It’s time for one last look at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church before we move on to other important topics within Christendom.
In the Christianity Today article we cited last week:
Tullian Tchividjian was asked the following question:
From a public standpoint, how do you go about discussing this controversy in a way that doesn’t make the situation worse?
Answer: “My commitment is to speak about those who opposed me in a forgiving manner, in a Christ-like manner. I will, by God’s grace, do my best to take the high road, to not disparage anyone, to operate in a posture of understanding. Some of these people had only had one pastor ever. So that’s going to be hard for some people. So I am very much working hard to treat those who have opposed me the way God and Christ treated me.”
We sincerely hope that Tullian Tchividjian will remain true to his word. Only time will tell…
It’s absolutely incredible that Tchividjian preached his first sermon at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church just last Easter and in a few short months, there was tremendous turmoil within the congregation Of course, he likely blames the dissidents for this; however, it’s important to note that when the ballots were cast on whether Tchividjian should stay or go, over 400 congregants voted for his removal as pastor.
In the Christianity Today interview, Tchividjian was asked:
Ninety-one percent of Coral Ridge members supported your hiring earlier this year. In the vote Sunday, 71 percent voted against ending the church’s relationship with you. That’s still a two-thirds majority, but how do you get back the support you have lost? Do you even try?
Answer: “It’s a bit misleading. Anybody who was registered as a member was eligible to vote. However, there were about 150 people who came on the day of the vote who hadn’t been to this church since before I got here. But they had friends who were unhappy and came back to vote with their friends. But in a church our size, my guess is, there are still 100 to 200 people who are not supportive of me. How do I go forward? I keep pasturing the whole church. I keep shepherding the whole church. I keep preaching to the whole church. I keep leading the whole church.”
It’s interesting how Tchividjian so easily dismisses those who voted against him. Remember, votes were cast by secret ballot. Incredibly, he knows who voted and how they voted. In Tchividjian’s mind, there are only 100 to 200 people in the church who are not supportive of him. Perhaps they have since left to join ranks with “The Church” – the fellowship of dissidents…
The final question in this Christianity Today interview is as follows:
Have you talked with your grandfather about this conflict? What would Billy Graham say about this?
Answer: “I have talked to him about it on numerous occasions. His encouragement to me is simply, “By God’s grace, I’ve weathered many storms just like this, and if you submit to what God is trying to teach you, he will make you wise and humble and useful.” In other words, don’t become proud and self-righteous. Be teachable. And God will make you useful. Don’t become bitter, in other words. Allow even your most vocal critics, who may criticize you unjustifiably, to become tools in God’s hands to teach you something. Emerge from this more of a gospel man, more of a God-centered man.”
That’s a great answer to be sure! There is no question that God can use critics to teach us important Biblical truths. It’s so important that shepherds be teachable, especially by the Great Shepherd.
So what would Jesus have done if He had come to pastor Coral Ridge?
First of all, we are certain that Jesus WOULD NOT have banned the six dissidents from the church. After all, he put Judas in charge of the money bag.
God is in the habit of redeeming lost causes because this is when His glory can be revealed. Unfortunately, we believe that Tchividjian’s ego became a detriment to the important work of the Lord. He came in and immediately began running the church his way without giving any thought to how these sudden changes might be received by the congregation. Of course, long-time members took offense at his strong arm tactics. Bill Ashcraft even admitted to the press that Spell was “implementing change faster than Tullian approved” and that he had been dismissed/fired. No wonder some of the congregants became upset.
Here's what we would most like to know… Has Tchividjian taken the “Christ-like” approach of apologizing to the congregation for Spell’s behavior as well as for his own? Does love really mean never having to say you’re sorry? A true spiritual leader is never too proud to apologize.
Here are our recommendations for how Coral Ridge should move forward. We believe the church leadership should turn back the clock to Resurrection Sunday and wipe the slate clean as much as possible. It certainly appears that a top-down approach to ministry was implemented by Tchividjian from the moment of his arrival. Obviously, it didn’t go over very well. We highly recommend a bottom-up approach in church management. In other words, members of the church should be given the opportunity to voice their opinions in how Coral Ridge should operate. Obviously, everyone’s expectations will not be met as important decisions are made, but members will more readily embrace these changes if they have been validated by leadership. In other words, Tchividjian should ask for input and emphasize the importance of each and every member of the congregation.
Instead of taking a dictatorial approach to ministry, we believe Tchividjian should remember that the Holy Spirit resides in every member of the priesthood of the believers. How many times in the New Testament did God communicate through average Christians? How about the disciples? Were they the spiritual heavyweights of their day? If the third person of the Trinity truly resides in the hearts of His followers, He will enable them to exercise their spiritual gifts.
By listening to all willing church members, Tchividjian may discover some things he should be doing which he has never considered before. In other words, after listening to members of the Coral Ridge priesthood, he will receive a more complete picture of the Holy Spirit’s intent and may end up leading the church in directions he has never thought of before. Only good can come in a congregation where the pastor validates the members and loves them enough to listen to them as Jesus did.
We are praying that the entire congregation, which includes the pastors, will be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. May God be honored in the process.