Matt Chandler addressed pastors during the Creature of the Word Simulcast on Tuesday and warned them that harboring a sense of entitlement can kill a church.
There are times in ministry, Chandler confessed, when he feels he is owed something. He sometimes wants to tell others, "Just do what I say ... Why are you asking me questions? Just do what I tell you to do."
Pastors can sometimes get caught up in their position, he said, and fail to obey Jesus Christ's teaching in Matthew 20:26, which says, "whoever would be great among you must be your servant." But they are supposed to model servitude for their congregations, and failing to do so could be to their church's detriment.
"You walk in entitlement, you will simply empower entitlement underneath you. You want to talk trickle-down effect? You got an entitled pastor, you'll have an entitled staff. That then leads to an entitled laity, that leads to the death of a church," he said.
Chandler shared a story of a friend who came to pray with him before he delivered a sermon several years ago. The friend, Josh, put dirt in Chandler's hands, poured water on the dirt and told him to rub his hands together. "Kingdom hands are dirty hands," he told Chandler.
"You want to serve the Lord, you're always going to have dirty hands," said Chandler. "You don't get to a place, you don't get to a size where your hands are clean, your heart is free from the heartbreak, loss, the celebration, the need for prayer, the desperation that comes from leading and walking with God's people."
The simulcast was named after Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church, a book co-authored by Chandler, lead pastor of teaching at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas; Josh Patterson, lead pastor of ministry leadership at The Village; and Eric Geiger, vice president of the church resource division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Each of the authors spoke during the event, which was broadcast from The Village Church.
The main portion of Chandler's message was divided into four main parts, in which he encouraged church leaders to excitedly worship "in spirit and in truth," to help create an environment where a Gospel-oriented community of believers can exist, to serve others and, lastly, to understand that churches with a healthy church culture will reproduce.
The direct influence of The Village Church will probably "vanish" in the next 100 years, he said, so the church's focus should be on making a wider impact for the kingdom of God instead of building up itself. The Village does this, he said, by supporting missionaries and church plants.
"I think the more clingy you are about what's yours the more you reveal you have an unhealthy culture, and you're a bit insecure, and when all is said and done, you trying to build the church is actually you trying to feel better about you," said Chandler.
He challenged those listening to become less self-focused by asking: How eagerly do you celebrate the successes of other local ministries? How easy is it for you to critique growing ministries and point out their flaws? Are men and women in your church maturing? Is your church making an impact for the kingdom beyond itself, and are you helping missionaries and other churches?
Chandler also exhorted pastors to find their worth in God, not in their church's attendance.
"That is an exhausting way to live your life," he said. "The more you make this thing called ministry about you, the more disappointed, dry and weary you'll become. And the more you understand that this is about Jesus, and his kingdom, and his crown, and his glory, the more freed up you are to celebrate God's moving wherever God is moving."
Attendance at The Village Church has increased from 166 people to around 10,000 people since Chandler took over as leader in 2002. In addition to leading the church, Chandler is also the president of the Acts 29 Network for church planting and the author of The Explicit Gospel.