Francis Chan: Out of the Wave Pool, Into the Fire

Discovering and living the more we were created for.

How do we start an Acts 1:8 multiplication movement in the West? This year, Exponential has identified six critical shifts churches can make to revolutionize how we mobilize people and multiply disciples who multiply other church planting disciples. At the recent Exponential conference in Orlando, author and pastor Francis Chan unpacked the first shift, From More Effort to More Jesus. Here, he challenges us to go back to Scripture to realize who our God is and why, as leaders, we must help our churches truly grasp what it means to be part of the body of Christ.

A couple weeks ago I was in Waco, Texas, and someone said to me, “Do you know you can surf in Waco?” BSR Surf Ranch has made this cool wave pool. Every 90 seconds, a new wave breaks in all directions of the pool. There’s an actual guarantee that you will have waves.

In many ways, that wave pool reminds me of the church.

I think you’ll agree that we can all create waves. I can make a wave start at 9:20, have it peak at 9:30 and then die out at 9:50 in time for the kids to get out of childcare. I can create a wave, and everyone’s having a blast. We all can.

And then we walk away and think, Whoa! God moved.

But in reality, that wave was man-made. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of making waves. I want to see God do something that only he can do. I want to watch his hand move and say, “There’s no way I could’ve made that wave.”

Recently, one of my buddies shared with me about his time ministering overseas. He told me about being in this little village and praying for a 60-year-old woman who had been blind since birth. As he was praying, she began to scream that she could see. She ran into the village and all the people just flooded my friend and their team.

Now that’s a wave. You don’t just make that happen. I’m convinced that as long as we’re okay with being in the wave pool and just creating a little bit of excitement, we’re not going to see the things we see in Scripture.

I think there are two big reasons why we tend to stay in the wave pool:

1. We don’t realize who our God is.

In Hebrews 12, Scripture gives us a description of God that I doubt we think of when we say the word “God”: “You have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them … Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I tremble with fear’” (Heb. 12:18–19; 21).

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When you pray, do you picture yourself praying to a blazing fire? A tempest? Do you think about innumerable angels gathering around that blazing fire (Heb. 12:22)? Scripture says he can’t be touched. Moses said, “I am trembling with fear right now. I’m going to go up that mountain to talk to that?”

Here’s a better question: Is this God what your people are thinking about when they pray to him? Do they worship like they know that this is our God? Or do we just casually sing, “I want to see you, I want to touch you”?

Scripture tells us that when Jesus prayed, he was heard because of his reverence to the Father. Think about that—you would assume the Scriptures would say that Jesus was heard because he’s Jesus. But instead, it was his surrender and submission.

I’m guessing that if we truly understood whose presence we are coming into, we wouldn’t be asking questions like who’s preaching today or who’s leading worship.

As leaders, we have to bring people back to the Scriptures. They need to understand it’s an honor to come before our God. In the craziness and busyness of our world, we cannot lose sight of what an honor it is to pray. Are you equipping every disciple to grow in the lordship of Jesus?

2. We don’t grasp what it means to be part of the body of Christ.

In Ephesians 1, Paul writes that God gave us Jesus as the head of the church—that this all-consuming fire has put all things under his feet, and that we are part of Christ’s body, and that somehow, I am the fullness of him who fills everything.

“He put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:22–23).

That’s mind-blowing to me: I’m part of that untouchable fire, this tempest that can’t be touched?

Do you grasp that about yourself? Were your people thinking about themselves like this—that they are the fullness of Christ—last weekend? We have to get our people into the Scriptures and remind them of whom they are and who is with them.

As leaders of his church, we have to ask this all-consuming fire to engrain this passage in our people so that every time they pray, that’s what they’re thinking about. So that they have this confidence that they’re the fullness of Christ—that they’re part of this sacred mystery.

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Paul tells the church of Ephesus that only the fullness of Jesus can fill everything in every way. As leaders, we have to continually illuminate this mystery. Jesus has chosen and appointed his church to express his fullness into every corner of culture and sphere of society.


If we believed that, how would it change how we live and lead our churches?

I’ll confess that a lot of times I don’t act like Jesus is the head of the church and that I’m just an arm. The arm doesn’t do anything unless the head tells it to. I don’t really humble myself and say, “Lord, you’re the head of the church. What do you want me to do?”

When we let God be the head and realize exactly who we are, that’s when things really happen.

Understand, I’m not just talking about miracles like the ones we hear about overseas. Rather, I’m talking about the miracle of true rebirth: Where the Spirit enters someone, and you don’t have to force them to get rid of sin in their life. You don’t have to beg them to get along with the Lord. Their spirit is crying out, “Abba Father.”

I doubt you have to be begged to be his witness and to do something eternal with your life. My guess is it would drive you nuts if all you could do was surf and golf all day. You can’t because something happened in you. It happened to me when I was in high school, and I fell in love with Jesus. Every time I stepped into sin, I just had that sick feeling. You and I have been born of the Spirit. We are made for more.

God has made us for so much more than to create or ride man-made waves.

* Adapted from Francis Chan’s main stage message at Exponential Orlando 2019

This fall, Exponential is bringing its “Made for More” conference to Washington, D.C., Southern California, the Bay Area, Chicago, Houston and New York City. For information about bringing your team to these regional events, go to

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