Acts 13:2).

For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements... (Acts 15:18).

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia (Acts 16:6).

And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them (Acts 16:7).

Now after these events Paul resolved in the Spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaia and go to Jerusalem, saying, "After I have been there, I must also see Rome" (Acts 19:21).

And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, constrained by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there (Acts 20:22).

...except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me (Acts 20:23).

And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem (Acts 21:4).

Perhaps we should cut Francis a little slack here. According to the Bible, the Holy Spirit does reveal things to people outside of Scripture (and quite often).

I have to believe that the enemy loves when he can convince an entire generation of people that God stopped speaking 2000 years ago... Lord, help our unbelief.

DJP said...

I want to try to help you, Zabur:

1. How is every one of those verses completely irrelevant to my point?

2. If you believed that those verses were indeed germane, and had thought through the post, what would you be wanting to ask Chan?

Aaron said...

Perhaps we should cut Francis a little slack here. According to the Bible, the Holy Spirit does reveal things to people outside of Scripture (and quite often).

And yet, everyone of the instances you quoted is in the canon of Scripture. Funny how that works.

Lauren C said...

Thanks for your post - I recently listened to a 5-part series by IBCD [ forget what the I is, possibly Institute, but Biblcial Counseling and Desciplship]..anyway, they have a really good view of "Knowing God's Will", probably somewhat like Greg Koukl [sp?] and your post is very good to consider. Many people claim to be prophetic, and our Christianese [ a lingo you spoke of] is not helping a bit....

Dysmas said...

I hate to be the very last person to learn something. I am admirer of Chan. Listen to him. Watch him. Read him. But I also read Kevin DeYoung on the will of God and the way our culture "spiritualizes" preferences and choices. And having just recently come against the pointy end of that "prompting of God" spear from some members of our congregation who were being "prompted to leave", I'd say your post is spot on (and annoyingly so). But timely it is.

mmmfreefood23 said...

Dan, I must say I do find your post to be very sound biblically. I myself do not claim spiritual or biblical authority more than I am capable and with what I have only barely seen a small portion of the biblical surface. Granted, it is now June 28 and I have only recently stumbled upon your blog which I am now a follower of as I have enjoyed reading the one post to which I now respond. I would also like to point out that I have not read the entirety of the comments posted about this blog, so if this point was brought up previously I ask that you refer to me so said posts/comments. I would like to pose a question to you based on the verse of Matt. 18:15... Granted I would assume you know the verse in which I have now referenced, but for the sake of quoting it I will do just that, "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you."
I must say that I agree wholeheartedly with the burden of calling placed upon teachers of the WORD, the LIVING WORD, and the call to be blameless in the sight of the LORD. This is the first issue needing to be brought into the light without a doubt. However, if one, such as a distinguished biblical scholar as yourself, feels any teacher, pastor, preacher, etc. is out of line then why not confront them directly. And then, barring no repentance/response, bring another to confront them. Blogging about such feelings of sin being committed not only against one's self but the entire body of Christ who is affected by said pastor's teachings brings dissension and one may even qualify this under the category of gossip. I must say that I have found great value in the words of Francis Chan's teaching, and although located no where near Simi Valley and having no intention of going to this Church I have pursued the teachings of Chan further. I am not saying that Chan is biblically sound in his decisions to leave Simi Valley nor am I saying that his "taking a step of faith" is or is not from the LORD. Yes I concur that his motives should be revealed and based in scripture. I have not watched his video yet so I cannot say whether or not he has done so. It would seem that you yourself have sound biblical instruction and authority and publicly claiming the fallacies of another should perhaps display the humanity of yourself. I do not know if you have already privately engaged Chan in his decision and "steps of faith" but without having done so I find your blog about his decisions highly embarrassing to the Body of Christ. We are called to support one another and be united as one body. Yes, we are called to hold each other accountable and call each other out on our sin and not practicing what we preach; but are we also not called to love above all else?
I must tell you if I am at fault for bringing up this issue then let me see the error of my ways. Psalm 141:5 "Let a righteous man strike me-it is a kindness; let him rebuke me-it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it."
If Chan is erring in his ways, if you are erring in yours and/or if I am erring in mine then let he who is at fault take this verse to heart and practice it for it is he who is righteous that is displaying the Love of Christ to his brother.

DJP said...

Yes, we have visited that question a few times.

If I can, I always like helping people think their own way to the answer. Let me try that to you by this friendly question:

Why did you feel okay about publicly suggesting I might have sinned, instead of contacting me privately, as you could easily have done?

