In a powerful sermon, Pastor Matt Chandler argued that too many churches are driven by entertainment and fail to encourage their congregation to truly do what God has called Christians to do.
In a sermon preached to The Village Church in Flower Mound Texas last week, Chandler emphasized the importance of encouraging a church body to partake in being a member of the Body of Christ by plugging into discipleship and community.
Chandler began his message by sharing about his early days in ministry, back when his church was a few hundred, not thousands.
“My passion has not changed. I do not want to be a conference speaker. That is not what we’re doing,” he said.
“You and I are so overstimulated, you and I are so overwhelmed with fast-paced, energized entertainment that we have developed a real idealized sense of life with a real low pain tolerance. The Church herself no longer is about discipleship, no longer is about being shaped, no longer is it about being formed. It’s about being entertained in the gathering.”
In 2002, when Chandler joined The Village Church, it had under 200 members. Now, seventeen years later, Chandler pastors over 14,000 people, with five different campuses.
While the church continues to expand, Chandler is purposefully trying to never “ever develop an arena culture.”
What is an arena culture?
As Chandler explained in his sermon, an ‘arena culture’ expects the church to not just deliver in a spiritual way, but to deliver in an entertaining, and amusement based way.
They expect all things to “put together when we arrive,” Chandler added talking about the current state of many church goers.
“This is family,” he emphasized. “This isn’t showing up with a swag bag under our chair and everything done for us. This is us serving one another that shows that our personal preferences are secondary to the manifold wisdom of God being made visible among us.”
Although many churchgoers might be interested in an arena culture mentality, Chandler doesn’t want anything to do with it.
“I’m not interested in it (arena culture),” he proclaimed. “I want to grow together and that doesn’t happen by preaching sermons. That happens when we’re on the ground together.”
“I want to reorient your mind around what it means to belong to a church,” he added.
Pointing outward to his own congregation, Chandler added: “It’s not this. This is breathing in, being nourished, so that we can get back out and do the work of ministry.”
What the role of the biblical church is
The purpose of the ministers, Chandler argued, is not to do the work of all ministry, but instead, to teach congregants to also jump into ministry.
Quoting Ephesians 3:7-10, Chandler reminded his congregation that “You have been uniquely wired by God and gifted by the Holy Spirit.”
I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of Godshould be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,
“My job, and the job of vocational ministers is not to do the work of ministry, but rather help you see, spot, be trained in your giftedness and then unleash that giftedness on the world around us so that you have been called to ministry,” Chandler said.
Chandler pointed out that the church has it backwards.
“We’ve got it all backward. Y’all think we have been called to ministry and that’s why the manifold wisdom of God isn’t seen globally, because it’s not that The Village Church has 50 ministers, it’s that The Village Church has 6,000 ministers. That’s how the manifold wisdom of God is seen.”
Ministry begins in the home and in the workplace, according to Chandler. Being an image bearer isn’t just supposed to happen in church, but in every aspect of your life, he further pointed out.
“It’s not that you’ve got a job and you’ve got a ministry,” he said.
“No, your ministry is your job. You can’t separate those out … God’s call on your life is to faithfully work where you are, doing the work of reconciliation and being an ambassador of Christ … the eternal weight behind everything you’re doing is crazy significant.”
Chandler, citing Acts 20:13-37, pointed out that Paul warned the Ephesians about what would happen when he left.
“After I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.”
“How do you fight that? You walk with one another in community, you encourage one another in your giftedness, and you embrace that you’ve been called a minister of reconciliation and an ambassador of Christ for the building up of the body,” he said.
Chandler ended his sermon in a solemn way, telling congregants not to just go to church because its free and occasionally entertaining.
“If you just like what we do, all of it’s online for free,” he stated. “Listen to it on Tuesday and go where there are fireworks. Because I don’t want to turn away people who don’t know Jesus so that you can come and listen to the music you like, or because you think occasionally I’m funny.”
“I don’t want to not have seats for those who say, ‘I want to grow in my gift, I want to know what it’s like to live for Jesus 24/7.’ There is more in you than you think there is. That’s one of my favorite things as a pastor, is watching that come alive.”