Some friends recently showed me the most recent Francis Chan “controversy.” Here it is: Francis has preached at the same event as some prosperity teachers. He said something nice about Todd White. You can even find him in a photograph with Benny Hinn.

Can you imagine?

This has led some to dismiss Francis using the phrase, “Farewell, Francis Chan” (with a hat tip to John Piper excommunicating Rob Bell). Why? Because a person can’t share a stage without selling his soul. Because a lifetime of selfless ministry can be invalidated by one selfie. Because if you say something nice about someone you disagree with, then your heart has belonged to Satan the entire time.

The Farewell Francis Chan thing embodies the heart of jackass theology as well as anything I’ve seen. If you’re new to our blog, I should clarify that I’m a major jackass. We all are. But we’re here to confess our jackassery and hopefully bring our Christian communities to their senses.

Because, man, if Francis Chan is a heretic because he said something nice about someone he disagrees with, that’s the kind of heretic I want to be.[1] Seriously, if your theology leads you to warn people against Francis Chan because he chose human dignity over theological condemnation, then your theology is making you less like Jesus. And that’s a major problem.

Honestly, I don’t know anything about Todd White. Apparently somehow connected to the prosperity gospel? I know more about Benny Hinn. It’s all stuff I’ve learned second, third, or fourth hand, but I’m confident we’ve got some real differences. I’d probably sign on for very little of his theology. Would I be caught dead in a photo with him? Sure. Would I ever say something nice about his love for Jesus or his ministry? Honestly, if I knew anything about either I might.

“If your theology leads you to warn people against Francis Chan because he chose human dignity over theological condemnation, then your theology is making you less like Jesus. And that’s a major problem.”

Because a person’s value isn’t determined by the accuracy of their theology. Because it was “while we were still sinners” that “Christ died for us.” If you’re saying farewell to Francis because he’s loving someone that’s broken and sinful, then you’re the one walking away from Jesus.

I don’t know if the Farewell Francisers know this, but Francis Chan went on TBN one time to preach. (If you don’t know about TBN, don’t worry about it.) He gave a typical Francis message. It didn’t undermine his ministry or make God love him less. Actually, John MacArthur went on TBN at least once to preach. If you can believe it, he didn’t do it because he’s secretly trying to win people over to TBN’s theology. He said that he would take any opportunity to preach the gospel.

You’re allowed to disagree with the choices other people make. But if the choices you think you would make are the definitive standard for you, you’ve got self-idolization issues.

One of the articles I read criticized Francis for leaving the church he planted (after a measly 15 years pastoring it, if you can imagine). They said he blamed all the problems on the people in the church, etc. This is perhaps even lazier than the selfie accusations. Francis has spoken and written quite a bit about leaving Cornerstone, and he takes the blame for the things that displeased him about pastoring in a traditional church model even as he goes to great lengths to talk about how amazing Cornerstone was/is. It’s a refusal to believe his sincerity when he says things like this—an insistence that there must be some villainy beneath the surface—that keeps a narrative like this going. And again, it’s a jackass move.

Years ago, I watched as the community surrounding Francis’ seminary tore him apart for not emphasizing the resurrection in a gospel presentation. We seem hard wired to want to find a reason to oppose certain people.

“We could all stand to stop pointing out the heresy in our neighbor’s eye and instead focus on the lack of love in our own.”

It’s incredible how much pastors get criticized. Don’t get me wrong, we deserve it. We are jackasses, after all. But saying farewell to Francis or me or anyone else will not bring you closer to Jesus. Only love can do that. It’s okay to dislike Francis, it’s okay if he “just doesn’t do it for you anymore.” I don’t know what your job is, but it’s not deciding who’s in and who’s out. Jesus’ final prayer was for increased unity and love (John 17). Too often we go about the business of creating increased division and separation. I know Francis Chan is not perfect. He knows it too. How about we do our best to love him well as he tries to serve the Lord rather than accusing and excommunicating? We could all use more encouragement, prayer, and love. We could all stand to stop pointing out the heresy in our neighbor’s eye and instead focus on the lack of love in our own.

