Have you ever wondered what is the true worship that God desire? As it says in John 4, it is when the believers worship in both spirit and truth.
Pastor Francis Chan delivered a message during the City Impact Conference 2013 that talked about the kind of worship that pleases God on Aug. 17. That day, over 1,800 people participated in reaching out to the residents of the Tenderloin, a neighborhood that is the most crime-ridden, drug-infested and violent neighborhood in San Francisco. The outreach was outwardly and inwardly a reflection of the believers’ obedience God’s command to serve and love one another.
The famed preacher who and his family left the mega-church that he has founded in order to leave his comfort zone and search for God’s will for him came on stage after worship led by Bethel Music’s Brian and Jenn Johnson and knelt down. He led the crowd in prayer, calling out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is and is to come.” The voices of the crowd chanting echoed throughout the historic Warfield Theater.
Two years ago, Chan saw his daughter participating in the first San Francisco City Impact Conference and she was washing people’s feet while sharing about Jesus. He recalled feeling frustrated that night as the event was about to end, because he didn’t want it to end. He didn’t want to do a church when there is so much hurt in the streets.
The author of New York Times best-selling book Crazy Love said it reminded him of a story that he heard from a person who lived during the Holocaust. Just behind the church was a railroad track, and worshippers from within the church could hear the Jews screaming as they were carried off to the concentration camp. Yet, the believers only sang louder just to drown out the cries.
“I just feel that what the church does so often. Could this be normal?” said Chan, explaining that instead of dedicating their lives to service every day of their lives, today’s churches seem to consider serving and focusing on mission as a ‘once a year’ thing. After the mission trip, life just goes back to normal as usual, but he told himself that he is “not going back to life and church as usual.”
Shortly after leaving Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, Chan and his wife felt called to Asia, where they’ve witnessed how believers there considered every aspect of their lives as part of God’s mission. Although they wanted to stay there, the couple felt God calling them back to the States. While waiting at the airport, the two felt terrified at the thought of sinking back into that comfortable lifestyle. Chan quoted 2 Timothy 2:4 and said, “If we’re honest, aren’t we entangled in civilian affairs? I take care of my family, go to my job, and once in a while I visit the battle.”
“Today, when you were out sharing the Good News, you’ve felt that this was so uncomfortable, but this is so right…you don’t want it to end,” he said. It was with this kind of sentiment Chan and the SF City Impact executive director Christian Huang started the Adopt-a-Building Project (AAB), where every weekend believers would listen to a Chan’s message and go out into the streets to minister every Sunday.
“I don’t want to just sing louder and louder and hear my 400th message. Let’s do something. I’m so grateful that there were other believers besides me to say let’s do something. Not that so we can feel guilty about it, feel convicted about it, and pray about it, but, no, let’s do something and make a decision.”
Chan urged those there that day to not go back to life as usual. When AAB was first started, everyone had a 15 minute limit on stay in the office, for they either have to go back out to tell someone about Jesus or have to get on their face and pray.
“I can’t let myself get entangled in civilian affairs. That’s how my life has been, even as a pastor, caught up in ordinary stuff, and pretty soon, you will be doing stuff that anyone can be doing without the Holy Spirit,” he said.
Feeling like a Failure
After spending over a year in Tenderloin, Chan admitted that it got depressing, because after sharing the gospel to so many people, no one wanted to listen or change. It seemed that their hard work, prayer, and fasting ended in rejection and that felt like a failure.
However, Chan reminded the believers “rejection is not a failure” and that “Jesus was also rejected, but was he a failure?” Quoting John 15:18, he said, “Failure is if you refuse to be rejected…If you set yourself up in such a way that you will never look stupid for the name of Christ…I will water down the message in such a way…no, that’s failure.”
When prophet Isaiah saw the throne of God, he was extremely terrified, because he knew that he was so sinful and the ultimate judge could have killed him; however, God forgave him and called him to prophesy to His people, the Israelite, said Chan, citing Isaiah 6:9-13. “You are going to keep talking, but no one is going to listen until pretty much every is destroyed,” he said. “Was Isaiah a failure? God has determined that this was going to happen.” In addition, Jesus also said the way to salvation is a narrow and difficult road that few will find it, but wide and easy is the road that leads to destruction and many will enter through it.
