Today’s interview is with Matt Chandler, lead pastor of The Village Church, which has grown from just 160 people to over 11,000. Chandler is also president of Acts 29, a worldwide church-planting organization, and has authored several books, including The Explicit Gospel and Creature of the Word. His latest book, Recovering Redemption: A Gospel-Saturated Perspective on How to Change, is written with a pastor’s intensity and a counselor’s discerning insight, and it takes you deep into Scripture as you evaluate your personal weaknesses, anxieties, and points of shame. With this book, Chandler will show you how to find confidence, contentedness, and freedom through Jesus Christ.
1. What inspired you to write Recovering Redemption?
We wrote the book Recovering Redemption because of what we saw in the lives of people here at The Village Church, and in my travels and interactions with others: there seems to be a disjoint between people’s external struggles and their ability to track that back to heart-level issues. Recovering Redemption is about creating a biblical pathway to help people see that the issues they struggle with externally almost always have heart-level roots that need to be addressed. We’ve learned that people tend to spend all their energy and strength working on external issues, when in reality it’s the internal issues getting solved through the person and work of Jesus Christ that leads to victory.
2. How has The Village Church benefited from the lessons taught in Recovering Redemption?
When I first got to The Village Church, I had in mind a specific type of church I wanted us to be. I come from a background where there was some abuse and some neglect, so I always found a lot of Christian circles unsettling. It seemed like the church lacked an ability to be honest about weakness, and it wasn’t a safe place to be honest about struggle. So I really wanted to, as best I could by the power of the Holy Spirit, show from the Word of God that the people of God should be open and honest in their struggles.
A lot of times, our weaknesses are part of how God chisels and moves and grows our confidence in him. When I started preaching on the confession of sin and the safety found in confession, I realized that the amount of hurt, fear, anxiety, shame, and addiction in our church was overwhelming. We set out to create a discipleship program specifically for the person who was stuck in these cycles of what we called “secret sin.” From there we built out our recovery ministry.
3. Has the church lost the beauty of redemption? How?
I think the church loses the beauty of redemption the moment we think there is no more sin, no more error, to be redeemed from. I don’t think we need to fear the future, but there’s definitely an increased marginalization of believers that could cause us to say, “There is no error that we need to be redeemed from,” if we’re not rooted deeply in the gospel and the Word of God.
I think Christian history will show that—the moment we remove the atoning work of Jesus Christ from the equation, the moment preachers are motivational or inspirational speakers, rather than the heralders of the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, you lose redemption all together . . . because there’s nothing to be redeemed from.
4. What kind of struggles does Recovering Redemption address?
We address fear and anxiety, guilt and shame, anger and lust, and doubt. We tackle the gamut of issues, even explaining the process of forgiveness and reconciliation, when to do that, and when to forgive but not necessarily reconcile.
5. Some churches have difficulty determining how to help people recovering from substance abuse, divorce, anger, etc. What does Recovering Redemption have to say about this?
I think some churches struggle with helping people in those situations because they’re difficult; they take time and are messy. I don’t know where it came from, maybe even the pit of hell, but at some point there began this idea that the church was to be this really pretty group of people. We should always be moving toward maturity, but if the church continues to see converts to Christianity, that means there are always babies around, and anyone with children knows that a house full of children is not always neat and orderly. There’s almost always a mess somewhere that needs to be addressed, training that needs to take place, conversations that need to be had. When you’re dealing with men and women who are struggling, there is an inherent messiness to all that. I think that some churches find it easier to pretend that the mess isn’t there. It’s not helpful for anyone. It’s not helpful for the people in that church who think they’re clean, and it’s not helpful for those who need to hear the good news of Christ: forgiveness and grace. That’s why it’s difficult.
What I hope Recovering Redemption does is help churches create environments where it’s OK to not be OK, while simultaneously saying it’s not OK to stay there.
6. How do we experience more of God’s love?
Experiencing and understanding the supremacy and beauty of Jesus Christ is what ultimately conquers and overcomes the other desires of our hearts. There will be some variance in how we go about it, but here’s what should be true about everyone: we should be rightly seeing Jesus Christ for who he is and what he’s done. Once we see Jesus for who he is according to the Scriptures and understand who we are—and are honest with ourselves about who we are—we can begin to marvel at God’s long suffering with us, his grace and mercy toward us, and his love of us despite us. In that moment, we can begin to see and savor Jesus like we’ve always wanted to.
7. What’s the difference between guilt and shame, and how can we free ourselves from them?
Guilt is almost always tied to an infraction of some kind. We’ve broken a rule, so we’re guilty. But shame doesn’t necessarily work like that. In fact, we can feel shame when there is no breaking of the law at all. We can feel ashamed of where we live, or what we drive, or our education level.
Another reality is that shame can combine with guilt; breaking a rule can lead to not just guilt, but shame over the infraction. This is because shame is almost always built around identity and how I see myself. And the answer to both guilt and shame is found once again, no surprise, in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus has taken our guilt upon himself on the cross and absorbed God’s wrath toward our guilt fully so that there is not condemnation found against us. In fact, in Romans 8, Paul asks who can bring a charge against God’s elect—who can even charge me? Because my sin and guilt have been paid for, it’s not that I’m innocent as much as it is I’m forgiven and justified completely. So that takes care of guilt, and then shame can vanish when I understand God’s delight in me as his child. Not only have I been forgiven, but I’ve also been adopted and been called son. To understand God’s delight in me does a lot to eradicate and destroy shame in a way that nothing else can.
8. What do you most want to say to the church?
The thing that really burns in my heart for the big-C Church is that there isn’t anything past the gospel. So it’s the message of Christ’s wrath-absorbing death and his victorious resurrection that saves us, keeps us, and sustains us in and out of every season that comes. If you drift from the gospel, if you move on to something that you may perceive to be more important, then you will leave the safety of the ship God has given you for the storm or the calm sea that is meant to protect you, shelter you, feed you, and care for you.
Ultimately, let’s not move away from the gospel—let’s drop our anchor there and preach that message over and over and over again to ourselves, to our congregation, to our home groups or small groups. Let it inform the mission, let it inform our marriages, let it inform how we parent, let it inform how we fight, let it inform how we engage the world around us, but let us first and foremost be known as gospel people.
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Discover your areas of weakness and how to transform them into pivot points for growth and freedom: get Matt Chandler’s latest book, Recovering Redemption: A Gospel-Saturated Perspective on How to Change, on Vyrso today!