Matt Chandler Steps Aside After Admitting Inappropriate Online Relationship

By Julie Roys
Matt Chandler return Village Church
On Sunday, August 28, 2022, pastor Matt Chandler addresses congregants at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. (Video screengrab)

A tearful Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church (TVC) and president of Acts 29, on Sunday confessed an inappropriate online relationship with a woman other than his wife and said he is taking a leave of absence.

Though the relationship was not romantic or sexual, Chandler said it was “unguarded and unwise.” He added that TVC elders felt Chandler’s “inability” to see the relationship for what it was “revealed something not right, something unhealthy, in me.”

“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,” Chandler said. “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 (the TVC elders). 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.”

Chandler, 48, has pastored TVC—a high-profile Southern Baptist megachurch in the Dallas/Fort Worth area—since 2002. Chandler also has served as president of the Acts 29 church planting network since 2012. That’s when Acts 29 determined that its founder, former Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll, was disqualified from ministry and replaced Driscoll with Chandler.

According to Chandler, his misconduct first came to light several months ago when a woman approached Chandler outside the church foyer with concerns about how he was direct messaging a friend of hers on Instagram.

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Chandler said at first, he didn’t think he had done anything wrong. But he “immediately” reported the woman’s account to elder Chairman Jasien Swords and TVC Lead Pastor Josh Patterson. Chandler said he also shared the woman’s concerns with his wife, Lauren.

In a statement posted online, TVC said the elders then commissioned an independent law firm to review Chandler’s messaging history on social media platforms, cell phone, and email.

The investigation found that Chandler had violated TVC’s social media use policies and “failed to meet the 1 Timothy standard for elders of being ‘above reproach’ in this instance.”

The statement said the “frequency and familiarity of the messages crossed a line” and also included language that is not “appropriate for a pastor.” However, the statement added that TVC elders believe Chandler’s behavior “did not rise to the level of disqualification.”

The elders have placed Chandler on a leave of absence from preaching and teaching at TVC, which the church said is “both disciplinary and developmental.” The statement adds, “The timeline for his return will be dictated by the expectations the elders have laid out for his development.

Chandler also will be taking a leave of absence from Acts 29, according to a statement from Acts 29 to Church Leaders.

“Considering the findings of the TVC investigation and consistent with the leave of absence from preaching and teaching that the Village Church has placed Matt on, the Acts 29 Board has asked Matt to step aside from Acts 29 speaking engagements during this time,” the statement said. “We hope that Matt can use this time away from speaking to focus on the process that TVC elders have laid out for him.”

Acts 29 Executive Director Brian Howard will continue to lead the organization in Chandler’s absence, the statement added.

Chandler & TVC under fire

The recent announcement concerning Chandler’s misconduct comes on the heels of several controversies involving Chandler and TVC.

From 2018 to just recently, TVC was embroiled in a lawsuit alleging that the church had mishandled sexual abuse by a former TVC pastor. That lawsuit ended in a settlement announced earlier this month. TVC said the church “committed no wrong.” The victim’s family accused TVC of being “not fully truthful, transparent, or caring for the traumatized.”

Chandler also made news this past May when he appeared as a keynote speaker at a theology conference alongside the pastor Chandler had previously helped disqualify—Mark Driscoll. According to Acts 29, Chandler did not know at the time he agreed to speak at the conference that Driscoll would also be speaking there. An Acts 29 spokesperson added, “Matt recognizes that conferences like these serve as an outlet for different viewpoints and voices to be heard and discussed.”

Matt Chandler

In 2020, Chandler again came under fire when Acts 29 removed its CEO Steve Timmis amid allegations of “abusive leadership.”

At that time, several former Acts 29 staff came forward and said they had approached Chandler in 2015 with concerns about Timmis’ bullying and misuse of power. The staff said that instead of honoring their concerns and investigating Timmis, Chandler fired the staff and made them sign non-disclosure agreements.

Chandler responded to the allegations, saying the decision to fire the employees “had far more” to do with whether Timmis, who resided in England, could lead the staff, who were located in Dallas.

Chandler and TVC also made headlines in 2015 when the church disciplined Karen Hinkley for annulling her marriage to her husband, who admitted to viewing images of child abuse. After a media storm and a period of “soul searching” by TVC leaders, Hinkley and TVC reconciled

Also, in 2019, The Roys Report exclusively reported that Chandler had rejected bloggers’ pleas in 2012 to hold now-disgraced pastor, James MacDonald, accountable for alleged spiritual and financial abuse.

Chandler responded that he had no intention of “drawing an attention” to the blog critical of MacDonald.” Instead, he said he would use his influence to “deflect others from giving it ‘coverage.’”