Update: The day after I wrote this, Francis’ released his own response to the accusations. If you’re still suspicious of him, at least do him the courtesy of hearing his motivation for doing the kinds of love-fueled things that people are spewing venom over.


[1] I borrowed this logic from my friend Chris Kottre.

Mark has been serving in pastoral roles for over 15 years. After a decade in various teaching and administrative roles at Eternity Bible College, Mark now works with Ryan as an associate pastor in Sacramento, California. His books include Resonate: Enjoying God’s Gift of Music and the New York Times bestseller Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples, which he co-authored with Francis Chan. This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. There are costs associated with running the blog. These links help to cover overhead.

21 COMMENTS

  1. Todd White is a wild, free, Jesus-loving evangelist who prays for people and many of them actually get healed. The closest he gets to “prosperity” gospel is preaching that God is actually good and loves us. Really. That he doesn’t “give you cancer so you’ll get closer to him” … instead, that cancer comes from the evil one and God’s heart is to heal.

    Of course, if standing close to somebody who prays for healing and Holy Spirit’s response is to HEAL makes Francis Chan unwelcome, then perhaps that particular club isn’t worth joining.

  2. Thank you for your words. I watched Francis on YouTube.com at that event. The collection of preachers of the Gospel was exciting beyond expression. I’ve been reading the Bible since about the middle 70’s . To watched with my own eyes the Body of Christ come together, sharing the Gospel the way their hearts took them was watching the Word come alive – “they shall know us by our love.” That is exactly the Francis I’ve known for years, even before Cornerstone was birthed. I use to sit at his Wednesday night Bible class when we were first known as 1st Baptist now Simi Community Church. With that said, my salvation day came before that – when I was watching TBN and heard the scripture Hebrews 2:14 -15 “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” So you see I got saved through TBN and have watched it all these years, watching all the different messengers of the Gospel. I learned to listen to the message (not the messenger) – sieving the message through the Bible. Great training. I am sorry I do not remember the name of the man who sent out the initiations to the many different messengers of the Gospel to come! Father God, thank You for raising up the Body of Christ for such a time as this!

  3. I’m trying to figure out how to square these two quotes from this article:

    “The Farewell Francis Chan thing embodies the heart of jackass theology as well as anything I’ve seen.”

    and

    “Honestly, I don’t know anything about Todd White. Apparently somehow connected to the prosperity gospel? I know more about Benny Hinn. It’s all stuff I’ve learned second, third, or fourth hand, but I’m confident we’ve got some real differences.”

    Perhaps you should actual research White and Hinn a bit more before making slanderous remarks towards godly men who are striving to uphold biblical doctrine that when discarded literally sends people to hell. The men (with a public platform) I’m aware of who have raised concerns about Chan have done so graciously towards Chan, and with a desire for biblical truth to be held high so that Christ may be glorified and the truth will be upheld. I challenge you to learn more before you slander brothers in Christ.

    • Hi AP,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, and for giving me a chance to clarify.

      I’m a huge jackass, and I have self-righteousness in my bones. There’s no part of me that enjoys the thought that I might be wrong or hypocritical, but human nature being what is, and knowing my own heart, it’s a given that this will happen often.

      I’ll just explain my motivation as best as I can evaluate it. I know Francis’ ministry well, and the accusations made in the handful of articles I read were patently false. They weren’t weighing arguments or helping anyone understand anything. What I read was a bunch of “It sure looks like _______” or “people will get the idea that ______.” That’s not argumentation and it’s not helpful. The articles I read slandered Francis because they didn’t like the places he was preaching the gospel or the people with whom he was preaching the gospel. That’s my problem. That’s not a shepherd graciously defending the flock (though I have no doubt that’s how they view the role). I don’t know their hearts or their ministries, which is why I tried not to warn anyone about them, attack them, or question their salvation or the salvation of those who still benefit from their teaching.

