Megachurch Pastor on Leave of Absence After Messages with Woman Were Found to Have 'Crossed a Line'

·3 min read
Pastor Matt Chandler
Pastor Matt Chandler

The Village Church - Flower Mound/Facebook

The lead pastor of a Texas megachurch is taking a leave of absence from preaching and teaching after an investigation into messages with a woman who is not his wife were found to be inappropriate.

In a statement posted to its website on Sunday, the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, said that pastor Matt Chandler was approached a few months ago "with concerns about the way he was using direct messaging on social media with a woman who was not his wife."

The church said Chandler, 48, "shared those concerns" with his wife, Lauren, and two elders that day. An independent law firm was then hired to review Chandler's messaging history "across social media platforms, cell phone, and email."

Ultimately, the inquiry found that "while the messages were not romantic or sexual in nature, the frequency and familiarity of the messages crossed a line." The church said that Chandler had broken their social media policies and suggested that "while the overarching pattern of his life has been 'above reproach,' he failed to meet the 1 Timothy standard for elders of being 'above reproach' in this instance."

While addressing the congregation on Sunday, Chandler said that he "didn't think I had done anything wrong" when he was first approached about the Instagram messaging, and that both his wife and the woman's husband knew about the conversation.

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Still, Chandler said the concerns brought to him by the woman's friend were "disorienting" for him. And, after the elders looked into the conversation, "they had some concerns."

"[The church's] concerns were not that our messaging was romantic or sexual, it was that our conversations were unguarded and unwise," Chandler told church members. "And because I don't ever want there to be secrets between us, the concerns were about frequency and familiarity."

He continued: "We believe in brother-sister relationships here, and yet there was a frequency that moved past that, and there was a familiarity that played itself out in coarse and foolish joking, some befitting of someone in my position as a lead pastor. And as an elder, I'm held to a higher standard and fell short of that higher standard."

Chandler also said he felt ashamed of the stress he may have caused his family.

"I'm just really embarrassed, feel stupid," he admitted. "I feel like I'm embarrassing my wife and kids."

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In the church's statement, they said Chandler's leave of absence is "both disciplinary and developmental, which allows him to focus on growing greater awareness in this area."

Church elders will dictate his return to the church "by the expectations [they] have laid out for his development."

"A pastoral role requires a greater awareness of those boundaries," they wrote, noting that the messages "revealed that Matt did not use language appropriate for a pastor, and he did not model a behavior that we expect from him."

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According to Chandler's profile on the Village Church website, he became pastor of the facility — then known as First Baptist Church of Highland Village — in 2002. He has three children with Lauren, who he married in 1999.

Per NBC News and the Washington Post, the Village Church is part of the Southern Baptist Convention, which revealed this month that they are being investigated by the Justice Department in relation to clergy sex abuse.

The Village Church recently settled a lawsuit that alleged one of its ministers molested an 11-year-old child, according to WaPo, and was negligent in handling the situation. The church said it had "committed no wrong."