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Acts 29 President Matt Chandler Headlines Theos Conference with Mark Driscoll, Eric Metaxas

By Josh Shepherd
theos chandler driscoll metaxas
On May 11, Matt Chandler (left) of Acts 29 Network is slated to speak at Theos Conference alongside other session speakers including Mark Driscoll (center) and radio host Eric Metaxas. (Courtesy Photos / screengrab)

Nationally known pastor and church-planting leader Matt Chandler is set to keynote an online theology conference alongside disgraced pastor Mark Driscoll and other controversial speakers.

Theos Conference, hosted by upstart video website Theos U, will feature what it calls “more than 40 world class teachers” at its May 11-13 online event titled “Spirit & Truth.” 

Popular conservative radio host Eric Metaxas is also on the Theos Conference schedule. So is one of the sons of another disgraced former pastor, James MacDonald.

Chandler, lead pastor of The Village Church in North Texas, has top billing at the conference. He leads Acts 29 Network, which plants new evangelical churches and supports existing ones. 

After publication of this story, The Roys Report (TRR) received a statement from an Acts 29 spokesperson: “Matt Chandler welcomes the opportunity to teach the Bible to a variety of audiences. When Matt was invited to be a part of this year’s online Theos Conference and recorded his session, he was unaware of the other participants as they had not yet been determined. Matt recognizes that conferences like these serve as an outlet for different viewpoints and voices to be heard and discussed.”

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Two years ago, Chandler came under fire after Acts 29 removed its CEO over alleged abusive leadership. At the time, several staff members told TRR they had told Chandler years before that they had similar concerns about the CEO. But after they did so, they were shocked to learn they had been fired, TRR previously reported.

The Village Church is part of Acts 29 as well as the Southern Baptist Convention, and Chandler is prominent in SBC and Reformed circles.

Chandler’s church made headlines in 2019 when former associate children’s minister, Matthew Tonne, was accused of sexual abuse of a girl at a church summer camp. The charges against Tonne were dropped in 2020, as the district attorney said the woman did not “positively identify” him as the offender. However, the woman’s suit against the church alleging “negligence” is reportedly still moving forward. 

Theos Chandler driscoll metaxas
Speaker line-up for Theos Conference 2022 (Screengrab)

Theos Conference includes several controversial speakers. One is Driscoll, who recently founded The Trinity Church in Arizona. He had resigned from Mars Hill Church in Seattle amid allegations of plagiarism and spiritual abuse. And he’s been accused of cult-like activity since launching The Trinity Church.

Over the past two years, Driscoll has reappeared on the evangelical conference circuit—including at last year’s Theos Conference.

In a promotional video for Theos Conference 2021, Driscoll derides “young pastors who are naïve and theologically uninformed” who “spend more on their wardrobe than their library.” The Arizona pastor has a personal security detail that follows him at his church, including into the elaborate green room.

Video Clip from Theos Conference 2021 featuring Mark Driscoll

Another session speaker is Landon MacDonald, former youth pastor at Harvest Bible Chapel in Illinois and son of disgraced former pastor James MacDonald. He and his brother, Luke MacDonald, have been accused of bullying and failure to report abuse.

Metaxas is best known for his biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and, more recently, his children’s book Donald Drains the Swamp. But the Salem Media radio host was named in a recent defamation lawsuit related to platforming a figure making false election fraud claims. 

Several speakers at Theos Conference also represent respected theological and academic institutions. Dr. Craig Keener and Dr. Frederick J. Long of Asbury Theological Seminary will be speaking, along with Dr. Peter Kreeft of Boston College, and Ken and Glenda Malmin of Portland Bible College. 

landon macdonald
Landon MacDonald (right) is listed with other Theos Conference speakers (Screengrab)

The online conference has been convened by Theos U co-founder Nathan Finochio, who’s also a worship leader and author. He’s slated to deliver a keynote address. Finochio was formerly a teaching pastor at Hillsong New York City, a campus of the embattled global Hillsong Church founded by Brian Houston.

TRR reached out to Finochio and Theos Conference, but they did not reply when asked about Driscoll and MacDonald’s inclusion in the conference. 

After being asked about Driscoll’s role in the event, Portland Bible College and Mannahouse Church released a joint statement to A9Collective. It reads in part: “Just because a person or organization is a part of a larger event like this doesn’t mean that they support or not support other parties who participate.”

Samuel Sey
Author Samuel Sey (center) has since exited Theos Conference (Screengrab)

While still listed in the speaker lineup as of Tuesday, author Samuel Sey confirmed to The Roys Report that he has pulled out of Theos Conference.

Sey tweeted: “I’m no longer a part of the conference, brother. And I believe Driscoll is a false teacher.”

Similarly, Dr. Craig Keener told The Roys Report that our inquiry was the first time he became aware of his inclusion in the event’s speaker lineup.

