Matt Chandler Interview
Matt opens up on how he became a Christian and the challenges facing young believers today.
Matt Chandler is an American pastor renowned for faithfully preaching and living out God’s Word. He’s the Lead Pastor of Teaching at The Village Church and the president of Acts 29, a worldwide church-planting organisation. While he was in Australia speaking at several events, including the Disrupt: General Assembly in Sydney, Fervr chatted with Matt about young Christians and why being a Christian is worth it.
Matt, you became a Christian as a young person at 17. Can you briefly tell us how?
I moved from California to Texas and was playing American football and a friend on my football team just said to me, ‘Hey, I want to tell you about Jesus—when do you want to do that?’ He and I started talking about that, he started taking me to church with him, I started asking questions, he gave me books to read. About a year later I became a Christian, so that’s the short version of that for sure.
He sounds like a really bold friend!
He was extremely bold and I think that was so helpful for me because I didn’t agree with what he believed but I respected his courage—he just wasn’t afraid. So his boldness was actually one of the things that kind of made me buy a little bit into what he was saying.
But being a Christian is hard. Why is it worth it?
I think the short answer is: the very purpose for which we exist is found in relationship with the one who created us. It’s worth it regardless of the difficulty because the soul finally feels at home and so just in the difficulty a soul that feels at home is at rest and at peace even in the brokenness of this world. If I think back to having cancer—I mean having cancer was a terrible season of my life—and yet the Lord felt very near to me and there was a confidence I had in God in those days that I just don’t think you can have if you don’t have that relationship with him.
And so being a Christian helps your joy stay steadfast regardless of your circumstances. Whereas, I think the happiness you can experience in the world is all built around what your circumstances are. So that transcending of experience and the fact that your soul is at home is what makes all the difference in the world—it makes any high or any low worth it to walk with Jesus.
What's the greatest obstacle or challenge facing young Christians today?
I think, by and large, the rapid secularisation that’s occurring globally, the shifting definitions of what it means to be a man or a woman, what it means to be a Christian—I think all of those shifts are making things increasingly difficult and confusing for Christians. I also think a growing hostility towards what we believe, that it’s not just ‘Oh, those goody-two-shoe Christians’ but there are those now in the growing part of culture that sees what we believe as immoral.
In 2009 you found out you had cancer and underwent treatment. What would you say to a young person who is suffering—whether that's health-wise or not?
What I have found to be true, and I believe to be true for anyone who will lean on the Lord, is that the Lord is with those of us who suffer in a very near and special way, and that they’re not forgotten and that this isn’t punitive. What I mean by that is a lot of times what happens is—specifically when young people, who aren’t as theologically informed and don’t have as robust of an understanding of the Bible and church history, are sick or seriously sick or suffering in some other way and they are feeling that God has betrayed them or forgotten about them or somehow is punishing them—I would just want to encourage them today that, more than likely, their suffering is in no way punitive, is in no way God punishing them and God has certainly not abandoned them.
Throughout the pages of the Bible what we see is that God is involved in the mess, he is present in the mess and he is sustaining and walking with his people through the mess. For me, that knowledge was just so helpful, ‘God is not punishing me here, he loves me, he’s for me, the cross of Jesus Christ proves that he’s for me. This is a hard season but no, he’s not trying to give me a whipping here’. And I think that was so encouraging for me, so hopefully it will be encouraging to them.
What are some practical ways young people can introduce their friends to Jesus?
I go back to my own experience—I think boldness to share, and boldness to bring and see, are the two things throughout Christian history as well as in the Bible that have seen people come to know Christ. To be unapologetically confident in Jesus Christ, bold in the faith, to share our faith, and then simultaneously inviting them to church to let them see what the community of the saints looks like.
And I will say that I think one of the things that I’ve picked up on just being in Australia for the second time is there seems to be this lack of gospel-ambition, this kind of doubt that God is able to save because things are harder here than maybe they are in other places and so—I do want to feel empathy towards that and in some ways can understand it—but at the same time, a confidence that God is able and willing to save has to mark our lives, I mean, he saved us. The belief that he can save and that he’s willing to save, that belief will lead to young people doing the things that actually lead to salvation, which is sharing the gospel with their friends and inviting them to church.
Is there anything else you’d like to say to young people?
I spent the first fifteen years of ministry working with students and I just so love what they bring to the kingdom of God. It seems like more and more students are buying into the idea that they can love the Lord without being a part of the church, without really being dedicated and giving themselves to a group of people. I would just desperately want to encourage them to do life with one another and belong to churches. It’s a sad thing when Christian students don’t give themselves to a body of believers—where there’s older men and women and younger men and women—so that they might grow in maturity in their faith.
Do you have a vision for what you want to achieve while you’re speaking at the various events throughout Australia?
I want to encourage the saints here and to share the gospel with those who haven’t heard it. My hope from this trip is that churches will be planted, men and women will be saved and the churches will be encouraged. That’s why I’ve come here.
What are you speaking about at Disrupt: General Assembly?
I want to try to expose the places we try to go to get fullness of life, show why they can’t bring about the fullness of life, and then from there, find out what does bring about the fullness of life—namely, a relationship with Jesus Christ.
The audio from the talks will be posted on the Disrupt conference website: disruptconference.com.au