This post is to explain why I decided to remove my family from The Village Church, hereby referred to as TVC. This is not meant to bash TVC, or any of their staff or members. I apologize in advance for the length, but I wanted this post to be thorough, truthful, and fair which means it will be lengthy. Please know that I still consider Matt Chandler and the other elders at TVC to be brothers in Christ and whatever sins were committed against us have already been forgiven on our end.
I decided to explain all of this in a blog for two reasons.
1) For my family and friends to know the many details that went into this decision. Too many of them can easily be left out of a face to face conversation. This will hopefully be a means to answer all of their questions about why we left.
2) We have been in contact with many other first responder families at TVC, mostly police families, and we want to put our full experience together in one place. This way we can avoid having multiple, partial conversations. I know that a lot of those families are in contact with other families and this will hopefully mitigate any game of “telephone” as conversations progress. We know that many of them are considering whether to stay or not, so this allows us to speak our peace and step away.
I’ll try to keep this as chronological as possible so that people can understand the process we went through. Before I start any criticism I want to first explain how grateful I am that TVC was part of my life. I was going through a crisis of faith when I found TVC and they were there to help guide me through it. For that and for their clear presentation of the gospel, I will forever be grateful.
There are two primary reasons why my wife and I decided to leave. One is their continued partnerships with and promotions of false teachers. And while this topic is very important to us, it wasn’t the main reason we left and it isn’t what we’ve spent most of our time talking to the church staff and other members about, although it was becoming a growing concern. However, if you would like to discuss this topic further, we’d be happy to connect with you. The other topic, and the one that really fueled our decision to leave, is the way that TVC has handled the topics of race and police. The majority of this post will be about the latter of the 2 reasons. Before I continue, it’s important to note that I am a police officer of nearly 10 years and that’s going to provide a lot of context.
I’ll start with the topic of racial reconciliation, which has often cast a shadow on the profession of officers like me.
The first red flag I noticed with TVC is when lead pastor Matt Chandler preached a sermon on the Imago Dei and told a story about his friend Leonce Crump, who is black. Crump believes the police racially profiled him and his white wife on a traffic stop. Perhaps he was racially profiled, and if so that’s certainly horrible, but my training and experience with traffic stops told me that there was no hard evidence that race played a factor at all, from what I gathered in his story. Yet Crump made the assertion that the officers were racists and Matt Chandler echoed that sentiment as if to say those officers viewed Crump as something less than human instead of understanding that he was made in God’s image (Imago Dei). After the sermon we went to dinner with another member of the church, who had previously been a police officer, and he agreed that what Matt said bothered him as well.
Shortly after the events in Ferguson, Matt Chandler – along with the media, other evangelical leaders, and frankly a large portion of the public – immediately bought into the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” narrative.
On August 17th (3 days after Ferguson, way before all the facts had come in), Matt said the following in a sermon.
Even in a situation like Ferguson, is our default to just go, “Well, I mean, it’s obvious. He robbed a store. Surely, he wasn’t an angel”? Sure, and do you know who is not also an angel? Most of the children in this community, but the Bill of Rights is the Bill of Rights and brutality is brutality, and there’s a rule of law that must be obeyed.
The irony of this statement is incredible. Chandler is saying that the rule of law must be obeyed in regards to Officer Wilson, but not Michael Brown. He got it completely backwards as to who broke the law that day.
I’ll paste screenshots of just a few of his Twitter conversations. Screenshots were only edited to make them more readable, none of the actual content was edited.
I think the tweets speak for themselves. Matt, without a shred of evidence, was instantly prejudiced against Officer Wilson and implied that he was a racist murderer. It’s very clear Matt believed that Officer Wilson did what he did only because Michael Brown was black, and if it had been someone white – like Matt’s son Reid – it would have been a completely different story.
So there it is: a point blank accusation of racism. As you can see, many people on Twitter began pushing back, yet Matt digs his heels in. Even when he finally does concede that had his son, Reid, attacked a cop he may have been shot like Brown was, he says he wouldn’t have been shot as many times. As if Wilson shot extra rounds because Brown was a black man (instead of shooting until the threat stopped, which is what forensic evidence proved that Wilson did).
When someone explained the number of shots to Chandler, he then deflects once again and says, “OK but would his body have been left uncovered for hours?” He is absolutely determined to find racism in Officer Wilson’s actions, no matter what.
Due to the enormous backlash Matt received, he wrote a blog post to try to clarify what 140 characters on Twitter could not.
