Francis Chan Defends His Friendship With False Teachers
Yesterday, Francis Chan responded to the harsh accusations that he has been aligning with heretics. A recent article published at The Cripplegate was entitled Farewell Francis. The author Jordan Standridge warned that Chan "is sharing the stage with false teachers who will spend eternity in Hell (Gal. 1:6-9)." He pleaded for Chan to repent and "come back to your first love!"
Chan has been on a steady decline over the last few years. Preaching with Mike Bickle at the International House of Prayer may have been a head-scratcher, but it wasn't enough to denounce Chan as developing an alliance with the enemy. Maybe Chan didn't know that Bickle claimed to have gone to heaven and had a personal audience with Jesus. Maybe Chan didn't know Bickle teaches that we bring about Christ's return through prayer (according to what Jesus personally told him). Maybe Chan didn't know that Bickle has claimed there will be new apostles preaching things you will not be able to find in the Bible, and they will be superior to the biblical apostles. But Chan continued his association with IHOP, never arriving at a knowledge of the truth about this false church.
Everything came to a head last month when Chan preached at a conference in Orlando known as The Send (formerly known as The Call), featuring some of the worst teachers out there—Benny Hinn, Heidi Baker, Todd White, Rodney Howard Browne, and Bill Johnson to name a few. Following The Send, pictures started emerging of Chan being buddies with these charlatans. He embraced them as brothers and praised them for being bold men and women of God. This has prompted many, including myself, to warn people to stay away from Francis Chan. He is no longer trustworthy.
Questions have been raised for a few years regarding Chan's associations, but Chan has remained silent (except for claiming that he loved Mike Bickle). Finally he responded this weekend in a blog entitled A Response to Some Concerns by Francis Chan. I won't post the entire thing word for word—you can read it for yourself by clicking the link. I will highlight some critical points, and then my response will follow.
From what I hear from friends and critics (I stay away from social media, etc), there have been a lot of conclusions drawn from my decision to speak at The Send conference as well as other venues. Some people have questioned my willingness to take pictures with anyone who asks for a picture with me. So I thought it might be helpful to explain some of my theological beliefs which have come under scrutiny as of late, as well as some of my practices/decisions. I realize there are many questions, but let me at least clarify a few things.Chan goes on in his repudiation of the prosperity gospel. I am not in disagreement with him here. Prosperity theology is a lie from the pit of hell. It's precisely because of Chan's views regarding health-and-wealth teaching that he has become a hypocrite in his ministry partnerships. He preaches with the worst of the worst among prosperity charlatans. Teachers like Hinn, Johnson, White, and Heidi Baker preach exactly the false gospel Chan condemns!
What do you believe regarding the "Prosperity Gospel"?
My understanding of that term is that it refers to teachings which imply that if you follow Jesus, He will make you healthy and wealthy. It is often used to attract people to make a decision to follow Jesus so that they can spend the rest of their lives in health and prosperity. I believe this is a dangerous teaching for several reasons. First and foremost (in my opinion) is that it contradicts the teachings and example of Christ and the apostles. Jesus taught His disciples "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). It was not a call to come and prosper but rather the opposite—a call to come and suffer.
In a video of a Bethel Church service from March 25 of last year, their pastor Bill Johnson is seen leading his church in an absurd prayer which he called "a decree and confession." Before praying aloud together, Johnson said, "I want your faith to be recognizable in your volume. No small task." He then led the congregation to recite the following, the audience practically yelling it as they proclaimed:
As we receive today's offering, we are believing the Lord for jobs and better jobs, raises and bonuses, benefits and sales and commissions, favorable settlements, estates and inheritances, interests and income, rebates and returns, checks in the mail, gifts and surprises, finding money, debts paid off, expenses decrease, blessing and increase. Thank you, Lord, for meeting all of my financial needs that I may have more than enough to give into the kingdom of God and promote the gospel of Jesus Christ. Hallelujah!Bethel Church teaches you have the power to speak things into existence, especially your health and your wealth. By praying such a prayer, they are taught that they will have all of their professions.
Do not be fooled by Bethel's intention to "promote the gospel of Jesus Christ." Bill Johnson preaches a false gospel. He thinks the gospel is miraculous healing and has taught heretical things about God. Astonishingly, Chan has said, "Prosperity preachers often promise greater wealth if their listeners will give more to their ministries. This is never promised in Scriptures. We can never hold God to something that He has not promised." Yet that's exactly what Johnson was doing in that prayer!
What would it take for Chan to recognize Bill Johnson and others who spoke at The Send actively advance the thing Chan condemns? Yet Chan has preached that if you criticize these teachers, you are taking a sledgehammer to the house of God, and you will have to answer for that before God. He referenced 1 Corinthians 3:17 which says, "If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple." My friends, Bill Johnson's "gospel" is anything but holy. Calling out Johnson's heresy is not taking a sledgehammer to the house of God—Bill Johnson is taking a sledgehammer to the house of God. Chan is defending these guys and making people fear calling them out. That's deceptive, whether or not the intention of his heart is to deceive.
