A few months ago, an individual approached The Village Church’s lead pastor, Matt Chandler, with concerns about the way he was using direct messaging on social media with a woman who was not his wife. Matt shared those concerns with his wife, Lauren, and two elders, Josh Patterson and Elder Chairman Jasien Swords that same evening, and submitted to their leadership in addressing the situation.
The elders commissioned an independent law firm to conduct a review of Matt’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.
We are strong proponents of brothers and sisters in Christ being friends, but there are boundaries around what’s appropriate in these kinds of friendships. A pastoral role requires a greater awareness of those boundaries. In this case, while the messages were not romantic or sexual in nature, the frequency and familiarity of the messages crossed a line. They revealed that Matt did not use language appropriate for a pastor, and he did not model a behavior that we expect from him.
While the elders believe that this did not rise to the level of disqualification, we do hold elders to a higher standard of behavior. The elders concluded, and Matt agreed, that Matt’s behavior was a sign of unhealth in his life, and that the best course of action would be for him to take a leave of absence from teaching and preaching at The Village Church. Matt’s leave of absence is both disciplinary and developmental, 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.
We know this update is challenging, and you may have questions about this or want to process this with someone. That is normal and expected. Our staff and leaders are available to receive you and pray with you. If you don’t know who to connect with or where to go, you can start by emailing the Care Department, and we’ll make sure your email gets connected to the right person.
While we do wish to respond to every inquiry, we appreciate your grace and understanding as we seek to prioritize the care of our congregation in this season.