A short time later, another controversial police shooting occurred with John Crawford. Matt once again took to Twitter with the same reaction that can only be described as emotional and inflammatory.
Between the Ferguson tweets, his blog post, and the tweet about John Crawford, I decided to email him. Instead of receiving a response from Matt, I instead got a reply from his assistant who tried to assure me that Matt didn’t mean anything negative towards the officers involved. This is the biggest problem with multi-campus churches in my opinion because it spreads the “lead pastor” too thin and he’s nearly forced to delegate things like this to assistants, and that’s going to come up again later but I’ll digress on that for now. (Note: TVC very recently decided to phase out their multi-campus approach)
Feeling that Matt’s tweets were undoubtedly negative towards Officer Wilson, and unsubstantiated accusations, I was unsatisfied with his assistant’s reply. I wanted to hear from Matt directly and once again requested a response.
This time Matt replied and admitted that he shouldn’t have tweeted what he did about Ferguson and said the tweets were born out of an incident that his friend, Eric Mason’s son (a young, black male) experienced while walking home one day in Philadelphia. However, those tweets about Ferguson were never removed. He said his tweet regarding John Crawford wasn’t a shot at the officers involved but was instead aimed at the 911 caller who apparently lied and said Crawford was shooting the gun at people and that it was his racism that got Crawford killed.
I wanted to assume the best of Matt’s intentions, so I took him at his word and hoped that there would be no future assumptions about officers without evidence. But to be honest, I was still deeply concerned about what had caused the assumptions in the first place and about the way he handled those assumptions.
Around that same time, TVC had recommended several books to help people pursue racial reconciliation, one of which was a book called “White Like Me” by Tim Wise. I decided to read this book and I was horrified by what I read. Tim Wise, a self-professed atheist, promoted things like abortion, he denied the deity of Jesus (Wise is ethnically Jewish), he said the apostle Paul never actually knew Jesus anyway and therefore all of his teachings were invalid, he taught his daughter that God is actually a black woman – even though he doesn’t believe in God, he said that songs that called for the murder of police officers were merely “art.” The list goes on, but these were the most egregious things in the book.
So once again, I emailed the church and expressed my concerns. They said they would look into it, and the next thing I knew the book was removed from the list of recommended resources, which was good. But once again I questioned why the book was recommended to begin with – no one ever got back to me.
Which staff member had read this book and recommended it as a good resource? Did Matt Chandler even know? Was it even an elder or was it someone else on staff? Did we pull a list from a partnering church without any vetting? I guess we’ll never know, but once again alarm bells were ringing that there were some deeply flawed worldviews somewhere in our process for such a book to even be recommended in the first place. In addition to these concerns, I also noticed that the church was promoting some false teachers. For the sake of staying on one topic I’ll save the topic of false teachers until the end.
Shortly after these concerns sprouted up TVC began its membership renewal process which allowed me to schedule a meeting to express my concerns.
I met Matt in his office and brought with me a list of the false teachers I believed the church had been partnering with or promoting, including specific examples of their teachings or beliefs that were unbiblical. Again, I’ll spell that out more fully later.
The conversation ended up being mostly about continuationism vs. cessationism. I am a cessationist but had thus far set my concerns aside because the church had been so good about just preaching the gospel and the subject of the supernatural sign gifts rarely came up anyway.
Since cessationism dominated the hour I had with Matt, the specifics of the false teachers were never discussed in that meeting, but I did leave the list and the examples with him and he assured me he would look at them and consider what I had to say.
In the meeting I did once again mention the comments he made regarding Ferguson and police in general and just asked him why his default position seemed to be one of believing officers to be racist before any facts had come in. And he once again appealed to the personal stories of his friends such as Eric Mason and Leonce Crump who had allegedly experienced mistreatment from the police, but he assured me he would do his best to be more fair and unbiased in any comments going forward.
And while nothing changed in regards to the church’s partnership with false teachers, there did seem to initially be a change in some of the rhetoric regarding police, mostly just that TVC seemed to be staying away from discussing police shootings altogether. However, that once again changed in July of 2016 when two controversial police shootings happened back to back with Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. Matt’s wife, Lauren, shared this on Facebook…
The video is of two white officers wrestling a large white man and having trouble getting him under control. The implication of her caption is that Alton Sterling was shot for being black, whereas the white guy in the video was allowed to continue to resist arrest without being shot because he’s white. Of course what she didn’t mention – due to her utter lack of knowledge in policing – is that Alton Sterling had a loaded handgun in his pocket that he was likely trying to grab with his right hand as he fought the officers. Up until those officers saw that gun, they had been trying to wrestle him into handcuffs just like the other officers had with the white guy. But when they saw the butt of Sterling’s gun sticking out of his right pocket, and were unable to get control of Sterling’s right arm as he reached for it, they were forced to shoot him before he could shoot them.
