I've mentioned previously
that I receive regular email updates from the Village Church
here in the North Texas area. For as long as I've known about it, that church has been an amazing success story... their lead pastor, Matt Chandler, came in to an old church and injected lots of life into it, bringing people by the thousands every week, and even expanding their campus from Highland Village up into Denton, and now expanding into Flower Mound.
...except that now there's a problem. The money that they need to start construction in the new location (about $10 million) isn't there yet. When they decided to move forward, they wanted $3 million in hand, and the rest in "faith promises" from their congregation- they have slightly less than half that amount. Needless to say, this presents something of a theological (and, by extension, existential) crises for Matt- if he's doing God's work, and if people are coming in droves to be saved and baptized, surely there should be money to spare! God takes care of his own, does He not?
Matt confesses some of his own questions:
Is there too much "me" in this thing? Do we not see the correlation between the lives that are being changed and having room for those lives to come in? How is it possible that only a few of the thousands of people at The Village are willing to give monthly to the project that they (covenant members) voted to do? Is this where we are in our maturation? How is it possible with all of the life- changes, salvations and baptisms that we are seeing that more of you are not buying into this? Have we not communicated well? I'm not sure I know the answers to these questions but they have been keeping me up at night.
I know they're superficially rhetorical and subconsciously directed to God (a la Job), but maybe I can take a crack at them below:No, Matt, there isn't enough of "you" in "this thing." You're a charismatic leader, and without question this church has grown by leaps and bounds because everyone there loves you. When I visited your church, I asked person after person why they loved the Village Church, and although nobody could give me any specific theological answer, they all gushed about how great you are and how wonderful the church made them feel. The problem is, you can't have it both ways. You can build a new facility, you can hire more pastors, you can spruce up your website, but you can't replicate yourself. The only way for you to keep the church growing is to televise your services; and that represents everything about Christianity that I know you hate.Yes, Matt, people are aware of the correlation between having more space and being able to impact more lives. They're not stupid. But not everyone is necessarily in agreement, not everybody thinks that God is asking them (even though you ask on behalf of Him) to donate, and quite frankly, not everyone has the resources to donate. Attracting people is one thing; attracting people who agree wholeheartedly with your vision, and who have wallets big enough to contribute significantly is a completely different thing. Trust me, in my short experience with the North Texas Church of Freethought, I've had to learn this lesson quickly, and we don't even have to deal with people who think God talks to them.Yes, Matt, this may very well be where the Village Church matures. Believe it or not, churches grow, mature, and die. They also evolve, which is what you prompted when you arrived. I realize that you think God is motivating and supporting you, and I'm sure that feels wonderful, but riding the waves of ecstasy in the good times means that it'll seem like God abandons you in the bad times. And I'm sure you'll find some way to rationalize or accept (a la Job) this failure of theology, but at the same time I hope that you don't view God's abandoning of the Village Church as a commandment for you to abandon it to seek that same thrill in a new church that you take over and grow. Try not to lose sight of the fact that for whatever reason, you brighten the lives of the people in your church, and I'd hate to see you forsake that because you manage to convince yourself that God wants you to grow another church somewhere else.
In a final plea, Matt turns to the only thing he trusts: Prayer.
We truly are at a crossroads. Will you pray with me? Will you fast with me? Can we seek God's face on this thing together? Not for money. The money will be there or it won't. God has never lacked resources for what He wants to do.
And therein lies the psychological splinter at the root of this festering problem. Matt desperately wants to know God's will, but he can't possibly. Yes, he's praying for dollars, but much more deeply, he's praying for validation. My only concern is that since God is mute (or, at best, no more helpful than a magic 8-ball), Matt will inevitably superimpose the only will he has access to (his own) for God's. And that rarely works out well for anyone.