Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Just Stop and Think...
is this really the gospel?

A pastor in Southern California named, Francis Chan of Cornerstone Community Church, has recently made a movie tract called, "Just Stop and Think." It is a fifteen minute video designed in a very warm, winsome, down to earth, relatable, one on one style to present the gospel of Jesus Christ. The film was very well made and Pastor Chan is a very passionate and gifted communicator. As I watched this piece a few times, it occurred to me that Pastor Chan forgot something in his presentation of the gospel… the very gospel itself. In light of this, I have been quite surprised at how many positive comments this video has received, when it really doesn’t present the whole "gospel according to Jesus." Understand, it's not a false gospel that he presents vacant of biblical truth; but an incomplete one--rendering it no gospel at all. JS&T more hints at the gospel and uses romantic, sentimental tones rather than boldly proclaim its rich life-giving truth. Whether or not it was intentional, the message is presented in the "language and method" of Arminian invitationalism (God really is crazy about you and is begging you, waiting for you to accept Him as your Savior) than in the "language" of the biblical gospel. This is what I call, "sloppy agape."

A friend of mine posted a stellar endorsement of this video which brought out some comments from myself and others that were not received with the theological affection that I would have hoped. But you need to decide for yourself.

Here is the link to this video. Watch it a few times and let me know what you think about it. Keep in mind the five points I sited below that for whatever reason Pastor Chan left out of this well made short-movie.

One brief comment before I begin: Though this video to me is problematic in some areas, I want to affirm that Pastor Chan’s church website does offer some very helpful material to encourage you in your walk with the Lord. He seems to be very dedicated to the following non-negotiables as part of the biblical foundations for his church to: a high view of God; the authority and veracity of Scripture; and fulfilling the two Great Commandments by living them out daily. With such excellent pillars of truth, one only can wonder why this same care for biblical integrity in the presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in his movie wasn't adhered to as well?

So please understand, that my concerns about of this video is in no way an indictment against this brother’s local church ministry. BUT, it should be of concern when any one of us fails to proclaim the entirety of the gospel (Gal. 2:14).

IMHO, here are my heartfelt concerns with this video:

1. There is no mentioning or explanation of repentance from sin (Luke 24:46-47)

2. There is no mentioning or explanation of what it means to saved by grace through faith in Christ alone - justification by faith (Romans 3:21-26)

3. There is no mentioning or explanation of the Lordship of Christ; our submission to Him as Lord; or our confession of Him as Lord unto salvation (Acts 2:36-40; Romans 10:9-10)

4. There was not one mentioning of any Bible verse specifically in the entire video. A non-Christian who would watch this would have no idea where to look in a Bible to see if what Chan was saying was true. Pastor Chan used the language of "Jesus says..." or "God says..." or the "bible says..." But, he never told them where those things are said; and when he was trying to quote it himself, he usually misquoted it (2 Tim. 4:1-5).

5. But whatever concerns I have mentioned above, the absence of this concern is absolutely profound. There is no mentioning or explanation of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Cor. 15:3-4; 12-18). Without the resurrection, our preaching and hope are "in vain." Without the including of this in the video, it renders whatever gospel presentation there was... "in vain."

And remember beloved, this is a pastor of a church who purposely is NOT including these things as essential for the proclamation of the gospel in this short-film. That is significant.

This video does not present a sufficient gospel that saves and it certainly is not the gospel according to Jesus, the Apostles, or the great divines of the 15th-19th centuries. But apart form all other concerns, the singular thing of leaving out the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ makes the gospel this video tries to passionately present, no gospel at all.

IOW, Charles Finney would endorse, be proud of, and like this video (and this in no way is to imply that Pastor Chan embraces Finney's skewed theology; but only an emotional methodological invitationalism reminiscent of Finney).


Julia, S. FL said...

"Gospel lite" to go with my non-fat grande latte and fat-free cookie....like awesome dude. I am sorry, but it was very "left coast"- What I would exspect from the west coast. Beautiful beach scene and lovely music, but very "lite".

Denise said...


I have seen more and more people who claim to be solid, reformed even, Christians that say the resurrection is NOT a necessary part of the gospel.

I believe the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is the next point of deviation which will prove who and who is not a biblical Christian. Those who bring a false gospel are anathema. We cannot get around this biblical declaration (Gal. 1:8-9). Without proclaiming Christ as resurrected we have not proclaimed Him as Lord and God and that HE satisfied the Father's wrath against sinners, thus not brought a true gospel. It is also a major fact that seperates Christ apart from any other man who's died.

Denise said...

"God is crazy about you"?

Reminds me of Mark Lowry's 'God Is Crazy About You!' tour. He forgets that God says He hates the wicked (Ps. 5:5-6; 11:5-6; Ps. 139). God is not man-centered, He is God-centered. The cross shows us how wicked we really are, not how valuable we are.

"He really really wants to have a relationship with us"

"He's screaming for your attention"

"God's begging you on His knee begging you to say I DO...He's proposing."

WHAT??????? This isn't the God of Scripture. This is JUNK. God doesn't beg. What, is He impotent? Eph. 1:11 says HE makes salvation happen for the elect. He doesn't ASK us to save us. He regenerats and saves while we are sinners.

This is just cultural relevant baloney.

4given said...

Before I watch the video I want to say a few things... then I will watch it and get back with you.

My pastor, the last 2 Sundays, has been preaching a "What is the Gospel?" message expostionally from I Cor. 15:1-4. I will try to get you the notes on that.

I wanted to address your points first. I have not read any of the communication between you and Cent either and will also do that later.

I love to proclaim the Gospel and long to do it in a manner that is true and out of a deep love for my Lord and Saviour. I also know I have alot to learn so please keep that in mind as I address your points.

1. The Gospel means "Good News" and repentance of sin is an inevitable result of genuinely receiving by grace this Good News and isn't THE Gospel per say. Repentance is a result that will not happen before believing in THE Gospel. Guilt or conviction of sin might, but repentance is impossible without the working of God drawing His chosen to Himself. Remember I have not seen the video yet... but when I share the Gospel with someone I typically talk of repentance with them in a discipleship setting, communicating that as the inevitable fruit of genuine belief. Most of the time those I share the Gospel with bring up their sin and the need for repentance perhaps using different terminology in which I then introduce the terminology spoken of in the Bible. If you are sharing the Gospel with someone not exposed to church or the terminology and you start throwing out words like repentance, it will be like Greek to them and unless you define these words carefully without trying to look like a scholar, they could, quite frankly, care less (blank stare is a huge indicator). I say that because I had people, in a Christian college that I went to as an unbeliever, do this to me and it made me feel like an idiot.

2. If you would have said "justification" to me as an unbeliever... blank stare. Justification by faith... blank stare. Even "saved by grace through faith in Christ alone"... blank stare. I agree with you doctrinally, Campi. I believe we are like-minded probably in 99% of what we believe... but we have to be willing to give examples of what we mean. Illustrations... word-pictures. The difference between one and the other as though, sometimes, speaking to a child, using illustrations that they can relate to. Christian terminology is something I did not grow up with. It is learned and the best way I have found to explain more thoroughly such things is in a discipleship setting. Our church, for example, will not support a local or abroad missionary that does not have a thorough plan for discipleship and like-minded doctrine. I do believe that there are genuine Christians that do not yet comprehend sola fide. Those things will come to some more speedily, to others it will take much longer in the process of sanctification. Truly this is explaining the religion of faith vs. the religion of works. But it just seems that explaining something like that should be through discipleship.

The Gospel is simply "the good news about the great salvation purchased by Jesus Christ, by which He reconciled sinful men to a holy God."--Boettner
That is why even a babe in Christ can proclaim it without feeling like he has to go to seminary and know all the right terminology. Even our testimony is an ongoing transformation and not just something that happened 5 or 10 or 30 years ago.

In the genuine believing of this precious Gospel we will still be at war with our corruptions, yet at peace with Christ because we stand before God IN our Redeemer. (not a direct quote, but sorta from William Romaine)

"to be continued"...

4given said...

Let me restate the repentance and believing thing. To me that is actually a simultaeous thing.

4given said...

3. Lordship Salvation: Again... another discipleship opportunity. A conversation that comes after that person believes in Christ... maybe even right after he or she professes to believe. But until that happens, this would be another blank stare moment.

4. If someone quoted a bunch of Scripture references at me through the process of sharing the Gospel with me I would feel stupid and think "John who? where? Huh?" But if they gave them to me written perhaps on a piece of paper as they handed me a Bible that had tabs as they showed me how to use the Bible, that would make more sense. Remember... I am thinking of people, like I use to be, who were perhaps exposed to "church" but not "churched." ANd what about people who have not been exposed at all to church. THis would come across as "elite" and I would feel like an idiot.

5. I completely agree...

Now I feel a wee bit exposed as an idiot right now because I am writing this on your blog knowing you know WAY more than me. But then, I am just a student in the school of grace... teachable but not tossable.


ron said...

Steve, as one who affirms the theology and doctrines that you do such a good job of writing about, I disagree with your position on this video. I have learned that it isn't "my way, or the highway" when it comes to how we can begin engaging with people.

Every committed Christian (let's narrow that down to mature Reformed Christian), given an opportunity to make a video of this nature (one to reach the unchurched), would produce something different. And I'm pretty sure there would be a fair amount of disagreement about the style and content of the films.

Personally I wouldn't make a film with a surfboard in my hand and say things just as Pastor Chan did. As a matter of fact I suspect I would prefer a film that would reflect your style, but I am grateful that he made the film because I believe people can be pointed to saving faith with this film.

Sometimes I think it comes down to leaving some things be considered good, even though they're not salted quite to our taste.

Anonymous said...


"Sometimes I think it comes down to leaving some things be considered good, even though they're not salted quite to our taste."

The problem isn't just a matter of taste. Chan makes doctrinal errors. He doesn't need to use fancy words like "Justification" (and I don't think Camp is implying that he has to), but in an attempt to simplify the Gospel to draw certain groups, he's misstated parts of it to unbelievers who don't know any better. That's the issue. The people who hear this don't have discernment, and those who are converted by the film are starting out in their faith with a serious misunderstanding of our natural relationship to God.

cyd said...

Dear Steve:

Thank you.

Your boldness and unashamed proclaimation of the Gospel is much appreciated...no matter who it wrankles!

God Bless you


ron said...


"The people who hear this don't have discernment, and those who are converted by the film are starting out in their faith with a serious misunderstanding of our natural relationship to God."

I think that's overstating the intention of the film. I don't think we should ever consider a film anything more than something to begin a process. I certainly believe Pastor Chan and his church would agree with that.

As for the doctrinal errors I struggle with certain things being said (e.g. the need to accept God), but I've come to learn that people who live a faithful life sometimes say things in a way I don't like. That doesn't necessarily void their faith or the effectiveness of how they live and speak when concerning the lost.

I fully believe we have too much error in the American church, and I cling to the biblical truths that Campi so fiercely defends, but I don't see this film being in error to an extent of writing it off. That is a danger I see so many of us Reformed folk falling into. We see the terrible error and get so reactive towards anything that slightly strays from how we speak that we unjustly condemn that which may be good.

Solameanie said...

I often like to say that 1 Corinthians 15 is the only place in the New Testament where the Gospel is defined, summed up thusly:

"Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, and rose again from the dead for our justification."

An adequate presenting of that Gospel requires explanation, of course. Leaving out the need to recognize that you are a sinner, the need for repentance, faith etc. falls short of clearly proclaiming the Gospel in my view.

I think we get so hung up on methods and the perceived need to be "artsy" and "edgy" that the message (unintentionally) gets muddied. Paul Proctor had a good piece today on the church and its current concern with being "sensitive."


Anonymous said...

"I don't think we should ever consider a film anything more than something to begin a process."

The people who view this film may consider it more than this, even if the producers don't.

"As for the doctrinal errors I struggle with certain things being said (e.g. the need to accept God), but I've come to learn that people who live a faithful life sometimes say things in a way I don't like."

Again, the issue isn't whether we happen to like the method used; it's whether the message taught (that God is just crazy about sinners) is Biblically correct.

"That doesn't necessarily void their faith or the effectiveness of how they live and speak when concerning the lost."

I don't believe it does void their faith. That doesn't mean it's correct. And how they speak may be effective, but if they are in error in some respects, then by their words, they are successfully bringing others to Christ on a foundation that has some bad planks.

People who have just been converted by partially false doctrine don't typically search out those who can teach them correct doctrine. Again, I've never said that these people aren't Christians; but even after being alread brought to Christ, we still have to watch our life and doctrine closely.

littlegal_66 said...

I watched the "outakes" video from the site as well. Here's a quote:
FRANCIS: (to an extra sitting at a table in the background) "Don't look at the camera, Larry. This isn't about you......
.......it's about me.

(Sure, he was just clowning around, but........I dunno......)

This is from Think Inc's mission statement:
"To produce these (film) projects with a caliber such that the common viewer is impressed."
Now, I guess all artists like to know that their creation appeals to its target audience but definitely that shouldn't ultimately be a goal, especially in a ministerial capacity. Do we have to "impress" unbelievers with slick, hip videography, camera angles, and breathtaking aerial shots of seascapes before they will give our message even a listen?

And Ron, it shouldn't be: "My way or the highway." Agreed.
However, it should be, "God's way or the highway." Our desire must be to try and make certain that our way is within "God's way."

littlegal_66 said...

I do commend Think, Inc. for this:
"Funded completely by private donors......
This is a gift.
A non-profit project."