In the spring of 2011, Chandler appeared at MacDonald’s Elephant Room conference (discussed on this podcast) and raised concerns when he made scathing remarks about anonymous critics.

“We’ll receive any bit of rebuke and any bit of critique,” Chandler said. “But you sign your name, you immature, weak little cowards. You sign your name, you silly, pathetic, little boy. You don’t take jabs behind an alias. Who does that? . . . You don’t take jabs at us behind some alias as you sit in the crowd and do nothing, you narcissistic zero! Sign your name!”

After his angry discourse, Chandler says, “I probably need to get some help. (crowd laughs) I’ll work through that.”

Excerpt from The Elephant Room Conference – Spring 2011

This story has been updated to include the story about Karen Hinkley and video excerpt of Chandler’s past remarks.

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64 thoughts on “Matt Chandler Steps Aside After Admitting Inappropriate Online Relationship”

  1. So very many questions. How is the woman? What are the specific issues this revealed in Matt’s life so that others harmed by him can recognize it and seek help? Why did Matt participate in his own discipline announcement (???). Is there a recognition that other issues, namely pride and anger, are present and there needs to be repentance?

    Why, oh why, did he get a standing ovation?

    1. Sarah Marie Greene

      I would also like to say, “How is the woman that was involved?” Is anyone concerned for her? She may or may not be a member of the church, but I am sure she would not agree that “his busy schedule” to paraphrase is an excuse for his attention to engage with her. He is in a position of esteem. Now she is left as “he gets time off”. I am sure he made her feel quite important in his life, and now she is left in a lurch. It goes right to the issue of someone who leads someone on and in such a profile public image. It really is disturbing…he may stay in his marriage and she knows he meant more than what was “said”. My prayer is for her healing as well as she is left to deal with a deceitful person. And, to the wife who may stay, but should most definitely not be blind to the bigger implications of his discretions.

    2. In the past few years there have been several times when congregations have given standing ovations to the announcements of pastors’ inappropriate or even abusive behavior.

      This rather astonishing response confirms these celebrity pastors are almost worshipped

      1. I am not a fan of these standing ovations. But there was no extended applause standing ovation in this instant here. I wish the congregation had just kept quiet, though.

  2. Well it appears that although Chandler doesn’t or can’t see it, nor the ” elders” surrounding him he continues to walk in the footsteps of his twin Mark Driscoll. Acts 29 is filled with people gifted, but sorely lacking the maturity, character and wisdom to lead. I Timothy 5: 22: “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins if others; keep yourself free from sin.” I have had it up to here with snot nosed often heretical 2 year olds thinking they “are all that.” They need to be in the nursery and not leadership. And that goes for the females also…

    1. thank you for your comments , too bad that more men are not stepping up sounding the alarm about these kind of men!

    2. How are they “gifted” exactly, and to whom? What it reveals is that there’s clearly underlying rot at the core of many leaders in the reformed movement. Something about the practical implications and blind spots that come out from under their theological framework. There’s Mahaney, Driscoll, Joshua Harris, and now Chandler.

      1. And to think of all the finger pointing and accusations of the same shortcomings from these men towards the mega-nondenom world.

  3. This news makes me so sad for the Chandler family and TVC as I was a voracious student of Matt Chandler’s teaching years ago as a new believer. However, it’s also very encouraging and hopeful to know that the elders and staff are taking disciplinary steps and not sweeping these circumstances under the rug. It gives me hope for the Church at large. Prayers for healing and restoration to all involved.

  4. Soooo… he didn’t realize it was wrong when he was doing it? And people still listen to this guy? He will be back in no time to a standing ovation.

  5. We welcome this repentance. It makes me question the limitations churches should have on their lead pastors when they are presidents of church networks, write books and speak, do preaching tours and govern large, large churches. All of those factors mentioned put strain on one man. Is the church or pastor meant to be that large?

    1. I don’t think I heard repentance — I did hear excuses. I have worked with CEOs of large companies around the world for several years. I see these men and women hold themselves to higher ethical standards — and treat their audiences with more intelligence — than this speaker does. But when a leader of a publicly-traded company does do something unethical, he or she is often caught and then dismissed without fanfare or excuse. We’re *all* under a lot of pressure — so refreshing to work in the business world where it’s not used as a lame excuse for bad behavior.

  6. And don’t forget about Karen Hinkley! That’s the first time Chandler made national news, I believe. Karen Hinkley wanted to divorce her husband because she found out he had been using child sexual abuse materials their whole marriage (child porn).