Chan's blog continues:
Why do you sometimes accept speaking engagements in places that tolerate theology that is different from yours?From what it sounds like, Chan is going to be developing a team to help him decide whom he should preach with and whom he shouldn't. I appreciate that, and it will be interesting to see where this goes. Will there be change? Will Chan realize he's been teaching with liars and apologize? Or will Chan use this group he's assembling to validate his alignment with false teachers? Time will tell.
I speak at events almost every week of the year. Often times, it’s more than one event a week. I don’t really enjoy it—I hate the travel, but try not to complain about it. Despite the toll it can take on myself and the family, it is always an honor to preach the Word. I believe it is my calling. Some question my choice to speak so often, but my best discernment and the discernment of the elders of our church is that it is still a part of my calling in this season.
I am asked to speak at approximately 500 events a year. I decline approximately 90% of the requests. It’s a difficult thing to do. Often times, I decline because other speakers will be at the event who believe almost exactly what I believe. My reasoning is that it may be a waste of Kingdom resources for all of us to be there, speaking largely to people who already agree with us. It seems more effective to speak where there is less Bible teaching. It has not been my practice to ask who will share the platform with me and to research the other speakers. While some may be dear friends, there are many that I know little about. This current experience has caused me to consider exercising more caution and to develop a team to help me research. That being said, I speak in many places where I am not in alignment theologically. I actually believe that is where I can be most effective, as long as they give me freedom to address anything I believe the Lord wants me to address.
I recognize, now more than ever, that sometimes my participation can give the impression that I align with every other speaker at the event. I’m not sure what to do about that other than to tell you that I don’t. Unless the elders of my church direct me differently, I will continue to be found preaching in venues with those I disagree. I will preach in just about any kind of setting if I’m given freedom to preach from any passage of scripture. The elders and I are trying to come up with more safeguards for future events to hopefully prevent misunderstandings. Pray for us.
That aside, how is Chan's reasoning regarding where he preaches biblical? He gave numerous biblical references in his condemnation of the prosperity gospel—he gave no biblical references with regard to which speaking invitations he accepts. He says, "Often times, I decline because other speakers will be at the event who believe almost exactly what I believe." Does Chan think there is little to no value in preachers gathering together in doctrinal unity? Psalm 133:1 says, "Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!" Isn't it a better witness for laypeople to see teachers in one accord and not in discord?
Now, even at events like the Shepherds Conference or the Ligonier Conference, both held in just the last couple weeks, not every teacher is doctrinally aligned at every point. Some preachers are Baptists and some are Presbyterians—there's doctrinal disagreement right there. But those preachers rejoice in that while they may disagree on secondary issues, they are exactly the same on their love for the true gospel. They love the word of God and pursue Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.
When Francis Chan preached at The Send, he aligned with heretics who do not speak truth. There may have been no true gospel presented except what Chan preached. But Chan was not there in a Matthew 23 moment calling out sons of hell that produce more sons of hell. He called Todd White "a bold, bold man of God." Todd White is a con-artist and self-professed faith healer who said his father in the faith was Kenneth Copeland. Chan did nothing to call out these charlatans before a gullible audience. Rather, Chan's alignment with them makes them appear more credible to the less discerning.
Manipulation is the M.O. of almost every teacher at The Send. Bill Johnson's Bethel Church is known for pouring gold dust in the ventilation system and calling it a glory cloud from God. As with IHOP, teachers from Bethel claim to have face-to-face conversations with Jesus Christ as well as God the Father, whom the Bible says no one can see and live (Exodus 33:20, John 1:18, 1 John 4:12). Lo and behold, Chan has preached against such claims of seeing God in His glory: it would be more credible to say you went walking on the sun! Yet Chan wants to be in unity with guys like Bickle and Johnson who have boasted that they have seen God and lived?
Romans 16:17-18 says, "I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive."
The Apostle John warned, "Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works" (2 John 1:9-11).
There's simply no excuse for Chan's ignorance. If Chan is so busy that he cannot do even a little bit of research, then he needs to say no to some of his speaking engagements and free up time to "test everything" (1 Thessalonians 5:21). This is his responsibility. It's on him, especially as a teacher. For the Spirit of God says, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).
Does Chan need a team of people to tell him Benny Hinn is a charlatan? If Chan simply watched the documentary American Gospel, he would receive so much insight into the false gospel these "friends" of his have preached and the damage they are causing. Chan knows the documentary exists. He was interviewed for it because of his outspokenness against the prosperity gospel. However, he was dropped from the final cut because the director of the film recognized the inconsistency in Chan's witness.
