Recently there has been quite a bit of buzz about a church discipline issue at the Village Church in Dallas and the way it was handled.
Matt Chandler, who is the lead pastor of this multi-campus church, is also the president of the Acts 29 Church Planting network. Due to my experiences at Mars Hill Church, coupled with the fact that I coach several Acts 29 pastors, I have been keeping an eye on this.
It’s my initial sense that they are owning what happened, calling it sinful and sincerely asking for forgiveness from their “Covenant Partners.” Given what transpired at Mars Hill, I am very encouraged as to what I see taking place at the Village Church and am praying and trusting that we all can learn from this.
To get a bit of the history and context, read this article from Christianity Today.
I won’t go into any more details as to what has been happening. You can go to the Village Church website to learn more and/or you can watch this Sermon on Wandering by Matt Chandler which he delivered to the church.
In this sermon (at about the 5.41 mark if you don’t want to watch the entire sermon) he shares some very insightful thoughts on what he and the Elders of Village Church are asking forgiveness for regarding the recent discipline issue at the church.
In the video, Matt Chandler says there are five specific things that require forgiveness.
The comments under each of these five are mine.
1. Will you forgive us where our counsel turned into control?
I have seen this numerous times through the years in various leadership contexts. The counsel that is given by a leader (especially when that leader is a strong personality type) at times can be used to control a person into behaving and deciding in a way the leader desires and expects. No one but God himself can tell you what you should do and what His will is if it is not expressed clearly in Scripture. As a leader I can give suggestions, put resources in your hands, share some biblical principles which you can use to make your decision, but you and you alone are responsible before Him for what you ultimately decide to do. I am especially leery of, “God told me to tell you (fill in the blank).”
2. Will you forgive us where we failed to recognize the limits and scope of our authority?
As a leader, you only have authority under the Lord and you only have authority over those who wish to give you that authority. This God-given authority has limits and boundaries and needs to be stewarded with great carefulness and prayerfulness. It is too easy and too tempting as a leader to let your authority go to your head and start to boss and/or order people around.
I love Mark 10:42, 43 in The Message: “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, he said, and when people get a little power, how quickly it goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you.” How quickly a little power, authority, popularity, success, notoriety can move us beyond the limits and scope of our God-given authority and lead us to do really stupid and unbiblical things.
3. Will you forgive us where we allowed our policies and process to blind us to your pain, confusion and frustration?
Policies, procedures and regulations can blind us to common sense and civility in dealing with people. The very people these tools were created to help are now being mistreated or misrepresented as we implement our tools. We become more interested in enforcing the policy than in listening to and understanding the person in front of us.
4. Will you forgive us where we acted transactionally rather than tenderly?
We can attempt to play it by the rulebook in a transactional sort of way instead of a redemptive and transformational way. Decisions can degenerate into heartless business decisions as we enforce the “policy” rather than loving decisions that embrace the person. Now I’m not saying we don’t have policies and procedures to help us in making decisions. To paraphrase Jesus, the policy was made for man not man for the policy. We need to view policies as a plumb line rather than a hammer.
5. Will you forgive us where we failed to recognize you as the victim and didn’t empathize deeply with your situation?
Once again, the way church leaders handle people can degenerate into business decisions instead of body decisions. We are a body, a family, not a business run by rules, regulations and policies that must be enforced at all costs. Love needs to rule, not policies and regulations. We need to look into the heart, not just into the rule book.
Do join me in praying that what has been happening at the Village Church in Dallas will be instructive for churches and leaders everywhere as we seek to disciple, shepherd and lead the people of God.