Unleashed or in a cage?

Unleashed or in a cage? The Francis Chan Conversation, Part 15

By Jonathan Allen, Wednesday 6th November 2019 at 9:25 am

Following trips abroad – to the Far East, China, the Philippines – Francis Chan comments on the difference between ‘church’ in the USA and ‘church’ in those countries.  In a chapter titled, Unleashed, he asks where there seems to be such a difference between what church looks like in the two contexts.  Church leaders in China, for example, fell about in hysterical laughter when he described the way church meets and operates in the USA and the way people move and switch churches because of the music, the teaching, childrens’ programs.  He makes the suggestion that perhaps the USA church is rather like a zoo.

When the Bible describes the power available to you, doesn’t it sound like hyperbole?  It seems so extreme, yet we see so little of this in our lives and in the Church.  The discrepancy could challenge your faith in the Scriptures – how can the Bible promise things we never experience in real life?  But are you willing to consider that the Bible is accurate and the Church has domesticated us to the point where we doubt our power?

Compare these two pictures.  Think about the look on their faces.  The tiger is in the wild; the jaguar is in a zoo.  Which one displays power?  Which one simply looks nasty?  Have our congregations become rather like a zoo?  Chan asks, “Perhaps we’re all so comfortable in the zoo that we dismiss ‘the wild’ as a myth.  Are we sure our churches aren’t zoos?

If our call before God is to train, equip and send, then we need to be reminded of Rav Sha’ul’s words about, “the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might that He worked in Yeshua when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:19-21).  How many of our people really live like this?

Church, the answer is not to build bigger and nicer cages.  Nor is it to renovate the cages so they look more like the wild.  It’s time to open the cages, remind the animals of the God-given instincts and capabilities and release them into the wild.

There’s a lot of training and intentional planning needed here.  Chan says it’s “time to train people to live in the wild again” and even suggests that our meetings should be pretty wild, while remaining orderly, of course, as we “stir each other up to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).  If ‘launch’ mode has switched to ‘consolidation’ or, worse, ‘maintenance’ mode then our first love, our first zeal and enthusiasm, has grown cold.

You can read Francis Chan’s text in full in “Letters to the Church”, David C Cooke Publishing, 2018, 0-8307-7658-8, pages 151-158.