Tullian Tchividjian: Recovering After Failure

Author and most recent pastor of Coral Ridge PCA Tullian Tchividjian was featured on the Vanderbloemen Leadership Podcast this past week discussing his recent moral failure and how he and his family are working through this tough season.  I was encouraged by what I heard, and I hope you’ll be too.

If you don’t have time to listen to the 30 minute podcast, the whole interview can be summarized with this quote from Tullian: “If I hide from everyone and only allow the world to see me when I’m doing well, I don’t believe the gospel.  The gospel frees me to let other people see my life at its worst because in Jesus I am forever loved and accepted.  The message of God’s grace I have preached I must now fight to live.”

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Surprised and Saddened: Tullian Tchividjian Resigns

YTpWfjhrTime and time again I’ve tried to tell myself not to be surprised at sin, yet every time it happens I remain surprised.  With that said I was surprised and saddened at the news of Pastor Tullian resigning yesterday.  Why?  Pastor Tullian has provided my heart much encouragement over the past years, and I’ve gleaned much from him as I grow in my pastoral ministry.  For me, this is a reminder to embrace anew Tullian’s core message, that God’s grace toward exhausted sinners really is inexhaustible.

I’ve been praying for Tullian and his family, that God would bring reconciliation, restoration, and growth through this hard and difficult time.  Puritan John Bunyan once remarked that the only way land can be fertile enough to grow trees is for it to endure a few cold winters.  The same is true with us.  Life in a fallen world on Jesus’ narrow road is hard and brought with trial.  You should be praying for them too.  Much of what you’ll see on the news and blogs will cut sharp at Tullian, his family, and his message wrongly accusing or contributing this saddening news as the natural outcome of such antinomian preaching and liberal living.  Hogwash.  Tullian enjoyed the gospel and held a high view of God’s Law.  Anyone would put in the right situation is capable of anything.  Taylor Rollo reminds us, “No person or pastor is immune to such temptations, and the devil would love to strike a shepherd to scatter God’s sheep.”

I guess what happens with the Liberate ministry/conferences, their pastor’s network (which I’m in), and their church network (which my church is in) remains to be seen.  I hope it continues.  The message still remains the same, and still rings true.  For those who haven’t read the stories yet, here’s two links to the news and one more important link from a church member at Coral Ridge.  Click the links to read the whole articles.

From Christianity Today:

Popular pastor and author Tullian Tchividjian has resigned as senior pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. A grandson of Billy Graham, Tchividjian cited “ongoing marital issues” as the reason for his departure from the PCA congregation in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He said that his wife had an affair, and in response, he sought comfort in a friend and their relationship turned “inappropriate.” Tchividjian’s name was removed from the church’s website on Sunday as rumors of his resignation began flying on social media. On its website, Coral Ridge acknowledged that Tchividjian “admitted to moral failure, acknowledging his actions disqualify him from continuing to serve as senior pastor or preach from the pulpit, and resigned—effective immediately.

“We are saddened by this news, but are working with and assisting Pastor Tullian and his family to help them through this difficult time, and asking people to join us in praying that God will bring restoration through this process and healing to all involved,” stated church leaders, “The Leadership of Coral Ridge remain committed to promoting the transforming power of the Gospel,” the statement continued. “While we do not yet know whom God will direct to lead our congregation in the near future, we trust the Lord’s guidance during this transition period, knowing He is our hope.”

From the Washington Post:

Billy Graham’s grandson Tullian Tchividjian has resigned from his pulpit at Coral Ridge Presbyterian, a high-profile church in South Florida, after admitting he had an affair. He released the following statement to The Washington Post: “I resigned from my position at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church today due to ongoing marital issues. As many of you know, I returned from a trip a few months back and discovered that my wife was having an affair. Heartbroken and devastated, I informed our church leadership and requested a sabbatical to focus exclusively on my marriage and family. As her affair continued, we separated. Sadly and embarrassingly, I subsequently sought comfort in a friend and developed an inappropriate relationship myself. Last week I was approached by our church leaders and they asked me about my own affair. I admitted to it and it was decided that the best course of action would be for me to resign. Both my wife and I are heartbroken over our actions and we ask you to pray for us and our family that God would give us the grace we need to weather this heart wrenching storm. We are amazingly grateful for the team of men and women who are committed to walking this difficult path with us. Please pray for the healing of deep wounds and we kindly ask that you respect our privacy.” Tchividjian, 42, has been married to his wife, Kim, since 1994 and they have three children. Kim Tchividjian sent the following message to The Post Monday morning: “The statement reflected my husband’s opinions but not my own. Please respect the privacy of my family at this time, thank you. I do thank everyone for the outpouring of love for my family as well during this difficult time and we appreciate all the prayers and support we are receiving.”

