Matt Chandler, Together for the Gospel 2010:

“Just because somebody speaks at this or that [conference/church/event] doesn’t mean they’re a sell-out.

If they get the opportunity to open up the gospel, even in shady areas, they would be fools to not take advantage of that. They’d be fools to not take advantage of that.

So you can share the stage with theological craziness if what you’re doing then is opening up the word of God to that crowd and expanding the truths of God.”

Chandler is what we tend to call a Conservative Evangelical. In other words, he belongs to that company of men who most actively repudiate false doctrine and are championing the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world in our day. But he’s not a Fundamentalist.

So I’m interested in your views on this quote. Is this the same thinking behind what Billy Graham did? Are there distinctions? Does the statement need qualification?

Matt ends his comments on this topic with:

“I’m thankful for the seven of you who agree with that. [crowd laughter]

I don’t read your blogs anyway! [crowd laughter]”

So relax. Chandler isn’t reading in on this so you’re not going to hurt his feelings.

Do you agree with the statement? If so, why? If not, why not?

Grace to you.


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About Jason Harris

Dr Jason Harris is a writer, pastor, and academic. He has authored multiple books, articles, and papers including his book Theological Meditations on the Gospel. Jason has a PhD from James Cook University as well as degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research. Jason has lived in Cairns, Australia since 2007 and serves as pastor at CrossPoint Church. You can contact Jason at


  1. PJ 15 March, 2011 at 7:21 am - Reply

    Great question!

    I’ve always thought the issue is whether by your presence you are tacitly approving the doctrine/theology of those organising the event.

    If its a debate between two opposing points of view that’s one thing, but if we are supposed to be “ministering” together with others with whom we have pretty serious theological or doctrinal disagreement then that’s an entirely different proposition.

  2. Al 15 March, 2011 at 7:39 am - Reply

    You had to draw me in with Chandler? :)

    It’s an interesting quote but as you mentioned, he isn’t a fundamentalist, separation isn’t an issue for him. Not only is he an evangelical but he’s also a Charismatic; he believes prophecy is still ongoing currently. How much “false doctrine” must there be before we’re concerned?

    If one were to preach at something Chandler was running, you cannot separate the seal of approval that you’re giving him. Same thing would happen if you let him preach in your church.

    We can always use the slippery slope argument, after all the same sentiment was held by both Graham and Packer; look where they’re at now.

  3. Paul 15 March, 2011 at 10:44 am - Reply

    Jesus often preached in the temple without evidencing any concern that the people listening might associate him with the Pharisees or Sadducees. The apostle Paul did likewise (Acts 14:1).

    If anything, the distance between Christ/Paul and Judiasm was a much wider gulf than the distance between a fundamentalist and Matthew Chandler. We may have our disagreements with Chandler, but he is a fellow believer. Are there Scriptural grounds for holding fellow believers to a stricter standard today than that which Christ and Paul held unbelievers to in the first century?

  4. Jason Harris 15 March, 2011 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    @PJ, I’m interested in hearing a more thorough explanation of the idea of placing a stamp of approval on a place by visiting there. Is this a Fundamentalist thing? Or is it something the broader culture recognises?

    @Al, I think you’d find Matt Chandler strongly differing with the statement that “separation isn’t an issue for him.” If you listen to him preach, you’ll find that he is emphatically separated from those who twist or dilute Christ’s gospel.

    @Paul, I wonder if the temple is really a valid parallel since Jesus came to fulfill Judaism and this message was just being developed/proclaimed for the first time.

  5. PJ 15 March, 2011 at 2:01 pm - Reply

    @Jason…sure, the problem as I see it, is not in visiting a place, but with ministering in a church or with others with whom I have a serious theological disagreement.

    Say for example, I was invited to preach at the Hillsong Conference and share the stage with pentecostals. If I were to take-up that invitation, my presence on the stage would communicate to the audience that I approve of, or at least don’t have a problem with the pentecostal errors. (If I got up on the stage and condemned pentecostalism that would be very bad form indeed!)

    Where one draws this line is of course a personal decision. Would I share a platform with a committed 5-point Calvinist, or a Baptist-Brider, or ‘shock-horror’ someone who used a different version of the Bible? These are more difficult questions to answer – everyone will come to their own view and I don’t think we ought to judge them for it.

    (I guess this is the same kind of reasoning we use to explain why, when reaching the lost, there are some places we wouldn’t go because by our presence we don’t want to approve of their sin, eg. We don’t do our witnessing in a pub or nightclub!)

  6. Greg 15 March, 2011 at 3:46 pm - Reply

    I think PJ makes a good point. Especially in terms of “If I see a poster of Person A at Event B and DO NOT GO TO EVENT B, Is it reasonable for me to assume Person A supports the organisers of Event B and what they do/say/promote?”

    I would have to say that unless it is clear in the advertising that Person A has a different philosophy/viewpoint to the organisers of Event B then Person A is doing the wrong thing.