      I do not see my role as a pastor or as a blogger to be a watchdog patrolling a boundary. That’s why I don’t have any interest in studying up on White or Hinn. I mentioned them as I did so I could be honest about my lack of knowledge there. I don’t feel a need to warn people about them. But with this site we are trying to dismantle the jackassery we wield as a weapon against one another. I believe that in slandering Francis without any evidence, based solely on their uncharitable assumptions, some of these people are unintentionally doing the work of jackassery. And I don’t believe that’s the Lord’s work. If I get a chance to interact with any of these folks, I’d love to learn some positive things about what they’re doing. I’m sure there are many area where we could encourage each other or even partner together.

      All I’m trying to say is that in this instance, these are human beings—fallen just like me—who are exhibiting what Paul calls the works of the flesh: “enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions” (Gal. 5:20). I want to call us all away from that, myself included. If I’m misreading that and these watchdogs are not stirring up enmity, strife, dissensions, and division, I’d love to learn why.

      • Except Paul in those instances was calling the Judaizers of his day out on the table for teaching false doctrines of saving faith through added works of the law to their gospel.

        So these men you are calling out are NOT going about in envy over Francis ministry considering they have their own. Many of which are just as prosperous—not pun intended.

        You soft pedal the claims as being a selfie. Or saying nice things.

        No what they are saying was a man like Todd White who uses cheap parlor tricks to fool people into believing he is a faith healer, thereby giving his ministry authority—Chan, saying this man is a Bold man of God. Gives all who might like Chan or worse yet, all who may be deceived by White, understanding that a strong biblical teacher like him gives credit to Whites ministry of deceit.

        MacArthur has been criticized even recently on his participation in the NRB conference (which was not partnering for gospel messages. It was a radio broadcasting networking event) and for things like this, but he hasn’t made a pattern of leaving his flock (remember God gave these people to Chan to pastor, I wonder how his congregation felt about their teacher leaving). MacArthur has never done this or continued to engage with on a continual basis in a spiritual endeavor for promoting false teachers.

        I think if you want to know the why your misreading these things. You can find the answer in Ezekiel 33:1-6 explains why the watchmen warn the people.

        It’s the people that require warning from the coming sword.

        So as the Lord himself says in those verse so that the people may see the sword coming and be saved.

        But the watchman who does not blow the trumpet and warn the people, his blood will be required….

        It is the people…who are to be warned. That is the requirement of the watchmen.

        Jesus also held a view like in Ezekiel. What did he say regarding leading one of his little ones astray? Better to have a millstone hung about your neck and drown I the depths of the sea then what will be done to one who leads one of his astray.

        It’s not a matter of how close to the edge can we get without sinning. It’s how far away can I stay, not in some pursuit of perfection as a legalist. But in love for obedience to my master.

        I hope and pray you can hear my heart and what others see from these men who are not only warning Chan but are in prayer for him in love.

        Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to comment on this. Truly

        • Hi Geoff,

          Thanks for taking the time to comment. Did you get a chance to read Francis’ response? His explanation of his heart is more important than mine. I’d love to hear if that clears anything up for you or not. I’m inclined to believe his explanation of his heart over the accusations of those who know little about him. But it’s also possible I’m missing something you’re trying to convey that’s not addressed in Francis’ statement, so let me know if that’s the case and I’ll try to respond. Thanks.

          • Mark,

            I appreciate your response but honestly you make my point for me. You say you don’t know much about White or Hinn, but then say people are wrong to raise concern about Francis (and I’ll grant you and agree with you that TRUE slander – untruth being spoken of someone – is unbiblical and uncalled for). White is a charlatan of the highest degree. Hinn is as well. They are not brothers in Christ. I did read Francis’s response to some of the concerns and while it’s helpful, he says in his own words that he never bothers checking who’s speaking at these events (which isn’t necessarily a problem) and that he knows little about some of these guys. That’s a problem when you’re treating them as brothers in Christ. Hinn’s own nephew, Costi, who worked for Benny for years was saved out of Hinn’s ministry and now (graciously) opposes him. It’s one thing to take any chance to preach the true gospel amongst charlatans, it’s another thing to call those charlatans brothers in Christ and affirm them as such.

