Tullian Tchividjian to Stay at Coral Ridge: Lessons?

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Tullian Tchividjian will stay as pastor of  Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church per a congregational vote of 69%-31% this morning.

“I’m staying!!,” wrote pastor Tchividjian in the title of today’s blog post about the future of his pastoral role at Coral Ridge.The pressure on this new pastor must have been unbelievable in anticipation of this vote. A great example of trusting God can be seen in a previous post saying, “I am not afraid.” in reference to today’s vote.  His mission is to glorify God regardless of the outcome.

What a great example to clergy and layman alike. There are some humble words by Tchividjian in the official press release.  He understands the difficulty a new pastor poses for a “church which has known only one pastor in its 50-year history.” Tchividjian was already pastoring a 700 member congregation when he took the pastorate at Coral Ridge.

Then, approximately six months* later he finds himself at the displeasure of six members. The reasons? According to the press release Tchividjian’s failings included changes in the “traditional style of worship and certain personnel changes.” Unfortunately, these are some what understandable since they are common complaints when such changes occur. However, the most unbelievable charges were:

Tchividjian’s failure to address issues such as “The Freedom of Choice Act, The Fairness Doctrine, Hate Crimes legislation and all kinds of efforts to promote socialism” from the pulpit.

This does make sense in light of how former pastor Kennedy approached such issues. Generally speaking one would hope the average church goer would reply with, “Huh?” This is not to say that these are necessarily bad causes. Yet, the Gospel must be at the center of such change.

Voting changes the rules not the heart. One might argue that to present the Gospel along side such legal/social issues is the real answer. Why? Does the Gospel alone change hearts? And then the biblical discipleship that takes place to shape that changed heart?

Yesterday’s post included Ephesians 4:12 “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (ESV). This is a good description of what is desired from the pulpit. Including those American political/social issues as Tchividjian’s detractors wanted only takes away from the time the pastors preaches from the Bible. Not to mention the potential to blur the lines between Gospel and political action.

This seems the very thing the emergent crowd has complained about concerning conservative Christians. Some younger conservative Christian’s today seems to find a bit of agreement here. What might be called the “missional” (even if a bit over used) movement seem to agree that church is not a Political Action Committee.

The tough question is: What lessons can be learned from this whole experience?

*Corrected: Tchividjian was approved as pastor on March 15, 2009. Kennedy passed away approximately two years ago in Sept. 2007.

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tagged as , in Church Issues,Culture,Gospel,theology

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

1 gospeldiet September 20, 2009 at 9:52 pm

Thanks for posting. That is great!

I agree with you on his attitude, very God glorifying.

Take care,

Tim

2 Darrin September 20, 2009 at 11:20 pm

Does the pastor hold to orthodox preaching and teaching? Is he a conservative Presbyterian?

3 Hravn September 21, 2009 at 12:21 am

Dr. Kennedy retired and then died about two years ago. The new pastor has been there only a few months and has seen attendance double, a large number of new members and the largest membership class the church has had in many years. None of the charges concerned any area which his denomination considers grounds for removing a pastor. His major failures where not being Dr. Kennedy and not keeping things just as they were, including declining attendence.

4 Mark Lamprecht September 21, 2009 at 8:29 am

Darrin, if you are asking about Tullian, as far as I know the answers are yes. I’ve listened to him via podcast. No complaints.

5 Mark Lamprecht September 21, 2009 at 8:32 am

Hravn, thanks for the info. I’ve corrected my statement about Tullian being there for two years. I actually misread. I think the key issue is summarized by your statement.

His major failures where not being Dr. Kennedy and not keeping things just as they were, including declining attendence.

Given our sinfulness this is understandable to a point. Not acceptable, but understandable.

6 stevecamp September 21, 2009 at 9:20 am

Mark: To address your question of “lessons?” The issue was why give these divisive people another vote? Why not begin church discipline? THAT is the biblical model. Holiness is not achieved through a democratic vote.