In his blog response, Chan continues:
Why did it take so long for you to write a response?First of all, I can appreciate not wasting your time defending yourself against critics. I don't. Dozens of videos have been made denouncing what I've preached. I've never responded to a single one of them. A pair of former members of my congregation once wrote a 9,000-word diatribe against me and posted it on Facebook. They lied about me in just about every way they could. But I did not type a single word in response—to them or anyone else (until just now, I suppose).
Early in my ministry, I had a professor warn, "Don't spend your time defending yourself. Let God defend you and those closest to you defend you. You can spend your whole life dispelling rumors." I have followed that advice for the past 30 years. I hope this response doesn’t sound like a person who is trying to save his reputation just for the sake of saving his reputation. My hope was to bring clarity to those who might trust my life and preaching and assume that my being in a picture or on a stage with someone means that I align with them. In regards to pictures, I live a very strange life. Most people take pictures with their friends and family. I end up taking thousands of pictures with complete strangers who ask to take pictures with me. I have struggled over the years with whether it is wrong to sign books or take pictures with people. I would be perfectly happy to never take another picture or sign another book. It just feels rude and discouraging to say no. My intention was never to show allegiance with those who request selfies.
But this is not a trifle criticism over some idle comment Chan made. This is Chan aligning with heretics on a digression that keeps getting worse and worse. I have made several public appeals for anyone close to Chan to reach out to him and alert this brother to what he's doing. He just doesn't get it, and he still doesn't get it.
The criticism regarding Chan's associations has never been about selfies—not even in the last few weeks since images and comments have emerged following The Send. He's not merely taking selfies. He's heaping adulation and praise onto ministers of Satan. He's standing shoulder to shoulder with them and calling them friends and brothers and men of God. Through pictures we're seeing with our eyes what we've been hearing with our ears. It's alarming! I'm not trying to spread rumors and gossip. I want Chan to repent!
This is serious—deadly serious. James 4:4 says, "You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." Chan recognizes that the prosperity gospel is worldly, yet he calls those who teach it his friends. I pray the Lord will open his eyes to whom he is playing with.
Another reason I took so long to write this response is because I read Paul’s defense of his ministry. He was able to do it out of love for people and the furtherance of the gospel. I needed a little extra time to make sure I wasn’t responding out of anger, pride, hurt, or cynicism- things that I have been guilty of. I think my heart is in a good place now, and I am writing because I believe I have a calling to proclaim the gospel and preach unpopular truths in a crooked generation. Though some are trying to deter people from my ministry altogether, I believe God has given me a calling to teach His Word. I plan on teaching faithfully until I die. I hope you take this in the spirit in which it was written.Truly, it is weird to read Chan call for unity when he said in the same blog that he tries to preach in places where he is not in unity with other preachers. Maybe Chan needs to offer a definition of what he thinks biblical unity is supposed to look like. The guy abandoned his church instead of shepherding them as a pastor should, so I have my doubts about his understanding of unity or even his role as a pastor. Titus 1:9 says that a pastor "must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also rebuke those who contradict it."
One final thought—We should all be careful to guard against false teaching of any kind. In the process of refuting false teachers, however, we can unintentionally falsely accuse good teachers. That might be equally harmful to His Kingdom. God desires unity in His body, so it is no small crime to bring division into the church.
"As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him." Titus 3:10
"Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple." 1 Corinthians 3:16-17
Jesus deeply longed for unity amongst His children. This should not come at the expense of truth. There are times when the truth will divide. Let’s all humbly beg for wisdom from the Holy Spirit to know how to love our brothers without compromising truth. As we diligently confront false teaching, let’s show equal fervency in defending those who are truly our brothers and equal zeal in confronting those who unnecessarily divide the body.
Chan didn't rebuke anyone in his blog except those who have been rebuking. Exactly who are the "good teachers" Chan thinks we are accusing of being false? He refuses to name names. He's still putting himself between the wolves and those trying to warn the flock. He's being deceptive even if his intention is to tell the truth. Until he can be more discerning, we have to dismiss Chan as lacking credibility. He will lead others into believing the false prosperity gospel even while he condemns it. People will be confused about what the prosperity gospel is and isn't when they see him aligning himself with those who preach it.
We cannot force unity. It cannot be manufactured by human will. We must be obedient to the truth, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom (Colossians 3:16), according to the full counsel of God. God will provide the growth. Chan made a reference to 1 Corinthians 3:17. Here's what that passage says in verses 18-23:
"Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, 'He catches the wise in their craftiness,' and again, 'The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.' So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's."
Upcoming Blog: Like Chan, Beth Moore also partners with preachers of the prosperity gospel, a teaching she has also condemned.
CORRECTION: In the first edit of this blog, I had incorrectly stated that Francis Chan had spoken at Bethel Church in Redding, CA. Chan spoke at Bethel in San Francisco, which is a different church. In that message (also linked above), he made a reference to Pastor John upstairs. I thought I heard him say "Pastor Johnson." A few paragraphs were rephrased to cite the information correctly.