Because I work with Bible College students, I interact with a lot of people who feel called into ministry. Many have been inspired by the ministry—and particularly the powerful preaching—of Francis Chan and similar Christian leaders.
Few admit it, but I have known a few students who want to be the next Francis Chan. They see what God is doing through this man, they have been personally moved by his preaching, and they want God to use them in the same way. So they set out to become preachers.
For these would-be Chans, preaching is equated with what they saw Francis Chan do. So when they feel God calling them to preach, they understand this to mean that they are going to be preaching to many thousands of enthusiastic and responsive people. When they are inspired by Paul’s command to Timothy to preach the word, they picture themselves in front of a sold out conference crowd. When they learn about pastoral ministry in school, they think about praying with convicted listeners after a rousing sermon.
Thank God for Francis Chan. I stand with millions of Christians in that I am a more godly person because of his ministry. But God only made one Francis Chan. He may well be calling you to be a preacher, but he is not calling you to be a Francis Chan.
I think we have imbibed an unbiblical standard for what success in ministry looks like. Our responsibility is to use the gifts that God has given us to represent him in any and every opportunity he places before us. But the results are up to him. Numbers are not a fool-proof indication of a godly ministry.
Did you know that Jeremiah faithfully fulfilled the ministry that God set before him, yet he didn’t see a single convert? Does this make him a bad minister? By God’s standards, no, but he probably wouldn’t last long as the senior pastor in any of our churches.
Or consider Jonah. He ran away from God, then preached a single sermon (the Bible records this as an eight word sermon) and saw an entire pagan city dramatically convert on the spot. Does that make him a good minister? By God’s standards, no, but he would probably launch a popular model for church growth in the U.S.
Faithfulness has always been our responsibility. Results have always been God’s.
When I run into students that hint at wanting to preach like Francis Chan, I remind them that they if God is calling them to preach, then they need to preach as faithfully and powerfully as they can, but they need to be okay with God setting the size of the congregation.
And this leads to a great question for each of us to ask ourselves on a regular basis. If it so happens to be the will of God, would you be satisfied with faithfully serving God and impacting only a few individuals? If not, you should examine your motives for serving the Lord. If so, you may well find that God brings more people into your sphere of influence.