Matt Chandler, Village Church, Acts 29 Network, and The Long Overdue Funeral For Frat Boy Christianity

mattchandler

 

UPDATE FROM JOHN: As of this writing, Matt Chandler and The Village Church have issued a lengthy statement regarding these events, which can be read in full HERE. In it, they directly address many of the mistakes and missteps discussed in this piece and to the linked articles within it, accepting some responsibility. While they are only words, they are encouraging ones and necessary to bringing about much-needed healing, restoration, and change. While the situation itself and the systematic breakdowns that led to it cannot be remedied or excused by a simple statement, I welcome it and pray that it is the beginning of a true path toward a healthier, more compassionate, more loving Church for everyone. However, accountability for this situation and for these leaders begins, not ends here. Until and unless they show otherwise, I will choose to believe in the possibilities present here and to nurture them to fruition in whatever way I am able. This has always been about protecting, hearing, and caring for all people, and I have great hope that this can be a new beginning for we who comprise the Church; a beginning that as I state below, I will gladly be a part of. 

 

In recent weeks, a great deal of information has surfaced regarding Dallas megachurch The Village Church led by Matt Chandler, head of the Acts 29 Network, in what can only be described as a terrible mishandling by their leadership of a moral failure by one of its leaders; most critically the treatment of the man’s now ex-wife, who despite leaving the church, has been the subject of all sorts of intimidation and shaming by those in authority, which is sadly common in these decidedly patriarchal communities. Matthew Paul Turner lays out a good simplified overview of the situation, and here is a wonderful piece of investigative reporting by Amy Smith to help provide all the detailed documentation currently available. Below is my raw, gut-level response to these events and the all-too familiar patterns on display here. It’s not very pretty, but we’re dealing with something quite ugly here—and something needs to be said. 

Dear Matt Chandler, Village Church Leadership, Acts 29 Network, and Their Associated Christian Gentlemen…

The party’s over, dudes.

I’m afraid we’re going to have to shut down the Christian Boy’s Club forever. It’s been a long time coming.

This glorified, sanctified religious frat house management system you’ve been operating within has well exceeded its usefulness. At this point it’s doing a tremendous deal of real harm out here where honest, decent people are trying to figure out just why the heck Church leaders can’t seem to act like human beings, especially when it comes to the sexual misconduct of their own.

I’m trying to figure it out too. Maybe you can help me. 

Maybe you can explain to me and to everyone else, just who in the hot-and-humid Hell you think you are, and what you think gives you the right to malign and harass and victimize a decent, honest, deeply hurting woman for refusing to “play ball” and abide by the disgusting behavior of her former husband (and your employee), and why you think Jesus is cool with all these back room, closed-door shenanigans.

You see, guys, as nasty and worrisome as this one incident is on its own, (and it is), we see in it a shameful repetition, a story that feels all-too familiar; one that seems like merely the latest involving you, your leaders, and your cozy network of white pastor men behaving badly.

We only recently endured Mark Driscoll and that whole debacle, and yet here we are again. It’s like continually recycled garbage that looks slightly different but still stinks just the same. The patterns begin to repeat themselves; a series of intimidating internal memos, a hastily shuffled organization structure, a temporarily reassigned pastor, a brief media blackout, and a few short months until its business as usual, or until another awful mess oozes up to the surface.

Have you ever stopped to consider that maybe it’s the system you’ve built and fortified that’s broken here? Maybe on a fundamental level it’s the way you do what you do that breeds this kind of dysfunction and sickness; which enables male ego to grow unchecked and unchallenged. That’s the slippery part of Complementarianism; it’s always in danger of either elevating and devaluing gender worth, rather than celebrating its diversity. 

Here in this latest situation as in many cases, when there is dissension or unwanted bad press in your midst you often retreat into the cloistered safety and comfort of self-defined “church discipline”. I’m sorry, but in the most loving and gentle manner I can muster, I’m calling BS on all of it.

What has been on display here is a whole lot of things: bullying, coercion, harassment, guilt, and tough guy intimidation all wrapped up in a shoddy religious shell, but I’m confident saying that it isn’t anything Jesus would want his name on, and as a Christian I don’t want it associated with me either. No matter how you spin this, what it boils down to is a self-preserving cluster of male peers policing themselves and determining what constitutes fairness for them and for those they oversee, with little real accountability beyond what they have set in place.

Church elders are supposed to be wise, seasoned, impartial overseers who can deliver difficult truth to leadership; not golfing buddies and wingmen.

