Some stirring and convicting words from a former pastor of mine, in a Christianity Today interview:
Here’s what I had to repent of: I had felt the need to soften a lot of Jesus’ statements, because in my arrogance I think, “Okay Jesus, I’m not going to say that like that. Trust me, people will like you more and be more willing to accept you if I say it like this.” Obviously I’ve never said that to God. But that’s the attitude I’ve taken, and it made me sick. Who in the heck do I think I am? To think that I can make God more palatable or attractive if I try and change the tone in which he says some things. I know people say, “Well it’s just cultural this or that.” That’s garbage. People back then had a much deeper reverence for God than we do. Especially the religious community. Yet it’s to those people whom he speaks so harshly.
What in the world would he say to us today? I don’t think it’d be a softer message. I had to come before God and say, “Lord I feel sick.” And I confessed to Mark [Beuving, who edited the book] and Preston [Sprinkle, the coauthor] as we were working on the book, “I confess to you guys, I confess to the church, I know I have backed away from certain things because of my arrogance. I thought I could attract more people to Jesus by hiding certain things about him.” I had to confess my arrogance.
As much as we like to use the charge of arrogance as a club against those we consider too aggressive about theology we don’t like, or who are confident where we could prefer ambiguity. Francis Chan reminds us what real arrogance is: thinking that we can correct God’s tone or improve upon His teaching. And no branch, section, or offshoot of the church today can claim full immunity from at least the temptation toward such arrogance.
And I do think Francis Chan is being a bit hard on himself. Not because I am a “this guy can do no wrong” fanboy. I am critical of some of his published statements, and over the past decade I have developed in quite a different direction than him on the nature of the church. I obviously have no inside track on his heart or mind, but my memory of his preaching is that he is a bold proclaimer who is unwilling to jettison hard passages to tickle people’s ears. He was a good example to me of submitting to the hard words of scripture, and this disciple has not surpassed his old master on that count.
(And by the way, it really is an odd feeling to see someone who was once so familiar become somewhat prominent. As in, seeing his book at the airport bookstore prominent. Cornerstone was my church during the high school years, and I retained my membership there until I first moved out of the state. I’m not saying that to pump myself up by association, but as someone whose default mindset is the Principle of Mediocre Experience. I.e., “No one I know/no institution I’ve been attached to can be that important or well-known!” It all seems so strange…)
(h/t: Justin Taylor)