I’ve heard very good things about Matt Chandler for a while, and I saw him speak online at some conference back when he was bald and weak from surgery for a brain tumor. He was impressive then, so I was intrigued to hear his recent guest sermon (embedded below) at Elevation Church, the super-trendy church here in Charlotte (I see Elevation bumper stickers all over the place, on the cars of young hipsters and young professionals or suburbia well-to-do’s). He is clearly directing his sermon at this highly insular culture of Elevation and similar very successful churches across the country, where worship is therapy and happiness is ours for the taking. Yet, there does seem to be a missing next step, that I’m sure our Barthian blogging friends will pick-up on.
The directing of attention away from self and toward God is necessary and good, but there is a next step of directing attention toward one’s neighbor, especially those who are not beloved. We are to imitate God’s calling of those who are not beloved, “beloved,” through a love that subverts the norms that give attention to the powerful, beautiful, and healthy. That’s the logical next step, if we are true to our Reformed convictions. That, in fact, is the thing that will most aid us in directing our attention away from ourselves. If we stop at the glory of God and don’t take this next step, we will invariably conflate God and self as the object of our attention and affections — which is perhaps more sinister than what the scribes and Pharisees were doing.
I’m sure this is not fair to the whole corpus of Chandler’s sermons. I’d be surprised if his teaching is completely void of this “next step.” Yet, this should be so ingrained in our thinking that it is impossible to give a sermon like the one at Elevation without making this next step. It is what they needed to hear, as a pastoral necessity, not just a dogmatic truth.
Even with this criticism in mind, I highly encourage you to watch the sermon. It is outstanding: