Matt Chandler Talks Substance Abuse and Serial Failures


Pastor Matt Chandler wants Christians to take a breather. Many believers get burnt out on faith, exhausted by efforts to "work harder" to be holy. But Chandler says this is neither necessary nor possible. Instead of straining towards holiness, he encourages the faithful to simply fix their eyes on Jesus. Chandler has been leading The Village Church in Dallas/Fort Worth since 2002, during which time the congregation grew from 160 people to over 11,000 with campuses across the city. He also serves as president of Acts 29, a church planting network with more than 500 congregations around the world. Here, we discuss his view of redemption and how it applies to contemporary issues such as substance abuse and serial failure.

RNS: In my experience, redemption for evangelicals means "work harder," do more good stuff, and stave off bad behavior. But this isn't your message, is it?

MC: No, because redemption isn’t you working harder. Redemption is you having been saved from your error by someone else. In fact, you don’t possess the ability to redeem yourself in any way. This is the great lie of moralistic deism, that you can be good enough. Men from the Bible--from the prophet Isaiah to Jesus’ teaching on the Sermon on the Mount--teach that you cannot be righteous enough to save yourself. One of the more terrifying verses in the Bible is when Jesus said to a crowd, “Unless your righteousness supersedes the Pharisees, you have no part of the Kingdom of Heaven.”

The Pharisees were tithing their mint and dill and were more righteous, externally speaking, than anyone reading this has even tried to be. Jesus is exposing the truth that you and I will never be good enough, that all of our righteous deeds are worthless. So, this can’t be the message of redemption because the Scriptures are clear that redemption doesn’t work that way.

RNS: Your book is built on the idea that the gospel is the great "unless" of life. What do you mean by this?