  7. Paul 16 March, 2011 at 3:35 am - Reply

    @Jason You seem to be arguing that Christ’s example in preaching in the temple is exceptional rather than normative. That may very well be true, but what scriptural criteria do we have to determine which aspects of Christ’s ministry/message only applied to first century Jews and which apply to all believers in all times? It would seem to be all to easy for us to make our own personal preferences the criteria by which to judge Christ’s ministry.

    But let’s set that uncertainty to the side for a moment. I’m not sure if I understand the implications of your observation that Christ was proclaiming the gospel for the first time. Was the gospel somehow inchoate at this time? I don’t think any of us would argue that Christ was just starting to figure it all out, so we should overlook some of his earlier mistakes (like preaching in questionable venues).

  8. Jason Harris 16 March, 2011 at 1:05 pm - Reply

    @Paul, I wasn’t coming from the angle of whether Christ’s example was normative or constative (and I agree with your concerns in that area). Rather, I was intending to point out that the context there was not necessarily parallel to what Chandler describes.

    So as far as “the first time,” I do not mean that the gospel had not been preached before. Indeed I believe the cross was preached in the Garden of Eden, albeit in a veiled way. Nor do I mean that Jesus didn’t fully understand it. We know that he did. Rather, I was intending to point out that up until that time, the extent of revelation was such that the right place to be was Judaism. And that the transition from Judaism to Christianity (or perhaps we could say, “the realisation that Judaism was actually a veiled form to Christianity”… hmm… would have to think about that some more) was only now being revealed clearly to the world. In other words, before Jesus, a God-fearing person needed to be in the temple looking to the coming Christ. After Jesus, a God-fearing person needed to be in the church rejoicing in Jesus the Christ. And Jesus’ life was the transition period. He was the Messiah and had come, but he had not yet fulfilled all the prophesy or been offered as the perfect sacrifice. Some would have been watching to see if this really was the Christ. That’s why it seems fairly natural and not at all contradictory to preach in the temple.

  9. Jason Harris 16 March, 2011 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    @PJ, My bad. By “visiting,” I meant actually speaking.

    To take your Hillsong example, what Chandler seems to have in mind is accepting the invitation, walking in, and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in all its richness and depth.

    If someone were to do that, I suspect it would be front-page material for the Christian tabloids. In other words, it would be the exact opposite of the feel-good, prosperity focused, or theology lite preaching people might have expected at Hillsong. So my question is, would anyone really mistake that for endorsement?

    @Greg, But do non-fundamentalists really think like that? If I see John Howard speaking at an event for World Vision, do I assume that Howard agrees with the Christian commitments of World Vision?

    In all of this, I’m not really arguing a point as much as questioning the standard lines of address. Does Chandler have a point? If not, is there middle ground we should be heading toward?

  10. Al 16 March, 2011 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    Jason, you’re correct, I should have been more careful with my wording. In saying that though, his take on separation is still more liberal than a fundamentalist.

    He would be in the same vicinity as the 9marks folks from comments i heard from him. For example, on the 9marks podcast early last year they did an interview with vaughn (could be someone else, can’t remember. You can easily check though.) and the tone they used seem to be very critical of the doctrine.

    Anyways, good points made so far from both sides, I especially like your world vision analogy though :)

  11. Paul 17 March, 2011 at 11:54 am - Reply

    So is the transitional period you’re proposing limited to the life of Christ? What then do we do with the Apostle Paul speaking in synagogues and at the areopagus? If we make an exception for the Apostle Paul, what Biblical grounds do we have for limiting it to the first generation apostles and not to the early church as a whole? And if the early church gets an exception, why not any other period in church history?

  12. PJ 17 March, 2011 at 8:02 pm - Reply

    @Jason – your point is well made and I’m not sure I have a strong argument to counter with! Just two thoughts –

    1) Using the Hillsong example – If I did, as you suggest, take advantage of the invitation and “preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in all its richness and depth,” I would certainly cause offence to that crowd. They would feel as if I had abused their generosity in inviting me and they might even think that I’d passed myself off as someone who agreed with their theology and ministry approach. Given this possibility, I don’t think it would be ethical if took their invitation and used it (or “abused it”) to serve my own particular ends no matter how noble they might be…something about it never being right to do wrong to do right comes to mind.

    2) Ephesians 5:11 comes to mind in this debate as well – “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” How bad does a group’s theology have to be before it is ‘an unfruitful work of darkness’? And how close to that group do you have to get before you’re having fellowship with them and their theology? (I don’t know the answers, but this principle has to be applied somewhere.)

    PS – This has been a wonderful discussion!

  13. Al 17 March, 2011 at 8:37 pm - Reply

    @Paul, are you suggesting people go to synagogues and preach the gospel? Are people not already preaching in open forums like the areopagus? Seems to me you’re invested in using these figures as proofs for your position without considering the obvious cultural and historical issues involved.

    Paul nor Christ rocked up to the temple of Athena (or insert any pagan deity here) and preach. Why? The answer to that is the reason why they preached at synagogues and the reason Christian’s have stopped preaching at synagogues.

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