    Instead, the church put HER under church discipline because she wouldn’t meet with the elders to try to reconcile with her husband. She felt her marriage could be annulled because he entered into it under false pretences. But the church put her under discipline and announced it to the entire congregation. They backed down when major newspapers followed the story.

      1. Margaret Oldenburg

        Am I correct that at least Chandler did apologize to her and admitted to her she did have grounds for divorce. Macarthur never did apologize when he was in the same situation.

  7. Is is surprising to anyone else that his comments from 2011 “Elephant Room Confernce” did not disqualify him for the role of pastor?

  8. Whether Chandler did anything wrong or not, I don’t know. I have been quite sour on the modern evangelical church- dry ice – lights way low – mood setting praise and worship – concert style – march and trot around the pulpit – approach to this thing deemed Christianity in the western world.

    With that said, and before we start beating our chests and spouting our righteousness…folks, whether you’re a man or woman…in this modern era of social media…it is SO EASY to find yourself in conduct that is not appropriate. It’s very seductive and easy to do.. It’s so easy to complain or seek an ear…especially of the opposite sex…when it comes to issues in your relationships.

    BUYER BEWARE, folks. Those opposite sex friendship relationships come with many hidden landmines. None of us are immune to falling.

    Start with the man or woman in the mirror.

    1. Dave Van Bebber

      Well said Dean. I’m reminded to keep guard over my own heart. I don’t know Chandler personally (I don’t think many who have commented on here do), but I am saddened for the young woman who he had this relationship with as well as Matt’s family, and even Matt.

      It’s a sad situation. There are many levels of problematic issues it seems with this situation.

  9. When Chandler states that “I don’t know if that’s tied to the pace I run” as maybe the reason for his poor judgement he clearly does not take ownership for his behavior. Furthermore, while I support restoration I also don’t equate restoration to coming back in the same position and authority and (once again) the focus seems to be Pastor and not the woman. Men, we must expect more from those with whom we ask to lead our church family.

    1. You’ve hit the nub of the problem with ‘lead our church family’. What do you mean, ‘lead’? I find in the scriptures words like ‘oversee’, ‘serve’, ‘pastor’. I don’t see ‘archon’ (leader) anywhere. Yet we have adopted this worldly hubris which stifles the mutual serving and responsibility of all the church members. We are well and truly ‘yoked’ to the world in our structures and practices!

      1. What do you do with Hebrews 13:17 where the word leader (‘ngeomai) is used. Louw-Nida defines as “to rule over, with the implication of providing direction and leadership — ‘to rule over, to order, to govern, government, rule.'” TDNT supports this. Of course, this is not a dictatorship as 1 Pet 5:1-4 points out. 1 Pet 5:2 does reference the elder/pastor as one who is “exercising oversight” on the flock that belongs to Jesus Christ who purchased it with His blood. This flock does not belong to the “undershepherd.”

  10. My heart breaks at stories like this one…Satan is definitely alive and well on planet earth, isn’t he?

    1. In the video it said his wife knew & the woman’s husband knew. As someone who has been cheated on by both first & second husband I am ultra sensitive to conversations between opposite sexes. Especially if they are married. Intimacy starts with “harmless” conversations that deepen into something more as time goes on. Like Casting Crowns song “Slow Fade”. That’s how satan gets us. Praying for everyone affected by this. I am thankful for grace as I am sure everyone here has at one time or another had an inappropriate thought(or more). Pastors are called to a higher standard but we are all leaders in our circle & need to watch ourselves. We are all as believers representing Jesus Christ.

  11. I am glad he came forward but from the article it appears that until he knew someone else knew that he confessed. Had the friend of the woman not confronted would he have confessed?
    There seems to be a pattern of poor judgment in the last couple of years. Also the elder board has already made it clear that Chandler can return to his pulpit in the future. Is that wise or good? Can you trust him. I wonder if those questions have been asked.

    1. He literally said that he didn’t believe he did anything wrong. Why would he repent? Also( what is there to repent of? Do you repent for driving a little over the speed limit? If you do, that’s great. You repent when you sin. Yes, he messaged a woman frequently. What we know if that it wasn’t sexual in nature. He was sat down for issues with TVC policies, which are a far cry from God’s laws. We all fall. If more details come out, then I’ll revise my response. Until then I’d rather not gossip and throw stones when we haven’t confirmed sin. Also, TVC church isn’t accountable to us. It’s accountable to God and it’s congregation.

  12. If the IMs were so innocent why did he notify the elders? Was he seeking to have the woman who expressed concern, placed “under church discipline” for “a divisive spirit” or “speaking against authority”? (It wouldn’t be the first time) And is she still in danger of this happening even though he’s on a paid vacation?