“Failure is when the only way I’m going to share this is when I’m going to be accepted. No, that is never going to happen,” he said to the rain of applause from the listeners.
(Photo: Gospel Herald)
Miracles Doesn’t Guarantee Repentance
Chan said he used to interpret the Bible literally. In an example of ‘having the faith to move mountains,’ the 45-year-old preacher recalls how in high school he went into his room, closed the door, and tried to turn the page of the book by itself. “I was surprised, because it doesn’t move by itself. And later on you mature and you realize that God doesn’t give you this power just to move stuff for fun,” he said, explaining that “miracles are for the sake of the gospel for heaven’s glory. There could be a time you are going to have to do something so amazing, but it’s not going to be for my own good.”
Then, Chan testified how those in the Tenderloin who were prayed for came back, shaking at the response of prayers. One person said everything that Chan prayed for happened. However, “Was that repentance?” Chan asked. He realized that even miracles don’t guarantee a person repenting.
“Maybe it is God’s grace that He doesn’t show miracles,” he said, attributing to how Jesus told how the people in Bethsaida saw miracles but still didn’t turn from their wicked ways, which made their judgment worse. “The word says the kindness of God leads us to repentance. If not, then you’re storing up wrath for yourself.”
Chan said this is the ‘unpardonable sin.’ The Pharisees and teachers of the law clearly saw miracles but attributed those to Satan, and Jesus said that’s the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which cannot be forgiven. “So are you better to not see the miracle or to see the miracle and reject it?” he said. However, the scripture records many stories of repentance after Jesus saves them, but other times people reject the miracles and the judgment becomes worse. “Lord, I can’t wait, but that could bring judgment upon them.”
During the outreach earlier that day, Chan tried to imagine the people in Tenderloin are filled with the Holy Spirit, being conscious of their sins, wanting to please God, and worshipping Him with joy. He thought it would take such a big miracle for that kind of healing to take place. He then read 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sins and will heal their land.”
“Tonight, we can’t control what God’s going to do. He may have called me to a night of preaching the gospel, and you may be wondering if He will respond to that. There is no guarantee of a revival. In fact, he guaranteed many of the prophets that you are not going to see it. You are going to see the opposite.
Chan gave the example of the life of prophet Jeremiah, whose whole life everyone was against him, but he obeyed God and said what God wanted him to say. “Sometimes we worship revival more than we worship Jesus. Sometimes it is like ‘Lord, unless I get the positive change in this community in this period, I’m not going to be happy.”
Keep on Preaching Sound Doctrine Even If You Are Rejected
“God says Timothy, people, but you keep on preaching…you preach the sound doctrine even if anything happens,” said Chan.
Prophet Amos was called to preach against Israel, but Amaziah the priest of Bethel told him to return to the land of Judah and tried to stop him from prophesying, saying “don’t prophesy anymore at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”
Amos answered Amaziah that although he did not come from a prophet background and he was picking fruits and was a shepherd, but God called him to prophesize to His people Israel. Because Amaziah said to stop prophesy destruction against Israel, Amos prophesy Amaziah’s wife will become a prostitute.
Chan explained, “You know what, this is an honor for me. Yes, I know I will be rejected, but I will be preaching destruction. Don’t you tell me not to preach in Israel, because I know what message I’m going to give… and your wife is going to be a whore.”
Towards the end, Chan encouraged the believers to not be ashamed to believe in Jesus even if they are rejected. They should remember that God could have destroyed them for their sins, but instead forgiven them. With this heart of gratitude, believers should consider it an honor to be a spokesperson for God.
“I love to come here and promise you that God is going to bring revival in the Tenderloin. I know. That’s not up to me. I can’t control that, but we just keep being the spokespeople for God. I know that wherever you go, don’t go back to life as usual,” he said.
Even if they are rejected their whole lives like the prophets in the Old Testament, Chan concluded, “Don’t be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, because Jesus said ‘if you deny me before men on earth I will deny you before my father as well. If you confess me before men on earth, I will confess you for my father in heaven.’”
(Photo: Gospel Herald)