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. Thanks for the information Julie. My concern is I think us who are reading national news don’t care about the man. I see anger and judgment towards this man. How many comments are against “celebrity pastors” yet how many here are sucked in by the story?! We all hate the sin, but love to talk about it. Sure, he made bad choices and decisions but why are we on this website specifically so against him?
    Is there not room for a pastor to repent? It seems the church is the most dangerous place these days.
    And by the way, listen to what he’s saying. He’s not a twin of Driscoll and he’s not anyone else. He’s the one who brought up his own mistakes! Man we need some grace in this place!
    I hope I am shown more grace than what I see here. Because I need it. Because I sin. Because I make mistakes.

    1. Noah – As others have pointed out, this story is about the man, not the woman. There is a pattern in evangelical Christianity where celebrity pastors are called out for repeatedly making destructive behavior choices, but those in charge treat it as if there aren’t real victims out there who must now deal with the consequences of the negative behavior choices of another, specifically the negative behavior choices of someone labeled things like “pastor” or “man of God.” The call for grace for the offender needs to be properly balanced with accountability, repentance, and restitution. In addition, these same churches are either oddly silent on providing justice for the victim, and some are openly antagonistic towards the person who was wronged, who many times was in a position of vulnerability.

      Cheap grace isn’t really grace at all.

      1. Ellington Smith

        From what we know though, it does not seem like the woman was victimized in this instance. It just seems that for his role and a man in a covenant marriage he engaged with her in a far too familiar and frequent fashion, unless I am missing something else?

    2. Please heed these words from the book of James

      “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”

    3. I think the world of Matt Chandler. He is a man not a saint? There was less concern about Bill Clinton? Thus man has so much on his plate. Let’s just wait and see how much this has been blown up. His wife will tell the tale.

  2. I only offer these comments as one who has been guilty of sin. Not one who thinks he is better than Matt Chandler.
    1. He was involved in announcing his own discipline. That shows he is still in control. Big Red Flag.
    2. Where is the care for the woman? Is she being nurtured by the “Men of God’ who are referred to as “elders?”
    3. This feels like man worship. Just the overall sense is that this man is above censure. He should resign and get his spiritual life in order for many years before ever leading other people.

    1. Dunnning Kruger

      Excellent perspective, brother. We need to admit the chickens are still slowly coming home to roost on these YRR guys who surfed the wave of neo-Calvinism and rejection of the dry, “Dead White Guy” theologians who faithfully passed down the apostolic faith to us in exchange for winsomeness and relevance to the”unchurched seekers”. Chandler had the added feature of being a cancer survivor to garner pity and sympathy to his continuationism and boyish charm in the pulpit. Hybels, Driscoll, Piper, McDonald, Noble, Beth Moore, Jen Hatfield: all victims of their own narcissism. Andy Stanley won’t be far behind: bet on it.

    2. @Bob Meredith

      I agree. This is a strange “apology” (is it an apology?). Why did Chandler wait for 6 or 7 months after the event in the foyer to bring it to the church body? He claims he did nothing wrong and was disoriented by being approached in the church foyer about his online behavior. If his wife knew about his social media communication with this woman – which he states she did, why couldn’t he share the investigative report that was conducted about the communication with the church? (Some might say to avoid embarrassment, but he clearly was not too embarrassed to communicate via social media which is not all that private.)

      He is controlling his own discipline and also the narrative that is being shared. There is much more to this story.

  3. It’s not what he may or may not have done, but the predictable damage control that swings into action in all these incidents that leaves the weak disillusioned. Luke 17:2

  4. In light of Chandler’s recent resignation Christianity Today’s Dave Miller wrote a front line piece entitled “Stop Applauding Pastors Who Publicly Confess Their Sins”.

    It’s well worth the read since it seems to be a big trend today. .

  5. It seems difficult to have a firm opinion on this situation with the details being so sketchy. I’m not saying we deserve to know these details but an inappropriate non sexual, non romantic relationship leaves me scratching my head and any attempts to define it would seem to require assumptions not in evidence.

  6. We really shouldn’t make assumptions and I have tried not to but I can’t help but thinking that there is more to this situation than just “coarse and foolish joking”.

    None of this will matter, of course, when he returns to the pulpit to a standing ovation.

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