Popular megachurch pastor takes leave over messages with woman
A popular North Texas evangelical pastor has stepped away from his preaching duties after church leadership learned he was messaging a woman who was not his wife.
Why it matters: Pastor Matt Chandler grew what was once a tiny Southern Baptist congregation from a couple hundred to a weekly attendance of 15,000 or more.
- The Village Church leader gained national attention after surviving the removal of a malignant brain tumor, and he mentors other up-and-coming pastors.
- The megachurch's Flower Mound campus once had several other buildings throughout North Texas that have since become separate congregations.
What happened: Chandler spoke to two elders after being confronted by a member about his direct Instagram messages with a woman, per a church post.
- The elders hired a law firm to review Chandler's messages on social media, his phone and in his email. After receiving the report, the elders told Chandler that his actions violated the church's social media policy.
Yes, but: Chandler said during Sunday's service that his wife and the woman's husband knew about their interactions, but he recognized after more reflection that their "conversations were unguarded and unwise."
Details: Before revealing during the service that he'll be taking time off, Chandler choked up and said he plans to be "the lead pastor of this church for the next 20 years."
- Chandler said he agreed with the elders' decision and added that he was embarrassed and didn't want to hurt his wife and three children.
Flashback: The church was sued over sex abuse allegations in 2019 and settled this year.
What they're saying: Church leadership posted a message to the congregation saying Chandler's behavior was not "above reproach."
- "In this case, while the messages were not romantic or sexual in nature, the frequency and familiarity of the messages crossed a line," the elders wrote. "They revealed that Matt did not use language appropriate for a pastor, and he did not model a behavior that we expect from him."
Meanwhile, Chandler will also take leave as chairman of Acts 29, an evangelical organization working to open new churches, per a statement to USA Today.
What's next: It's unclear when Chandler will return to preaching, but he thanked the church and the elders for giving him time.
- He said he was "eager for the other side of this, whatever God has for us."
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