(BTW, I think you did fine in so doing, so that is not my point.)

mmmfreefood23 said...


You are completely correct in saying that I should have contacted you directly. Although I must ashamedly admit to not knowing how to contact you directly, about this blog, through this blog; I should have asked for a means to contact you directly. So I do not use this as an excuse. May I have your personal e-mail so as to write a full apology and additionally contact you further about this blog? As I said earlier, "it is but a kindness", I thank you for displaying to me the error of my ways in responding to your post.

DJP said...

No no, you missed my point. Did you not notice that I said, "BTW, I think you did fine in so doing, so that is not my point"?

I don't think you were mad, or in a temper, or any nasty thing. I think you instinctively knew it was appropriate to communicate to me in a comment, as you did.

What I am asking you to think through is this: why? Why was it appropriate?

mmmfreefood23 said...

I must ask your permission to continue this conversation over a public forum rather than privately before responding to your question of "why, I felt it was appropriate to respond to your blog". Honestly, I only commented out of lack of knowledge for how to do so privately; however I do not use this as an excuse for doing so publicly. I should have asked for a means to contact privately before posting my comment. I can assume that you are perfectly alright in communicating over this comment board; but as I enjoy this quote, "You know what happens when I assume? I just make an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me'."

DJP said...

I've already told you that you acted appropriately. That constitutes permission.

I'll make one last try to lead you to realize it for yourself, which (I think) is the most helpful and satisfying way to learn.

WHY did you correctly and instinctively feel that you were right to contact me this way?

mmmfreefood23 said...

Because that is what I have read in the Bible on how to act as a follower of Christ. as I reference Matthew 18 again. Confront your brother face to face (paraphrase but I know you know the verse). Also, the body of Christ is supposed to be united as one body. I simply do not see how this is edifying to the body of Christ by blogging about the "calling" someone has felt by how they perceive the Holy Spirit in their life. I am not saying Francis Chan is or is not in the right in doing what he does. That is not for me to say to anyone else, or discuss with anyone else, except to him or the LORD. I did not see anywhere a response by you that said you had tried to contact him, along with prayer to the Lord in the situation and what you have stated has come across to me and edifying to no one. I simply do not see the glorification of the body of Christ in this; hence my reaction and comments. Regardless of getting people to think for themselves, shouldn't glorifying Christ, and/or the body of Christ for the glory of Christ, be our number one priority?

DJP said...

Well, I tried.

The reason you felt right (and were right) to confront me publicly with your concerns about this was because I had made my communication publicly. Had it been in an email to you, an email would have been the proper response.

Chan communicated publicly, to the world. A public forum was the proper forum for response, as Paul related that he did with Peter in Galatians 2.

It's that simple.

mmmfreefood23 said...

Yet, in Galatians 2, Doesn't Paul address Peter directly, and in so doing the rest of those who followed him, to his face? Granted, it was public yet it was still directed at Peter face to face. How does this verse justify what this blog post says about Chan? Also, doesn't Chan have the responsibility to speak only to his church about what, why, how, when etc. he is leaving? I realize that these claims are available to the world, but the world does not claim to be a part of his congregation. There may be people around the world who are "a part" of the church via internet and they are certainly capable of accessing his explanations of his leaving. But back to this edification of the body of Christ. Would you please explain to me how this post is edifying to the body of Christ and, therefore, to Christ Himself?

DJP said...

I have already answered all of that, specifically. Please do keep up.

As to the last: "Would you please explain to me how this post is edifying to the body of Christ and, therefore, to Christ Himself?"

In your opening questions, I tried (and failed) to get you to think it through for yourself. You either would not, or could not; regardless, you did not.

So, against my better judgment, I fed you the answer - whereupon you repeated the question. This confirmed my initial misgivings.

So here's what we're going to do now: your next comment will be a fulfillment of the assignment I am about to give you. I will reject any comments from you that are otherwise.

I would like you, yourself, to begin from the start of the article, and read the article. Then read all the comments. Then you answer your own question. Tell how this post is in fact edifying to the body of Christ, and how it is in fact glorifying to Him. Everything you need is there.

Take your time. Please.

briebo said...

I am glad someone is finally talking about this! I do believe that the holy spirit can put a weight on one's heart, a vision in one's head, and that the Lord can have a plan for you that can be revealed somewhat in a "call"or a "vision", but just a sense of an urging from the Lord is NOT a call to action.

We should always question ourselves if we think we have heard a "call." I think it can be very easy to see something you want, imagine how it could be in your mind, and think you have had a "vision". We always need to question whether these "senses" we have as to the call of God are really from God, or from ourselves, or even from the enemy.

