Much of Chan's ministry has been built on preaching and teaching to college and young adult audiences. He became a favorite at the Passion conferences, gatherings of Christian students hungry for radical commitment. He planted a church in Simi Valley that has grown quickly and spawned a number of church plants. But his teaching and ministry, as best I can see, is marked by his humility and a passion for knowing and loving God.
I first read of him in a Christianity Today profile. His non-traditional teaching style and his church style, not building-centered or mega-church-like, attracted me. So I picked up Crazy Love at the library to see what he's all about. And I wasn't disappointed.
The major premise of Crazy Love states that the way we live our Christian lives ought to be marked not by a sense of obligation or legalism, but by our love for a God who loves us beyond measure. Anything less shows a rejection of his love for us.
His chapter on lukewarm Christians struck me hardest. Many of the items on his checklist of sure signs of a lukewarm Christian fit me uncomfortably well. Then he goes on to point out what is clear in the Revelation 3 passage on lukewarm believers: they are neither hot nor cold, and God is about to spit them out of his mouth--in other words, they are not Christians! Now, he does go on to say that he does "not want true believers to doubt their salvation as they read this book." God's grace covers us in spite of our lukewarm lives and failure to fully follow God. But the message is clear, that half-hearted responses to God's love are not responses at all, but rejection of his courtship of us.
I was reminded at times of John Piper's books. Piper, another Passion conference speaker and pastor in Minnesota, writes frequently of "Christian hedonism," the unyielding passion to know more of God. Similarly, Chan compares romantic love to love of God. If I am truly in love with someone, I want to spend as much time as possible with her, no expense is too great to spend on her, and I long for her when we are not together. If time spent with her becomes a chore, or I am reluctant to spend money on her, or avoid her presence, I would begin to question the depths my love. Our love for God should be marked by joyful times of fellowship with him, extravagant giving to him, and a longing for his presence.
Too often I view devotional time as a duty or mandate, giving as an act of obedience, sometimes wishing to do other things with my money, going to church as a chore, etc. I know those attitudes are not pleasing to God, but I get stuck--how do you stir up passionate love for God when it's just not there? The usual answer is to act: read the Bible, give more than you think you can, spend time in worship, serve in the church and the community, all out of obedience, and the love and passion will come. Act like you love, and your heart follows. I think there's some truth to that, but I don't know that Chan goes that way.
Chan promotes the attitude of the man in the parable who found the pearl of great price in a field, then sold everything he had to buy the field, so that he could claim that pearl as his own. The church tends to neglect that forward thinking, focusing instead on the here and now, the things of this world. (Whether he intends it or not, one of Chan's chapter titles, "Your Best Life. . . Later," pokes fun at a Texas megapastor's book, Your Best Life Now.)
I enjoyed Chan's challenging book, and it made me want to hear more from him. His sermons are available as podcasts from itunes, and he has some videos expanding on the themes of the book here. But more than wanting to hear more from Chan, it stirred up in me a desire to return to my first love, to restore the joy of my salvation. Crazy Love has given me fodder for reflection. It is well worth reading and will be well worth revisiting.