And here’s the really crazy part of all of this, the part that so frustrates: When Christian leaders like yourselves look around incredulously and ask why people are exiting and disowning the Church in massive numbers? It’s because of this. It’s moments like this. It’s leaders like you. It’s the testosterone-fueled hubris you unknowingly perpetuate that makes following Jesus a really tough sell for those who witness it. There’s a profound disconnect between the ministry he was building and what this is, and people can see it from a mile away.

I know this might be news to you, how sick and sinister this all has become. You’re too close to it to recognize it anymore. That’s why it’s a blind spot.

I know that you’ve been raised in this polluted, toxic church culture for decades and so you can’t see when it isn’t normal or healthy or holy. I know you’ve all studied at the same seminaries and hung out at the same conferences, that you’ve written the forewords to one another’s books and planted one another’s churches, and that you’ve made small fortunes on the kind of back-scratching, palm-greasing nepotism that our political system’s most experienced lobbyists would marvel at.

I know that since you began this journey because you believe and desire to serve, that you’ve convinced yourselves that you’re doing the Lord’s work and that it’s you who are being martyred and persecuted in times like this, but really you’re just being outed. Thanks to a free media culture, the stuff you’ve done so comfortably in the dark and been so adept at keeping hidden in the past, is all being dragged out into the light,—thank God.

You may dismiss this because my language is strong and my manner direct, but I hope that you won’t. Jesus didn’t turn over the temple tables because he was mean-spirited, violent, and reckless, he did it because he was passionately consumed with protecting and honoring the things of God.

Maybe I’m coming across as far less than understanding, but it’s because I just don’t understand. I don’t understand how you and your cozy brotherhood have so deluded yourselves that you believe this is anything resembling Christ; that it is at all Good News. I love the Church as you say you love it, and so I speak into those moments and places where it is being less than it should be.

This isn’t Christian Community and it isn’t Biblical leadership, it’s the kind of top-down, secretive, steaming horse manure that we’d shut down a fraternity house for, and it’s time here too.

I am a Christian and a man and a pastor, and I’m tired of you representing me. Yes we’re supposed to be brothers in Christ, but lately I just don’t feel like we share our Father’s heart on this matter.

I may sound simply bitter, but I am actually grieving deeply and tired.

I’m exhausted making excuses for you to those who rightly find your tactics unfathomable.

I am worn out trying to help people severely damaged by you and groups of men like you.

I am tired of the stories of those who have been shunned and silenced because they crossed or questioned you.

I am sick of seeing the terrible toll you have exacted on those who have served in your system and of the hidden poison that runs through your institutions.

Most of all I am ticked the heck off at the way you have used the Gospel of Jesus to somehow build a Kingdom of bros who bully, and who feel completely justified in doing it.

Thankfully, all of this is coming to an end.

Pretty soon, nothing will be able to be kept hidden and trust me, that will be the best thing for you, for those who have suffered in silence in your service, and for the Church that desperately needs to be in order to be a better reflection of the love and character of Christ to all people. My great hope is that you still aspire to this.

I want to believe that you truly care for Karen Hinkley. I want to believe that beneath all of this noise and mess that you are all sincere and forthright; that your faith and your motives are pure and that you really do want Jesus to be the star and not yourselves. I can’t know those things, so I can’t assess your intentions. I can only tell you what I see from here.

I so want to have peace that this is the last of this sad stuff. I don’t have that right now.

A funeral for part of what you’ve built is coming, yet it will not be a moment of sorrow, but jubilation. It is for the greatest good that you reexamine the whole thing, even if it has to be dismantled and recreated from the ground up with clear eyes and recommitted hearts and a relentless push toward Christ alone.

If you are willing to do that, I’ll gladly and joyfully do it alongside you. 

But make no mistake, the Boys Club has to and will be shut down, so that the diverse, open, safe, redeeming Kingdom of God can be ushered in.

It will be well worth it.

 

 

 

(Note: Obviously the term “frat” is not intended as a direct statement on Greek life, but to identify the kind of cloistered male brotherhood that is on display in these unhealthy church leadership structures, the kind that indeed would not be tolerated in most fraternities. There are undoubtedly thousands of college fraternities which engage in nothing like the behavior mentioned above, and if that is not made clear in the writing, I apologize.)