That is why God ALWAYS confirms a "call" or a "vision" he may have placed in you with concrete avenues to take you there. This whole stepping out in faith bull is NOT BIBLICAL. Chan is stepping out, but there is no plan, at least one he wants to admit.

I saw my parents react to a "call" to leave their present circumstances, one which they highly questioned at first even came from the Lord. Then they prayed, and asked the Lord to show them if this was his will by making certain circumstances (that I won't get into but were really specific and seemed impossible) happen so they would be allowed to make the move. ANd God confirmed what he had urged them towards with an answer to prayer and very specific confirmations.

God never asks you to step out and do something completely crazy without letting you know in no uncertain terms this is his will for you. What did God do to confirm Chan's decision to leave his church. I imagine nothing, because the stories of God's confirmations of his "calls" are often even more exciting than the destination of the journey, and they would be something he would want to talk about.

rob said...

And Philip went down the desert road because...he read it in the OT?

DJP said...

Nope. Because, in those days before the close of the canon, the Holy Spirit told him to do so verbally (quoted in Acts 8:29), inerrantly, and in a morally-binding fashion.

Is that what Chan is claiming? (Please actually read the post.)

Aaron said...

Philip. Great Example. We have before us an example of God speaking directly to an individual and it being added to the canon of Scripture. So how does Chan compare to that?

rob said...

So DJP and Sir Aaron (and I suppose everyone else here) so because it was recorded in scripture God said it but because it isn't recorded in scripture (for example F. Chan) he didn't? (We are talking about a command to go do something not doctrine by the way.) So God acts differently now?

And have you NEVER heard God tell you to do something? Really? Not even to stop and pray?

I'm really sorry about that.

Dan Price said...

Thanks for hitting this topic, Dan. It's one that's not communicated about enough. Garry Friesen has some great stuff on calling:

And our church ( is hosting a conference in January called "Decision Making and the Will of God" where he and another bigger name will be presenting on this topic. The goal will be to get more coverage on how God speaks (the word) and how he doesn't (a knowable, individual will expressed through impressions.)

DJP said...

Garry Friesen's book was pivotal to me.

That's why I was so bitterly disappointed in his contribution to this book. Hugely disappointing; may sketch out the difference between a pastor and an academic.

DJP said...

Rob: I get it now. You didn't read the post. You somehow think you got the gist, and this is what you like to say to folks who aren't Charismatic.

So: read the article, and tell us what the answer to your question is.

rob said...

Not read? Sigh. I am addressing your assumptions. But we can do it on your terms herr blogger.

"Is that a fair allusion?" Yes. God calls individual Christians to his service like that all the time. Not to set apart a new people for himself -- but to continue that same work.

"So are you saying that you received an inerrant, verbal, prophetic, morally-binding revelation directly from God, apart from Scripture..." This is such a straw man. But he is saying "Lisa and I BELEIEVE God is calling..." Makes me wonder if you really heard what he said.

"If he means anything else, Chan is drawing from some spiritual authority other than Scripture." This is the canard that your poor logic crumbles under. John 16:13; Romans 8:14. With your logic, no one could say they feel God is calling them to the pastorate.

"If Chan is saying he receives direct, prophetic, inerrant revelation..." There you go with the straw man "inerrant". I am certain no one has ever heard Francis claim his listening to the Holy Spirit's guidance as inerrant or on par with scripture. He knows full well that he "sees as through a mirror dimly." What he is saying is that he and his wife believe God is guiding them. (And I assume it is through reading God's word devotionlly, praying over it, praying together as husband and wife, and praying with other trusted brothers and sisters in Christ to protect them from their own error. That is the normal Christian way for such important guidance and decisions.) But you wouldn't extend such grace to Francis. No you assert he is asserting his personal guidance is on par with scripture which he would NEVER claim. You might want to go back and watch and listen to what he said again.

"Don't try to put it off on God." Why not? If God told him to do something that isn't what he would have done except for the Lord's guidance then he should express it that way.

"...if he disobeys a commandment from God that he leave his pastorate — he is committing a Hell-worthy sin" Jesus did have something to say about that -- Luke 6:46.

I really do recommend you spend time in something like Oswald Chambers "My Utmost for His Highest". It will give you a great and fruitful example of the Spirit led life. Of course, you would say his theology is wrong. And I would judge him (and you for that matter) by the fruit of his ministry. Through his writings Chambers continues to bear much fruit even long after his death.

DJP said...