I like Tullian very much and was grieved over this situation against him. But the elders at CRPC should have protected him from anything of this sort taking place and lovingly, at the first instance of this nonbiblical descent, began Matt. 18 or Titus 3 with those individuals.

I appreciate your words here. May our brother rest today in the knowledge that God has chosen him to be their pastor… and move on to the greater issues of ministry that lay before him.

To His glory alone,
Steve
Col. 1:9-14

7 Mark Lamprecht September 21, 2009 at 9:38 am

Steve, I agree with you. I had about 100 thoughts swarming around about ‘lessons’. One fascinating point was that this happened in a Presbyterian church. On the surface it sounds like something that would only happen in a baptist church. I guess there is a congregational element not too far removed from what baptists might use.

Since all of the elders saw nothing wrong and were in full support of Tullian it is hard to tell why this happened. I supposed it is because of the Book of Order allows for what happened.

Hopefully, now church discipline will be enacted. Though, I faintly remember reading some where that those who started the dissent were removed from the congregation prior to this vote taking place.

8 JDCurtis September 21, 2009 at 12:04 pm

I’m glad to seem Pastor Tullian staying also. I’ve also made an entry on yesterday’s vote over at my blog as well.
God bless

9 JDCurtis September 21, 2009 at 12:37 pm

Sorry, the bogspot didnt go through. It’s http://www.treesforlunch.blogspot.com

10 spence77 September 21, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Great post Mark, thanks!

11 mattadair September 21, 2009 at 2:24 pm

The PCA Book of Church Order makes provision for concerns such as these to protect the concerns and rights of the minority within a church. In theory, it’s a rather pastoral step to take.

That said, as a PCA teaching elder, the BCO simply isn’t equipped to handle the polity issues that arise in churches that have more than 1,000 members. It’s a concern that a number of us have an unfortunately it opened the door for this mess down at Coral Ridge.

And for what it’s worth, I do believe that the root issue at Coral Ridge has to do with (at least) two different groups that view the world through rather different lenses. This is an ongoing issue within the PCA that is showing up in a growing number of issues.

12 Mark Lamprecht September 21, 2009 at 2:25 pm

JD & Spence. Appreciate you all stopping by. Thanks for the link, JD.

13 JDCurtis September 21, 2009 at 3:45 pm

Thank you for the comment Mark. Another “lesson” that could be learned through this whole ordeal would be the importance of due diligence on the part of congregational members (who can vote) when deciding who will lead their church. For example, would it have hurt some of these (CRPC) folks to have actually attended a New City service or two to see if this is the guy they really wanted to lead their church? I can’t say for sure but I doubt that there was much, if any difference between Tchividjian’s style between New City and now Coral Ridge.

14 Tracy September 22, 2009 at 3:36 pm

Thanks for this post.

Although I believe that my faith affects my politics, I do not believe the role of a pastor is to preach politics. I’m glad that the Coral Ridge members, for the most part, realize this and voted to keep Tchividjian.

I also really appreciated the editorial Tchividijan wrote in the local Florida paper prior to this vote. Apologizing that this church was having divisions and asking people to forgive them and not let their lack of Christ-like behavior steer anyone away from Jesus, because Jesus will never disappoint.

15 Mark Lamprecht September 22, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Matt, thanks for the clarifications and insights. Do these two issues within the PCA have to do with eschatological positions? A more pro-active political approach vs. a passive one? I’m just curious.

16 Mark Lamprecht September 22, 2009 at 3:49 pm

JD, I wonder if any of the folks did go and hear Tullian preach, etc. It’s not like he has not been public with his ministry. He is talked about on the blogs, has his own blog, podcasts, etc.

17 Mark Lamprecht September 22, 2009 at 3:54 pm

Tracy, I am with you that my faith affects my politics. I do not see how ones faith could not affect them. Like you (I think) I just don’t see preaching politics in an explicit manner as part of the pastor’s job.

