Pastor Tullian Tchividjian — pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church — has written a powerful op-ed article in his local newspaper. He’s writing about a conflict in his church that has become widely known in his community. I encourage you to take a few minutes to read the article and to pray for Tullian, for Coral Ridge, and for the countless other churches in the world that are undergoing similar (if less-known) conflict.
Here’s an excerpt:
Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, with its beautiful steeple has stood prominently on Federal Highway since 1974 (though the church was officially organized in 1960). Its pipe organ is known around the world, as were Dr. Kennedy’s sermons, which were broadcast far and wide each week on radio and television. Yet, for all of its wonderful outreach programs and rich history, Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church has always been an imperfect church, comprised of imperfect people, and led by imperfect pastors–first Dr. Kennedy and now me. The fact that we have a majestic steeple towering overhead does not immunize us from conflict.
That’s right, churches have conflicts too. Change can be difficult in any context–a new president, a new spouse, a new coach, or a new pastor–and we have experienced some of that difficulty at Coral Ridge. On March 18th, three days after the vote, I wrote both churches and said that in order to make this transition smooth, the Gospel needs to be embraced and applied by all from both churches. All of us need to be willing to lay our lives down for one another because Christ laid his life down for us (1 John 3:16). That’s what the Gospel-centered life is. And that’s the life that God has called us to live. No one from either church is going to get everything they want (that’s self-protection). But everyone from both churches will have everything we need to do God’s work in God’s way (that’s self-sacrifice). We’re all going to have to give. We’re all going to have to stretch and be taken out of our comfort zone.
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….
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).
Read the whole thing, and I just thought of another matter for prayer. As I was reading of the small circle of people who seem to be undermining this church’s unity, I felt compelled to search my own heart for ways that I am undermining the unity of my own local church. When we read Pastor Tchividjian’s words that “the Gospel-centered life” calls us to sacrifice, to be stretched out side of our comfort zone, to lay down our lives in the same way that Christ did for us, let’s pray that the Gospel would so saturate our hearts that we will respond in this way to the uncomfortable circumstances of our own lives.