Goodness, what a self-contradictory mish-mash.

First: "So are you saying that you received an inerrant, verbal, prophetic, morally-binding revelation directly from God, apart from Scripture..." This is such a straw man

But second: If God told him to do something that isn't what he would have done except for the Lord's guidance then he should express it that way.

So... "God told him"? In words? But it's a straw man to ask whether it was "inerrant, verbal, prophetic, morally-binding revelation directly from God, apart from Scripture"?

And yes, that's right: no pastor since the apostles' day has Scripture warrant for saying God is "calling" him to pastoral ministry. It's just a traditional phrase, at best.

And on and on.

I realize that reading the post made you emotionally upset. But honest, try to read it slowly and think it through. I think it would be helpful to you, as it has been to others by God's grace.

rob said...

I'm upset? Hmmmm. If that makes you feel better. You still didn't address the "inerrant" fabrication of yours.

Alvin Lin said...

I read through this blog post earlier this summer and for some reason just decided to look at it again.

I've read through most of the comments and I am just trying to understand the point you are trying to make.

I too am wary of the language that people use today about God telling them to do one thing or another, but I was wondering how we should best phrase things if there are certain passions or desires on our heart.

Is the issue that Chan essentially said, upon further analysis, that he had direct revelation from God and was responding to it, or is it also an issue that he believes that God is calling him to do something?

I just started working as an intern for Campus Crusade for Christ this year and whenever I was support raising -- I would say things like, "I believe the LORD is calling me here for [insert reasons here]." Under the point you're making -- would it be ok to say that? I wasn't making a direct claim that the LORD was definitely calling me here, but I believed that's where He wants me for a variety of reasons including the fact that I wanted to be there.

I also have been incredibly influenced by Just Do Something and when I meet with students these days I ask them what they want to do with their lives and they usually respond saying a variety of things, but that they aren't sure that God is calling them to do them -- to which I respond, "Do what you want to do." (Common sense must be used there), but I have noticed how many students get caught up in the paralysis of overanalysis.

So -- I guess my whole question is can we use the word calling at all, provided we are not using it as a definitive revelation from God because like was mentioned above in the comments -- everything we do is by faith.


DJP said...

Hi Alvin.

My revolutionary suggestion is that if we really have a passion or a desire to do something, we should say "I really have a passion (or desire) to do X!"

I would say don't claim that God is "calling" you to anything unless you think you're a prophet who hears God's unmediated voice. There is no Biblical warrant for it, and no need for it.

Hope that helps.

Alvin Lin said...

I also want to clarify some things I just said in my post.

I make sure to note whenever I say things like "I believe the LORD is calling me to do whatever..." -- that it is:

A) Not infallible.
B) Not an audible voice from God.

I was meeting with someone earlier this year and they kept using the language "God told me..." and I asked him what he meant and he eventually clarified that through reading Scripture the Spirit was moving in his heart and impressing different passions and thoughts from that, which made sense to me.

Thanks again for this blog -- it has definitely challenged the way that I think and live.

DJP said...

What I'm saying is that we (A) should say what we mean by saying what we mean, and (B) should not say what we mean by saying things that mean something else.

Alvin Lin said...

Thanks for your responses -- they are definitely food for thought.

I suppose my next question is -- I'm pretty sure that I would classify myself as a cessationist -- where do you think this language of calling came up and also could you direct me to some books/sermons/articles that clarify what role the Spirit plays in the life of a cessationist?

I want to learn more about what I believe so I can explain it to others when they ask.


DJP said...

Mostly, I'd say sloppy thinking, lack of Biblical rigor, and traditionalism.

Hm; it's been decades since I read it, but MacArthur's The Charismatics has some good material, as I recall.

Becky Schell said...

The book is called, Charismatic Chaos, Dan and it is a good one.

threegirldad said...


In addition to The Charismatics, I recommend Charismatic Chaos (also by John MacArthur).

DJP said...

Dang, I'm old. I gave the first edition title, you the more recent.

(I read both; the newer edition is a lot better.)

Becky Schell said...

Dang, I'm young.* The copyright on my book says 1992, but I just did a search and found that that OLD book, The Charismatics, has a copyright of 1978. It even has a hippy-looking cover.

*If you believe that, I have a bridge north of town...

threegirldad said...

I always thought that they were two different books, based on what John MacArthur says at the beginning of this article.

David said...

I recommend Los Carismáticos ...

DJP said...

Tan loco eres, Kjos.

David said...

Gracias, señor ...

[consults Google Translate]

Wait a minute ...