Francis Chan’s Address to Bethel: Emphasizing Unity in the Church

Globally renowned pastor and bestselling author, Francis Chan, took center stage at Bethel Chapel, delivering a thought-provoking speech on unity. Here are some key takeaways from his talk.

By Macey Heath, social media content specialist

November 03, 2023 | 8:30 a.m.

Francis Chan speaking at Chapel

Francis Chan speaking at Chapel

On October 20, influential evangelical leader Francis Chan came to Bethel to deliver a compelling Chapel service. As the first-ever Karlson Scholar at Bethel, his visit held significance in building bridges between influential Christian leaders and the academic community.

The Karlson Scholar program, newly established at Bethel Seminary, is designed to be tailored to the unique strengths of the nominated scholar. Scholars undertake a combination of activities, which can include teaching classes, delivering guest lectures, and speaking at Chapel services. Supported by generous donors, the program aims to advance the gospel in culturally relevant ways and foster partnerships between Christian leaders and Bethel Seminary. This initiative ultimately seeks to develop church leaders who can bring the insights from Karlson Scholars into their leadership roles.

When asked about becoming the Karlson Scholar, Chan initially questioned whether he was the right fit for such a role, given that he doesn’t consider himself a scholar in the traditional sense. However, he was compelled to accept the invitation when he recognized the potential impact he could have on the next generation of students at Bethel. Chan says this season of his life is about coming alongside others and supporting their efforts rather than building his own success. He and his wife hope to empower the next generation by meeting with young leaders, building relationships with them, and helping them find the best ways to navigate ministry and life.

Chan’s recent focus centers on the topic of unity within the church. In 2021, he authored a book titled Until Unity, which emphasized God’s desire, as revealed in Scripture, for unity within the Body of Christ. In a world filled with divisions, both political and cultural, Chan highlights the challenges of maintaining this unity within the church. He notes that many believers have prioritized their alignment with ideological identities over alignment with God and Scripture, an issue that transcends political and cultural affiliations.

His experiences abroad in India, Thailand, and Hong Kong have significantly contributed to his Christian worldview on unity. He realized that American Christianity is just one strand of the broader Christian tapestry, and God’s work extends far beyond national borders. Chan believes in the importance of humility within the American Church and encourages American Christians to learn from believers in other cultural contexts. He believes that American Christians should acknowledge their place within the global community of individuals of faith.

During his presentation, Chan emphasized three key points about coming together as the body of Christ.

1. Imparting spiritual gifts

Chan began by discussing the importance of imparting spiritual gifts within the church. He referred to Romans 1:11, where the apostle Paul expressed his desire to visit the believers in Rome so that he could impart some spiritual gift to strengthen them. Chan pointed out the profound nature of this verse, noting that despite the depth and clarity of the Book of Romans, Paul eagerly anticipated meeting the believers in person to share something spiritual beyond mere information. He emphasized that there is something mystical and born of the spirit that happens when the body of Christ comes together. “There is something else that happens that we can't see, that is imparted when the body of Christ comes together and different parts of the body come together, and there's love,” Chan said. He encouraged believers to seek spiritual encounters and impartation, recognizing that the Christian journey is more than acquiring knowledge.

2: Sustaining ongoing revival and spiritual growth

He went on to share a personal experience from his high school years that led to his deep love for Jesus. At the age of 15 or 16, Chan had a profound encounter with Christ, igniting a passion for seeking the presence of God and reading the Bible. Over 40 years later, this fire still burns within him, leading him to emphasize that true spiritual growth and ongoing revival are possible. “I'm a father of seven with four grandchildren, and yet at the core of who I am is still what happened to me at 15,” Chan said. “That's what the spirit does to you. We're all about these movements and revivals, and I go no—the revivals of God, they're not meant to end.” Chan challenged his audience not to let their love for Jesus grow cold, despite an increasing moral decline in the world. 

3: Upholding unity

Chan delved into the concept of unity within the church, citing an example of unity between Jewish Messianic believers and Palestinian Arabic believers in Jerusalem. Despite a centuries-old conflict in the region, these believers have chosen to embrace each other in the name of Christ. He also highlighted the danger of division within the church, stating that it's become a common practice to leave a church or split from the body over disagreements. Chan urges the younger generation to uphold unity and take God's Word seriously, even when it's not the easiest path to follow. “I'm praying for a generation to rise up with the attitude of looking at those that they have conflicts with and saying, ‘Look I need you. We’re a body, you need me, we need each other.’”

"God, could you have that Spirit fall upon us so that we would get over these smaller issues and we'd see ourselves as a body?"

— Francis Chan

In his closing prayer, Chan asks for a spiritual awakening in the hearts of the audience, calling on God to instill a love for unity and an understanding of the significance of the church united as the body of Christ. “God, I pray that you do something lasting in the inner being of these young men and women. Lord, whatever you did to me when I was 15 or 16, would you give them double of that? God, could you have that Spirit fall upon us so that we would get over these smaller issues and we'd see ourselves as a body? Would you raise up new pastors who aren't all about strategies and running things like CEOs but who understand the essence of the body and love? Holy Spirit, change our hearts in Jesus’ name.”

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