Matt Chandler: Being Reformed and Charismatic Feels Like Being an 'Orphan,' We Need Both

Matt Chandler
Matt Chandler preaches at The Village Church on November 12, 2017. |

Being both Reformed and charismatic is like being a "theological orphan," says The Village Church's Matt Chandler, and he implores both camps to quit tearing each other down. The two groups, he says, are acting like "divorced parents" and he wants to see them remarried.

In a Nov. 12 sermon on spiritual gifts, Chandler explained why The Village Church is a "continuous" congregation, one that believes that the gifts of the Holy Spirit the Apostle Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 are for today. The opposing view, known as cessationism, teaches that those gifts ceased with the death with the Apostles, and that perspective is held by many Reformed Christians.

"My whole life in Christ, I have felt like a theological orphan," he said.

"To be Reformed and charismatic — that's a theological muck. I have felt like the child of divorced parents who badmouth one another every time I'm at their house for the weekend."

Chandler illustrated that when he goes to his proverbial Reformed dad's house, dad says: "Your mom's such a loon. I swear, here, give her this book to read. ... I just don't understand, does she know that she's deceived, she's probably letting demons in the house. She might even been getting demons on you. You just need to be careful."

When he visits his proverbial charismatic mom's house, she says: "Your dad knows the Bible so well, why does he seem so angry all the time? What is he upset about? Why does he constantly feel like he has to defend God as though God were helpless and unable to defend himself?"

In these situations he urges his charismatic mom to frame her beliefs in the Word of God because they are biblical. It's just that the language is so often confused and dad really just loves the Bible, and Scripture does prescribe boundaries regarding the administration of these gifts. Likewise, he tells Reformed dad that the Bible should not make him angry, but free: "If the Word of God is making you crusty, I think you're missing something out of the Word of God."

"So I just felt stuck between these two worlds," Chandler continued, "and I'm longing at the Village Church to be a church that sees mom and dad remarried, the convergence of Spirit and truth, Word and wonder."

Chandler emphasized that he appreciates his cessationist friends, referencing the work of pastor and author Tom Pennington, a cessationist, whom he admires greatly but disagrees with on the gifts of the Spirit.

What further compounds the misunderstanding between these camps are the stereotypes associated with each group, he went on to say.

Chandler recounted that when he received Christ just days before his 18th birthday he was the lone Baptist kid and that his Christian friends were mostly in two camps: the Church of Christ and Assembly of God. His Assembly of God friends' parents had told them that Baptists were "closed and crusty" and were not open to the things of the Spirit, "yet I was just zealous for Jesus Christ," Chandler said, noting the cognitive dissonance he had upon hearing this.

Yet as a Baptist he had been told that his Pentecostal friends spurned the Word of God and were "loonies" who trusted what they thought more than the Bible. But it was those Pentecostal friends, who he affectionately described as "Holy Ghost-filled crazy weirdoes," who softened his heart.

Chandler added that as he has been in ministry God has providentially sent him "really strange" charismatic believers who stretch his paradigms. The way he is bent theologically he has witnessed some powerful prayer times in ministry settings that he was intrigued by but did not want to participate in fully. Even as he was unsure of what to do during these instances, he would later realize that as weird as it seemed, God was indeed in it and used it.

While a sophomore in college in Abilene, Texas, he was teaching in a park to a student ministry there and after he finished a colleague of his began leading worship. Shortly thereafter a very tan and bald man walked up to Chandler, grabbed the sides of his head and blew in his face.

"You probably think I'm insane," the man said to a stunned Chandler, "but I am here, I have been sent here, I think, for you, and God has asked me to come here and blow on you and maybe that will make sense to you one day, and maybe it won't. That's all."

The man then vanished.

Chandler said that he is not sure if he would recognize this man if he saw him today, calling the experience "crazy" and that The Village Church would not be starting a "Holy Ghost blowage" ministry.

"But here's what I will tell you: From that day [when the bald man blew on him] forward the effectiveness of my ministry, the power of my preaching, and the response to my preaching increased in a way that is hard to communicate," Chandler said.

"Look, I don't know what that was; I don't have a category for that. I'm certainly not asking you to run around downtown and blow on people's faces," he said to laughter.

Yet according to the exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 5: 19–21, which instructs Christians to not quench the Spirit or treat prophecies with contempt but test everything and hold on to what is good, he knew he was to test this particularly weird experience "upon the fruit of what the Spirit does."

"And what does the Spirit do?" Chandler stressed, "It makes much of Jesus."

"Not much of gifts, not much of men, but much of Jesus," he reiterated, "and I can look at my life and say God did something that day through that weirdo guy–who I wouldn't even know what to talk about if I ever saw him again."

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