Lauren, just like Matt had previously, got pushback on her post.
We were once again grieved because they had once again made a snap judgment about the intentions of officers involved in a shooting, essentially calling them racists.
On the morning of 7/7/16, we immediately reached out to Matt & Lauren with our frustrations and requested a meeting to discuss them. Mostly, we wanted to educate them on police training so they could see why these situations were so dangerous, but we also wanted to make them aware of the growing danger that cops face when things like this are misconstrued.
In my email to Matt, I explained how this kind of hasty and naive rhetoric was helping to perpetuate the myth that most police officers are racists looking for a reason to shoot black people. When my wife, Jen, messaged Lauren, she explained that such rhetoric literally puts officers like me in more danger.
And sure enough, about 10 hours later, black radical Micah Xavier Johnson killed 5 police officers in downtown Dallas. He told the SWAT negotiators that he did it because he was upset over the news of recent police shootings and that he wanted to “kill white people, especially white officers.”
Now obviously TVC isn’t directly responsible for Micah Johnson’s actions, but their rhetoric has undoubtedly contributed to the overall national narrative that paints police as out of control, trigger happy racists. And that perception has consequences, deadly ones in this case.
With tensions and emotions at their peak, TVC held an unscheduled service the very next evening. My wife showed up early and found Matt in the lobby before the service. She wanted to speak to him directly because no one had even acknowledged if they had received our messages from the day before.
I should also mention that Jen is usually very level-headed and rational, and not typically an overly emotional person. But she was understandably upset that day.
Now before I get into how that conversation went, I want to stop and point out something that Matt said in a sermon regarding facts and empathy, because it set an expectation in her heart for how he would respond when she approached him. Let me set the context of the sermon: He was talking about how white people are far too quick to say “look at the facts” in regards to Ferguson, instead of simply mourning with those who mourn.
He was giving an example of how being too quick to get into facts without mourning with those who mourn is a horrible and insensitive thing. He gave a fictional example of a parent whose child stuck a paper clip in a light socket and then says…
Is that the time for me to begin to say, “Well, you know, if you childproofed… Here’s a link to how you childproof. If you just put this in…”? How absurd and wicked would I be if, in the midst of their sorrow, their loss, their confusion, their anger, I started to talk about how you can avoid that? Do you see how absurd that is? That’s why I lost my mind. It’s like, “Shut up!” Enter in. Try to understand. Just say, “I’m sorry.” This is not the time for facts. Facts have their place. Don’t email me. Facts come out in time. You give facts time to work, but I don’t bring it up that night.”
Now keep that in mind as I describe Jen’s conversation with him before the prayer service that night. She was grieving. She approached him, explained that she is my wife, that we had reached out to him and Lauren the previous morning, and that we would love to sit down with them. She also mentioned that I was a Dallas officer and that this isn’t just a side topic for us – this is our life. She was a little taken aback that he didn’t respond to her saying that I’m a Dallas officer, in light of what had just happened here.
He acknowledged that he had received my email, but he hadn’t had a chance to respond and that his schedule would make it difficult to find a meeting time. She explained again that this is critical to us. He assumed a defensive posture and said, “Yeah, I mean, we can meet, but I’m just telling you right now we’re probably going to have to agree to disagree on some things.” And with his hands up said, “I’m going to need some statistics explained to me. We have 13% of our population that are 25% of police shootings.” She had been up all night watching the injured and death tolls rise, crying all day because someone wanted to kill officers who look just like me, and he was implying that there was statistical evidence for widespread oppression of minorities at the hands of police?
Now you would think, given that she was a member of the church, and given that her husband just had 12 brothers in blue shot – 5 fatally murdered – because their skin color and uniform match mine, that Matt’s first response upon seeing her would have been one of enormous compassion and empathy. Perhaps a hug, a question about how she was doing given the circumstances, something along those lines.
She said she walked away from that conversation feeling even worse than she did before it. It broke her heart. She had received hugs and messages from strangers all day long, but her own pastor basically implied that officers brought this on themselves? When I think about how badly he dropped the ball here as an elder in charge of her care it grieves me all over again.
I understand that Matt is a human prone to mistakes as well, and that he’s going to fall short just like all of us will, but man that was just such a devastating and cold response given what had just happened, and especially since he had scolded other people, mostly other white people, for doing the same thing.