Tullian’s Op-Ed piece When Churches Have Disputes was very good. He displays a character that we do not always see in such church disputes.

18 Chris September 22, 2009 at 5:11 pm

There are probably about 4 major factions or emphases in the PCA. Getting deeply into that is probably beyond the scope of things here. Although the issues aren’t exactly the same, (for example alcohol is not a significant issue among most conservative Presbys today) it is somewhat analogous to the arguments over things like Acts 29, a missional emphasis, Baptist Identity, etc. in the Southern Baptist convention. However, neither the late Dr. Kennedy nor Tchividjian are representitive of the strict “Truly Reformed” group that is roughly analogous to the BI people in wanting to emphasize denominational distinctives.

I don’t specifically know what either Dr. Kennedy’s or Tchividjian’s eschatological views were/are. Often postmils will emphasize the things Dr. Kennedy did and amils will often not be out front with politics. Some amils are at least as disengaged as classic dispensationalists were said to be. (But there are “optimistic amils” who are similar to postmils, but just don’t think there will be a 1000 year millennium, etc.)

Regardless, Dr. Kennedy was one of the most popular exponents of the dominionist, “Reclaim America” view and his successor has a different emphasis, one that I suppose could be called missional, that focuses on preaching the gospel to what I would think all sides would agree is a society that is rapidly becoming post-Christian. (I’ve seen reports or perhaps more accurately, speculation that Dr. Kennedy was set to dial back the political emphasis prior to his illness and death as well.)

Although there are comparatively few postmils in SBC life, there is a similar divide there, I believe. One example is the practice of having various Republican officials address the SBC annual meeting when in some cases the official is not even pro life or is not known to share the views of the conservative evangelicals who are in control of the SBC today. I’ve never thought it appropriate. Political candidates are also sometimes given time to speak from the pulpit, in some cases candidates who are not even evangelicals. IMO such churches prostitute themselves. This is of course by no means limited to Southern Baptist churches.

It also appears that at Coral Ridge making what were perceived to be quick changes regarding worship as well as replacing staff members were big issues along with the lack of political crusading. However, I have a hard time believing that any of this was a surprise (especially the political aspect) unless a lot of people simply weren’t paying attention during the process in which Bro. Tchividjian was installed as pastor and the merger of the two churches.

I am a former OPC member and can’t imagine a vote like this happening there i.e. I’m not aware of a similar provision. I’m less familiar with specifics of PCA polity in this case. Baptists might be interested to know that Presbyterian pastors (or Teaching Elders) are not members of their church but rather are members of the Presbytery. My understanding is that technically the Presbytery has to dissolve a ministerial relationship with a church, but if a church wants a pastor gone their say is final.

However, many of the issues at hand really have little to do with the denomination. Being the successor of a long time pastor of a large church is not an easy task. (This is not limited to megachurches either, just that they are the ones who garner the headlines.) Some might consider it a thankless task to follow a beloved pastor who served for decades. Consider the cases of FBC Dallas after W.A. Criswell, FBC Jax after Jerry Vines and Bellevue after Adrian Rogers. In each case I believe there has been rather well publicized unrest over the new pastor making changes that a sizeable faction has disagreed with.

19 shockedandsad September 24, 2009 at 3:29 am

He came in and turned the church upside down in 6 months. Just because he can. Pride and unkindness. No love for the older members. Leave if you don’t like it. The actions of the messenger don’t line up with the great messages. Lesson: What you see and hear is not always what you get. The PNC did not inform us of his agenda. It goes far beyond wearing a robe or not preaching like DJK.

20 Mark Lamprecht September 24, 2009 at 9:36 am

Pastor Tchividjian still got a majority vote. Were you one who voted against him? Your charges are pretty harsh though I understand how one might feel that way…to a point. Tchividjian sure does not come across publicly the way you describe. I wonder what Dr. Kennedy would think of all this with the way folks are charging an elder, the changes, complaints, etc.

Thanks for stopping by.

