Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pastors, suffer well...

Village Church in Dallas, TX has released the news that their pastor, Matt Chandler, has a malignant brain tumor. So far in this process Matt has done a good job of suffering well before his congregation. Collin Hansen of Christianity Today reports on the story HERE. The latest report from the elders of Village Church reads as follows:
Dear church,

In the first chapter of Philippians, the Apostle Paul writes that whatever imprisonments, beatings and trials he may have suffered, they all “serve to advance the gospel” of Jesus Christ. We implore you to keep the gospel of Christ as the main focus as we walk with Matt and Lauren through this trial.

On Tuesday, Dr. Barnett informed Matt and Lauren that the findings of the pathology report revealed a malignant brain tumor that was not encapsulated. The surgery to remove the tumor, the doctor said, was an extremely positive first step; however, because of the nature of the tumor, he was not able to remove all of it.

Matt, who is being released from the hospital today, is meeting with a neuro-oncologist this week to outline the next steps of the recovery process. There is a range of treatment possibilities but the exact course of action has not yet been determined. He will continue outpatient rehab.

The Lord is calling Matt and Lauren and The Village Church body to endure this trial. It will be a challenging road for Matt, his family and our church body. The gospel is our hope and the Lord is our strength. Matt and Lauren continue to find solace and hope in Christ. They weep facing this trial, but not as those without hope and perspective. The gospel clarifies their suffering and promises more of Christ through it all.

You have done a wonderful job respecting the family, and we ask that you continue to do this. They are processing all of this together and need you to give them precious space. Please do not visit them at their house unless personally invited by the Chandlers. The best way to serve the family is to continue to be faithful in prayer. Specifically, pray for the following:

•Wisdom for all the coming decisions
•Strength and peace to endure
•The kids’ (Audrey, Reid and Norah) hearts; pray the Lord is merciful as they process and that their little hearts do not grow embittered
•The Chandlers and The Village would suffer well because of the gospel and for the sake of Christ’s name
By suffering well I do not mean denying the reality of pain. Some prominent preachers among neo-penticostal and word/faith set admonish their hearers to never use words like "cancer" because that constitutes a negative confession and will actually make one more likely to contrat c_____r. Of course we wouldn't give time to discussing such foolishness except for the fact that these groups represent a large percentage of American evangelicals.

So, suffering well does not mean denying pain. Cancer, heart disease, traffic accidents, and depression. are not natural parts of the "life cycle." They are unwelcome intruders into a world that was created without those things. What is more, they are simply preludes to the most unnatural of all our enemies: death. Everytime we experience pain, loss, and death we are being reminded of the tragedy of the fall. To suffer well we must not deny this. After all, Scripture reminds us that Christians do grieve. The difference is that we do not grieve as those without hope.

A pastor who suffers well, then, will be an example of one who hopes in his Saviour even while his life is visited with tears. He will rage against the sin that has visited such suffering upon the world but he will hope even more. His rest will outweigh his grief. He will give his congregation glimpses of hard won joy which is possible only for one who knows that it is better by far to depart and be with Jesus.

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