After getting off of work that night I arrived at the service. They broke the service up into 3 sections. First, they displayed the names and pictures of the 5 murdered officers. Matt called their deaths what they were: horrific injustices. He made no mention of how dangerous police work is, and how any day on duty could be your last. No acknowledgement of the ever growing part of our culture that hates them and wishes them harm.
And after that, the 2nd and 3rd sections of the service were dedicated to Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.
To us, and to other members who are first responders, this was the height of insensitivity. It was as if to say, “Look at all of these men, cops and black men alike, who were murdered in cold blood because of their race.” At that point, we only knew for sure that race played a factor in one of those shootings, not all three.
Now Matt was emphasizing that all of these men had families that were mourning, and yes that is true, but the way they went about it was incredibly insensitive – especially given the fact that the five police officers had just been murdered less than 24 hours prior in his very own city, and that members of the church like myself actually knew some of these officers personally.
That same weekend, as part of the regular weekend service, TVC hosted a panel to discuss race and police. The panelists were all black staff members and a black deaconess. None were police. The prayer service that we thought to be the height of insensitivity had now been replaced by this panel.
Rob Daniels was one of the panelists and Matt asked him what was going on in his head and in his heart on a week like that and Rob said,
“Yeah. My heart is super heavy. I’m tired. I’m frustrated. I’m angry. I’m mourning. I’m tired of seeing what appears to be the genocide of my people. I’m mourning just the death of these men and many others. Yeah, I walk around in a great deal of fear just wondering. Alton, Philando Castile, that could have been me. I could have been sitting in the passenger seat of my car with my wife and my son in the backseat and doing everything right. That could have been me, so that provokes a great deal of fear in my heart. It’s a hard week. It’s a heavy week. My wife walks around in fear, wondering, “Am I going to be like those other wives? Am I going to be a single mom? Will I have to explain certain things to my son that my white brothers and sisters in Christ may not ever have to?” It’s hard.
Now setting aside the implications that the officers in both the Sterling and Castile cases were guilty of racist murder, did you catch what he said before that? He said “I’m tired of seeing what appears to be the genocide of my people.” Imagine, as a police officer and member of this church, what it felt like to essentially be called a Nazi by a staff member in your own church, 2 days after the murder of your brothers in blue. There were also comments made about feeling uncomfortable in our church, which is predominantly white, and feeling unsafe when they are out in the community of Flower Mound.
The following weekend, TVC decided to hold a service to honor first responders. And while I went in with great expectations that we may finally see some balance from the church, I once again left feeling mostly disappointed.
Now I want to give credit where it’s due, Matt said a lot of very positive things about first responders and I do believe he honestly sought to create understanding and empathy for first responders in this service, but it still came with some frustrating caveats.
For one, it wasn’t a panel and it wasn’t related to the racial division that we’re seeing right now. It is one thing for Matt to speak about the low pay and PTSD complexities of police work, but it was completely devoid of the current and relevant matters of the time that we’re in.
He also praised and promoted the “de-militarization” of the police. He didn’t realize that on the night of the Dallas shooting, some officers – including the very same response team who lost team members – had asked if they would be allowed to wear their heavy vests which stop rifle rounds. In keeping with the “de-militarization” approach, they were told that they could not wear them because the department didn’t want to look too much like the military for what was supposed to be a “peaceful” protest. That equipment could have saved lives that night.
In addition to that, the thrust of the sermon was “Rejoicing and Reforming” and much of what he said was about how we can rejoice for what police are doing right, but that there’s much reform to be done as well.
Now take the previous weekend with the panel, where the black panelists were able to speak freely about whatever was in their heart without any pushback, even when police were compared to Nazis, and compare it with this service where not only are police not given a voice but are actually still being criticized with the need to reform. It felt as if the blueprint for the message was “How can I generate empathy for first responders but also not let officers off the hook for shooting black men and also throw in some talk about police reform in there?”
Obviously Jen and I were both very upset and let down with how our church had handled things so far. We are not the only police family that they are responsible for caring for. To add insult to injury, they finally replied to my email and said the earliest we could meet with Matt would be in September, 2 months after we originally reached out and attended officer funerals.
Here, once again, the weaknesses of a multi-campus church rear their head. Obviously, we didn’t feel as though this issue could wait 2 months as if it wasn’t that big of a deal. We understood that Matt probably fills his calendar out months ahead of time, but we just had friends who were murdered, and they were murdered after we had just warned them that their rhetoric was making officers’ jobs more dangerous. We didn’t feel like it could wait. So we reached out to the central elders of the church and scheduled a meeting with them in the meantime.