  13. I was with a Christian leader yesterday and we spoke about being in “closed door” meeting with leaders. At times you give pause the issue of are they really qualified for Christian leadership, We all must speak up when we see warning sign of misconduct

  14. “Integrity and the Future of the Church”
    “….
    “If people reject the church because they reject Jesus and the gospel, we should be saddened but not surprised. But what happens when people reject the church because they think we reject Jesus and the gospel? People have always left the church because they want to gratify the flesh, but what happens when people leave because they believe the church exists to gratify the flesh – in orgies of sex or anger or materialism? That’s a far different problem. What if people don’t leave the church because they disapprove of Jesus, but because they’ve read the Bible and have come to the conclusion that the church itself would disapprove of Jesus? That’s a crisis….”—Russell Moore

    http://www.plough.com/en/topics/faith/witness/integrity-and-the-future-of-the-church

    “….
    It’s not as though the New Testament didn’t foresee the danger, or that somehow this is a recent development for the church. Christians have always known to keep conceited men from church office. If the Scriptures’ pervasive condemnations of pride and arrogance weren’t enough, then the express qualifications for pastor-elder make it all the clearer:…David Mathis

    “He must not be arrogant. (Titus 1:7}”

    https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/pride-disqualifies-a-pastor

    Titus 1
    7 For the overseer must be blameless as one entrusted with God’s work, not arrogant, not prone to anger, not a drunkard, not violent, not greedy for gain.
    8 Instead he must be hospitable, devoted to what is good, sensible, upright, devout, and self-controlled.—NET

    Two very good remarks by two pastors—I would say stopped going to churches that support such people like Mark Driscoll, and Chandler and certainly stop giving money to their churches

  15. Terence Emmanuel

    I think most of you commenting on this blog are pretty harsh. He admitted his mistakes, he is under discipline, being restored and that is great. God forgives. There are so many horrible scandals posted on this website with pastors denying or minimizing their sins. Hope and pray Matt Chandler will come back stronger and better.

    1. Terrence, I don’t think anyone here says that Matt can’t be forgiven, the issue is whether he can continue to pastor. The standards are high, I am divorced and many would say that I can’t be a pastor or elder.
      Again , did he confess before he was confronted or after.

      1. I am a little confused by this comment. Yes he confessed afterwards, but is a confession automatically irrelevant if it occurs after the person is caught? In some instances that can be the case, but sometimes when a person gets caught they do genuinely repent. Look at scripture, David committed one of the heinous sins recorded as a King of Israel. According to the story he did not repent or seek Gods forgiveness until God sent Nathan to confront him! Thus Psalm 51 was recorded as David’s genuine confession.

        I’m not sure why brought up your divorce, but I am sorry to hear that happened. However, in this case with Matt Chandler the sin was not something I can directly point in scripture and say he is automatically disqualified for life. According to what I have heard and read, it was honestly a lack of wisdom to set healthy boundaries on his part, and not being the best example as a leader communicating with that woman. Having a regular conversation with someone of the opposite sex while married is never a smart idea even if the two of you have done nothing together that will be deemed as “adultery”. No pastor is perfect, and the fact that he even apologized is a good start. But it seems this is not enough for a lot of people in the church. I have never even listened to a single sermon of this man, but the lack of grace coming from the church is ridiculous.

    2. Debra Bauschatz

      This is not a “mistake”. It’s a deliberate crossing of a very clear and defined line. He knew what he was doing, and did it over and over.

  16. What if Mr. Chandler had engaged in exactly the same communications with another man? Would it then be all good?

  17. Does anyone know what TVC’s social media policy is for its staff/pastors? If they have a policy and the staff is aware of it, then wouldn’t it have been obvious to Chandler that whatever he was doing was wrong and not just “unguarded and unwise”? If your employer, or church in this instance, has a policy that you sign on to, it makes it pretty clear as to what is and isn’t allowed. He should be able to say that he was wrong and that he acted against the policy he had agreed to follow. Why just “unguarded and unwise”? And that’s all just a minor point in the overall mess that this seems to be. I am so thankful for the wise friend of the woman involved who spoke up and confronted when she saw something was wrong. Her actions may have prevented even more from happening.

    1. Annie,

      It’s just the Billy Graham clause. That is all it is.

      Matt didn’t think about it because its obvious that he and his wife are friends with this couple.

      Doesn’t fall into the category of sin. Just stupid.

      H. Clinton once asked Billy Graham to lunch. He declined because he said that he had a rule that he would not eat alone with another woman other than his wife or one of his daughters.

