Francis Chan Biography

Chan Says ‘Less For Me Means More For Others’

Francis Chan
Image: © David C. Cook

Francis Chan knows something about asceticism most people don't: Less for me means more for others.

Chan, the founding pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California, gave away all the royalties to his first bestselling book, Crazy Love [Buy on Amazon], to the Isaiah 58 Fund, a nonprofit that helps the poor and victims of human trafficking.

When Chan and his wife Lisa started Cornerstone in 1994, his salary was $36,000 a year, and he kept it at that figure until he voluntarily left the church in 2010. Chan's decision to move on confounded two prominent pastors, Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, and Joshua Harris, of Gaithersburg, Maryland.

"How long do you think you'll (Chan) be at the new work before discontentment or frustration sets in, because if I was in the core group I would ask that question," Driscoll told Christianity Today. "Is this a discontentedness in your soul that won't ever be satisfied?"

Driscoll wondered whether Chan is following a "poverty theology," the same error as the prosperity gospel, that "holiness comes from have or have not, not who is.”

Chan, however, felt his newfound celebrity status was distracting from the core mission of Cornerstone. "I was hearing Francis Chan at Cornerstone more than the Holy Spirit," he said. "To me, the core issue here has to be love," Chan told Christianity Today. "I think in times of prosperity, for me, I look at Scripture and go 'Wow, this is awesome. Look at this great selling book, all this money, what do I want to do? I want to give it to the people who need it.' I get excited about that."

Discipleship, Not Personality

Chan's turn toward others started about 1999, when a missionary from Papua New Guinea questioned the inward focus of Cornerstone Church. After a trip to Uganda, Chan and his wife moved their family into a smaller home, and in 2007, Cornerstone's leaders voted to give 50 percent of the church's budget away to other ministries and nonprofits.

Chan's first book, Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God, was first published in 2008 and has sold over 1 million copies to date. His popularity exploded, and Cornerstone grew to one of the largest churches in California.

More books followed: Forgotten God; the BASIC Series; the children's books The Big Red Tractor, Halfway Herbert, and Ronnie Wilson's Gift; Erasing Hell; and Multiply. Along the way, Chan and others founded Eternity Bible College, which continued the "less is more" idea by partnering with area community colleges to fulfill general education courses. The college was formed to make disciples and teach students how to disciple others.

Today, Chan is still writing and involved in church planting projects in San Francisco.

Closer to God in Tragedy

Chan's early years were scarred by tragedy. His mother died giving birth to him in Hong Kong, in 1967. His stepmother was killed in a traffic accident when he was nine, and his father died of cancer when Chan was only 12. He was then raised by a grandmother and other family members.

Despite these adversities, Chan says he never blamed God. In fact, he grew even closer to God in high school and decided to become a pastor. Chan earned a bachelor's degree in youth ministry from The Master's College in Santa Clarita, California, followed by a master's of divinity degree from The Master's Seminary, on the campus of Grace Community Church, in Sun Valley, California.

After receiving his master's in 1992, Chan worked as a youth pastor until he and his wife founded Cornerstone Community Church in 1994. He and Lisa are the parents of four daughters and a son.

Today Chan and his family continue their modest lifestyle, taking the poor and social outcasts into their home.

(This article was compiled and summarized from the following sources: christianitytoday.com, christianchronicle.com, christiantoday.com, eternitybiblecollege.com, and mmpublicrelations.com.)