That meeting consisted of four elders. For the most part they were very receptive and understanding of our concerns, and even mentioned that we were by no means the first people to express such concerns to them. They said they would relay our concerns to Matt and perhaps make some suggestions to him.
The weeks rolled by and we finally had our meeting with Matt. Since Matt had told Jen that he “needed some numbers explained to him,” we came prepared to do just that.
In this conversation, Matt wasn’t defensive. He made it clear that this was our time and he was there to listen. He seemed very sincere. Yet when we actually got ready to finally dig into what’s true and what isn’t about police brutality, and how the stats he quoted can be explained, he brushed it off and said he’s not that interested in the numbers. He said he has often wanted to use the Mark Twain quote of “there are lies, damned lies and statistics” from the pulpit but he’s afraid he’d get complaints for saying the word “damned.”
Now I don’t know why he went from “I need some numbers explained to me” to “there are lies, damned lies and statistics” in the matter of 2 months. There are only 2 reasons that immediately come to my mind: 1) he already had the numbers explained to him and didn’t want to admit that he was wrong. 2) he had a feeling that we were just about to debunk his arguments and wanted to willfully remain in ignorance so that he could continue to cling to his belief that there is widespread oppression of minorities at the hands of police. Neither of those possibilities sit well with me, so I am hoping there was another explanation.
With that topic off the table, we instead focused on specific examples of where we felt TVC had dropped the ball about police officers. We mentioned Lauren’s Facebook post about Alton Sterling and how the two stories she was trying to conflate couldn’t be conflated since Sterling had a gun.
Matt admitted that her post was made out of a place of naivetë (and please understand that I don’t use that word as an insult, just an understandable truth that most people do not understand use of force and how it’s applied in American law) and that she had come to him after the considerable pushback that she got from it and asked if perhaps she should remove it. To this day, the post remains on her wall, even after I explained how it paints an unfair picture, even after I explained how it makes my job more dangerous, and even after 5 cops were murdered because of false and divisive narratives just like the one in her post.
So think about that. She came to her husband, not just the leader of a 10,000+ member church, but also the leader of her home, and asked if she should take the post down. And apparently his answer, even after all of the pushback and how much Jen and I had relayed to him that it grieved us, was that it should be left up. And that’s really a microcosm of the entire issue. They’ve been willing to alienate and grieve people like Jen and myself for the cause of being a more multi-ethnic church.
Now look at what Matt’s friend, Eric Mason, said from TVC’s pulpit regarding this matter
We suggested just a few of our many ideas for what the church can do to improve their approach on this topic. This included things like asking Rob to do some ride alongs with different departments where he can see what that job entails first hand and he can have several hours to ask some really tough questions and get some answers. Then follow up with the church to say what he got out of the experience.
We asked Matt why he seemingly walks on eggshells when it comes to his acknowledging that high violent crime rates in inner cities is often the reason officers find themselves in those areas, and not harassment of the black communities. Or the reluctance to acknowledge that in many of the controversial shootings such as Michael Brown and Alton Sterling, these men were resisting arrest or attacking police and that those factors played a role in why police used deadly force.
His answer was that he didn’t want to push too hard on those things for fear of losing the African-Americans in the church. Now contrast that with how he feels about white members of the church who may take offense to his approach.
The second screenshot is small, so if you’re unable to read it he said,
“I remember when we first started having this conversation, I would get emails like, ‘If you keep pushing on this, we’re leaving,’ I had to go early on, ‘There are a lot of good churches in the area, so you can go ahead and move your membership and get it over with.”
In spite of the things I’ve mentioned here, he still had a way of sending us away from that meeting feeling somewhat encouraged.
We ended our meeting with the request that he and other staff members in the church would simply refrain from jumping to conclusions about future police headlines. I didn’t ask that they side with police, and nor would I want him to if the police were proven to be wrong, I simply asked that they wait until all the facts are in before making assumptions. He agreed that my request was a reasonable one.
Despite our concerns, he assured us that the church loves and cares about us and other first responders and didn’t want to downplay the dangers that officers face every day.
After this meeting, my attitude was to continue to give things a chance, yet I still felt a sense of unease, as if I had just been patronized for an hour and that nothing would really change going forward. It’s no secret that Matt Chandler is a silver tongued speaker; he is very smart and knows how to captivate an audience like very few men can.