In a statement via e-mail, Keener said: “I recorded a Zoom interview with a contact at Theos University on Sept. 4, 2021. There may have been an additional video we recorded. My assumption is that, since the platform is online, they plan to play one of these pre-recorded videos. Your contact with me was my first time seeing the lineup of speakers (I have great respect for Matt Chandler) and my first notice of the conference.”

Finochio and two other men launched Theos U two years ago. They billed it as “a monthly theology deposit via subscription” and “seminary for the price of Netflix.” 

Both the conference and video website take an informal, irreverent tone. Landon MacDonald’s bio describes him as a “human being and pastor (and) Theos faculty member” who “loves his wife and kids and Nintendo and Tea and record collecting.” 

Theos promotes itself using snarky taglines including “No wishy washy woke BS per usual.”

This story has been updated with statements from Acts 29, Portland Bible College, Samuel Sey, and Craig Keener; and details regarding an abuse controversy related to The Village Church. 

Freelance journalist Josh Shepherd writes on faith, culture, and public policy for several media outlets. He and his wife live in the Washington, D.C. area with their two children.



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32 Responses

  1. Wow, after going to the site, it’s all kinds of cringe. It seems like it have very little to do with Grace and Truth.

    For those who don’t care to go to the website (understandably), here’s the main headline:

    “A teaching conference with more PHD’s & grey hair than Air Jordans. Welcome to the best conference of your life with 40+ geniuses you haven’t even heard of yet, and then a bunch you have.”

    Like, seriously? “We’re geniuses and we’re super smart, and you don’t even know how smart we are.” The site actually looks like a complete parody.

    Hard pass.

    1. And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
      1 Corinthians 2:1-5

      1. Wow!! Great scripture to expose the pompous posturing of marketing alleged Bible experts. The fact that there is a lot of abuse in some of the speakers is not NEARLY as damaging as this form of marketing what everyone has received for free. For 500 years all hired Bible experts have assumed God funnels his wisdom through those with some form of renown. God is a dispenser of wisdom through ALL his people, but they are mostly trained by those with degrees to sit as mere spectators when they meet together. No wonder no one sees value in believers with Spirit gifts and anointing. They don’t know it either.

        When believers begin to reform their pulpit and pew practice to God’s design for “meeting together”, things will change because God will work with obedience, not the clergyism traditions of men. If you want “love and good works”, try this for “meeting together” instead of Bible lectures by one man with a Bible degree. This is not anti-intellectual. This PRO Spirit driven and obedience with a proper amount of mind strength.

        Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)
        24 AND LET US (each one of us)
        CONSIDER HOW (prepare in advance)
        to stir up ONE ANOTHER (the OPPOSITE of a sermon)
        to LOVE AND GOOD WORKS, (action, not just head knowledge)
        25 not neglecting to MEET TOGETHER,
        as is the habit of some,
        but encouraging ONE ANOTHER, (again, no Bible lecture)
        and ALL THE MORE
        as you see the Day drawing near.

      2. Right on target, Mark Smith. This is the perfect response to this shameless nonsense!

    2. More from the Theos Conference website copied as follows:

      $97 FOR ALL ACCESS
      Unlimited Power Bundle
      We can’t promise that you won’t need to register your brain as a legal weapon after all these sessions. Please proceed with caution.
      Access sessions forever
      Access to all 45+ sessions
      40% diiscount code on all sick conference merch

      1. We don’t have registration for legal weapons in the United States. You’d think guys who are so into their he-manly postures would know that.

  2. what I never understand is how people actually attend these groups or churches and not think to themselves (these are self-loving narcissists). It’s just amazes me. they are the ultimate emotional pump and dump.

    1. “what I never understand is how people actually attend these groups or churches and not think to themselves (these are self-loving narcissists). It’s just amazes me.”

      the christian pastor industry has been shaped (by the likes of driscoll, chandler, macdonald, and so many others) such that behavior consistent with self-loving narcissism is now considered “gospel leadership” and part of the expectation and job description.

      christian culture is so far gone that it’s actually lauded and emulated.

      even the best pastors I know have unwittingly adopted this personna to some degree.

      the pastor industry really has become a total joke. they have no idea, to pumped up on fumes of silly self-importance.

  3. Looks to me like just another version of the elephant room that James McDonald set up a few years ago. What a complete and utter disaster that mess was. These events, designed to showcase wayward/washed up evangelical preachers could not possibly be more of a waste of time. Why not give everybody a break and just stay home with your families.

  4. I think we really have to start saying no to this. We need cancel culture to invade the church and say we refuse to be led by immoral abusers who are more about power, influence, and money than Jesus. We can’t keep letting it be ok.

  5. I wonder why pastor types give such cringe bios. He likes Tea (why the capital?), and other normal stuff, like it’s special? I’ve read other bios where the pastor likes…wait for it….coffee! They may as well say they like sitting down and then standing up. How come no one likes building plastic model kits, hunting or reading the ancient fathers for recreation?

