By Mark Ellis –
On the eve of Francis Chan’s relocation to Asia with his family to engage in full-time mission work, he made a heartfelt goodbye to a gathering of mission-minded young people in late January, evoking the spirit of Paul’s farewell to the Ephesian elders.
He spoke at the World Mandate West missons conference held in San Diego January 24-25. The event was organized by the Antioch Movement, founded by Pastor Jimmy Siebert. Chan had recently returned from a mission trip to Myanmar with Pastor Siebert and Andy Byrd, a YWAM leader.
“I was praying about what to share about because this could be the last time you see me,” Chan said. “Understand, I don’t know exactly where I’m going to end up and I don’t know exactly what is going to happen to me.”
Chan said he is ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for the gospel. “I just want to say publicly, if anything does happen to me, rejoice, I can’t picture dying of old age. Like Paul says in Acts 20 and 24, I don’t count my life as dear to me.”
“It would be cool to see my grandchildren grow up, but at the end of the day…I think this will end differently than old age. If it does, I hope you look at me the way you look at those who have been martyred and say, ‘I’m jealous, he did it. He stayed strong.’”
If the current outbreak of coronavirus does not delay or impede his plans, he will be moving to Hong Kong with his wife, children and extended family within the next few weeks.
“It is not an easy decision,” Chan admitted “We have a couple kids in high school. We have an eight-year-old and a five year old. We have two that are married. My two son-in-laws started praying and fasting and they said, “God told us to go with you too.”
“So all 12 of us are moving, with no clue about what we’re doing. Let’s get there and pray. I just want to be closer to those that have never been reached.”
The decision to leave California came after an impactful mission trip. “I was in Myanmar with Jimmy last summer and we were going hut to hut in these slums and every hut we went in I would share or Jimmy would share. We were talking through a translator to people who had never even heard who Jesus Christ is.
The people listened intently, hanging on every word. Their hunger for the message struck Chan as he witnessed many receive Christ as Lord and Savior.
When Chan and his wife Lisa flew back to the U.S., he turned to her and said, “What do we do on an average day that even comes close to comparing to this? Everything felt so peaceful in my life, like this is what we’re made for. What do you think about moving?”
“Let’s do it,” she replied.
Too many fishermen around same pond
On November 7th, he announced his plans to move, explaining his decision with a colorful illustration. “I feel like I’ve been fishing in the same pond my whole life and there are a thousand other fisherman at the same pond and our lines are getting tangled and the fish are swimming by all the bait,” he remarked.
“Every once in a while someone will catch a fish and we’ll ask, ‘What kind of bait did you use?’
“We all switch to that. We get in each other’s way.”
“But what if there was a pond that was a five mile hike away and no one’s there. And the fish are biting like crazy. Just throw a hook in there and the fish go crazy. I would make the five-mile-hike because I want to be in that place where they’re biting, they’re hungry. And no one else or very few are fishing. That makes sense to me.”
Chan reflected on the conditions that would cause him to remain at the old pond. “What would keep me there is if I built a house on that pond and all my friends live on that pond. We don’t fish that much but we hang out and play basketball…”
Then he began to critique the American Dream. “I could picture you settling down and having a nice little house and a cute little family and raising them and having grandkids and living comfortable lives.
“Oh no, you don’t want to do that!” he declared. “I promise you, that is not what you were made for. You were made for this mission, to seek this kingdom first!”
January mission trip to Myanmar included miraculous healings
In mid-January, Chan said he had the best week of his ministry life. “We were in this village with zero believers, not a single believer.
“The entire village was there and they never head the gospel. I can’t tell you how much peace there was, how exciting it was. They asked me to be the one to share the gospel with these people for the first time through this translator. My heart was pounding with excitement to tell them the Good News.”
Chan preached with “a big old Buddha” behind him.
At one point, Pastor Siebert asked, “Does anyone want healing?”
Chan acknowledged he spent many years of his Christian life not believing that God’s healing miracles are for today. “I thought that was back then and he doesn’t do that much anymore. But in the last few years that’s changed. Reading the Word of God, I thought I should be seeing much more than this.”
He wanted to see God perform a powerful healing miracle, but it never seemed to happen when he was present – until this trip.
“There was a woman who was deaf and mute, with two of her children, also deaf and mute. I laid out the gospel and they came forward to ask Jesus into their lives and they asked for healing. This 10-year-old girl, her eyes got all big, then tears ran down her face and she could hear for the first time.
“Then she laid her hand on her brother, along with others, and he gets the gift of hearing. They are freaking out. I’m freaking out. The next day, some of our friends went to visit them and words were coming out of their mouths, they were counting for the first time.”
“Jimmy can attest that everyone who came up to us got healed! There is this thrill…there is nothing like it…when you experience God in this way. I want all of you to experience this one day.”
At the conclusion of their outreach, Siebert turned to Chan and said, “Is it more exciting every time we share it?”
“Yes! It gets better, better, better,” Chan exulted.
American Christians focused on the wrong things
“There are just too many believers who are obsessed with staying alive,” Chan told the missions conference. “We are here for such a short time, we’re like a vapor. It’s going to end for all of us.
“When did it become, ‘Who can stay healthy the longest game?’
“Let’s spend our life for Christ!” he avowed. “If you try to save your life here, you’re going to lose it. I don’t regret any step of faith I’ve taken in my life, even the ones that didn’t work out. I’ve had so many disappointments in ministry. But I have no regrets. Thank you God for your grace. I don’t want to be one of those guys who did radical things at 18 when he had nothing to lose and every year from then on gets safer and safer and safer.”
Chan challenged the natural inclination to protect one’s family from risks of the mission field. “No, I protect them by showing them a life where I’m not afraid to lose my life,” he said.
“I love what God is doing among you, to see your passion for churches to be planted among unreached people groups. I don’t know of another church in America that is doing what you guys are doing and I praise God for that.”
To learn more about the Antioch Movement, go here