      Clinton laughed and said, “where could the two of us ever go to lunch where we would be alone. I’m the wife of the President and we both have dozens of people who follow us everywhere.”

      Billy said, that is was the principle of the matter.

      And that is why there was never a scandal.

      Matt did something that his elders noted was unwise. He let his guard down. As elders we are held to a higher standard. It’s pretty simple. There was nothing scandalous here. And because it was handled in the way that it was, it will be a deterrent to scandal in the future.

  18. It’s hard to say what’s going on, let alone judge. We don’t know what the texts said. If they aren’t sexual or romantic in nature, then the Board’s decision seems appropriate to me.

  19. People are judging him harshly, when they don’t know the facts. What we DO know is his DM’s were NOT sexual or romantic. They were inappropriate because of their frequency and too familiar in nature. Matt used bad judgement. People, get off your high horse, for you will be judged too. Pray for your brother… not condemn him.

    1. Charlotte Stovall

      Hi Jimmy, I agree that we don’t know the facts. However, since both the church and Acts 29 placed him on a suspension of sorts, there must be something to it. I personally can’t fathom what it could be if it wasn’t romantic or sexual, but for two different organizations to ask him to step aside means there must be some sort of damage they need to get under control before the truth leaks. The fact that they didn’t spell out exactly what it was gives me pause to say that it wasn’t a big deal. We just don’t know yet

  20. One’s theology impacts their life. If this church is true to its Calvinism then one has a legitimate concern. “Distinctive || Sovereignty of God in Salvation – The salvation of humanity is fundamentally the work of God. Before the foundation of the world, God elected His people, setting His affection and grace upon them (Rom. 8:29-30). In love God predestined His people for adoption (Eph. 1:4-6). Faith is a gift of grace that is given by the mercy and pleasure of God, so that no one may boast. Apart from the intervention of God, humanity cannot choose of his own accord to worship God and pursue righteousness (Rom. 3; Eph. 2:1-3). God’s sovereignty in salvation is comprehensive: from first to last, all of salvation is the work of God.” Perhaps this pastor was not one of God’s elect. Maybe he didn’t receive the gift of faith. Maybe Calvinism isn’t as fun as it is billed. But then again, maybe spiritually dead doesn’t not mean morally incompetent. Is it possible that Christians can indeed fail and step away from grace – lacking eternal significance while maintaining eternal security. Perhaps, this church’s theology is simply unbiblical in light that the Creator sovereignly gave people free will to make a choices, good and bad, moral and immoral, and even online choices.

  21. Like others here have stated, I didn’t hear repentance. I heard excuses – “my wife and the husband of the woman I was talking to knew.” I bet they didn’t know the whole story because if they did you’d have to wonder why they “didn’t see” it either. Maybe it’s not fair to make this accusation, but I bet the woman Chandler was talking to wasn’t ugly. The woman’s friend approached Chandler and probably expressed that she thought what Chandler was doing was inappropriate – and thank God for her. I approached one of my pastors on a trip regarding a 50+ year old man texting a 14 year old girl (we were all on the same trip) and was met with, “Stop assuming the worst.” I only expressed that the older man was texting a 14 year old girl and I was concerned about it, didn’t assume the absolute worst.

    The good thing here is if Chandler’s intentions weren’t as pure as he comes across saying they were, this may have stopped him in his tracks.

  22. It is nice to see a healthy structure of church leadership and taking care of an issue. Hoping the best for Matt Chandler, his family, and everybody involved. Unfortunately, people are so quick to assume the worst and still throw “daggers” even when an issue is being resolved. We just don’t know all the details but nothing seemed to disqualify him. It was an embarrassing moment to stand before your family and church but glad that Matt owned his part. What more do people want? Let the man be under the discipline and care of his church and hopefully be restored well.

  23. The overriding issue in the church is our system. The 5 fold equippers in Ephesians are not meant to lead over people. They are to lead amongst people. When you put a person on a platform, you’re in trouble. The system we incorporate in the church is closely aligned with the system of the business world. I stopped going to these religious institutions a long time ago. We have many movements sometimes called disciple making or organic where there’s a priesthood of all believers with the equippers working among people, not ruling over them. This system started early in the church among the Nicolaitans. It evolved to a system that Constantine instituted in the 3rd century.

  24. Narcissism lives and continues as people with itching ears hold their “great men” up to be worshipped. We need to repent and get to know Jesus Christ personally. All of this celebrity stuff just makes Jesus sick and we are in denial. May Matt and the rest decline so that Jesus might be lifted up!

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