Ran across a most interesting article yesterday in the online Leadership Journal. It's an interview with a young Reformed pastor of a booming church in greater Dallas. What strikes me about what he shares is how counterintuitive all his insights are: a young, doctrine-preaching Calvinist, who raises the bar of holiness, who stresses the majesty of God, who shuns merely practical, application-style preaching, is drawing literally tons of young people to Jesus! For the article itself, go to: http://www.christianitytoday.com/global/printer.html?/le/communitylife/discipleship/thegoodfight.html. For now, let me offer some of my favorite lessons from this young pastor...
The stock wisdom is that 18 to 30 year olds demand customization in all things, including church--they want church done their way, on their terms, in their style. They also don't want churches to set the bar too high or limit them in any way. That's the stock wisdom. Matt Chandler, the young pastor of The Village Church of Highland Village, Texas refuses to accept such wisdom. Instead of highly practical sermons, he focuses on doctrine, God's character, and "an unashamed call to commitment and holy living." Having begun with a mostly Boomer congregation of 150 in 2002, Chandler's congregation now is a multiple-site church with over 6,000 in attendance, most of whom are under 35. Go figure!
Chandler shuns easy-believism or "four steps to victorious Christian living." He points out that too often such preaching promises too much and delivers too little, alienating listeners and sharpening their sense of defeat. He embraces the difficulty of holiness in his preaching, the war against sin that is a lifetime struggle. That certainly squares with my experience, with my reading of Paul in Romans 7, and my attraction to Calvinism. I like what Chandler says, that growth in grace as a Christian is a process that looks somewhat different for each person. "It's very complex," he maintains, "and that's the error we make in many churches--we try to standardize the process for everyone." There's no cookie-cutter approach to growing Christians. I resonate with that.
Chandler seeks to infuse his congregation with a culture that invites honesty and struggle. One video they showed interviewed a church member frustrated with sin and nowhere near where he wanted to be. In the middle of his testimony, he started crying and they stopped the recording. But they still showed it on Sunday morning! Powerful. Raw. Real. I loved it. The Village Church has a saying: "It's okay not to be okay." But they add a very important statement: "...but it's not okay to stay there." Both sides of this equation are essential in biblical discipleship.
Chandler raises the bar in his preaching and his requirements for church membership. And, believe it or not, the young people are flocking to join. This pastor's ministry gives us pause as we consider what it means to "do church" amidst changing culture and new generations. Read the article and, if you like, share your thoughts.