21 Toby L. Brown September 24, 2009 at 9:47 am

More churches in America today need to be “turned upside down”, for the sake of the gospel!

He refused to preach politics and wear a robe, so some tried to fire him? Give me a break.

22 shockedandsad September 29, 2009 at 1:36 am

Go to Christianity Today and get more facts. After telling the choir members that voted against him to leave, the music director and the organist resigned. Arrogance and CORRUPTION are the main issues. Whatever is hidden will be revealed and whatever done in secret will come into the light. Mark 4:22 The number voted against him was 422. Coincidence?

23 JDCurtis September 30, 2009 at 12:00 pm

“shockedandsad”, I did go to Christianity Today and I believe I found the article you were talking about. Was it the one were Tchividjian gives an interview after they had voted? If thats the one, then I really don’t see anything that can be considered an indictment of Tchividjian. Help me out here, maybe I missed what you were referring to.

24 Mark Lamprecht October 1, 2009 at 10:49 am

I see the distraught former Coral Ridge members are forming their own church. How can they just decide to hold a worship service? (Source) One of the members quoted said the following:

“We’ll do everything we did at Coral Ridge,” Filosa said. “What happens down the road depends on what denomination contacts us.”

I wonder if the doctrine matters since that will be an issue depending on denomination.

I would also be interested in seeing exactly what qualifications would be needed to satisfy these former members.

25 JDCurtis October 1, 2009 at 6:31 pm

Given that the pastor at the new church is the former director of E.E., I think we can discern what the philosophy of the new church will be. I’m sure it will be much like CRPC, traditional worship that is. They seem to have top-shelf (read: former CRPC) people to help get this thing off the ground. These are interesting times we live in

26 Darrin October 2, 2009 at 11:58 am

So both churches will hold to the Westminster, but they can’t worship together.
Sad.

27 shockedandsad October 3, 2009 at 10:26 pm

JD Curtis, go to Sun-Sentinel. com Coral Ridge Church also for more facts in the comments and biased reporting. The main issues are not preferences. It is an ungodly takeover. The corruption, deception, lies started from day one. The pastor is arrogant and unkind and is an angry man. Deteriorated to revenge and rage for the people that voted against him. Even numbering the “secret ” ballots so he knew who voted against him. Then telling them to leave. No desire or attempt at reconciliation. Some shepherd!!! No wonder the sheep are leaving by the hundreds, including the choir director, more than half the choir, organist, concert series director, and two elders. The few CRPC employees left are intimidated and told they must sign an oath to keep their jobs. Tullian would not accept the position unless he had total control. Our elders gave him an executive commission of 3, two of which are lawyer/elders that enforce his will. One even bragged as being known as the firing elder These men wanted a celebrity preacher at all cost. Again deceived by our own elders. They misled the congregation to get their way and not tell us of his man-made agenda. Of course, many people had heard him preach and attended his church. Its the actions that don’t line up with what he preaches. Many complaints of corruption have been filed with the presbytery and they are investigating.

28 Joshua Parker October 4, 2009 at 10:57 am

I have been following Tullian since his days at New City Pres. He is a great presbyterian pastor and indeeds hold to orthodox preaching and teaching.

