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Matt Chandler on recovering Revelation’s ‘hijacked’ message

Matt Chandler speaks at Together 2018 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas.
Matt Chandler speaks at Together 2018 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas. | MEDIA GROUP ICON

Matt Chandler, senior pastor of The Village Church, believes that over the past 150 years the book of Revelation has been “misused”, read only as a prophecy for End Times events and shaped by circumstances such as conflicts and natural phenomena.

“It’s not going to make me many friends,” the 49-year-old pastor told The Christian Post. “But (Revelation) was hijacked in the ’70s in particular, and it became something really scary and terrifying. It’s always been a little confusing because it’s apocalyptic.

Although the dispensationalist influence of John Nelson Darby altered the narrative of Revelation decades ago, according to Chandler, the book must be understood in its original context to understand its power.

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Although written as a message to the seven Churches of Asia Minor, around 96 AD to help them resist their struggles against the Roman Empire and local imperial cults, it asserted that Revelation offers Christians a timeless encouragement to live boldly in faith.

“For 2,000 years, (Revelation) put steel in the backs of Christians, empowering them and encouraging them to live boldly, as victors,” he said. “I take this phrase directly from the letters to the churches in Revelation 2 and 3, where Jesus says, “To him who overcomes.” To each of the churches He has this promise that if you overcome, this is the reward.’”

While reading Revelation, Chandler said he was struck by the parallels between the struggles of the early Church and modern times, particularly regarding the spiritual and emotional challenges he witnessed in his congregation after COVID-19.

“Man, I just got a new perspective on this book,” he said. “I was like, this is a book that speaks so perfectly to this moment in history. … After COVID, it seemed like, both spiritually and emotionally, people were stuck on their couches. I just saw the congregation not returning to those rhythms that made me love being pastor of this church.

So Chandler did what he does best: he preached a series of sermons on Revelation and its little-recognized message of hope and encouragement, and the response was overwhelming.

“I don’t think I’ve ever preached anything that has such resonance,” he said. “You could feel it in the Village. But on top of that, (the sermons were) downloaded a million times. It just exploded. As I was thinking about how I could help evangelicals at large right now, I thought, “Let me write some of this down.” »

In his new book Overcomers: God’s Vision for You to Thrive in a Time of Anxiety and OutrageChandler draws on Revelation to impress upon Christians that, as intimidating as the world may seem, they are “uniquely connected, uniquely gifted, and uniquely positioned for this moment for all of God’s purposes.”

“Not just the charismatic, blue-check celebrity guy, but also the stay-at-home moms, the welder, the businessman, the dentist,” he said. “Everyday Christians have an important role to play at this time. »

“I have this burning conviction that, although these times are disorienting, these are times when God has placed us here. No one will come to save us. … CS Lewis will not come, GK Chesterton will not come to assess the political climate. And God is not panicked about it; God is actually pretty excited. He thinks he has the right team on the field.

Despite all the hand wringing and nodding or silence at this point in the story, I just thought, “Wait, no. This is perfect for the Gospel. People are so anxious, what an opportunity to introduce them to the One who can relieve their anxiety. »

In his book, Chandler develops three essential principles: recognizing the inherent dignity of each individual as a bearer of the image of God, embracing one’s primary identity as a child of God, and understanding one’s unique gifts and calling.

“I think those are the three things that start to get us out of the anxiety, the kind of navel-gazing moral self-improvement…moralistic deism,” he said. “This grid of Christianity creates more anxiety and fear and sets us back more than we should. We must return to understanding the primary identity, my enemies are not humanity, and God has entrusted me with an important and unique ministry.

Chandler’s advocacy for an engaged, mission-oriented faith aligns with his experience in ministry and church planting. As executive president of the Acts 29 Network, a large church planting community that trains and equips church planters around the world, he urges new church communities to enter the fray “with biblical compassion and the empathy of the Kingdom.

Simple faithfulness, the pastor said, is the key to making a positive impact on society. He recounted examples of Village Church ministry, including a dentist and his wife providing temporary shelter for a woman’s children while she worked to overcome her addiction, a restaurant owner holding monthly worship services and church members organizing prayer walks in the neighborhood to bless homes and open. doors to spiritual conversations:

“All of a sudden we’re doing real ministry on our street,” Chandler said. “They are not elders and deacons and small group leaders. They’re just families walking around their neighborhoods doing Kingdom work.

In a time marked by outrage and anxiety, Chandler said he hoped his book would inspire ordinary Christians to realize their central role wherever they find themselves. Simple loyalty, he reiterated, can create a ripple effect that transforms communities.

“If you could extrapolate that to evangelicalism… stay-at-home moms, welders, business people and entrepreneurs engaging the world around them… with the love of Christ… I think we could see a true renewal and outpouring of the Spirit in our day,” Chandler said.

“I write this book trying to bring wind into the sails of ordinary people…the Church has grown throughout the world, thanks to the simple, daily faithfulness of ordinary men and women. That’s what I hope comes out of this book.

Winners is now available.

Leah M. Klett is a journalist at The Christian Post. She can be contacted at: [email protected]