By Elizabeth Prata
There are people who train in meteorology. They are experts who watch the ground conditions and air currents, check the radar, and put their training together to issue a watch when the tornado might come.
What if some people reacted like this: “I don’t believe it”. “Who made you judge and jury?” “Weathermen are morons.” “Mind your own business.”
If conditions worsen, the trained meteorologists publish a tornado warning, issue stern instructions regarding health, life, and safety, and make the tornado siren go off in the neighborhood. It is almost too late. You might have seconds to dive into a closet or get to a bunker.
Still. What if some people reacted like this: “I don’t believe it. What gave you the right to talk like this?” “Tornadoes are nice, why be so negative against them?”
Of course, most sane people don’t ignore tornado watches and certainly don’t say those things about tornado warnings. They heed them, relying on the expertise and training of the weather folks. They don’t want to get caught in a tornado. Tornadoes destroy and kill.
But that is how many people react to discernment watches and warnings. Discernment folks see the radar, are trained in discernment, and/or have a gift of discernment. These are the people who are the early warning alarm for your local church who issue watches and warnings about a false teacher, a false trend infiltrating the church, or give the all clear, sunny skies bulletin.
The Village Church, Matt Chandler, Pastor
Matt Chandler has been pastor of The Village Church since 2002. It is a megachurch of about 14000, and aligned with the Southern Baptist Convention. He is also President of the Acts 29 network. He started seminary twice but felt he had already attained all the tools he needed for being pastor so he dropped out both times and never finished.
It is no small thing when a pastor of this notoriety and visibility falls below reproach.
It was revealed this week that Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church in Flower Mound TX and the President of the Acts 29 Network, was stepping down from his position of pastor. He had apparently been in an inappropriate relationship online with a woman. Months ago, a friend of the woman confronted Chandler about the online relationship. Chandler said he did not think he had done anything wrong, because his own wife knew and the woman’s husband knew. However the chatting had become frequent, familiar, and included coarse jesting inappropriate for someone in Chandler’s position.
Matt stated he didn’t think he had done anything wrong. Despite careful wording in both the Village Church statement and Matt’s own speech at his church making it sound like Matt immediately went to his elders himself, the woman had confronted Chandler months ago and eventually recruited some senior staff to help her continue the process. See excerpt from Relevant Mag:
Chandler says that months ago, he was approached by a woman in the church building who expressed concern about his communications with a friend of hers. According to Chandler, his wife was aware of his online communications with the woman. The woman’s husband was aware of the communications as well. But the friend still thought the conversation was bad and, after recruiting a fellow senior pastor and elder to take a look at the messages, they agreed. (Source Relevant Magazine)
The elders concluded that:
Chandler had been in an inappropriate and unwise relationship, hadn’t instituted proper boundaries with the woman, had engaged in coarse and foolish joking, and behavior unbefitting a pastor. The elders insisted Chandler step down for an undetermined period of time. The demand was predicated on the fact that it was “disciplinary and developmental.” They stated that Matt had lived a life above reproach but “he failed to meet the 1 Timothy standard for elders of being “above reproach” in this instance.”
Further, the elders hired an outside law firm to review the church’s policy on social media and compared it to voluntarily produced texts and direct messages Chandler gave, and the law firm found that Chandler had violated it.
I’d like to remind us in these liberal times, that if the departure from the office of pastor is “disciplinary” as the elders said, and that if Chandler “failed to meet the standards of being above reproach” as the elders said, he is now below reproach. “An overseer, then, must be above reproach…” (1 Timothy 3:2). The verse doesn’t say it’s OK just this once, or in just this instance. It doesn’t say that if the elders believe otherwise it’s OK. Falling below is falling below. When a pastor destroys the purity of his office by falling into scandal, he is done.
Pastors who fall below reproach must step aside permanently. It’s like being a little bit pregnant, or a ‘kind of’ a virgin. You either are or you’re not. Once does it.
But the optics these days are to step aside, go on a weepy apology tour, (without uttering the word ‘sin’) and after the short attention spans of the watching public drifts off to another scandal, then come back, and everything is hunky dory again.
But this approach fails to take into account the gravity of the issue- that a pulpit was defiled, the name of Christ was defiled, a woman was defiled (though the elders claim the communication was not sexual in nature, the verse in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 says to abstain from all appearance of evil).
Tornado: Early watches & warnings about Matt Chandler
Warning signs come with, well, signs. It is not often that a public Christian persona suddenly falls. There are always clues, they begin privately but then the public begins to see them. People with discernment can detect these signs earliest. Here are three signs about Matt Chandler people raised over the years:
Folks with discernment warned about Matt Chandler years ago. They, and I, warned about his charismatic pursuits in 2018, when Chandler said he and his church came out with a belief that the sign gifts continued (miracles, prophecy tongues etc). Chandler then also described what he termed as a mini-prophecy given to him and in turn, encouraged his congregation to speak prophecy to each other, but it was confusing. I’ve never seen a charismatic believer stay in one spot. Either they repent and return to the cessationist position, or they continue down charismatic tracks and then go off the rails. Continuationists’ beliefs open the Bible when it is a closed canon. It degrades the perfection of the word and eventually degrades the soul.
His wife Lauren partners with Beth Moore. Lauren has been theologically partnered with Beth Moore for many years. In this, Matt Chandler has been derelict in his pastoral and husbandly duty. They support each other online and also appear on each other’s videos. Either Matt lacked the discernment to steer his wife away from such a wolf, or he lacked the courage to demand it of his wife.
Matt Chandler supported now-feminist Jen Wilkin in her trajectory away from orthodox Christian faith. She was Executive Director in The Village Church of Curriculum and has functioned in leading roles since. Wilkin preached a message to men at a pastor’s training, preached a terrible message about Rahab in 2014 and again in 2018 and let us not forget the menstrual blood issue in one of her sermons. At no time did anyone see Pastor Chandler issue a public repudiation of Wilkin’s office-usurping, preaching, or her feminist tendencies. Chandler again is held to account for this, being her pastor.
When these and other issues were raised, people reacted to the discerning in the ways I’d noted at top about the tornado warnings. “Who are you to judge?” “Why are you so mean?” “Nobody is perfect!” Perhaps if the watches and warnings had been taken to heart, Matt Chandler would not have fallen below reproach, destroying his credibility as a pastor and bringing reproach onto his name, the church’s name, his wife’s name, the anonymous woman, and Jesus’ name.
Discernment is important. Please wisely listen to your discernment people and compare what they are saying to scripture. As for Mr Chandler, it breaks my heart, absolutely and totally, when this happens. The elders said the messaging wasn’t sexual but included “coarse joking.” That sounds sexual to me. I feel for Lauren, I feel for their church. It is a sad, sad, state of affairs for all involved.