 

 

 

 

 

171 thoughts on “Matt Chandler, Village Church, Acts 29 Network, and The Long Overdue Funeral For Frat Boy Christianity

  1. That would appear to be what several of John’s critics believe. Rather than speak to him privately about they clearly believe are his sins, they’ve chosen they blast him in the comments sections of his blog.

    Right? 😉

    • Some guy at a fundie church gets caught craving kiddie crotches in pictures or on video, and John is the sinner. Now, I gotta tell you. That is rich!!! I can refer you to a good clinical psychologist if you would like.

  2. @Michael:

    I can’t speak for John, yet many Biblical scholars, including some very conservative ones, have said that the Matthew 18 conflict resolution model was meant to used by Christians who had issues with other Christians within their own Church community.

    It does not apply to broad issues respecting big public ministries like the one Matt Chandler is running.

    There’s straight-up Biblical evidence backing up this perspective, as well. Paul had many concerns about the conduct of Churches he interacted with yet felt comfortable writing them letters in lieu of traveling to meet their leaders in person every time he wanted to rebuke them.

    As a practical matter, arguably the structure of mega-Churches precludes employing the Matthew 18 approach in a local Church.

    Matt Chandler appears to have about 6000 members in his Church. 1% of 6000 is 60. Thus if only 1% of his members want to spend 5 minutes on any given day talking to him about his sins, that would take up 5 hours of every one of his days.

    And right now I think more than 1% of Mr. Chandler’s members would love to personally chat with him.

    Thus, wouldn’t it be irresponsible of Matt Chandler to talk to John right now given that he can’t give face time to his own members?

    In other words, John and other bloggers are not the reason a literal interpretation of the Matthew 18 conflict resolution model can’t be used right now. Matt Chandler’s mega-Church model is.

    😉

    • Two points:

      1) This is just one of many reasons why I do not like meagerchurches. Also, I do not view them as really being churches. Each one is usually centered around a famous person in an almost “cult-like” manner. That person is the center of the church rather than Jesus—when it all plays out. The person is usually some kind of personal empire builder who made the mistake of initially following Jesus and then awoke one morning to realize that they were really meant to be CEO at General Motors. They then say, “Well, it is too late for that now, and I am already waist deep in this Jesus thing, so maybe I can build my business and financial empire here in this church. It might take some doing, but with my talent, I can probably pull it off.” Ultimately, the church physical plant and all the wealth and so-called “triumph” it exudes are little more than a wonder-of-the-world monument to the all-powerful Pharoah who was the centerpiece of the church while he was alive. Can you say Kim Il Sung?

      2) The fundies who are visiting here know doggone well that John’s blog is a danger to this monument called “the Village” because he is a sensitive and very competent writer with the ability to move both hearts and minds. He can see through spiritual bullshit like Superman with his X-ray vision, his writing has thousands of followers, and his articles get picked up and distributed worldwide by the major world news and information services. Speaking just for myself, I did not even know about the existence of this “The Village” in Texas, but I do now—and I do not like what I see happening there. I am thankful that John brought it to my attention—as I suspect many thousands of other people are. Maybe the adverse publicity will cause this obscene “monument” to take a closer look at itself and its own behavior—and quit being and acting stupid in the name of Jesus.

  3. John. Submitted with all kindness and respect, I think your bold font update on the apology and repentance at The Village Church was premature, although offered in a spirit of love and hope. I saw no repentance in that apology. I work in the federal government bureaucracy and know this sort of language very well from first-hand experience. Those of us who work there can smell it from several miles away, and our universal term for it is “Bureaucratic Bullshit.” After reading the apology in detail, I came away with the exact same understanding of it as the author of the following article, which I submit to you as my comment here because he articulated it much better than I would have done:

    http://matthewpaulturner.com/2015/05/29/so-can-we-discuss-that-apology-from-the-village-church-because-it-really-missed-the-point/

    The Village Church and its leaders need a good public ass-kicking—and if they cannot do any better than this—they need to disband their so-called “church.” That is honestly how I feel about it.

    • I agree, but I’m giving them a huge benefit of the doubt, trying to show them some Grace, and allowing them the chance to follow through on these words or be exposed as insincere and further manipulating the situation. If that happens, I will be clear and loud in response.

      • While I also question the sincerity of TVC’s apology, I think your statement is very fair, John.

        @Dover, I don’t see much of an apology either. To me, it seems the TVC leaders are primarily making excuses for themselves in lieu of accepting true responsibility for their less-than-wonderful actions.