            Calling a brother in Christ to caution them in something like this isn’t “theological jackassery” it’s wisdom, love and genuine concern. I’d challenge you to rethink how you go about thinking with these situations. A couple poorly worded articles don’t invalidate the biblical concerns or conversely validate heretics and charlatans.

          • Thanks for the careful response, AP. It seems we’re narrowing down on the actual issue here. Obviously you’re free to disagree with Francis’ call to preach certain places. And of course you can lovingly and graciously call him to reconsider. I don’t think disagreeing with someone makes us jackasses. I guess I’m just trying to say that I’m a jackass when I accuse someone of false motives (I can’t know that) or when I pronounce someone “outside of my fold” or something like that. I’ve done it so many times and I’ve seen how badly it hurts. Somewhere on here I posted a story about how I did that to Ryan (my co-author on this blog) years ago because he wasn’t as Calvinistic as I was. It was so unnecessary and it really hurt him and the kingdom for seriously no reason. So I fully support you (not that you need me to) in calling Francis or anyone graciously into discussion or a wisely and lovingly expressed concern. And we may be talking about completely different articles. But some things I read were making pronouncements about things they didn’t have actual knowledge about and were judging Francis as a false teacher (or dangerously close) or something along those lines because he had a different approach.

            I hope I’m not being presumptuous in saying that I feel like as you and I have commented with each other, AP, we’ve gained some mutual understanding and feel better about one another. That’s what I want to see more of. If we lived in the same town, we could even share a meal and go even deeper. I just see a lot of shots being fired around the internet and want to help as many as I can lay down their arms and choose the love of Jesus instead. He was so disarming and relational. I believe he called people in rather than calling people out. (With the possible exception of the Pharisees (read: jackasses), but even then, he ate meals with them). That’s who I’m wanting to be.

        • I grew up with sound doctrine, and studied systematic theology and read the biographies of my grandfather as he served faithfully in Asia and the biography of my great grandfather who brought the gospel to the Middle East. I don’t idolize Francis Chan or Todd White but I can say this, they have both spurred me on to love and good works in Christ Jesus. Through their passionate plea’s with the church to stop looking in and instead look to Jesus I have been moved to listen all the more for his still small voice, and to measure everything that everyone says against The Word of scripture no matter how I feel. Feelings matter very little, truth is everything. We need to be very careful using words like “cheap parlor tricks” when explaining things done by believers. I would not want to face the Holy Spirit to have him ask why I said something like that about what he was doing. I believe He is grieved with so much of what we’re saying about each other. This is a plea to seek Jesus and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering.

          • J. Reitz – just because someone uses words like “cheap parlor tricks” doesn’t mean they haven’t been careful to be sure that phrase isn’t a true and applicable phrase. Todd White and Benny Hinn are at the leading edge of cheap parlor tricks and emotionalism and manipulating people who are often desperate for physical healing and improvement of hard life circumstances. Here’s a video from Mike Winger, who’s very gracious and objective, that talks through the parlor tricks guys like White use (White is featured several times in it). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=je20XTohCNo

            Furthermore to say that the Holy Spirit is grieved by what we’re saying about each other as we dismiss the sin that is being done in HIS NAME by guys like White is to completely miss the forest for the trees. Does God desire unity and love in the body of Christ? Yes, absolutely! But he also calls (true, converted) pastors and mature believers to call sin, sin and to defend the sheep (believers) against wolves. So it’s entirely unfair to say that someone defending the sheep against the wolves is lacking love or being unfair to someone.

  4. “Honestly, I don’t know anything about Todd White.”

    And yet that didn’t stop you from making a fool of yourself. Maybe next time get informed before condemning others.

    • Hi Darius,

      Thanks for taking the time to point out a potential contradiction. I’m not entirely sure I’m seeing your point—would you be willing to clarify? I pointed out I don’t know about Todd White in part to explain why I WASN’T condemning him. Or maybe you’re saying I’m condemning the people who have been condemning Francis Chan? That seems more likely now that I’m typing it. If my tone against them was harsh, I apologize. My intention was to defend a godly man from baseless accusations. I am often a jackass, and not at all better than being contradictory. But I do think it would be helpful to hear from you why you’re upset at me condemning them but not at the original writers condemning Francis.