The water remained pretty calm for about 2 months. But in December, Lauren Chandler and 7 other women from TVC were featured in a news piece on NBC called Different Shades of Texas.
The purpose of the piece was to show how these women of different ethnicities and backgrounds came together to try to understand each other more. But the piece contained many comments of women saying that they, along with their family members, are in danger of the police simply because they are black. They spoke about fear when they see blue and red lights. And then once again, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling are mentioned as examples of police brutality. Even if it wasn’t their intention, the false narrative is pushed forward and cops are once again demonized.
Jen saw this as a wonderful opportunity and emailed Matt, Josh Patterson (who was an elder we met with), and Rob (who had sat on the race panel in July). Their wives were all part of this group, and there was talk about other campuses starting similar groups as well. She said that she appreciates the women getting together to try to understand each other more, but since police officers are often the topic of these conversations, perhaps they could include the wives of officers in their groups to get their perspective on things. She stressed that LEO wives often have many fears and anxieties of their own and that they are usually put in positions where they have to defend, instead of being asked to share. Her hope was that TVC would not only endorse this suggestion, but roll it out as an idea for new groups that are starting up.
Matt and Josh’s assistants responded to her email, thanking her for the suggestion. Rob Daniels replied to thank her and asked her what other suggestions she had and what else the church could be doing better. She was so happy to see this kind of response, since it was the first of its kind, and she replied back with suggestions like having TVC bring officers to staff meetings to help educate them on an officer’s perspective, or perhaps befriending officers that they can trust for input when controversial police shootings take place. She asked that they include positive police resources as they recommend books, articles, documentaries online. She recommended that staff members follow the “Humanizing the Badge” group on Facebook that really does try to seek peace and understanding from both sides and she recommended that they follow the Officer Down Memorial Page to see just how often police officers are killed in every day line of duty calls.
Matt and Josh were cc’d on Rob’s reply to her, so they got her reply with all of these suggestions, but no one ever got back to her after that point.
Outside of all of the things mentioned up to this point, TVC has continued to promote blatantly anti-police resources. In addition to “White Like Me” that I mentioned earlier, they also promoted “The New Jim Crow”.
I read The New Jim Crow cover to cover. It’s full of statistical fallacies, subjective opinions, and in some cases, outright lies like saying that cops regularly do illegal searches or force people to confess to crimes and not contact lawyers. Do those things happen? I’m sure they do from time to time, but there’s absolutely no evidence that it’s a widespread occurrence, yet the author makes it seem commonplace. She also advocates for the inability of businesses to consider a person’s criminal record when deciding whether to hire them or not, because she believes it’s just used as a tool to weed out black applicants. Now imagine if the church wasn’t allowed to screen for convicted pedophiles before hiring someone to work in the nursery. In short, the book is an attempt to undermine law and order.
In addition to that, they recommended a Netflix documentary titled “13” which we watched. While it had some redeeming qualities and thoughts to consider, it painted fugitive and convicted cop-killer, Joanne Chesimard (AKA Assata Shakur), as a victim of police oppression and racism. This documentary was in favor of emptying out America’s prisons because they are the new way to enslave blacks. It gave absolutely no consideration to personal accountability when it came to these people’s crimes.
At this point, I considered once again emailing the church with my concerns, but felt that it was futile. It’s like, sure I could continue to point out rotten fruit so that TVC could potentially cut them off of the tree like they had with the “White Like Me” book, but at what point do you begin to understand that it’s the tree itself that’s producing the rotten fruit and that cutting off the bad fruit is going to be an unending task until the tree itself becomes healthy?
More rotten fruit reared it’s head when the jury in the Philando Castile case could not find sufficient evidence to convict Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who shot him.
In Matt’s eyes, officers are still apparently guilty until found not guilty, but then they’re still actually guilty. The fact that Yanez was removed from service (by the city, not by the department) was not evidence that he was guilty, but was a mutually agreed upon decision since having him continue to enforce law in that community would have been an extremely volatile proposition not to mention the officer himself would have been in even more danger than usual. It’s a perfect example of the ignorance of how police departments, cities and courts operate.
It was the height of arrogance to assume to he knew better than the 12 jurors who actually sat in the court room and weighed all of the evidence, especially since the dash cam video hadn’t even been released when he sent that tweet.
