Is Francis Chan a sell-out?
Let me backtrack to explain where this comes from. I had the chance to attend the last day of the Orange Conference here in Atlanta. The Catalyst people produce this conference geared for leaders of youth and children’s ministries. Lots of NorthPoint people, lots of Southeast evangelical Christianity folk.
I arrived late to the morning session and slipped into the back of Gwinnett Arena, and the first thing I noticed is the sea of whiteness. I’ve been to a good share of conferences: Willow Creek, NPC, even a couple Emergent events, but this gathering of over 3000 people (my estimate) was easily 99% white. When I had a chance to look at the conference guidebook, I saw that the ENTIRE planning staff is white. (For a taste of what I saw, click here for the 2008 highlight video. Chan makes a cameo in there.)
My problem isn’t with white people getting together like this; my problem is how oblivious people were to the monochromatic gathering. And I base their ignorance on the language– both on stage in the general sessions and in breakouts. The presenters do not hesitate to speak for the whole church, failing to acknowledge that they are really speaking for the white church in America. This tendency to generalize their experiences betrays a lack of awareness that their skin color has shaped their faith.
Which brings us back to the opening question. Francis Chan has been making rounds on the Christian conference circuit: Student Life, Catalyst, NPC, among others. The underlying reason being he brings a touch of diversity (he even admits this in an interview). The problem is he’s not yellow! When we long for diversity it is to see GOD’s activity in a different context so that it might challenge our faith. I’m not doubting the truth of Chan’s messages or teaching; just reading the synopsis of his new book sounds very convicting. But none of his theology springs from his life as an Asian-American; I haven’t read the book, but I used Amazon’s search function and couldn’t find one occurrence of “Chinese” or “Asian.”
I don’t really think he’s a sell-out; I believe Chan is living faithfully to what GOD has called him to be. But I do think Chan is being used by white evangelicals to alleviate their unwillingness to engage race and faith. Chan is welcome at these conferences only because his message could come just as easily from a white male.
Sometimes a little diversity is worse than no diversity.
Addendum, June 6: I take back some of the incendiary language in this apology. Does that mean I should delete what has already been written? I really don’t know. Anyway, please read both posts before commenting.