After years of watching Francis Chan’s sermons on line and following his transformation from leading a mega-church to evangelizing in China to starting living room churches, I recently had a chance to meet him. Between speaking engagements in the Kansas City area, he, a few missionaries, and their families were at my son Adam’s ranch, enjoying the peace and quiet of Midwest country life. Since my Zoom Bible study for the past 22 weeks had dealt with his book Crazy Love, I couldn’t wait to share how much he impacted our group. Our conversation was light and fun, centering around his wife and children, some details of his ministry and the experience he and his team were having in K.C. Somehow the conversation turned to my trials in raising three sons, and the group of adults seemed amazed that a teenager as challenging as Adam could turn out to be so kind and gracious. (Only by the grace of God.)
That’s when Adam told Francis that I had been in the Bible study based on his book. He questioned who led it. I told him. He brought out his phone and asked how to spell the leader’s name. Strange, I thought, but I spelled “Frank Guidara” and added, “He’s the one who organized the Zoom call.” Francis checked his phone and said that he didn’t have that name in his accounts. “Is there another name the study could have registered under?” I was becoming alarmed. “Dale somebody led it. I don’t know his last name.” Alarm was morphing to panic. “Most are Vietnam vets and their wives,” I added, trying to give some credibility to our little group. Surely he wouldn’t charge a fee to a group of retired, military heroes!
No one in my group had mentioned paying a registration fee to use Crazy Love for a Bible study. I was throwing a whole group of Christians under the bus, the longer I talked. “I’m just kidding. We never had a Bible study,” I said, trying to add some humor to this ridiculously awkward situation. Everyone laughed, but then Francis continued. “That’s just so strange that there doesn’t seem to be any registration for your group.” All eyes were on me, and although I usually appreciate it when that happens, this was different. It was then that Lisa, his wife, turned to her husband. “Since when do people have to register to use your book?”
Francis started cracking up. “I’m just messing with Patty. Of course, no one has to register to do a Bible study!”
He had me. Everyone—even Francis’ close friends—started laughing. And so did I. The evangelist said that if I could raise Adam and find delight in his antics, I must have a good sense of humor. Somehow, he understood me, and I loved it. And I loved his realness. The same man who once confronted his congregation, expressing his fear that the majority of them were lukewarm Christians who would never make it to Heaven, could have turned this time into a stern sermon, or at least could have asked for my take on his thought-provoking book. Instead, he brought levity into the conversation.
I need to learn from Francis. Everything doesn’t have to be a “Heaven or Hell” lecture or have a spiritual message. Sometimes we just need to bring joy into our exchanges so that others will want to hang with us which, in turn, will reveal the reality of who Christ is in us. No doubt, that is a huge part of Francis Chan’s ministerial success.