The pastor and best-selling author on overcoming divisiveness, the power of the Lord’s Prayer and the hope of a brand new year.
Posted in , Nov 25, 2021
Francis Chan has been a pastor for more than 30 years. He is the New York Times best-selling author of Crazy Love, Letters to the Church and Until Unity. He and his wife, Lisa, have been married nearly 30 years and co-authored You and Me Forever. Francis is currently in Northern California, teaching and discipling the next generation of pastors and leaders.—Celeste McCauley, Editor
1. How can churches unify during these divisive times?
We are currently the most divided faith group on earth. We have thousands of denominations and ministries, each believing their theology or methodology is superior. We need to stop thinking that our primary duty toward our fellow believers is to critique them. It’s not. Our primary duty is to love them. I’m confident Jesus’ commands in the Bible to love and be unified and to avoid controversy are meant to be taken literally. Too often we fixate on our disagreements, and we feel as if we can’t worship with such big elephants in the room. But God is infinitely larger than our elephants.
I think silence is a big unifier. When everyone comes in talking, whoever has the loudest voice, the most charismatic personality, gets listened to. But it’s chaotic with everyone screaming. When we all agree that God is worth bowing down to, silence can really help unify. If I have any ill feelings toward another member, I want to examine that. I want to be one with them at the communion table, to dwell in silence before the bread and the cup with them. The communion table is supposed to be the place where we put aside our divisions. We need to remember we all come equally to the site of the cross. We can learn a lot by staring at heaven together.
2. Is there a prayer that helps you focus?
A few months ago, I decided to pray the Lord’s Prayer many times throughout the day, and I have been so blessed by it. Each time I felt as if I meant it more deeply. I encouraged my church to do the same for a week. One of my friends later said he felt as if the prayer was becoming a strainer for his thoughts. Instead of rushing into God’s presence full of thoughts and needs and ideas, my friend was able to center his mind on God. “Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done.” When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we don’t ask for anything. It’s so cleansing. You begin to realize how God-centric the Lord’s Prayer is and how egocentric some of our own prayers can be.
3. What is your hope for the new year?
New Year’s Day is my favorite holiday. I love fresh starts. I think we all do. We look back at mistakes and wish we could have a do-over. Not that I make all these resolutions, but there is always something exciting to think about. Just turning over to a new year and saying, “Lord, may 2022 be different. May this be the year when I draw so close to you. May this be the year I finish all these things that I’ve put off. And all the changes I know need to take place in my life? May this be the year that they happen. May this be the year that I change my rhythm of life and prioritize the right things. May it be the year that I spend more time talking about how wonderful our God is rather than all of these other issues.” That’s what I love about New Year’s Day.
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