Two months after taking a leave of absence from his role as teaching pastor at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, due to inappropriate messaging with a woman who is not his wife, Matt Chandler hinted that he will likely return to the pulpit "soon" and is "eager to return."
In his first public post on Instagram since Aug. 16, Chandler wrote that he has become "more aware than ever of that earnest and angsty prayer of David's in Psalm 27:4" which says: "One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple."
"He has been my sustaining grace and the strength of this season. I am eager to return to @tvcfm soon and am grateful for a family of faith that have loved me and @laurenchandler so deeply in this season," he wrote.
For the past few months, Chandler said his mantra has been, "Jesus I don't want to do this without you." He also indicated that he has been spending time in nature and practicing Jiu Jitsu.
"It has rolled through my mind and heart on repeat," he said of the mantra. "Whether it has been going on a walk, heading out to our river cabin or even walking into Jiu Jitsu."
While they did not immediately respond to calls from The Christian Post Thursday, The Village Church elders confirmed in a recent statement to The Roys Report that they're "encouraged" by Chandler's posture since his leave of absence and are planning for his return to preaching.
"[T]he elders are working with Matt to discuss a plan for his return to preaching, and they are encouraged by his posture. As of today, we have no further comment on those details," a spokesperson detailed.
In an Aug. 28 announcement, Chandler said he accepted a decision by his elder board to immediately take a "leave of absence" due to his use of inappropriate language in Instagram messages to a woman who is not his wife. He assured his congregation that he planned on being their lead pastor "for the next 20 years."
According to the elders, Chandler revealed the inappropriate messaging between himself and the woman after being confronted about them several months ago by the woman's friend in the church's foyer.
The megachurch pastor said he wasn't aware at the time that he had "done anything wrong" but alerted Josh Patterson and elder Chairman Jasien Swords and "submitted to their leadership in addressing the situation." He also informed his wife.
"I didn't think I had done anything wrong in that," Chandler said as he faced his congregation. "My wife knew that. Her [the woman's] husband knew that. And yet there were a couple of things that she said that were disorienting to me."
The Village Church elders commissioned an independent law firm, identified by The New York Times as Castañeda and Heidelman, to conduct a review of Chandler's messaging history across social media platforms, cell phone and email.
They concluded that Chandler "violated our internal social media use policies, and more importantly that, while the overarching pattern of his life has been 'above reproach,' he failed to meet the 1 Timothy standard for elders of being 'above reproach' in this instance."
The Village Church did not publicly release the report from Castañeda and Heidelman. When asked for a copy of the report, the church told The Christian Post that it would offer "no further comment" and reiterated its Aug. 28 public statement.
According to the elders, the messages between Chandler and the woman were "not romantic or sexual in nature" and "did not rise to the level of disqualification." However, the elders asserted that "the frequency and familiarity of the messages crossed a line."
Chandler described the chats as "coarse and foolish joking that's unbefitting of someone in my position."
The elders and Chandler agreed that his Instagram conduct "was a sign of unhealth in his life and that the best course of action would be for him to take a leave of absence from teaching and preaching at The Village Church."
"The elders have decided, and I think they are right, that my inability to see what I was in probably ... [revealed] some unhealth in me," Chandler said. "And I don't know if that's tied to the pace I run or the difficulty of the last six, seven years, but I agree with them."
The church also denied The New York Times' request to view the report "because we want to honor the request of the woman Matt was messaging with not to be in the spotlight."
The church declined to say whether Chandler was still being paid during his leave of absence, noting that "Matt will spend time during his leave from the pulpit focusing on his development with the elders and guided by outside counselors. He will also continue to fulfill limited administrative leadership duties."