Shocking news dropped yesterday when it came out that a well-known minister named Matt Chandler was human like the rest of us. I know putting it that way is likely to cause people both in the church as well as outside the church to bristle, but let's examine why.
First, to make sure we're all on the same page, Chandler announced on Sunday to his congregation that he was stepping aside at the direction of the church's eldership for inappropriate moral conduct. Here's the quick summary of the offense as it is now understood:
The Village Church pastor Matt Chandler announced on Sunday that he had an inappropriate online relationship with a woman and is taking an indefinite leave of absence from preaching and teaching.
The relationship was not sexual or romantic, Chandler told his church, but the elders believed the frequent and familiar direct messages exchanged over Instagram were "unguarded and unwise" and "revealed something unhealthy in me." Chandler said he agreed with their assessment and was grateful for the spiritual oversight.
I think it's helpful to watch Chandler's actual confession and comments made to his congregation.
The popular minister reveals that he had been confronted after a service by a woman who was alarmed by the "frequency and familiarity" of messages he had been exchanging with one of her married friends. Though the exchanges were not reported to be romantic or sexual, and though both spouses were reportedly aware of the exchanges, they included "foolish talk and coarse joking" which the Apostle Paul explicitly says in Ephesians are "out of place" for God's holy people. An independent law firm which reviewed Chandler's activity through the lens of the church's social media policy found him to be in error. The elders then moved to discipline and disciple their minister.
Forever delighting in the downfall of anyone in the church, especially those in positions of leadership, the scoffing world was ready to do what it does best. Speculation ran rampant on social media that these public admissions are only the first layer of an onion yet to be peeled. Time will prove that this is far deeper and more sordid than what is being admitted to this point.
One such keyboard warrior who touts himself as "Mike the Therapist" was convinced he had a scoop:
Mike, who promotes himself as an ex-Bible teacher who is now a he/him, LGBTQ ally who specializes in "sex therapy" and adorns his Twitter page with "F*** the patriarchy," might just conceivably be motivated more by an axe that needs grinding than true expertise. But he got what he wanted – attention, comments, retweets, and validation in his anti-Christian echo chamber.
So be it. A wayward world holding in judgmental contempt believers they regularly condemn for being "judgmental" may be hypocritical, but it's nothing new. Their interest is not in the well-being of Christ's church in general, The Village Church specifically, Matt Chandler, his marriage, family, or the peace and health of any parties involved. It's to mock, tear down, and destroy.
As a believer myself, I recognize that as a recipient of unmerited grace, it's a joy to be able to offer it to others no worse than myself. Don't get me wrong, my natural impulse is to cringe and wince at the awkwardness of the announcement, to parse and second guess the confession, and I'm amazed at how comfortable self-righteousness feels as I lean towards saddling up my moral high horse to put distance between me and a brother or sister who has become the object of public ridicule.
But what a blessing the Holy Spirit is to me, exposing my own pride and calling me to repentance myself. It doesn't take long before the echoes of my own foolish mistakes, my own surrender to temptations, and my own self-indulgent tendencies ring loudly in my conscience. I find myself supernaturally drawn to my Savior's teaching of the unmerciful servant and I'm left wondering how one who has been forgiven a debt as great as mine could possibly show anything but grace and charity to a fellow flawed servant.
Of course, those who preach and teach are held to a higher account (James 3:1). But I'm mindful that it is God who will weigh the offense and render judgment in His time and His way, not me. That is not to say that believers should ignore sin or suspend consequence in the name of grace. Scripture teaches nothing of the sort. But it does teach that such discipline and correction is to be handled biblically by the local church leadership, not by some distant hierarchy, not by Christian Twitter, and certainly not by an online columnist with drastically limited amounts of information.
In fact, to this point:
- The "whistleblowing" woman appears to have acted biblically in confronting Chandler.
- Chandler appears to have acted biblically in turning and submitting to the elders.
- The elders appear to have acted biblically in requiring Chandler to step aside for the time being.
- The congregation appears to have acted biblically in expressing love and concern for their minister.
- The lead minister replacing Chandler in the pulpit appears to have acted biblically in publicly praising and thanking the woman who courageously confronted Chandler, perhaps saving all parties – but most importantly, the name of Christ – far more serious shame.
It is not my place to direct or even speculate about how all this will play out. Instead, I will pray for my brothers and sisters directly affected by this situation, praise God for the wisdom of His word, the guidance of His Spirit, and His unimaginable grace that is greater than all our sins.
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