Matt Chandler, lead pastor of The Village Church (TVC), a Southern Baptist Church (SBC) in Flower Mound, Texas, returned to the pulpit on Sunday (Dec. 4) after taking a three-month leave of absence due to an inappropriate direct messaging relationship with a woman who was not his wife.
When Chandler stood before the congregation in August and asked them to forgive him for online behavior that he described as both “unguarded and unwise,” the details shared regarding the relationship were vague. Chandler’s messages were not of a romantic or sexual nature, but were said to be characterized by “familiarity” and “coarse and foolish joking.”
Fellow TVC lead pastor and elder Josh Patterson gave a brief report regarding Chandler’s restoration process. Patterson said that the elders navigated Chandler’s situation alongside the church, because they care about accountability.
“As we announced that to you,” Patterson recalled, “we talked about this leave being both disciplinary and developmental. And the plan that the elders created was created prayerfully. It was created through a robust study of the Scriptures.”
Chandler submitted to the elders restoration plan during his time of leave “faithfully, genuinely, and authentically,” Patterson reported.
“We believe, and I’m speaking on behalf of the elders at this point, and again in consultation not just with the elders but with a multidisciplinary team that we’ve engaged with over these last several months, that now’s the time,” Patterson said of Chandler’s return. The date coincided with Chandler’s 20th anniversary as lead pastor of TVC.
“We did not plan for the 20th anniversary. We had all kinds of things planned for this weekend, months and months and months and months and months ago, that we just postponed because we didn’t know when Matt was going to come back,” Patterson shared. “And then as it looked like this was the date, we said, this is the day that the Lord has made. We’re going to rejoice and be glad in it.”
Before Chandler was welcomed back onstage, Patterson said, “I don’t feel any hesitation. I don’t feel any trepidation. I feel excitement. I feel eagerness, and I feel a deep, deep gratitude for our loving Lord, who has shown himself to be mighty in our church.”
“And here’s what I mean when I say that,” Patterson continued. “He has shown himself to be mighty in his grace. He has shown himself to be mighty in his love. He’s shown himself to be mighty in his pursuit. He’s shown himself to be mighty in his seriousness about our hearts and our lives. He’s shown himself to be mighty in his discipline. He’s shown himself to be mighty in his care. And he’s shown himself to be mighty in his restoration. And all of that matters.”
The congregation greeted Chandler with a standing ovation, and at least one congregant could be seen taking a picture of the moment with their cell phone.
“I very much know that the Christian life is a marathon,” Chandler said as the applause died down. “And there are times in that run where you’re uphill in the snow, and not sure if you’re gonna make it. And then there are other times you’re running downhill in the sun, and it feels like nothing could ever hinder your love for Jesus and your bold witness.”
“If, in my foolishness, I created any more weight on you or made this any more difficult on you,” Chandler continued after a pause, “please forgive me.”