The speaker lineup for this volcanic event is quite extensive, so over the past months, we have been investigating each speaker one by one. In previous posts, we've looked at LifeChurch.tv visionary Craig Groeschel, prosperity preacher Jentezen Franklin, Hillsong darling Christine Caine, Joel Osteen's worship leader, Israel Houghton, seeming Word-Faith proponent Stovall Weems, pastor Ed Young, Jr., "Bishop" T.D. Jakes, and Seeker-Driven favorite Perry Noble of Newspring Church. Most recently, we saw that speaker Kevin Gerald of Champions Centre is nothing more than another Word-Faith preacher who will bring his unfortunate and atrocious "teaching" to the stage at the Code Orange Revival.
Today we turn to one of the more conservative members of this speaker lineup: Matt Chandler. Chandler is the lead pastor at The Village Church in Texas. From the outset of this article, it is pertinent to understand that this post is written with the utmost respect for Chandler, as well as genuine concern, especially as regards his seemingly consistent involvement with rather questionable individuals. Along with countless others, I watched not too long ago as Chandler quietly and humbly battled brain cancer. Throughout his treatment, Chandler displayed the strength and grace of God, giving Him all the glory along the way. I am thankful and praise God that, thus far, Pastor Chandler continues to receive clean medical reports. Known for his "tell it like it is" style, Chandler is most certainly the "odd man out" in the Code Orange Revival lineup. Yet perhaps that is precisely why we ought to be questioning his presence at this event.
The Village Church is a member of the Acts 29 Network, which is led by Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. And, though Matt Chandler does identify himself as a "Reformed Charismatic," we are thankful that he seemingly does not have the same "gift" of seeing inappropriate, scandalous visions, as does Mark Driscoll. Quite the contrary, Matt Chandler has demonstrated himself to be a gifted preacher who seemingly strives to be true to the biblical text. At the same time, this idea of "New Calvinism" that is so popular today, especially among so-called "Reformed Charismatics," seems to possess a major and potentially dangerous inclination. That is the movement's propensity toward the mystical and unbiblical Contemplative Spirituality movement. A visit to the Recommended Books page of The Village Church website, then, offers some cause for concern, as it is not difficult to find books that promote and teach contemplative spirituality. At Apprising Ministries, Pastor-Teacher Ken Silva has covered these findings well in articles such as, "Acts 29 Pastor Matt Chandler on Being a Reformed Charismatic," and "Still Curious, but Better, Decisions and Matt Chandler," and I would encourage the reader to visit these articles for further reading.
In his book, A Time of Departing, author Ray Yungen examines the infiltration of these mystical practices into the church today. Regarding contemplative prayer, Yungen writes,
Contemplative prayer is presenting a way to God identical with all the world's mystical traditions. Christians are haplessly lulled into it by the emphasis on seeking the Kingdom of God and greater piety, yet the apostle Paul described the church's end-times apostasy in the context of a mystical seduction. If this practice doesn't fit that description, I don't know what does. (A Time of Departing, page 140, emphasis in the original).
Visiting the Recommended Books page of The Village Church, the category of Spiritual Life brings the most concern. Here is where we find multiple titles by Quaker mystic Richard Foster, as well as Philip Yancey, who not only promotes contemplative authors like Thomas Merton, but also appeared earlier in 2010 as the keynote speaker at the Gay Christian Network conference:
Yungen extensively discusses Richard Foster and his dangerous influence on the Christian church today.
Scripture instructs us to "test the spirits" (1 John 4:1). Let's test them, using Richard Foster's teachings. In his book, Celebration of Discipline, Foster devotes a number of pages to what he calls the biblical basis for this form of prayer. He makes reference to many instances throughout the Bible where God talked to people, - in other words, encounters between man and Divinity. But Foster then jumps straight into contemplative prayer, leading the reader to think this is how it is done when, in fact, he has not really presented a biblical basis for using the repetition of sacred words at all. He looks to the contemplative mystics to legiitmize his teachings when he writes:
"How sad that contemporary Christians are so ignorant of the vast sea of literature on Christian meditation by faithful believers throughout the centuries! And their teestimony to the joyful life of perpetual communion is amazingly uniform."
That is the problem. The contemplative authors are "amazingly uniform." Even though they all profess a love for God and Jesus, they have each added soemthing that is contrary to what God conveys in His written word. (A Time of Departing, page 133-134, emphasis in original).If Richard Foster is so influenced by mysticism, and is teaching a chintzy "Christianized" version of it in his written works, then why would the "young, restless, and Reformed" Matt Chandler include three of Foster's books among his recommended resources? What could one possibly learn about Christian spirituality from a Quaker mystic? Richard Foster is not the only concerning name we see on this page of The Village Church website. Below are some additional titles that perhaps ought to be brought with concern before the leadership of The Village Church (please note that all screen shots were taken on December 30, 2011, so these are quite recent):
Under the title of Apologetics, Culture, and Missions:
As Ken Silva notes,
The highly ecumenical Lesslie Newbigin helped spawn A Generous Orthodoxy by Living Spiritual Teacher and EC guru Brian McLaren, one of the unholy Emergent Church trinity of apostates along with heretical quasi-universalist pastor Doug Pagitt and his equally heretical “theologian in residence” Dr. Tony Jones.
