Evangelical pastor Matt Chandler has been disturbed by what he's been hearing or sensing from pastors lately – and that is their search for "success" through the size of their churches and the growth of their platforms.
In a post featured on theresurgence.com this week, Chandler, who leads The Village Church in Texas, bluntly stated that such a goal is "hollow" and "dangerous."
"If your hope is set on anything other than Jesus, how do you survive when it goes bad? How do you remain passionate and vibrant when no one comes or the baptismal waters are still for long stretches?" he posed.
Chandler, whose church draws over 10,000 people on multiple campuses, was recently appointed the new president of Acts 29, a church planting network, formerly led by Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll. He is also the author of the newly released book, The Explicit Gospel, where he points readers back to Christ and his saving grace.
He recalled in his recent post leaving his itinerant speaking ministry to become pastor of First Baptist Church of Highland Village, now known as The Village Church, in 2002. It was a move that many discouraged him from making.
"I left crowds that were in the thousands and finances that more than provided for my family, to go to a small, 160-person church that cut my annual salary in half," he noted.
And he didn't become a small church pastor because he had a grand vision for growing a dynamic church. Rather, "I came to the Village because I thought that by doing so I would get to see more of Jesus, experience more of him, sense more of him, see more of me die, more of my flesh perish, the old man in me lose more power, etc. He is the great end that I am after."
"What, or rather, who is the goal?" asked Chandler, who is well-known for his Gospel-centered preaching.
"I love preaching the gospel and I love planting churches, but I do those things because in them there is this unbearable weight of his presence, this crushing majesty that makes me want to cry, sing, and scream all at the same time."
But he's disturbed that many pastors have "made the goal something else all together."
Chandler said that to avoid the consequences of this idolatry (of attendance numbers and fame), the goal and focus of the church has to be on Christ. Just because people do the work of God, does not guarantee them "success," he emphasized.
He cited examples from the Bible of men who loved God and were obedient to Him even though success wasn't guaranteed, and it ultimately cost them their lives.
"Moses [spent] his whole life with grumbling whiners and dies without getting to walk into the promised land; Peter [was] reportedly crucified upside down; Paul [was] killed in Rome after he spent his life (with thorn intact) being beaten, rejected, lost at sea, and consistently dealing with people coming in behind him and destroying what he built," Chandler pointed out.
There is no way to survive when things go wrong if the hope of individuals or the church is set on anything other than Jesus. But if Jesus is the goal and the pursuit, rather than a definition of success, "you will find your faith sustained," Chandler stressed.
He summed it up with the Bible verse from 1 Timothy 4:10 where Paul writes: "For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe."