Matt Chandler: Church has mostly ‘refused to participate’ on race, 'turned over' inheritance

Matt Chandler, pastor of the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas.
Matt Chandler, pastor of the Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas. | (Facebook/ScreenGrab)

Texas megachurch Pastor Matt Chandler had harsh words for the American Church on Sunday, saying that since the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the Church has, for the most part, “refused to participate” on issues of race.

Chandler, pastor of the multicampus Village Church in Flower Mound, got heated when he took time from his sermon on Ephesians 1:15-23 to address the racial issues facing the U.S. 

His sermon comes as the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody has sparked weeks of nationwide protests and riots, and increased attention on racial inequalities.

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The 45-year-old pastor said the second chapter of Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is “all about reconciliation between Jew and Gentile and God doing something through Jesus Christ that takes two and makes them one.”

“This will preach to this moment,” he said. “Our inheritance and what we are being robbed of as believers in Jesus Christ right now in this moment is the unity of spirit between all ethnicities born of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is what this passage [Ephesians 1:18] says: That our inheritance in the saints is that men and women from every tribe tongue and nation on Earth are part of our family.” 

Chandler told the audience that if they study the civil rights movement of the 1960s led by Martin Luther King Jr., they’ll find that a “pattern emerges.”

“They would meet. They would pray. They would worship. They would kind of go over the rules of protest. And then, they would march,” Chandler, who often speaks out about racial injustice, said. “This was a rhythm that was established by King so that it was rooted in the Church, that the Church let out in a very real way on the civil rights movement in the '60s.”

“And now one of the things that has happened is the Church, by and large, has refused to participate, which means that we have turned over — God help us — we have turned over what is our inheritance to dark ideologies,” Chandler continued. 

Chandler criticized churches and pastors who don’t want to “get involved” when it comes to issues of race but would rather “preach the Gospel to that.”  He said he finds such responses, “hypocritical.” 

“You don’t just preach the Gospel on sex trafficking. You don’t just preach the Gospel on the issue of life and abortion. No, you act,” he said as he got riled up. “It’s like this brain-broke disjoint that’s got us acting absurd and then critiquing this movement as being evil and dark when we have given up our inheritance!”

Chandler seemingly challenged those who want to “point out all the flaws in this current movement while you have abandoned the place that we were meant to play!”

“You cannot point out all the ‘well, this means this, and this believes this, and that’s this, and that’s this,’ and ignore the sorrow and lament of 12 to 13 million image-bearers in our country!” Chandler exclaimed. “You can’t do that! 

“We mourn with those who mourn. And yes, there are demonic and evil ideologies at play,” he continued. “But that’s where the people of God are meant to run with light and the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not to sit back and snipe via social media.” 

Chandler then apologized for getting “a little hot.” He calmed down and encouraged Christians to “grow in the hope that God will heal the wounds of racism, and what we’re watching on our TV unfold again will one day cease.” 

“Look at me — this is our inheritance,” he stressed. “This is mine. This is yours. What you’re seeing play out right now in violent riot and in murder … that is a robbing of our inheritance. I’m talking to the Church. I’m talking to followers of Jesus Christ.  It’s mine bought by the blood of Jesus Christ. We are to grow and hope that this is possible.” 

In 2018, Chandler, who leads a Southern Baptist congregation, said that he would often be accused of being a Marxist or being influenced by liberal media if he dared to preach on issues of race. But in instances in which he spoke out on issues like abortion, he would be cheered as “courageous” or a “ferocious man of God.”

He has encouraged white pastors to help fight what he considers the miseducation of whites when it comes to black America. 

"I think there is a cascading effect and it starts with ignorance,” Chandler said at the 2018 "MLK50: Gospel Reflections From the Mountaintop" summit sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and The Gospel Coalition.  

“They don't know what they don't know and they are part of a system that encourages their not knowing.”

In 2014, amid riots in Ferguson, Missouri, after the shooting death of African American Michael Brown in a physical altercation with a police officer, Chandler spoke about “white privilege” in a tweet that drew some pushback. 

In a follow-up statement, Chandler said that white privilege is not like “blatant racism” and that “folks who live through it may never have a racist bone in their body.”

"What is so deceptive about white privilege is that it is different from blatant racism or bias," Chandler said. “A privileged person's heart may be free from racist thoughts or biased attitudes, but may still fail to see how the very privilege afforded to him or her shapes how he or she interprets and understands the situations and circumstances of people without privilege."

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