That is GREAT; however, that is yet another reason to make sure it's not done in vain......there's an empty tomb across the globe that requires some airtime.

Seth McBee said...

Steve. I would have to agree with your dissatisfaction that Pastor Chan doesn't mention Scripture but seems to obvious that he is trying to "go around" it...meaning he might think that if he quotes a verse, it might make the sinner be "turned off"...like you said very much like Phinney thinking...persuasion.

You are right he is a very good communicator, but Paul was also very knowledgable but said:

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God.
For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling,

and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,

so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
1 Cor 2:1-5

May we all remember it isn't persuasion but it's the Gospel that saves.

ron said...

I sincerely appreciate everyone who cares enough to want a film of this nature to be correct in doctrine and theology. I primarily agree with the concerns that Steve, Naomi and LG66 have. It's just that instead of seeing the film and offering a way to assist in making the film more effective, say through suggestions on how to augment it with good discussion it gets trashed. That's part of the function of the film's website, to help the viewer with more clarifying statements.

If we have such grave concerns then we should engage with the films creators and offer suggestions instead of calling it tripe. If through discussion they expose serious error then start ruffling feathers.

Brendt said...

...this is a pastor of a church who purposely is NOT including these things...

How can you claim to know the inner motives of another man and expect anyone to take you seriously?

SJ Camp said...

There is no judging of inner motives here at all.

First of all, have you watched the video yet? If you have, you will see that none of those things I listed are presented in the video--that's how I know they were left out! Pretty obvious stuff...

Secondly, I also know that this was purposed and explicit because a short-film like this takes many days, numerous hours to make, plan, strategize, etc. This was not an ad-lib Brendt; it was planned and purposed. Then once produced, it has to go to post production, audio added, transition shots included, specials, etc.

All to say, to make a short film with this great of quality takes a lot of time, money, and preparation. Which is to say, the message was very purposed as to what would be said and what wouldn't be said.

Now I have a question for you: do you condone a video that has purposely eliminated several key things necessary for the gospel to be proclaimed as the genuine gospel?

Thanks for your comment,

Unknown said...

Okay, now you've got me wondering, Mr. Camp... in light of the points you addressed, how many times in Scripture does Jesus present the whole Gospel? =/

SJ Camp said...

Thank you for your comment. Great example. Unsound doctrine usually comes on in very "innocent" ways--but oh, that proves the great need for discernment in our times.

Good to have aboard...

Jesus IS the gospel...

SJ Camp said...


Thank you for your comment.

You couldn't be more wrong in your unfounded and nefarious accusations you have made here.

If you have just stumbled across this blog lately, I would suggest you read several articles here before drawing you uninfomed views. I have listened to many of Pastor Chan's sermons and found some very good and helpful insights from them.

-I did send him an email a few different times with no reply.

-I made a qualifying remark that my critique of this film is by no means an indictment against this brothers local church ministry.

-My comments were not a personal evaluation of Pastor Chan--it is on the content or lack thereof of the Just Stop and Think video.

-Here is one of the remarks from the producer of this film: "In my experience, as I have witnessed to many many people, the majority RUN when you mention the Bible, or Jesus, or the resurrection, or church. Now is that to say these things should be left out of the total conversation? absolutely not! It just means we're dealing with cultural paradigms that are real. Though I agree with the "fire and brimstone" message, in my viewpoint it often times chases more people away than it draws in."

Those are disturbing words...

BUT? we have a problem here that first must be addressed before going any further. You have not honored the basic rules of this blog by posting anonymously. You can say whatever you would like to here, but I want to know with whom I am speaking. Please read the rules...

When you have completed the blogger bio section fully, then you will be allowed to comment here again. Until then, all your comments will be deleted until you honor the simple rules of engagement of this blog.

This is to insure quality discussion and meaningful debate and conversation. I will look forward to welcoming you back as a participant here in the near future.

Grace and peace to you,
Steve Camp
2 Cor. 4:5-7

Jim Elliston said...

My friend shot me a link to your blog... Honestly, bro. I'm trying not to categorize some of the comments on the blog with your thinking, but it's hard. Some of them were written with such arrogance, it's astonishing.

Are people really going to bag on something that is not for profit that is changing people's lives? Most have no idea:

1. The intended audience.
2. The motivation behind the creation of the film.
3. That after the creation of the film, there were some concerns of a lack of some aspects of soteriology, but the goal was that they would be plugged into a local church who would clear things up. (When it was originally dispersed, a list of bible-preaching churches were included with th e DVD... Notice no promotion of a church).

