Matt Chandler, lead pastor at The [mega] Village Church, along with his wife, Lauren, are currently promoting a marriage conference called “The Mingling of Souls,” which will take place in February of 2016. I have followed Matt’s career since the early 2000s, and, in my opinion, he is one of the best communicators the evangelical church has to offer.
No doubt, this is the reason people flock to his church, located in Flower Mound, TX, and will most likely flock to Matt and Lauren’s up-and-coming marriage conference. Matt’s ability to teach the Bible (as he understands it) is the very reason I drove an hour, Sunday after Sunday, to attend his church when I was a Bible college student in Waxahachie, Texas.
In my early twenties, I believed everything Matt said was truth, because he preaches with strong conviction, and backs up much of what he says with theology, philosophy, sociology, and psychology. Further, Matt is charming, funny, and witty.
The man is brilliant and truly believes that what he is preaching to and about women is God’s Word, which is why I am heavy-hearted about “The Mingling of Souls” marriage conference.
I don’t fear for the “Laurens” in the room (women who hold a similar personality and/or giftings to Matt’s wife). I fear for the “Jorys” in the room. The truth is that Matt and Lauren’s natural personalities just happen to fit the mold of complementarian thought – the theology to which they both subscribe and which they teach to the masses.
Matt is naturally a strong-willed, determined leader, and Lauren is naturally a laid-back, submissive type. Lauren openly admits that submission in marriage comes easy to her in the video below. Around 2:13, Lauren states, “I was great at the submitting part, and partly because Matt is a great leader.”
There is no doubt in my mind that Matt is a great leader and a great husband to Lauren. But there is also no doubt in my mind that the dynamics of their relationship and their personalities are primary reasons for their subscription to complementarianism.
Matt is older than Lauren and the two met at a Christian youth camp in which Lauren was a camper and Matt was the camp speaker (Source). The very foundation of their relationship is a teenage girl, looking up to a young, good-looking, spiritual preacher-man. This happens sometimes, and the two did not date until Lauren was of age, so let’s not accuse them of anything perverse, but let’s be honest here.
Of course, a naturally laid-back woman, who crushed on her husband as her camp pastor when she was still a teenager, would easily embrace complementarianism as “God’s Word” and the correct interpretation of Scripture concerning marriage. Likewise, of course, Matt, being a natural-born leader with a naturally submissive wife, would be highly inspired by complementarianism.
The two naturally fit the complementarian mold of what so-called “biblical manhood” and “biblical womanhood” look like.
Further, Matt talks about how it is his job, as the “spiritual leader of his home,” to help nourish Lauren’s gifts and abilities (see video above), but Lauren’s gifts and abilities conveniently fall under “approved” gifts and abilities aligned with complementarianism’s definition of biblical womanhood.
Lauren is a beautiful worship leader and writer, as well as a homemaker and mother. I believe that Lauren was born to do these things and that these are genuinely her gifts and abilities. But what about the “Deborahs” who will be attending this marriage conference in February – you know, the female warriors, the judges, the prophets (Judges 4)?
Will the Chandlers ignore the “Deborahs” in the room or explain their leadership gifts away as “God’s second choice and only to be wanted if a man won’t stand up to lead?”
What about the “Junias” who will be attending this conference – you know, the female apostles, preachers, and church leaders of both women and men (Romans 16:7)? Will the Chandlers continue to pretend that God does not call women to be apostles – the highest level of church leadership among early church ministers? Worse, will they decide to believe Junia was actually male and side with sexist Bible translators over the years?
What about the “Jorys” who will be attending this conference – you know, the females who were born with more of a “Matt-like” personality – strong-willed, holding passionate convictions, risk-takers, who do not easily submit to people or ideologies?
Matt and Lauren are open about how the first 6 years of their marriage were very difficult because basically Matt was difficult to live with (Source). I can relate. The first 5 years of my marriage were pretty difficult too, and it was mostly because I was difficult to live with.
Strong leaders are always difficult to live with when they are young and immature, which is why we tend to choose mates who are naturally laid-back, submissive types.
In the video above, Lauren talks about how she had to learn to start speaking up more in her marriage and holding Matt accountable. My husband, Luke, had to do the same thing with me. Strong headed leaders who have sensitive hearts are not easy to confront; especially for non-confrontational personalities.
Luke had to “boil up” and I had to “simmer down.” This had nothing to do with our genders and everything to do with our natural personalities. Just like the Chandlers, we had to learn to become more equal partners and adapt to one another.
The truth is that complementarianism leaves very little room for the strong-willed woman, and I know for sure there will be strong-willed women at the Chandler’s marriage conference. Will they walk out feeling like God “wired” them wrong? Will they think they need to suppress their warrior hearts and leadership gifts? Will they feel they need to be more like Lauren? Will they be frustrated with their husbands for not being more like Matt?
Matt seems to think that men (in general) are not tired enough at the end of the day, and in my opinion he uses shaming techniques to motivate them to be better leaders. Also, in my opinion, Matt preaches a theology to men that is mixed with both grace and legalism (See video below). To be fair, every preacher mixes grace and legalism to some degree because we struggle to understand the grace of God, but Matt appears to be extremely bent towards law and striving when he calls men out.
Will those men attending this conference who are naturally laid-back guys go home feeling God wired them wrong? Will they feel demoted, or will they allow shame to motivate them for a while, only to find themselves back to who they actually are, feeling as if they have disappointed God, their wives, and themselves?
Further, will these men leave feeling confused: are women supposed to teach us or not?
Apparently, the Chandlers have found a loophole in complementarian thought, because Lauren seems to be permitted to teach both men and women as long as Matt is standing by her side. It seems that The Village Church trusts certain women to teach men as long as they have male oversight, making sure the ladies don’t get out of line. It is very difficult to keep up with all the sects of complementarianism because they each make up their own rules as they go.
Any theology that is manmade is always subject to change, because its foundation was never correctly rooted in Scripture in the first place.
The truth is that those of us who study theology and are gifted communicators can find a “biblical” argument for almost anything we want to and convince others to jump on board. This is why we each must read the Bible in proper context (as a complete narrative from beginning to end) for ourselves and be careful not to cherry pick scriptures to fit our personal experiences and preferences.
I think Matt Chandler is a great guy who truly loves Jesus, but has bought into the complementarian lie because it was naturally fitting to his and his wife’s personalities, experiences, gifts, and callings.
Many couples attending “The Mingling of Souls” conference in February will not naturally fit into complementarianism’s very small boxes and narrow definitions of “biblical womanhood” and “biblical manhood,” and I fear they will grow convinced that they must change their personalities and giftings in hope of pleasing God and having a stronger marriage.
The truth is that marriage is challenging and the best thing a man can do for his wife is to allow her to be her true self, even if her true self does not fall under approved complementarian gender roles and giftings. Likewise, the best thing that a woman can do for her husband is to allow him to be his true self, even if his true self does not fall under approved complementarian gender roles and giftings. This is grace without any components of law and is a purer demonstration of agape love.
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