Tullian Tchividjian: When Churches Have Disputes

JP: One pastor comments on an upcoming vote to dismiss him:

Tullian Tchividjian: When Churches Have Disputes

Excerpt:

You may have read, in this paper or elsewhere, six members of our church recently circulated unsolicited letters and a petition voicing their opposition to my leadership and requesting a congregational meeting to vote on whether to keep me as their pastor. Citing things like my desire not to wear a robe when I preach, not honoring the legacy and preferences of Dr. Kennedy to the degree that I should, making personnel changes (bringing in my staff from New City), and not preaching political sermons, these six members have been working to remove me as pastor.

The saddest thing about all of this is that, because of the visibility of both Coral Ridge and my family, this conflict has taken on a national interest. The reason this grieves me so deeply is because the Bible says God wants the church to be a visual model of the gospel. He wants us, in other words, to live our lives together in such a way that we demonstrate the good news of reconciliation before the watching world.

The late Francis Schaeffer once noted that bitter divisions among Christians give the world the justification they’re looking for to disbelieve the gospel. But when reconciliation, peacemaking, and unity are on display inside the church, that becomes a powerful witness to this fractured world. “Just as I have loved you,” Jesus commanded, “you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

To get this matter behind us once and for all, the elders and I have called this congregational meeting and a vote will take place on Sunday. You will no doubt read about the result, but whatever it is, I want to say three things to the South Florida community that I love so much and have called home for 37 years.

First, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church is not my church, and it wasn’t Dr. Kennedy’s church. It’s God’s church and I want to honor Him and carry on the legacy of Jesus above anything or anyone else.

Second, I remain committed to serving our one new church and the community where we’re located. We are surrounded by so much need for God’s love and the hope that comes from knowing Him and I want this to be the focus of my life and ministry. I want Coral Ridge to be a church in Ft. Lauderdale, for Ft. Lauderdale. We want God to use us to make Ft. Lauderdale a better place to live for everyone, not just us.

Finally, whenever you see any of us who claim to be “Christ followers” behaving in a manner that is unlike Jesus, please forgive us. And please let that be a reflection on us, and not on Him. As imperfect people, we will continue to let you down and disappoint you, but Jesus will never let you down–he will never disappoint you. This conflict has “given the world the justification they’re looking for to disbelieve the gospel”, and I am sorry.

Tullian Tchividjian (Grandson of Billy Graham) is pastor of the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church

Image is Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom of Speech” (Kathee and I have a print of Rockwell’s Four Freedoms)

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