  6. There are so many great comments that I would have “LIKED” – but I will simply state it here – such great comments – and the great text by Paul

    Thanks for discernment – this gives me a glimmer of hope…. that we can tear down and destroy the EIC – starting say with Salem Radio – a portal for religious sewage…and deception of so many who start out sincerely and then are corrupted into the American evangelical disaster

    1. Amen, Greg. I would add from Paul that “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies (1 Cor 8:1).” Success in the world of talk radio seems to favor the host that comes across as next to all-knowing and condescending to other points of view.

  7. I had never heard of Thoeos or Mr, Finochio until this. The more I look into him, the more I realize that he doesn’t quite grasp what it means to follow Jesus.

  8. I’m sure their will be many ‘low-lights’ in this fare!

    2 Corinthians 6:14 (ESV): “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”

  9. A brood of vipers flock together. These conferences are all about celebrity fame and an attempt to make some mammon. I think they are less than spiritually worthless. Go into your own prayer closet by yourself instead and watch the Almighty answer you.

  10. Yikes, what a website; it sounds like something teenagers would write, rather than a business or ministry event. They talk like it is a big conference; Ohio has several school technology conferences that size per year; the largest offering over 250 sessions, and 150 exhibitors, over 3 days, in person and virtual.
    Even though there are brilliant people in our Ohio school tech group, they are far more humble than those at this conference. Spending time with school children humbles a person very quickly.

    – Greg

  11. I actually signed up for the event. I have wanted to hear Peter Kreeft live for ages. The creator of this event wanted to know why we signed up. I responded by expressing gratitude for the quality of Evangelical scholarship represented but that I was not a big fan of Mr. Driscoll as several eyewitness accounts paint an unflattering picture of his leadership. I have no response of yet. I also wished to see the production values of the event.

    1. I appreciate the fact that you spoke up to some degree. However, “unflattering” is the soft-peddled understatement of the decade. Why not speak plainly?

      Driscoll still has a platform because christian culture is one of passive compliance. Christians are somehow lulled into enabling by way of tolerating all kinds of rotten character, misplaced priorities, corruption, abuse, and varied and sundry crimes against the laws of what is good & right & true.

      A first step to rectifying this state of affairs is to call such things out speaking plainly, using unvarnished words. Driscoll is abusive, misogynistic, megalomaniacal, tyrannical, cruel, and destroys lives, for starters.

      The creators of this event needed to hear such plain-spoken words loud and clear.

        1. what’s this ‘gently’ bit? it seems to me the current iteration of christianity turns men into fragile teacups.

          won’t “matter of fact” suffice? or is that too harsh?

      1. I hear what you are saying. I chose my words carefully. I wanted to bring attention that having Driscoll would be problematic at the least.

        In other cases, I have spoken forthrightly.

  12. What I’m confused about is this… what is the connecting link between all of these people… I mean some of the names here I assumed are men of repute and serious, orthodox Biblical scholarship, like Dr Keener, Dr Long and Dr Kreeft (I think he is on my reading list!) So what is the unifier?… culture war? trumpism? mega-churchianity? Arminianism? Surely those guys wouldn’t want to be associated with the extremism of someone like Metaxas or the corruption of Driscoll…
    I’m perplexed… (I even thought Chandler was better than that, but maybe I don’t know these people very well)

    1. could be that this Theos U kept everyone blindsighted.

      but now that it’s clear who the speakers are associating themselves with (perhaps unwittingly), it’s now a kind of test of one’s integrity.

      by all means, protect your reputation and your own integrity.

    2. Yes, I wonder whether Dr. Kreeft has such an inflated ego that he buys into this whole show, or if it’s more like, “Some people want you to give a lecture online.” “Okay.”

  13. There are a few guys on the list that I don’t trust their level of education, Wilkerson Jr., Chavez and the charismatic like.

    Having had the unfortunate experience to cross over into the Pentecostal world, charisma trumps education, character and pretty much everything else.

  14. It seems that many of the “celebrity” pastors spend a good deal of time traveling the country to participate in these events that I am sure they get paid well for. I guess they squeeze this in between the time they spend writing books. Nothing wrong with either of these assuming that they are doing these things while not on company time. But does anyone really think these guys are putting in 40 hours or more a week on their job as pastor of their church? Maybe they do but if I attended the church of one of these celebrity preachers i would look at how many weeks they preached to their own congregation vs how many they were out double dipping on outside engagements.

  15. As horrid as this “conference” is, it’s also important to note that John MacArthur was interviewed by Metaxas 2 years ago (and Charlie Kirk, before Kirk’s “think tank” was flushed away). JM clearly had much to gain from willingly exposing himself, and Grace Church, to the shameless GOP exposure/idolatry that Metaxas eagerly doled out.

    While this Theos event has “sham” written all over it, please don’t ignore the holier-than-thou conferences and events that MacArthur + GCC keep hosting; there’s a ton of legalism, + JM’s massive sins of ignorance/arrogance in light of serious abuse and financial scandals there. The sins of Chandler, Driscoll, Metaxas, etc. are indeed a strong rebuttal to MacArthur’s ghost-written tome “Why Psychology Can’t Save You”. These men need intense therapy. They also need to exit their pulpits ASAP.

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