Evangelist and church planter Francis Chan revealed that after he planted three churches in Hong Kong, authorities denied his visa, forcing him to leave the country and return to the U.S.

According to China Aid, the bestselling author and former California megachurch pastor shared the news in a video sent to friends and fellow pastors on Jan. 5.

“Last week, after Hong Kong officials rejected our visas, we (sons-in-law Justin and Peter and I) had to leave the country. We are now back in the U.S. and appealing the decision, however. We want to be in Hong Kong and hopefully, we can return there,” Chan said. 

“Before we had to leave Hong Kong, Justin, Peter, and I had seen the Lord plant three churches (house gatherings) with approximately 15-20 people attending each. We had each been leading one church in each of our homes, but then, suddenly we learned that we had to leave the country.”

In the days ahead, Chan said that he is concerned that the new church leaders and members can continue to meet in a sustainable place. 

Right before leaving Hong Kong, Pastor Chan told the young men they worked with that Justin, Peter, and he had to leave and asked them, “Are you guys ready? 

“No, we are not ready…,” they said.  

Chan reminded members of his house church that when the apostle Paul would go to a city, he would stay there for three weeks to serve those who have never even heard of the name “Jesus” and then leave. 

The pastor pointed out that the house church members in the New Testament had no Bibles or resources, yet were able to establish a powerful church through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Chan said he posed several questions to the house church members: Are you really not prepared well enough? Some of you guys have been Christians for years, and you’ve been discipled, and you have your Bible, and yet you don’t feel like you’re ready? Is the reality that you don’t have enough information, or you don’t have enough faith?

“I have faith in you,” he stressed to them. “I have peace in my heart because I know that the Holy Spirit will be working. Although I believe God is having me go back to the U.S., I think this a great season for you to be pushed and stretched. And so, I’m going to go with the power of the Spirit. We’ve got this. I’ve got more sources for equipping than the early church did. I have so many resources online, so much knowledge available. I have the Scriptures right before me, a huge advantage.”

Chan, who shocked many in 2010 when he left the helm of his growing California megachurch, said he is unsure if the Hong Kong government, heavily guided by the Chinese Communist Party, will allow him to return, but told house church members: “I [and you] just need the faith believers had back in Paul’s time — demonstrated in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Chan and his family had moved from the U.S. to the Sham Shui Po neighborhood in Hong Kong in February 2020. He previously opened up about some of the challenges he faced as a church planter, revealing that the idea of “loving one another” is foreign to many Christians in Hong Kong. 

The region, he said, is so “westernized” that even family dynamics are “weird” and “distant.” 

“It’s either just a hardcore helicopter parenting that only deals with grades, or it’s just totally uninvolved and ‘let my servant do this, you know, take care of my kids,’” he said. “They’re good at accomplishing … but relationships [are] such a foreign thought.”

“Just having pastors come over to my house is a weird thing for them,” Chan said, stressing the importance of “love” and “unity” within the church. 

In December, he shared that as a missionary in Hong Kong, he’s been struck by the climate of fear.

“I’ve noticed being in Hong Kong, obviously surrounded by Chinese people, unlike what I was in the U.S., there’s a lot of fear, even with those who call themselves Christians. They’re really afraid to die. And you need to understand there is seriously something wrong in your life if you don’t want to die,” he told those gathered at the Chinese Mission Convention.

The Apostle Paul desired to depart and be with Christ in Philippians 1:21-24, Chan said, but he “rarely” hears that kind of speech from those in Hong Kong. 

“People are holding on to their lives, so afraid of death. It’s like we don’t really believe in His promises of something better. That’s why Paul says, ‘Of course I‘d rather depart and be with Him, but there are things I have to do on the earth.’ That’s the only reason why he would still want to be on the earth …

“Because he’s so in love with Jesus. ‘I just want to be with him,’” he said. “Do you think this way? Do you speak this way?”