Matt Chandler is making waves on social media after a 35-second clip from a 47-minute sermon he gave in August of this year at The Village Church, where he is the lead pastor, began circulating. In the clip, Chandler described Christian deconstruction as something today’s culture views as “sexy.”
The word “sexy” has been used to describe something that is appealing or exciting. In this case, Chandler was explaining that deconstruction of the Christian faith is popular at the moment.
In 2016, the term “exvangelical” was created in reference to someone who had left evangelicalism. Since then the term has grown in popularity.
Critics within the exvangelical community have called Chandler’s words “offensive,” arguing that deconstruction isn’t “sexy.” They have also pointed out that it is churches like Chandler’s that have led to their deconstruction, because of the way they mishandle sexual abuse claims.
In 2019, The Village Church and Chandler made news when their former associate children’s minister, Matthew Tone, was accused of molesting a girl at a 2012 church summer camp. The Village Church leadership has been accused of hiding information from church members in order to protect itself. The church fired Tonne for “an alcohol abuse problem,” instead of sexual abuse.
The girl, who is now an adult, filed a lawsuit against The Village Church in July 2019, claiming that the church was “willfully negligent,” and was seeking $1 million dollars in damages.
The Village Church released a statement in August 2020 that criminal charges had been dropped against Tonne, stating that “the complainant could not and did not positively identify defendant as the person who committed this offense.”
Matt Chandler’s Sermon
Explaining why he was preaching such a topic in a room filled mostly with assumed Christians, Chandler shared that during a recent baptism service at the church, many of the testimonies of those being baptized shared a commonality. Chandler said that 15 of them said that they had grown up in the church, with some even having gone to church camp, but they all said they had never heard the message of the gospel until recently.
Chandler found those testimonies haunting, because he has kids who have grown up in the church and around ministry their entire lives. “How in the world can you grow up in church your whole life and then in your mid-20’s, early 30’s say ‘I never heard the gospel,’” he asked.
Chandler had coffee with some of the newly baptized believers and asked them about their testimony. Some of them grew up in church their entire lives and shared that they had been told not to have sex before marriage, not to get high or drunk, not to be part of the party scene, and not to listen to secular music.
In other words, many of them grew up believing “moralistic deism” instead of the gospel. Chandler explained “moralistic deism” as, “if you’re good enough, God will love you and God will bless you.”
“Now some heard. Some could actually articulate to me what the gospel is and was and how they grew up knowing it, but just didn’t hear until recently,” Chandler said. “But too many of them had all the kind of checklist of moral behavior down and no relationship with Jesus Christ. No understanding of what was actually happening—what the point of all this is.”