29 eclugar October 10, 2009 at 10:35 pm

some of the dissenters spoke against voting for tullian at the first congregational meeting saying this was too soon, that there were more qualified people out there etc.
the vote came back in his favor. they should have accepted the result.
it seems like they never did and looked to get him out.
a telling quote by one of them in the news paper said ” God bless the young people that he has brought over, but you’ve got to understand they’ve been meeting in a cafeteria or the high school. they are now in a multi-million dollar edifice, and they didn’t have to work for it…the man doesn’t have the experience or the maturity to lead.” they never accepted him.
so they got up around 400 signed petitions and called for another vote to expell him.
he got the majority vote again. they still only got around the same number of nay says with 422.
i think one reason this came up so fast is with a 192 new member class coming in and more new city people transfering over( not all had folded in yet that was another complaint) the dissention group realized down the road their precentage would go lower and lower.
in fact only 1300 or so members voted out of the 2200 – 2500 members. if the others voted tullian probably would have gotten 90% again. after all this their numbers had stayed about the same, just over 400 or so.
as for having an executive commission dr kennedy himself had one for quite some time. in fact it was brought up that it was only in his last 15 years that he had gotten away from it.
and he still had certain people that he would go to for expedient reasons.
as for the loyalty oaths what’s so bad about that? deacons, elders teachers even church
members declare their support and take vows. these people had went after him and called for his ouster so naturally he would want to know where they stand. and why would they not be willing to show they would go along with the result and support him now after the members voted to keep him?

30 Dennis Hester September 16, 2010 at 12:21 pm

Conflict at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, I’m not Surprised

Even though the conflict between Pastor Tullian Tchividjian and the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church was a year ago, this month, I would like to reflect on that painful experience that happens too often among churches that are in transition between pastors.

I was saddened to hear about the conflict between Pastor Tullian Tchividjian and the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, BUT, I am not surprised. No, my surprise does not come because Tchividjian is a bad pastor nor that Coral Ridge is a bad church. I am not surprised because the conflict was inevitable. It was a natural happening in the life of a church in transition. That is, I am not surprised the church is experiencing conflict if it did not prepare for this transition. And not surprised if the pastor finds himself in conflict that he did not initiate, if he too was unaware of the risks, the dangers, and the natural occurrences that take place when a long-standing, beloved pastor, such as D. James Kennedy, is replaced.

Any time a new pastor — and I don’t care who he or she is — follows a legendary pastor who has ministered 48 years, the congregation will experience a host of feelings, such as anger, confusion, doubt, mistrust, and enormous amounts of grief. The new pastor and the congregation may be unaware of this, and the church too often holds to unrealistic expectations of the new in-coming pastor. Therefore, the new pastor and the “pastor-less church” will experience conflict. Usually the conflict has nothing to do with love for God and His Word or commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. It has to do with their awareness of what is taking place during the interim time, during the transition between the former pastor and the new pastor.

I have worked with such congregations and pastors for the past 18 years as an Intentional Interim Pastor and church consultant. I have learned that the congregation, that wants to follow the Intentional Interim Process, does something different when it loses a pastor. They intentionally “wait” to call their next pastor. They take time to look at where they have been, where they want to go, and after much prayer and discussion, what type of minister they need.

Churches in transition, between pastors, have a unique opportunity to look at their leadership, power structures, decision making, possible changes to better help them accomplish their mission and address issues that may have caused conflict. With the guidance of a trained Intentional Interim Minister, they will address the issues that cause conflict and deal with the churches’ history, the good, the bad and the ugly. The church
will be challenged to take ownership of who they are, what they have accomplished, and the decisions they have made that have helped shape their present style of worship and ministry. After a time of reflecting, praying and sharing among the church family, members should emerge with a clearer identity of who they are and what they want to do for God and the type of pastor that can help them accomplish God’s will.

I have written a book that compliments this type of ministry, entitled, Pastor, We Need to Talk: “How congregations and pastors can solve their problems before it’s too late.” If you would like to have a free electronic copy, email me and I’ll be glad to send you a copy plus a copy of over 80 questions to ask a prospective pastor or church staff person. If I can help you in any way please contact me at, Dennishester@Carolina.rr.com and don’t forget to ask for your free copy of my book.

In time of conflict, we would all do well to remember, (Eph.4:15), “but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ…”

31 Mark September 16, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Dennis,

I appreciate your comment. You’ve offered some good insight. Also, I think churches can have unrealistic expectations of their pastor regardless of their tenure.

32 terriergal October 19, 2017 at 4:20 pm

Hope we are rethinking Tullian here.
Maybe the ppl who were against him could see his malignant narcissism way back then.

.

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