A well-known pastor and author says that he failed to live up to a biblical standard of leadership while engaging in a frequent relationship of messaging with a woman who was not his wife.
Matt Chandler, the lead pastor at Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, told the congregation on Sunday, August 28, that the elders of the church have decided to place him on a leave of absence immediately.
"I'm the lead pastor of this church and I plan on being the lead pastor of this church for the next 20 years. But I need to..." Chandler says before choking up and pausing for a brief moment before he continued with the announcement.
At the heart of the matter was a relationship that Chandler carried out via Instagram direct messages with a woman. Chandler says that a friend of the woman confronted him in the church foyer "several months ago" with concerns that the messages were not appropriate.
You can watch Chandler's announcement and confession at 21:52 in the video above.
The pastor, who is also the president of the Acts 29 church planting network, says that he immediately found the chair of the church's Elders Board and told him, Chandler's wife, and other elders about the conversation. The elders had an independent third-party law firm look into the matter.
The church says in an online statement that the firm reviewed Chandler's "messaging history across social media platforms, cell phone, and email. The investigators’ report led the elders to conclude that Matt violated our internal social media use policies, and more importantly that, while the overarching pattern of his life has been 'above reproach,' he failed to meet the 1 Timothy standard for elders of being 'above reproach' in this instance."
For his part, Chandler says he agrees with the Elders' decision, but at first, did not see he had been conducting himself in an inappropriate manner. He stressed that while the messaging was not romantic or sexual, it crossed a line.
"We believe in brother-sister relationships here," Chandler said. "And yet there was a frequency that moved past that, and there was a familiarity that played itself out, in coarse and foolish joking — some befitting of someone in my position as a lead pastor. And as an elder, I'm held to a higher standard and fell short of that higher standard."
Chandler says that while he's not sure what may have caused him to stumble, he does agree with the elders. "The volume of exchanges and the familiarity, which played itself out in kind of coarse and foolish joking, is just not okay for someone who has been put in the position that God has placed me in. I don’t know if that’s tied to the pace I run, or the difficulty of the last six, seven years, but I agree with them. And so, in their grace to me and my family, they’ve decided—and again, I think they’re right—to put me on a leave of absence."
"Matt’s leave of absence is both disciplinary and developmental," the Elders' statement says, "which allows him to focus on growing greater awareness in this area. The timeline for his return will be dictated by the expectations the elders have laid out for his development."
The Elders say they did not feel the ongoing messaging "did not rise to the level of disqualification."