  5. Mark, thank you for posting. God convicted me as I read your article of a degree of lovelessness and tribalism I’ve been tolerating, and I’m very grateful for that rebuke. I appreciate the space for honest dialogue—I pray that Internet anonymity and split-second posting don’t prompt any of us respond with vitriol (very much including me).

    I would love to press in on three areas and hear your thoughts. I want to be clear, so apologies for any bluntness.

    1. Clearly your goal is that we avoid “creating increased division and separation” and “find[ing] a reason to oppose certain people.” Amen! So much of the reaction to Pastor Chan (now and in the past) has been quick to assume, quick to speak, and—quite frankly—mean. We should reject those attitudes! At the same time, we shouldn’t fear to express a thoughtful judgment after hearing someone carefully, weighing their words with the Bible, clinging to the good, and rejecting the bad. That process exonerates Pastor Chan, obviously. But not so the message of prosperity gospel preachers. Having directly read/listened to Bell, Osteen, Hinn, Jakes, and other prosperity preachers, I’m pretty uncomfortable with the title and atmosphere of this post. Their messages teach some pretty major falsehoods and can wreck a woman/man’s spiritual life, including some of my close friends. (Never read Hatmaker or White so I can’t comment there). Putting these four folks on the same level really seems to miss the point that some of them actually contradict first-level gospel matters, while some disagree on third-level matters (like spiritual gifts). It seems problematic for a writer. Why express ambiguity toward a person’s theology if you’re not sure whether the major aspects of that person’s theology would endanger the flock?

    2.”A person’s value is not determined by the accuracy of his theology.” YES! I’m sure I’m wrong on any number of levels, and I love that our value stems from God, not us. But I’m not sure this issue is a human dignity issue. One could refuse to speak at a conference to avoid tacitly endorsing another speaker who denies the Trinity (for example), because you don’t want anybody to be swayed toward false teaching. That’s not an issue of dignity. It’s an issue of trying to faithfully preach Christ for people’s worship and salvation. I guess my point is that Pastor Chan could have chosen not to go and that would have been *totally fine.* It’s really not that “he chose human dignity over theological condemnation.” “[T]heological condemnation” of a message and “human dignity” of a person can coexist. As a general truth, you can love someone like hell and “oppose them to their face.” Paul with Peter, Galatians 2.

    3. When you wrote, “with a hat tip to John Piper excommunicating Rob Bell,” you used the technical term “excommunicate” to describe that pastor’s twitter post “Farewell Rob Bell.” Christians can 100% disagree on the propriety of publishing such a tweet. (I do!) But using the term “excommunicate” this way is both invalid & misleading. Invalid = pastor/elder/teachers have no authority to excommunicate outside their own flock. I checked, and Pastor Piper’s church’s doctrinal statement agrees. Piper definitely did not intend to excommunicate Bell (as in “Farewell, I remove you from membership in the church / assume you’re unsaved.”). Piper definitely did intend to comment on the content of Bell’s new book, which clarified beliefs that were previously ambiguous (“Farewell, you’ve published that you left core beliefs of Christianity—”simple gospel” issues.”). Therefore, to use “excommunicate” this way is misleading, since it casts Pastor Piper’s actions in an incredibly negative emotional light and implies a level of jackassery that I’m pretty sure was absent. A strong response on core gospel matters is not inherently jackassery, right?

    So sorry for writing a book here. Hopefully it is clear, rational, and loving, and if you’ve time I’d love to hear your reply. Shalom, brother.

      • First off, hi! Thanks for taking the time to comment. Sorry for a delayed response.

        Ryan can better explain his comments regarding Rob Bell, Jen Hatmaker, John MacArthur, etc., but his point in that post was just to say: all of them are wrong about some things. None of us has a total view on truth, so we’re all going to get some things wrong. And that’s okay.

