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Matt Chandler on succession plans, etc.

BrianD picked up an interesting interview with Matt Chandler at Out of Ur [link] as part of his weekly Linkathon [link, link]; as an aside I recommend Brian’s link collections; I don’t know how he keeps up with as many sources as he does to produce such consistently good collections of links.

Anyway, this interview is mostly about what Chandler has learned during his bout with brain cancer. He’s the 36-year-old pastor of the three-campus Village Church, a 3500-person megachurch in Texas. He was diagnosed with brain cancer in late 2009 and has been undergoing radiation treatment. Of course we wish him a complete and speedy recovery.

The part of his interview I found interesting were these:

It’s made me think a lot more about my mortality. For example, if I die and The Village Church falls apart, do I care? I’ll be honest, I don’t. It seems to me that when you look at history, God raises up certain men for certain seasons in certain places. He pours out his Spirit on them, and when they’re done its very rare for God to continue the work that was done uniquely through him. If I die and The Village ends, I’m alright with that. If believers here find a place where the gospel is preached, and people are being saved, and the mission is being lived out, then I will not have failed.If I’m going to die in two years, I started asking God what I should do. I put a lot of pressure on myself because in our culture there is the expectation that a ministry has to flourish even after you’re gone. That’s unfair, unhistoric, and maybe even unbiblical. Realizing that took a lot of pressure off of me. I had peace to just faithfully do what I’ve been doing here since day one. Then just let go and see what the Lord does with it.

They’re focused on “their legacy.” That’s why we see churches with senior pastors in their 70s and no succession plan. They can’t let go.

Let me say first that I don’t know anything about living with cancer and I’ve never been a megapreacher, so I have no idea what the world looks like from Chandler’s perspective. I really do think that when dealing with a person who has suffered one needs to give that person a great deal of leeway. I might feel qualified responding to someone whose suffering resembles something I’ve lived through personally, but that’s about it.

However I have to admit that I’m troubled by what Chandler says here. It seems to me that he’s overestimated how necessary he is. I’ve bolded two pieces above, where it appears to me that he believes that The Village Church will come to an end if he dies. He mentions succession plans in the interview, but he doesn’t mention having one himself. I’ve heard the language he uses here, e.g. “God raises up certain men for certain seasons in certain places” before, and it has always turned out to be damaging. Where I’ve heard this language in the past the pastor has seen himself as being the primary thing that God was doing, rather than the church (or parachurch ministry, or whatever) being the primary thing God was doing.

I am inclined to suspect that if I were in Chandler’s shoes (subject to the disclaimer above, etc.) I might be tempted to believe something like this: God doesn’t need Matt Chandler. I am a little puzzled not to find a takeaway to that effect in this interview.

  1. Vince
    March 4, 2011 at 9:42 am


    I would agree that we are not fully qualified to critique Chandler’s perspective given the fact that we are not in his shoes. However, my take on this particluar discussion is entirely different than yours.

    If Reformed Theology promotes anything, it’s that God is completely sovereign and does not need any one of us to accomplish his purposes. Nothing in this article suggests that Chandler is the singular, vital component for God’s work at the Village. Rather, IF he dies, and the Village falls apart, God’s work will continue, because guess what? God doesn’t need the Village Church either! And that, in my opinion, is what is being conveyed here.

    In context, the article is obviously discussing ministry success, defined by purpetuity (for a ministry to be successful, it must keep on going). However, as Chandler suggests, there exists the possibility that Matt Chandler and the Village Church are but a “season” in God’s grand scheme.

    What I personally admire about this article (in it’s entirety) is the humility and honesty. In my opinion, such reflection is rare among Christians, and even more rare among pastors. I consider Matt Chandler a role model for faithfulness in the midst of trial and would hope that his testimony (including many other articles and teachings) would be considered before reaching conclusions.

  1. March 8, 2011 at 6:06 pm
  2. March 10, 2011 at 4:28 pm

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