Matt Chandler, 48, made his triumphant return to the Village Church, a Southern Baptist congregation located just outside of Dallas, and told his congregation: 'I'm sorry, I failed you'

The lead pastor of a Texas mega-church returned to the pulpit Sunday to rapturous applause just three months after he was suspended from the role after exchanging Instagram DMs with a woman who was not his wife. 

Matt Chandler, 48, made his triumphant homecoming to the Village Church, a Southern Baptist congregation located just outside of Dallas, and told his congregation: ‘I’m sorry, I failed you,’ adding that he felt as if he had ‘fallen short of the glory of God.’ 

In August, Chandler said he was temporarily stepping down after church leaders found his conversations with another married woman to be ‘unguarded’ but not “sexual.”‘ Chandler has three children with his wife, Lauren. She is a deacon at the church. 

At the time, the pastor told congregants that an investigation was underway within the church after a woman had approached him with concerns about his direct messaging ‘on Instagram with a friend of hers.’ He said at the time: ‘I fell short.’

Church elders informed members that Chandler would be returning in an email last week. According to that message, he had spent time away from the stage praying and reflecting on what he had done. 

Matt Chandler, 48, made his triumphant return to the Village Church, a Southern Baptist congregation located just outside of Dallas, and told his congregation: 'I'm sorry, I failed you'

Matt Chandler, 48, made his triumphant return to the Village Church, a Southern Baptist congregation located just outside of Dallas, and told his congregation: ‘I’m sorry, I failed you’

Chandler's return to services was announced to congregants in an email sent out by church elders last week, the homecoming coincides with Chandler's 20th anniversary as lead pastor

Chandler’s return to services was announced to congregants in an email sent out by church elders last week, the homecoming coincides with Chandler’s 20th anniversary as lead pastor 

At one point in the sermon, Chandler was joined on stage by his wife, Lauren, and their three children

At one point in the sermon, Chandler was joined on stage by his wife, Lauren, and their three children 

Chandler, pictured here with his wife, Lauren, said Sunday: 'If my foolishness created any additional weight or hardship for you, then please forgive me'

 Chandler, pictured here with his wife, Lauren, said Sunday: ‘If my foolishness created any additional weight or hardship for you, then please forgive me’

At one point during his sermon, Chandler was joined on stage by his fellow pastors to share a prayer

At one point during his sermon, Chandler was joined on stage by his fellow pastors to share a prayer

Chandler said Sunday: ‘If my foolishness created any additional weight or hardship for you, then please forgive me.’ 

He also said: ‘It is my understanding that I have fallen short of the glory of God and he has met me with grace. It is my understanding that I am inconsistent and I do have spots that are hypocritical, and there are parts of me I don’t even understand.’

Chandler continued: ‘To humble ourselves before a living God gives us a shot at peace. I’ve got a part of this I’ve got to own. It might just be one percent, but that’s my one percent. Forgive me. Now we’ve got a shot at reconciliation.’ 

Speaking about Christmas, Chandler said that the true purpose of the holiday is for believers to find reconciliation with God and admit to their sins.

The pastor did not elaborate any further on the specific details regarding his suspension.  

Chandler said he plans to be the lead pastor a the Village Church for 'the next 20 years'

Chandler said he plans to be the lead pastor a the Village Church for ‘the next 20 years’

PICTURED: Chandler's family. The pastor married his wife in 1999 and the pair share three children

PICTURED: Chandler’s family. The pastor married his wife in 1999 and the pair share three children

At one point in the sermon, fellow pastors and elders joined him on stage as the group prayed together. 

One pastor, Josh Patterson, who introduced Chandler, said that the decision to restore him to his role had been unilateral. 

Patterson went on to compare Chandler to an athlete who underwent knee surgery and had been cleared to play by a doctor but was still timid. Patterson told the Chandler: ‘Your knee is good.’ 

The email from elders stated that Chandler was returning as part of a celebration of his 20th anniversary as leader pastor at the church.

The message read in part: ‘We asked a lot of Matt, including time spent in study and prayer, personal reflection, and multiple intensives with trusted outside experts. Matt has completed everything asked of him with submissiveness, steadfastness, and humility, and we have received positive feedback from all involved,’ reports the Christian Post. 

It went on: ‘Although we did not work toward this date as a target for Matt’s return, we did not think it was appropriate to delay Matt’s return to avoid it falling on the anniversary. We decided to stay true to the plan for Matt to return when the goals were met, and we embrace the beautiful coincidence of the timing.’

Following Chandler’s admission, the church hired law firm Castaneda and Heidelman to investigate the pastor’s behavior, reports the New York Times. 

That investigation found that Chandler had violated the church’s ‘internal social media’ policy, the Times report said. 

The Times article went on to say that during his time off, Chandler went through ‘intensive’ counseling sessions with Christian leadership groups and had a brain scan. In 2009, Chandler battled brain cancer, having his right frontal lobe removed.

In August, Chandler said: ‘The concerns were really about frequency and familiarity,’ Chandler said. ‘We believe in brother [and] sister relationships here and yet there was a frequency that moved past that and there was a familiarity that played itself out in coarse and foolish joking.’

Chandler said he agreed with the decision to step aside and noted the messages revealed some ‘unhealth’ in himself that is tied to the ‘difficulty’ of the last six or seven years.

‘I’m just really embarrassed,’ Chandler said as he began to break down in tears. ‘I feel stupid. I feel dumb. I feel like I’m embarrassing my wife and kids. Putting a ton of pressure on our staff. I feel like I’ve fallen short for you.’

Despite his abrupt departure, Chandler said he plans to be the lead pastor for ‘the next 20 years.’

Chandler became pastor at The Village Church in 2002 when it was formerly known as the First Baptist Church of Highland Village, according to his profile on the church’s website. 

The recent scandal at The Village Church is one of many. The church was also apart of a lawsuit alleging a former employee sexually abused a child. The lawsuit was excused earlier this month

The recent scandal at The Village Church is one of many. The church was also apart of a lawsuit alleging a former employee sexually abused a child. The lawsuit was excused earlier this month 

Another massive investigation of the Southern Baptist Convention denomination, which the Village Church is a member of, also prompted concern.

SBC recently announced its organization is being investigated by the Justice Department after it was revealed the group was mishandling sexual abuse cases for decades, according to The Washington Post.

Earlier this year, the Village Church was also apart of a lawsuit alleging a former employee, Matt Tone, sexually abused a child.

In July, the lawsuit was dismissed after the Dallas County District Attorney’s office said the ‘complainant cannot and has not positively identified’ the employee.

Pastor Chandler is among the handful of pastors that have experienced a downfall in their careers despite their popularity among their congregation, including former Hillsong pastor Carl Lentz.

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