Seth Udinski, FISM News
Yesterday, The Village Church lead pastor Matt Chandler returned to the pulpit for the first time since his reconciliatory probation period, which came about from a series of controversial private messages with a female congregant several months ago, according to reports from Christianity Today and The Christian Post.
Beloved by his congregation in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, Chandler was given a standing ovation upon his return. Reports indicate that he underwent a process of healing and accountability that resulted in growth and sanctification, leading the way to reconciliation.
“We asked a lot of Matt, including time spent in study and prayer, personal reflection, and multiple intensives with trusted outside experts. Matt has completed everything asked of him with submissiveness, steadfastness, and humility, and we have received positive feedback from all involved,” said elders at The Village.
While in the pulpit on Sunday, Chandler spoke of the controversy, saying,
To humble ourselves before a living God gives us a shot at peace. I’ve got a part of this I’ve got to own. It might just be 1 percent, but that’s my 1 percent. Forgive me. Now we’ve got a shot at reconciliation.
Chandler’s return to the pastorate comes as the church is getting ready to celebrate its 20-year anniversary. Chandler shared in a social media post on Friday,
Over the past 20 years I have watched God do INCREDIBLE things almost all of which were despite me. I survived a bout with brain cancer in 2009, needed to publicly repent more than once and have been loved deeply and cared for fiercely by the men and women of The Village. I am at a loss for the invitation into this great journey the Lord put me on!
Though many are overjoyed, some are concerned that the specifics of the private message exchange between Chandler and the anonymous female congregant were never publicly shared. When he was first asked to step back in August, Chandler shared that it was not a sexual or romantic error, but rather an inappropriate exchange based on “frequency and familiarity.”
Author’s Biblical Analysis
There is much encouragement for Christians from this latest report from The Village Church. Though there is no doubt the reconciliatory period will continue for Pastor Chandler, the anonymous woman, and the elders, it appears the leadership at The Village Church used and applied the model of church discipline laid out by Jesus Christ in Matthew 18 in an effective way.
As reference, here is that summation of church discipline, instituted by our Lord Himself:
Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. – Matthew 18:15-17
Though this is speaking about a one-on-one infraction, it applies to church leaders equally. Pastors, just like their flock, must be willing to submit to spiritual authority, and thankfully, the overseers at The Village Church did exactly what overseers must do — hold their pastor to account when he errs and make every effort to restore him to righteousness.
From this report, I find several encouragements for believers. The first is this — make every effort to hold your brothers and sisters accountable.
In my experience, this is one of the most difficult commands for Christians to follow. I find the temptation to give people what their itching ears want to hear so prevalent in my own life, and perhaps it is the same for you.
The reason for this, I believe, is two-fold. On one hand, I have a deep understanding of my own sin, which in itself is a virtuous quality. However, it sometimes leads me to erroneously believe that because I am a sinner, I have no right to convict and call out another for their sin.
Simultaneously, I am tempted so often to people-please. I want people to like me, respect me, and think I am fun to be around. Generally, people do not like to be told that they need to repent! Far too often, we put the opinions of others on a level of reverence that is only reserved for God.
Believer, hold your fellow believers accountable. When you see a sin area or an infraction, bring this to the attention of your brother or sister in a loving and humble way. Do not allow their opinion of you to cause you to withhold a word of rebuke that could be exactly what they need to hear to keep them from stumbling.
As always, do this with gentleness and respect, considering the words you use and your tone. Do it, as you are called in all things, for the glory of God.
The second encouragement I find from this report is to celebrate repentance.
Praise God, the method He gave us to hold one another accountable works! Many believers have, through the ages, been restored to righteousness because a courageous and loving brother or sister took a godly risk and told them not what their itching ears wanted to hear, but what their sinful hearts needed to hear. They then, like David, would respond with humility and repentance: “I have sinned against the Lord.” (1 Samuel 12:13)
When this happens, celebrate the great miracle of God that is restoration. Do not, for one second, take any credit for yourself, lest you need to also repent. Give glory to God, who restores what is broken. Indeed, is this not the whole message of the gospel?
It is. Jesus Christ came to this earth to restore us, the fallen human race, to righteousness and union with God. He did the work, He stood in our place, and He brought us back to a right relationship with the Father.
Of course, as you consider all of this, think soberly about the fact that you and I also will need to be held accountable by others. When this happens, may we receive it with grace and humility, and may we also be restored to repentance.
By God’s grace, if we do this faithfully, our mutual accountability with one another will be an example of the gospel, rich both in refining love and restorative grace.
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:1-2