        That’s more or less my point regarding Francis. Guaranteed, if any of the rest of us were in Francis’ shoes, we’d do things differently. And vice versa. But that’s why he’s him. We don’t all agree on everything, and we don’t all have the same sense of what’s appropriate or helpful in a given situation. It was just very discouraging for me to read a few posts from people who are questioning Francis and literally doing the “Farewell Excommunication” thing (I’ll explain in a sec) to him. I still stand by calling that act a jackass move. And I have plenty of my own jackassery, so I’m not above it. I didn’t say much about the other guys (White and Hinn) because I know literally nothing about them first hand, it’s all reports from other people, and also because they weren’t my point at all. To me, the whole thing felt like my musician friends in college and beyond who were Christians, but were getting condemnation from other Christians for playing in bars. As if the environment taints them. As if they couldn’t possibly love God or help anyone while they were in the bar. It seems to me like the exact same uncharitable logic that totally misses the heart of God.

        And I think that’s a decent statement regarding where I stand in terms of human dignity vs. theological condemnation. There is, of course, room to disagree and to say so publicly (that’s obviously what I was doing with my post). To me, it’s not IF we disagree it’s HOW we disagree. A friend of mine recently “cautioned” Francis to evaluate his speaking commitments in light of Paul’s instruction in Romans 16:17 not joining those who hold false doctrines. It’s funny because I would have made that same statement not long ago. But if you actually look up and read Romans 16:17, it doesn’t say what he or I had assumed it says. He 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.” He’s warning against divisive people, not doctrinally inaccurate people. I think our inability to see that in Romans 16:17 is exactly the problem.

        And finally, I was definitely being kind of jokey by using the term excommunicate. I don’t believe in papal authority and I know Piper doesn’t either. So please don’t take that woodenly literally. But I will say that I think you’re making TOO LITTLE of Piper’s tweet. He was publicly broadcasting his determination that Bell had finally gone too far and was therefore not part of whatever Christian world Piper considers himself part of. He just was. I don’t hate him for doing it, but it’s the exact same impulse as what these other writers were doing, and that’s why they borrowed his title for the article. It’s exclusionary.

        Anyway, I hope that clarification helps. Feel free to push back or keep the discussion rolling.

  6. Hey, BODY OF CHRIST! Let’s do like my mom said “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

    The world would be extremely quiet if we did this. It would be awesome.
    “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” Eccl 5:2

  7. Mark, perhaps you can tell us why you are so admiring of an individual who spreads false doctrine regarding hell, and whose book on the subject (in response to Rob Bell) was of a very low caliber intellectually. Mr Chan may be a decent citizen or neighbor, but that is no reason to excuse his false teachings.

    • Hi Jen,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. There are definitely things I disagree with Francis Chan about, but I have gained so much from his love for Jesus, his commitment to shaping his life by the Bible and to teaching others to take it seriously, his example of self-sacrifice for the sake of others, his high view of God, etc. I could go on for a long time probably, so maybe it would be helpful if you specified a little bit of what you’re looking for.

      I’m actually a little surprised that you singled out ERASING HELL. The reason I say that is most of the criticism Francis is getting right now is coming from the ultra conservative crowd accusing him of promoting liberal doctrines. If I’m reading you correctly, you’re saying that he’s too conservative regarding his position on eternal conscious torment, I assume? Which is a fine position to hold, I’m just wanting to clarify. It also feels like an ad hominem attack for you to say that the book is intellectually low caliber. A couple of thoughts come to mind. First, he co-wrote that particular book with Preston Sprinkle, who has a PHD in New Testament, so it feels lazy to just say that it was written by a dummy. And second, I assume you’re familiar with different target audiences in publishing. There are scholarly level books aimed at scholars which go into far greater nuance (for what it’s worth, Bell’s book did not fit this category either). Then there are popular level books which are aimed at general audiences and thus try to write to high school or perhaps college level audiences. This was their target audience for that.

      In any case, I don’t think we need to agree on any of this to love each other. We’re trying to call out the finger pointing and vitriol so we can all walk away from division and towards love. If you’d like to talk about Francis’ views on hell, or my own views on the subject, I’d love to discuss it.

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