If those strong Calvinistic Christians have issues with the DVD's explanation of justification, they are totally entitled to their opinion, but understand you were not the intended audience... But those who are making stabs at the motivation of the DVD, Francis' humility, or the way in which the gospel message is being communicated in media-driven southern california (or as some call it "left coast"), you really need to get over yourselves and realize that God can use people who are not Calvinist (which Francis would probably call himself) to complete his work in this world.

It's amazing how minor issues like this can push people to sin.
(Those who are talking about the Francis' character and motivation behind the film are gossiping and lying about things they have no idea about, and making a brother in Christ out to be narcissistic and a liar).

Just be careful, guys. If you really have concerns about this thing, email him at chan@cornerstonesimi.com and just stop complaining to each other.

Max Nagler said...

"This is just cultural relevant baloney."

Sadly we have come to a place as Christians where we believe that we don't have to be culturally relevant. Boo. Maybe the left coast is a little more progressive but maybe middle America should start to think about meeting people where they are at and loving the way Jesus would have.

The year is 2007 and there are millions of people in this world that are dying of hunger and disease. I think it is very astonishing that there are people that would look at someone who wants to use his/her gifts and talents to reach the dying and the broken as a negative thing. The time is now to stop blogging about our preconceived opinions of people and to do something about bigger issues in this world. Shame on whoever has the audacity to take a character shot at Francis Chan, he is a man of God and he loves people more than most I know. May God bless this world and may more people take initiative to be an active part in that.

Media Man said...

I think this is so tragic. It has been my experience, that Calvinist, such as Mr. Camp, are so arrogant. You don't know Francis, and how dare you say that he has presented anything less the Gospel message. I would really like to challenge you, to have the courage, to put yourself out there like that.
I may not have a degree in Theology, but I do know this, "love one another as I have loved you," "love your neighbor as yourself," "love the Lord your God with all your heart." Francis Chan does all of the above and motivates others to do the same. I will pray for all of you that oppose Just Stop and Think, because in the end, if you hinder anyone that may come to Christ, you will be held accountable. Woe to you who make his little ones stumble.
Just Stop and Think is nothing special, your right about that, but it is bringing people to salvation.

Robert & Terri Johnson said...

I find this amazing, how one who is a brother/sister in the Lord is so bold to be critical of anothers work in the Lord.
Have you not concidered the fact that some are called to plant, some are called to water, and others will reap the harvest.
Not everyone is going to be reached the exact same way. His video plants seeds, instead of being critical, go water and support someone doing something in the name of the Lord.
Dont forget this, who were Jesus's biggest critics? It was the church. It was the church that persecuted him and put him on the cross because they believed his methods of reaching people were wrong.

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Rooted and grounded said...

I read all of this, several years after it was blogged.
I would like to mention that thinking that we know every doctrine correctly is a dangerous thing to do. But once you know that what you believe cant be refuted, and you searched the scriptures daily to see whether those things were so, then the truth cant be debated about.
I am not particularly fond of calvanists, they tend to skip rom 10:13 and john 1:12 and a whole bunch of other verses talking about denying or following Christ.
God does marry us at the end... surely its not love if there was no mutual agreement, a choice.
I am my beloved's and he is mine... even the quaran tells us that the christians calls themselves the beloved's of God.
Even if u dont realise it, God gave you free will, and you either choose to love him or you choose to deny Him... the consequences are severe, but the truth stays simple.
I generally disagree with calvanistst, reformed people, their basis (TULIP) is unbiblical and they tend to twist the election to fit calvin's view of it.
We love him because he first loved us... not because he forced us. I agree he is not begging nor is he needy.. but he did create us for his pleasure, and even tells us to beseech (beg) people to come to him... it does not diminish him to have him desire a relationship with us... he died for it didnt he?
I think calvanists misses the major issue... the pleasure God has when we choose Him... and choose to obey him... when we receive him (john 1:12) or if we want to take the water of life freely (he says whosoever WILLS)

Missing the core... which is getting to know our creator and savior and following him and like revelation says "supping" with Him, being in awesome wonder, choosing to be His bride... mostly creates hypocrites which has nothing better to do than to judge others instead of seeing what they need to change. But if we see his love...and turn our eyes upon Jesus... then we tend to bring others to the same knowledge (through scripture and all other biblical methods, like well produced videos which only shows that christianity isnt low class and shameful)

We love him because he firts loved us...

The election wasnt unconditional... 1 pet 1:2 tells us that... and even mentions obedience, obedience to what... something you couldnt choose?? No way...
God said my way or the high way...
You choose... and he knows wht you will choose... therefore he knew who to choose, having that foreknowledge
When I heard what reformists believed I cried and asked God to show me the truth about salvation... and he did... "whosoever wills"