        However, I agree with John in thinking that giving people the benefit of the doubt is important at times. If you give the impression that you’re going to criticize folks, no matter what they do, they’ll start to ignore you on the grounds that nothing seems to make you happy.

        In particular, I want to do everything possible to encourage TVC to review their Child Protection policies to ensure they comply with the law and prioritize the safety of children over any other consideration.

        Thanks!

  4. Pingback: 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol 65): megachurch scandals and the best podcast ever | Simple Felicity

      • @callecyornelius:

        I looked at The Village Church’s podcast site and the most recent talk appears to have occurred on May 21, 2015, not this past weekend.

        The podcast is also released every two weeks so I’m not sure what your statement, “Be sure to listen to the village podcast from this weekend to hear Matt’s response. Not that I didn’t think you would as you do every week,” means.

        I doubt that any future podcasts will say much about this scandal because I suspect that Matt Chandler’s lawyers have advised him not to say anything substantive about Karen Hinckley given that the Church could face libel charges for what it’s already communicated. For example, the e-mail it sent out to all its members (although they seem to have taken Karen Hinckley off the membership mailing list, ironically) contained a lot of factual errors.

        Matt Chandler has also slandered Karen Hinckley generally, of course, within the context of holding her pedophile husband up as a paragon of virtue because he’s still letting The Village Church control his life.

        But I’m sure you knew all that.

        😉

        😉

      • Thank you jannalchan, it is appreciated. Sorry for the delay(I am new to this), each time I post a comment on here it sits for a while saying “Your comment is awaiting moderation”. It is frustrating, but good for my patients I suppose. I am thankful for your prayer, it is very much needed.

  5. Yes, sometimes I get frustrated when comments don’t appear right away, yet I know that the creator of this blog has much to do and moderating comments takes a long time when people are upset about something.

    I apologize for my grumpiness earlier. I do really hope that The Village Church takes this opportunity to review its child protection policies and be transparent about what that review reveals.

    Clearly, I sympathize with Karen Hinckley, yet my greatest concern respecting TVC is that it does not appear to have let members know her husband might be a danger to kids in the Church. Instead, his case was handled “internally.”

    In five years of advocating against child sexual abuse in Churches, I’ve found that approach is the proverbial recipe for disaster. Church leaders need to refer crimes to the police and other civil authorities in lieu of trying to handle them within the Church.

    Given TVC’s size, it may also need to consider assigning someone to accompany a person, on Church property, who may be perceived as a danger to children. That would serve the following two purposes:

    1) Protecting kids in an environment where there’s a lot going on so it’s hard to monitor them individually at times;

    2) Protecting someone who has confessed to being a pedophile from being the target of false accusations pertaining to harming a child.

    Thanks again for the kind words.

    • jannalchan, Yes I moderate comments so that I can ensure profanity and vicious, unrelated personal attacks don’t happen here. I want this to be a different comment section; one where all people can be heard and respected. Until I can find someone to perform this function, I need to do it, which does take considerable time given my other responsibilities. Thanks for your patience!

      • Thanks, John. Please know that my comment about moderating comments was not intended to be critical of you in any way.

        I know where you’re coming from because I’ve had to shut-down the comments sections on sites (I work in web marketing) because I couldn’t invest energy and time dealing with vicious personal attacks and weeding out marketing messages.

        The comment section of your blog is unusual in that it feels like a safe place to express thoughts. Kudos for creating it!

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I, too, am tired. Tired of hearing the same stories over and over and tired of picking up the fragments of single mamas who have been badly broken by their churches. But, I will keep doing it — our entire team will — until there is some sort of reformation. Your article is so very affirming and brings relief to my heart.

  7. Pingback: How should a church respond when a professing Christian has been committing heinous sexual immorality? | A Cry For Justice

  8. Thank you! Yes, Jesus harshest words were towards the money changers in the temple and the religious leaders…’Frat boy Christianity’ – insightful phrase.

  9. My nephew, Jeff Richardson is a big part of this cult. He is one of the original planters of the Austin Stone in Austin Texas. My brother, his father, told me it is a scam. This group of planters were chosen while in college by headhunters. These cults are child protective services lynchmen worldwide. They are directly responsible for all of the hazing scandals happening nationwide. They ruin people and kids to enable filing of federal lawsuits against school districts. They place thier own teachers, coaches, superintendants in schools before a plot to bring large scale allegations against students. They pocket the winnings from lawsuits. They need to burn in hell. They live in very expensive homes all at the cost of innocent people. They are responsible for the La Vernia High School hazing scandal.

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