From a Member of Coral Ridge:

Today I write with a heavy heart. I’m annoyed. I’m angry. And this article will be more of a rant as I vent through anger. My family and I are members at Coral Ridge Presbyterian church where the senior pastor is Tullian Tchividjian. We have many elders. A few weeks ago, the elders told the church that Pastor Tullian was going to take a sabbatical for some time in order to tend to family issues. They assured the church that this wasn’t a matter of disqualification, and they’d keep us updated. Today was that update. Apparently, Paul Tripp flew down to counsel Tullian and his wife, and Paul walked away from it finding  no reason to disqualify Pastor Tullian from the preaching ministry. However, a few days later, Tullian resigned, disclosing that he had in fact had an extramarital relationship. Needless to say, we are in a fog. It was a punch to our guts.

Tullian Tchividjian’s Reflections On His “Break-Up” With The Gospel Coalition

What we’re talking about here is not just our tendency to lurch and stumble and screw up by accident, our passive role as agents of entropy. It’s our active inclination to break stuff, “stuff” here including moods, promises, relationships we care about, and our own well-being and other people’s…

Francis Spufford

Dear Friends,

It’s been a much quieter week for me. Last week was loud and exhausting. And (other than Miami Heat games, Dallas Cowboy games, Ultra Music Festival, and the music in my car) I’m not a fan of either loud or exhausting. Not many are. So, I’m grateful that God has granted me a quieter week.

Still, the very public “break-up” between The Gospel Coalition and me weighs heavy on my heart. And I want to say just a few things about it now that I’ve had some time to reflect.

First, I want to say that I’m sorry. I’m sorry for saying things in my own defense. One of the things that the gospel frees you to do is to never have to bear the burden of defending yourself. Defending the gospel is one thing. But when a defense of the gospel becomes a defense of yourself, you’ve slipped back under “a yoke of slavery.” I slipped last week. I’m an emotional guy. And in my highly charged emotional state, I said some things in haste, both publicly and privately, that I regret. I never want anything I say to be a distraction from the mind-blowing good news of the gospel and last week I did. I got in the way. When you feel the need to respond to criticism, it reveals how much you’ve built your identity on being right. I’m an idolater and that came out last week. Because Jesus won for you, you’re free to lose…and last week I fought to win. I’m sorry you had to see that. Lord have mercy…

Second, I want everyone to know just how much I absolutely love and adore my friend, Tim Keller. Tim is traveling but we’ve been in touch and are planning to talk this upcoming week. We are both committed to one another and the friendship we’ve enjoyed for many years. There are few people on this planet that I hold in higher esteem than Tim. He knows that. I love him. He has been a mentor and older brother to me for a long time and both he and Kathy have been near and dear to Kim and me. The thought that I said anything at all that would hurt Tim or call anything about him into question makes me both sad and sick. I’m really sorry about that. Please forgive me.

Third (and finally), I want you to know that while Christians have differences on a wide variety of issues, I believe that the world is big enough and the harvest is ripe enough for well-meaning brothers and sisters to agree to disagree. The world desperately needs to see Christians standing side by side and back to back, loving one another. And last week I found myself standing face to face with some Christians in a posture of non-love. I’m really sorry about that. As both Liberate and The Gospel Coalition move forward I want people to know that, while there may be differences, we’re on the same team.

The saddest thing about all of this is that, because of the public visibility of those involved, this conflict gained a lot of attention. The reason this grieves me so deeply is because the Bible says God wants the way Christians love one another to be a visual model of the way God loves us. 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. He wants us to be loving and patient and forbearing and deferential to each other. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). I’m guilty—we’re all guilty—of saying things and thinking things and doing things and failing to say, think and do things that exhibit the kind of treatment we’ve received in the person and work of Jesus—“While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

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. This conflict has “given the world the justification they’re looking for to disbelieve the gospel”, and I am sorry for my contribution to this conflict. Thankfully, God’s grace covers all our sin. I’d be lost and hopeless without the rock solid assurance that, if we are in Christ, we can never ever out-sin the coverage of God’s forgiveness. That alone makes me want to sin less.

So, 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, leave you, or forsake you.

I’m honored to be on “the same team” as Christians of all theological stripes and convictions. I love living in a “large tent” with lots of different kinds of people. In the meantime, however, please bear with us all as we grow and change together.

I love you guys. I really do. I am now and will forever be,

Sincerely Yours,
Tullian