Synopsis: This was first posted on December 4, 2009. It continues with TT’s assessment of how conflict affects the church. In particular, it shows his affinity for Matthew 18. Matthew 18 is the verse used by pastors to disregard legitimate concerns expressed by members of a congregation. His response: Throw the bums out! Far too many pastors are using this passage of Scripture to squash dissension, which, if viewed through different lenses, can bring positive change to churches. Instead, the Coral Ridge Six founded a new church with hundreds of participants , indicating that the dissidents numbered far beyond the original six. Also, it appears that the Presbytery of South Florida thinks TT may have responded rashly.
“My hope and prayer is that here at Coral Ridge, we will respond to this conflict in a way that demonstrates for the watching world the reconciling power of the gospel,” commented Tullian Tchividjian in a Christianity Today article entitled ‘Tullian Tchividjian: Allow Your Critics to Teach You’”, which can be found at this link:
In this interview, Tchividjian was asked the following question:
“If you were an unchurched person reading about dissident church members trying to oust their pastor, how open would you be to seeing Christianity as the answer for your life?”
Tchividjian responded as follows:
“Not very open… This conflict ensued because those who had a grievance did not come to me or the leadership of the church, but they took it to the street. They did not follow Matthew 18. As a result of not handling their grievance or their complaint biblically, conflict ensued and we gave the world the justification they’re looking for not to believe the gospel. I have every reason to believe that God has allowed this conflict to take place so that the way we recover from this will be a powerful demonstration of the gospel.”
The final statement was spoken like a true Calvinista!
Can you believe it? Because the dissidents did not follow Matthew 18, they were were ordered to stay off church property. Tullian, since you are such a great expository preacher, please quote the chapter and verse that gives such a directive. And furthermore, Pastor Tullian, if you are such a strong advocate for following Matthew 18, why are you speaking to reporters at Christianity Today and other media outlets? Seems you aren’t following Matthew 18 either, and you’re the pastor!
Clearly, immaturity abounds in the current leadership of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. Elder Bill Ashcraft told The Miami Herald that “It’s better for the majority at Coral Ridge to get what they wanted, and for those people (the dissidents) to get what they wanted.”
Here’s the link to the article: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/broward/story/1260555.html
That’s quite an arrogant statement because it’s obvious that the dissenters DID NOT get what they wanted.
The Miami Herald article referenced above includes the following: “In an interview last week, Tchividjian said he believed some people opposed him because they ‘feared the unknown’”. We strongly disagree. The dissenters realized fairly early exactly what they were getting, and they didn’t like it!
Music seems to be an important reason for the turmoil, and The Miami Herald confirms it with these statements:
“Over the summer, however, several members of the church were upset at the speed of changes under Tchividjian, including what they felt were a watering down of evangelism, political advocacy and traditional worship… Last week, singers at a choir rehearsal were told they would have to recant their opposition to Tchividjian in order to stay in the group. Many took offense at that. They had a big stick over our heads and said, “If you don’t like it, leave,’ said Lorna Bryan, a past president of the choir and a Coral Ridge member for 13 years. ‘No pastor should scatter people. That is what this pastor has done.’
Ashcraft denied the church was trying to drive out members who petitioned against Tchividjian. ‘Worship leaders, including every choir member, are expected to be on board,’ Ashcraft stated. “They can’t praise God with their mouth but demean the pastor when they’re off the platform,” added Ashcraft.
So there we have it… If you’re not completely on board with the new pastor, then GET OUT!!! That’s how we translate Ashcraft’s remark to dissenters. Certain Florida churches (think FBC Jax) seem to be really good at throwing dissenting congregants off church property. Sounds like Tchividjian has been taking lessons from Mac Brunson regarding dissenters…
The Miami Herald article entitled “Coral Ridge Presbyterian votes to retain controversial new pastor” (http://www.miamiherald.com/news/southflorida/story/1243679.html) recaps what happened, as follows:
“Six church members, including Kennedy’s daughter, Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy, were banned from the premises in August after they distributed fliers criticizing the new pastor on church grounds. By Sept. 9, more than 400 members had petitioned for Tchividjian’s removal. A group of church elders then called for Sunday’s meeting.”
A vote was taken at the Sunday meeting regarding whether Tchividjian should remain as senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church.
“Church members cast ballots at a closed 11 a.m. meeting, and backed Tchividjian by a vote of 940-422, a margin of about 69 percent to 31 percent.”
Could it be that some of those 940 who voted for Tchividjian did so out of fear? It’s a legitimate question based on past actions taken by church leadership against dissenters.
This article provides more insight into why dissenters wanted to oust Tchividjian: “They faulted him (Tchividjian) for not maintaining the legacy of Kennedy and for altering traditions, such as calling for visitors to come to Jesus at the end of every sermon.” Not having an altar call at the end of each service is a pretty big change…
The Miami Herald article ends with the following remarks:
“Dissidents such as Jim Fisola, who is banned from the church, said they feared that longtime members such as himself were losing influence among the community.
‘God bless young people that he’s brought over, but you’ve got to understand they’ve been meeting in a cafeteria or the high school,” said Fisola, a Coral Ridge member for 19 years.
‘They are now in a [multimillion-] dollar edifice, and they didn’t have to work for it,” Fisola said. ‘. . . This man doesn’t have the experience or the maturity to lead.'”
So what happened to the dissenters like Jim Fisola and Jennifer Kennedy Cassidy, daughter of the late D. James Kennedy? They have established a new church. Approximately 400 former members of Coral Ridge have joined forces to establish what is currently being called “The Church”. A 50-person choir is led by John Wilson, Coral Ridge’s former choir director and accompaniment is provided by Samual Metzger, Coral Ridge’s former organist.
The Miami Herald article “Coral Ridge Presbyterian defectors find new place to pray” (http://www.miamiherald.com/460/story/1267040.html) concludes with the following:
“The new church leaves a dent in Coral Ridge’s membership, which has already seen a steady decrease since a peak of 10,000 in the 1990s. Coral Ridge now has about 2,200 members, said Coral Ridge elder Bill Ashcraft. The departure of two prominent Coral Ridge musical directors and many members of the church’s choir also prompted the Coral Ridge leadership to cancel its fall concert series, which would have included eight shows.
‘We still have more members than we did before we called Tullian in,'” Ashcraft said, adding that Tchividjian has attracted many young members, including about 500 members of New City Church, where he was pastor before being selected to lead Coral Ridge in March.
“The split is not as unhealthy as it seems. It allows two churches to grow and God will still be glorified,” Ashcraft said….
The Church will hold services next week at the Pompano Beach Elks Lodge and is making plans to start a Sunday school…
Members of The Church, who joined for a picnic after Sunday services, said they were optimistic about their new congregation. “I could not have predicted the course of the last two years,” guest pastor Sorensen told the crowd, “but the best days of this congregation are yet to come.”