Celtic spirituality was at the corrupt heart of the recent Emergent Church apostasia-palooza they called The Wild Goose Festival, which certainly should be more cause for concern. (Online Source)Under Marriage & Divorce we find the following by Gary Thomas, himself a proponent of Contemplative Spirituality:
In the category of Ministry, Strategy, Leadership, we ought to be especially concerned to see Peter Drucker's name. To learn more about Drucker's influence on the Church Growth Movement, click here.
It is also interesting to note the inclusion of Roman Catholic mystic Thomas a Kempis, as well as Brennan Manning and his work, The Ragamuffin Gospel.
If one could draw a spiritual tree of both Manning's and Foster's mystical heritage it would look like this: from India - to Alexandria - to the Desert Fathers - to Thomas Merton - to them; and now, through them and others like them - to you. What it should look like is: from the triune God - to His holy prophets and apostles - to you. Very simple!
I am aware that Foster and Manning both say things that would stir the heart of any Christian. But the issue here is one of mysticism. Is their mysticism legitimate? Biblical meditation and prayer, as found abundantly in the book of Psalms, is not to stop thinking about God but rather to think intently on God and to direct all our thoughts toward God. (A Time of Departing, page 89).
So, while Matt Chandler most definitely stands apart from his fellow Code Orange Revival speakers with his apparent lack of Word-Faith and prosperity preaching, we still have some standing concerns with what appears to be a lack of discernment in selecting biblically accurate resources. The reader should also note that there is presently no disclaimer visible on this Recommended Books page of The Village Church website. As such, we may presume that all works are equally endorsed by the leadership. So while we should be grateful that Chandler is known to preach the Gospel unapologetically, we still ought to sincerely and with concern question why he would encourage such dangerous writings.
And if we are to question that, then we must also question Chandler's seemingly regular appearances at events that are hosted by and which feature some blatant false teachers. Perhaps a blind eye in one area has led to less-than-desirable choices in another. Not too long ago, a reader sent me a link to the following video, which supposedly answers the question as to why Matt Chandler appears even at events which may not align with his own theological beliefs:
Q&A - Speaking Engagements from The Village Church on Vimeo.
Here I would like to share the response I provided to this reader:
I certainly appreciate Chandler's response in this clip, and would agree with his motive that, regardless of the venue, he agrees to speaking engagements for the purpose of proclaiming the Gospel, and does so even if he is not in alignment with the broader theology or philosophy of the event and/or host. That being said, I do take issue with his claim that most critics of these individuals are criticizing based upon a 5 minute clip from YouTube. True, many may be doing this. However, I think that we cannot ignore those discernment ministries which are careful to take the entirety of a sermon, and the whole of a man's ministry, and offer biblical criticism based upon that entire picture.
While I certainly appreciate Chandler's motives and heart for wanting to preach the gospel wherever he is welcome, I think that we have to look honestly at the situation as regards the "gang" from the Elephant Room. Consistently appearing at events that not only include, but are also hosted by, the same men with whom you profess to disagree on some important issues, eventually poses a problem. Here we see Chandler consistently appearing with men like Furtick, Noble and the like at the Elephant Room, at Furtick's Code Orange Revival, and at Noble's upcoming conference, just to name some. At what point can we presume that an endorsement is actually being offered by Chandler?
If men like Chandler were truly opposing the aberrational aspects of the ministries of some of these men, I highly doubt that he would continue to receive invitations from them. Something to ponder.If men like Chandler are using these events, which are hosted by and include some questionable, at best, speakers, in order to boldly proclaim the Gospel, then we can certainly commend that endeavor. At the same time, however, can we expect a rebuke from these trusted, conservative, godly men toward those who treat the office of pastor with such glib and casual indifference? Perhaps men like Chandler could better validate their appearances at these dubious events by doing just such a thing.
We are most thankful that Matt Chandler seemingly does not promote the heretical Word-Faith doctrine that is being mercilessly spread by his fellow Code Orange speakers. Yet the reader would do well to remember that both Matt Chandler and fellow Gospel Coalition council member James MacDonald, of Walk in the Word and Harvest Bible Chapel, will also be speaking at Perry Noble's Newspring Leadership Conference in 2012. As we have asked before, we ask again: Why? Why would you agree time and again to share a stage and a platform with men and women who preach not just a weak gospel, but a false one? One must begin to wonder about the motivation behind your consistent appearance with the same group of dangerous, even shameful, teachers. The members of your local and extended flocks deserve an explanation from the men they no doubt trust and respect.
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9)Steven Furtick's 12 Days of Revival
"Code Orange" Speaker Craig Groeschel
"Code Orange" Speaker Christine Caine
"Code Orange" Speaker Jentezen Franklin
"Code Orange" Speaker Israel Houghton
"Code Orange" Speaker Stovall Weems
"Code Orange" Speaker Ed Young, Jr.
"Code Orange" Speaker "Bishop" T.D. Jakes
"Code Orange" Speaker Perry Noble
"Code Orange" Speaker Kevin Gerald