In the course of my relatively short career I have been involved in multiple incidents where I was extremely close to shooting a minority. In one case, a man who had just burglarized an apartment fled from me in his vehicle, crashed into a telephone pole, bailed out on foot and I chased him down the alley. When he tired out he turned around to face me, and despite the fact that I was yelling for him to get on the ground, he remained standing and his hand went into his pocket. I thought he was reaching for a gun. I was literally taking the slack out of my trigger and lining up my shot when he finally heeded my commands to put his hands in the air. And thank God he did too, because there was no gun.
While I believe that even if I had shot him a grand jury would have found my actions reasonable, I was still that close to being the next headline where a white cop shot an unarmed minority. Please put yourselves in my shoes here. I had to wonder how my very own church would have reacted to it if I had shot him. Would they have taken into consideration the many times that they had met with me and gotten to know me? Would they contact members of my home group who can speak to my character? Would they have extended a helpful hand to my wife for support? If history is any indication, the answers are clear.
It wasn’t just the church leadership that we believed to be harboring anti-police sentiments, it was also the circles that TVC seemed to run with.
Mike Cosper, has been on TVC’s podcast, wrote an article condemning McKinney officer Casebolt who arrested a girl for refusing to leave a pool party (trespassing) after the HOA’s security officer had asked her to leave and after he also had asked her to leave several times. TVC’s own JT English jumped in on condemning him.
Of course racism was the reason for the arrest in their eyes even though dozens of other black people left when they were asked to and were not arrested. He wanted the officers involved in the Tamir Rice shooting charged with murder. He condemned a Spring Valley High school officer for subduing an unruly high school girl who was attempting to assault him.
And to the lay person I can understand how these incidents don’t look good, but the fact is that each of these individuals were breaking the law and the officers were duty bound to enforce the law, and when people being arrested want to resist arrest or reach for guns then ANY amount of force used by the police to ensure the arrest or ensure their own safety isn’t going to look pretty.
Thabiti Anyabwile, who has been a guest on the podcast and who has preached from TVC pulpits, and who stated he would be voting for Hillary Clinton and argued that racism was a more heinous sin than even abortion, to this day believes Ferguson was an act of police brutality and says Black Lives Matter protestors better exemplify the gospel than those who disagree with them.
Previously mentioned Leonce Crump has stood with Black Lives Matter, which has blatantly anti-Christian views on sexuality and Christians’ responsibility to government.
If I listed all of the anti-police things Crump has said since Ferguson this post would be much longer than it already is, but here’s a Twitter conversation where he admits that he is not interested in the truth about Ferguson.
In addition to these Christian celebrity partnerships, we started noticing the average members and congregants were adopting these same attitudes. Even people we had shared meals with and had invited into our homes seemed to take on the same sentiment that I am willingly taking part in systemic injustice and that any attempt to defend myself is rooted in the sin of racism.
On the day that I was attending the funeral of one of the slain officers in Dallas, one TVC member, who I had briefly been in a small group with, showed absolutely no empathy towards me, not even so much as a “I’m sorry your fellow officers were killed” or “How are you doing in light of all of this?” and instead told me I was over-reacting to things and that I was the blind one who wasn’t being empathetic. There are other examples as well but I won’t belabor the point.
After stepping back for a minute and considering all of the things I’ve mentioned in this article, Jen and I agreed that further attempts to seek fairness and truth from TVC would be akin to spinning our wheels and we withdrew our membership. They were simply moving in a direction that we believed was further away from truth and not closer to it, and their members and other followers seemed to be joining them.
I want to re-emphasize that this post was not written to bash Matt Chandler or anyone else at TVC, but I want others to know what our experience was there so that perhaps they can avoid many of the heartaches and frustrations that we experienced if they are considering making TVC their church home, or if they are currently considering removing their membership as well.
Up to this point, my post has mostly just been our story, and I understand that others may have a completely different story and experience with TVC and I’m glad for them if that’s the case. But before I end it I also want to share some biblical reasons as to why I can’t recommend TVC to people.
I won’t go too deep into the charismatic issue, as that issue has been debated for ages, but I will just leave this link as a reason why I believe charismaticism is dangerous even if TVC has a very mild and slightly more benign form of charismaticism.
I mostly want to point out where they are in Biblical error in regards to race, police and truth.
First and foremost I believe the way Matt Chandler and the others mentioned made public and vocal assumptions about officers’ guilt in these cases when there was no evidence to substantiate their assumptions amounts to slander.
So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life,[a] and set on fire by hell.[b] 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers,[c] these things ought not to be so.
