Hot takes are not our thing here so with a few weeks having gone by with no new revelations I think it is acceptable to sit down and watch some game film and admit to ourselves that Matt Chandler was just railroaded and the perp got away with it.
A Three Ring Circus
At this point you can go to just about any other outlet and find the statements from Chandler and the Elders of The Village Church, so I won’t reproduce them here. It is also easy to let your fingers do the walking for you to go and find the standard evangelical take on this and just as little effort to find the secular side licking their chops in the hope of more. Both sides get it wrong. One would expect the lost to stumble around blindly in the outer darkness railing about pastors demeaning women by following the Billy Graham Rule in one breath and denouncing Chandler for being friends with a woman the next because he is held to a higher standard. This side show is made only more entertaining with the Boz Tchividjian clown car rolling in for him to trip around with his “informed opinion.” But the main circus is in the big tent over there with the lights on, and we really should go see the spectacle on display in the center ring.
The man in the top hat has declared that though this is upsetting the elders of the Village Church have executed a flawless display of church discipline and stuck the landing with hardly a wobble. Quite an acrobatic feat. The problem is that someone miss aimed the cannon causing Chandler the Cannonball to take the tight rope walker, two Flying Wallendas, and a sick tiger out on his way to that perfect landing which is far outside the tent. Speaking of too far I think I have stretched this metaphor to that point.
Just because something looks like every thing has been handled well and all the loose ends are tied up does not mean it actually is that way. Now to be fair, Matt Chandler and the elders of TVC had a PR nightmare foisted upon them. And from a PR position they did a great job. But this isn’t ACME Enterprises LLC. it is a church. Good PR has been passed off a good church discipline. When really no actual church discipline has taken place. So to the game film.
Once Upon a Time
From what can be put together the story goes as follows: Some years ago Matt Chandler became online friends with a woman through instagram. Lauren Chandler knew about the friendship and had access to the messages and had no problem with it. The same went for Matt’s new friend’s husband. Everything was on the up and up. They spoke as friends do, Chandler admitting to coarse joking and some dirty words. But then Matt’s friend had a lady friend who decided that this friendship was inappropriate. And since it will be revealed that she seems the confrontational type we can safely assume she brought it up and was rejected. Things get a little fuzzy as to her other actions, if she was that concerned and attended the same church as Matt’s friend then she could have gone to the elders there. No one seems to know, did they agree and start discipline on their end, did they tell her it wasn’t a sin so she should pipe down? Or was she a member of even another church and had no recourse, or called the elders at her friends church to try and start the process. There are many options, none of which we know she took or not. What we do no is that she felt the need to rock up to TVC on a Sunday morning, and confront Chandler, in the lobby, between services about what she perceived as an inappropriate relationship. Chandler, was caught with one foot off the merry-go-round and actually did the reasonable thing and defended his friendship, basically saying he saw nothing wrong with it. He then goes and tells one of his elders a lady in the lobby confronted him about it, he also says he went home and told his wife about it. It was decided that the church should hire a law firm to preform a third party witch hunt, to troll though his messages, and it was shortly determined that Chandler’s friendship was inappropriate because he made some rude jokes and said some bad words. He was then placed in time out after a brief struggle session before the church, and flawless church discipline was declared.
There are two things that seem odd and should be considered because they are fuzzy. What exactly happened in the time between the lady confronting Chandler and him telling the elder about it and him going home to tell his wife what happened. Was it the kind of thing where he realized right away that this lady could cause problems and was a ticking PR time bomb? It could be that in passing it was a “Hey Steve this crazy lady stopped me in the lobby because she doesn’t like my friendship with someone.” And there is the possibility that he genuinely was convinced that he had done something wrong. Likewise the statements are not clear as to did he go straight home afterward because of impending disaster or was it like normal and over lunch a kind of, “So this crazy lady stopped me in the lobby…” Things could go a few ways but this is why we always wait a few weeks around here to see if anything else falls out before we hit publish.
Next it should be considered what we mean by pastors being held to a higher standard. The question is, by what standard.
“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”
The standard is holiness, as revealed in the inerrant Word of God. And by Chandler’s own admission his speech to his friend fell short of that standard. In the area of his speech he could not say with Paul “copy me as I copy Christ.” The problem comes with us in that we only want to apply this standard to Chandler when it is convenient. I have sat down with pastors who have admitted to course joking and the occasional swear word, and among men no one bats an eye. It’s considered impish, or masculine, or humanizing. These kinds of words only come up as a problem when the person who said them “is a problem.” Let let us as evangelicals not clamber up on our high horse quite so quickly on this one.
The Confronting Lady
Here we come to the very heart of the problem, and where the true sin that should be disciplined lies. The woman, who kicked this whole thing off, is a legalistic pharisee or is guilty of the sin of jealousy. Either way she has been a busybody, has killed two friendships very publicly, and has been applauded for acting according to Matthew 18 when it manifestly was not.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17
First notice the requirement is that if you have been sinned against. Being friends with Matt Chandler is not a sin against anyone. So again there was either a legalism or a jealousy. Secondly we have no report, though we might assume, that she went to her friend about her uneasiness. But no matter what the response was this passage does not give any warrant for her to go to Chandler who as far as we can tell, is not her pastor, and did not know her from Adam. But also notice this it only goes before the church, it only moves from private conversations as a final step. She marched into the most public area, and got on Chandlers case, when it was normally filled with people. This is not private, it is threatening to cause a scene.
The church “discipline” we are looking at is not real church discipline. It’s very beginning was unbiblical and it should be seen that way. The person who should be disciplined, caused a fiasco and got off scot free leaving a trail of relational destruction in her wake.
Am I Compromised
When talking about this in my men’s group it was pointed out that I may be biased because I have friends who are women, and staunchly defend having those friends. I accept those charges, it absolutely colors my thinking on this. The worst that can be said of Chandler on this front is that he took a risk in having this friend, and it did come to bite him. But again notice how. He didn’t fall into sexual sin, I am even shocked that the words “emotional affair” have not even floated around. He got in trouble because someone else, outside of the friendship, decided they would ruin it and didn’t care who got hurt in the process, again, either legalism, or jealousy were at play. And frankly more of a stink should be being made about that.
There is always a possibility that even after waiting this long to see if anything else shakes out that this kind of post will age like milk. We’ll see, but for the time being it should be repeated that real sin has been committed. Chandler is in the process of learning to control his tongue, which is good. God turned something evil and used it for good. Chandler will improve in spite of this not because of it. But there is still an undisciplined person running around and that should make us realize that this was a disaster of Church Discipline.