A few months ago I flew down to Dallas to interview Matt Chandler for Leadership Journal. Chandler has been getting a lot of attention in recent years–both for the rapid growth of his church as well as his outspoken adherence to Reformed theology. I must admit, I had some hesitations about interviewing another very popular, very young, very “successful” pastor. Without giving away my biases…I’ve not had a great experience with people who fit that description. I was pleasantly surprised by Chandler. Not only did he offer thoughtful, reflective, and self-aware responses to our questions (rare qualities among large church pastors who tend to be “doers” more than “thinkers”), he was also humble. But Chandler isn’t known as a touchy-feely. He likes speaking boldly and even abrasively about the shortcomings he sees in the church and in our generation. He defiantly knows how to call people out–including his comrades in the New Reformed movement that he calls “cannibals” for their infighting and doctrinal arrogance. Here’s an excerpt of the interview Marshall Shelley and I conduced with Chandler. You can read the full piece at LeadershipJournal.net:
Your teaching is deeply rooted in Calvinism. How does that play into becoming more Christ-like? What is God’s role and what is ours?
I believe the sovereign God of the universe justifies us freely, and then we are called to run with him in sanctification. In the book of Philippians, Paul tells us to toil, strive, move, and press on. Paul is unbelievably aggressive when it comes to putting sin to death.
That is what drives me mad in evangelical circles, including some young Reformed circles. There is often a sit-on-the-couch-and-wait-for-God-to-do-something mentality that is unbiblical and wicked. It’s probably been true of every generation, but I can see it most clearly in the younger crowd. There seems to be so little war when it comes to sin.
Do you believe this generation has trouble taking responsibility for its sin?
Yeah. There’s a strong victim mentality in my generation. I think it’s spiritual laziness. They will agree that God is sovereign over all, but then they will say, “Well, I wish he would sovereignly take away my lust issue.” There’s just not a lot of fortitude, not a lot of fight in them.
How do you combat that mentality?
I preach hard against that idea and plead with people to make war against sin. I tell them it’s not going to be easy. Some people are meant to wrestle with their sin a long time before God brings them to freedom, but let’s wrestle. Let’s fight. Let’s do something besides just complain.
What does warring against sin look like?
Sanctification here at The Village begins by answering two questions. What stirs your affections for Jesus Christ? And what robs you of those affections? Many of the things that stifle growth are morally neutral. They’re not bad things. Facebook is not bad. Television and movies are not bad. I enjoy TV, but it doesn’t take long for me to begin to find humorous on TV what the Lord finds heartbreaking.
The same goes for following sports. It’s not wrong, but if I start watching sports, I begin to care too much. I get stupid. If 19-year-old boys are ruining your day because of what they do with a ball, that’s a problem. These things rob my affections for Christ. I want to fill my life with things that stir my affections for him. After a funeral I walked around the cemetery and found a grave of a guy who died when he was my age. I felt my mortality in that moment and it made me love the Lord. It really did. Some types of epic films do that for me, and so does angst-filled music.
We want our people to think beyond simply what’s right and wrong. We want them to fill their lives with things that stir their affections for Jesus Christ and, as best as they can, to walk away from things that rob those affections—even when they’re not immoral.
What do you think this generation is looking for that has been missing in the church?
Transcendence. My generation was raised on a religion of moral control. Do this. Don’t do that. And a lot of self-help religion. Feel better. Get out of debt. Six ways to overcome your fears. Seven ways not to lust. Ultimately that message didn’t work. It was empty. There was no transcendence. The omniscient, omnipresent, all-powerful God of the universe wasn’t the focus. I think that’s why we are seeing the resurgence of Reformed theology.