There’s a passage of Scripture concerning the harmfulness of gossip and slander that I would imagine is easily overlooked because of where it’s found in the canon. And that is Leviticus 19:16: “You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people, and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor; I am Yahweh.” Notice the synonymous parallelism in that verse. “Going about as a slanderer” is synonymized with “acting against the life of your neighbor.” That force of that text needs to land on us. “Slander? Just repeating unsubstantiated information about someone, put on the same moral level as premeditated murder?”
Yes indeed. Scripture couldn’t be clearer. Proverbs 11:9 says, “With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor.” Two verses later, we’re told that entire cities are torn down by the mouth of the wicked (Prov 11:11).
We saw that with Ferguson didn’t we? That entire town was pretty much destroyed by rioters and looters and arsonists, all of whom were angry because someone lied about Michael Brown’s hands being in the air. We also saw it with Baltimore and the Freddy Gray incident, where police were ordered to give the rioters “space to destroy” and destroy they did to the tune of 9 million dollars in damage.
One verse after that, the man of understanding who keeps silent is contrasted with the one who despises his neighbor, and, lacking sense, ostensibly doesn’t keep silent (Prov 11:12). And then Proverbs 12:6personifies wicked words by styling them as premeditating murderers: “The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood.” Such quotations could be multiplied.
Entire livelihoods can be destroyed by the circulation of just one unsubstantiated claim, if it’s juicy enough (just ask Naboth; 1 Kings 21:8–14)
I think it’s safe to say every officer involved in each of these controversial shootings, even when clearly justified such as with Ferguson, has had their livelihoods destroyed. Most of them receive death threats not just against them but their families as well and are forced to uproot their families and move them just to ensure their safety, not to mention the fact that most of them will never be officers again because police departments don’t want the liability and circus that would come from hiring them. So they’re left having to find new careers as well.
When I think about Lauren’s post regarding Alton Sterling and my subsequent warning that such uninformed rhetoric puts officers in danger I can’t help but think of this passage.
Proverbs 26:20–21 says, “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down. Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife.”
As well as this one
2 Timothy 2:23 “But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels.”
Do I think Lauren’s post is the sole cause of officers’ being unfairly stereotyped across the country today? Of course not. That misperception would have been there with or without her post or any of the other things they have said about officers.
Still, a Christian, and especially pastors and their wives, should not be contributing to setting forests ablaze with their tongues (or keyboards in this case), especially when grieving members had already explained why it grieves them.
When I contrast Matt’s words of “I don’t want to lose the African-Americans in the church” with him saying to white people “go ahead and move your membership and get it over with.” I’m reminded of James 2.
James 2:1 “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.” Verse 9, “But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the Law as transgressors.”
Now granted the passage was talking about favoring the rich over the poor, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t apply to favoring one skin color over another as well.
Perhaps the biggest concern of all is the apparent mission drift. Racism, police brutality, oppression, whatever you want to call it, when it actually exists, always boils down to being a sin issue. And as with any sin issue, the solution is found in the gospel alone, not in raising one’s “ethnic IQ”, not in artificially forcing ethnic minorities into positions of leadership so that you can meet an unspoken quota forced upon you by others, not in promoting the idea of “white privilege”, which is actually just a more subtle form of white supremacy as it’s saying “I AM superior to you, but it’s because I have more privileges than you.”
Instead, just preach the gospel! The unadulterated gospel alone covers all of these issues and does so in a way that no human scheme or political movement or President or new legislation could ever hope to do, and does so in a way that makes ALL sinners feel convicted of sin, whether it be racism or otherwise, and makes all who repent of those sins into a new creation in Christ.
If reconciliation is to be had it will only be had when we realize that we are all sinners in need of a Savior and we unite as brothers and sisters at the foot of the cross, not in forcing multi-culturalism, checking our privilege or counting grievances.
I will not get into the subject of the false teachers as I believe TVC has partnered with and promoted in this post, but am happy to discuss those issues privately.
One more time I want to emphasize that this post was not meant to beat anyone over the head. We loved TVC. I have many fond memories of TVC and learned and grew in my sanctification a lot while I was there and Matt Chandler played a big role in that. So this post is not written with anger or bitterness but with sadness and concern.
It grieves me to see the direction they appear to be headed, that’s why we stayed for so long and endured many of those grievances while other friends and first responders were moving on to new churches. We wanted to see the church turning back towards truthfulness, balance and fairness but we had to reluctantly accept that it just didn’t appear to be likely to happen.
Pray that it does, for the sake of God’s glory alone.
Here are some facts regarding police brutality and why I believe TVC has been wrong to help spread the narrative that police brutality is an epidemic.