“When Churches Have Disputes” (Tullian Tchividjian)

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One of the hardest issues in pastoral life in following a long-time pastor who founded the church.  That pastor’s identity is in lockstep with the identity of the church—so when God calls a new pastor, there can be some growing pains.

Tullian Tchividjian is the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida—founded and pastored by D. James Kennedy until his death in 2007 for 48 years. 

Now, a small faction has been circulating letters asking for Tchividjian’s removal.  Why?  He doesn’t wear robes like Kennedy, preach political sermons like Kennedy, having the same priorities as Kennedy, etc.  In response, Tchividjian wrote an article in the opinion section of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.  I hope you will read the entire article, but the concluding paragraphs sum this servant of Christ’s attitude up nicely:

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.

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One thought on ““When Churches Have Disputes” (Tullian Tchividjian)

    Dennis Hester said:
    September 16, 2010 at 11:09 am

    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…”

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