Friday, September 18, 2009

How Could You Not See This Coming?

Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church is in a tiff.

The newly called pastor, Tullian Tchividjian, is being challenged by a small but vocal group who think that he is not carrying on the ministry in the way that they think he should. He, of course, is defending himself and his ministry, and doing so publicly. (I wonder about the value of addressing internal church politics in a regional newspaper, but I will save that for another day.)

Of course Dr. James Kennedy was a strong leader for so many years at Coral Ridge, so there was bound to be struggles for the next guy.

But early last year, when I saw that Tchividjian was the guy likely to be called, I thought it was a bad idea. Tchividjian and Kennedy seemed so totally different, it seemed inevitable that the normal transitional problems would be magnified, perhaps beyond workability.

For years, Coral Ridge has had a contemporary service though I think the message by Kennedy was piped in on the screen. (I could be wrong about Kennedy’s message. I don’t remember for sure.) But there was always a place for the traditionalists to go where traditional music would be played and, more importantly, Kennedy would wear a robe, preach in a certain style, and address certain topics. Tchividjian is changing that. The robe is gone and so are the politics. And that transition is not going down smoothly for everyone.

Now, this week, Coral Ridge is having a congregational meeting to address the issue publicly. It will be interesting to see what happens. My suspicion is that that Tchividjian has enough support to stay, and that the others will be driven out. But a watching world (literally, since this news is all over) is seeing how a church handles problems. And to me, it doesn’t look pretty.

This is not to comment on whether Kennedy or Tchividjian is right or wrong.

It is simply to wonder out loud how the people at Coral Ridge did not see this coming.

Perhaps they did. Who knows.

But it serves as a caution to churches. If you want a new pastor to change directions, it will take some time and cause some problems. There will be disgruntled people, and they might try to cause problems.

Pastor candidates better be up front about where they are going. They should not hide their views and intentions and hope to change it later.

And pulpit committees should make clear what their intentions are. Do not throw a new guy under the bus for making changes you wanted but failed to make clear to the congregation, and obtain their consent.

People on both sides, but particularly the new pastor, must exercise extreme care and wisdom.


Jim Peet said...

On thrown under the bus

Mark Ward said...


Good observations. I, too, have followed the story. I have a good preacher friend who is very close to some folks in the ministry there and he informed me several weeks ago that Tchividjian is destroying the church. Whether that is true, or not, I don't really know.

Some facts about Tchividjian that I have heard.

1. Did you know that he's the grandson of Billy Graham?

2. I've heard - as you have stated - that he is very contemporary. This, as you have alluded too, can cause problems, especially when you follow a man that wasn't contemporary.

3. He merged with another church in the area - and that has caused some chaos and turmoil in the church.

Dr. D.James Kennedy is a hero in my eyes. His stand on evangelism and the promotion of what our country was founded upon should gain the respect of us fundamentalists. He was a soul-winner, knocking on doors each week in his area. Furthermore, he was a true statesman and an excellent expositor of the Word of God. I had some close friends that were associated with his ministry at one time - and they were fine, Godly people.

Certainly, our prayers are with this ministry as they sort through the problems.

Larry said...

I don't know if he is destroying the church or not. I think the problems are a vocal minority that includes one of Kennedy's daughters. I imagine that doctrinally he is right were Kennedy was, but is more contemporary in some ways though I don't know how much the service has changed at the traditional service.

I don't think Tchividjian is liberal, though he is contemporary. He is probably doctrinally sound, at least as doctrinally sound as a Presbyterian can be :D. He is Graham's grandson, and he recently wrote a book on worldliness, that believers should be noticeably different than the world. I haven't read it. I have an interview with him downloaded on my computer that I haven't listened to yet.

I think a lot of the issue, as I understand it, is that Tchividjian does not wear a robe, and does not preach on politics. He, like a lot of younger guys, are more focused on the gospel and think politics interferes with that.

The merger was actually Tchividjian's church (New City I think it was called) that merged with Coral Ridge.

I met Kennedy a few years ago when my wife and I were on vacation in Florida. We went there on a Wednesday night and were wandering around the building trying to figure out where to go and he was in teh halls and introduced himself (as "Jim" I think), and told us where to go for the Bible study that night. We went back on Sunday. For my part, I was never a fan of the political end of it.

On that I agree with Tchividjian. I don't think the church should preach politics. For me personally, I have enough in the Bible to preach that I don't need to go looking for stuff elsewhere.