Tullian Tchividjian knows all about filling big shoes. Not only is he the grandson of Billy Graham, but in 2009 Tchividjian (pronounced cha-vi-jin) stepped into another pair of Shaq-sized sneakers. He succeeded the late James Kennedy as pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Tchividjian's church plant, New City, merged with the larger Coral Ridge, but the honeymoon was short-lived. Seven months later a group of church members, headed by Kennedy's daughter, circulated a petition calling for his removal. On September 20, 2009, Tchividjian survived a vote to remove him from leadership.
Today Coral Ridge has largely moved past the conflict and is thriving. Tchividjian's energy and enthusiasm (some Coral Ridge staffers call him "the tornado") belie the recent ordeal. Drew Dyck sat down with Tchividjian to discuss how he endured those dark days, what he learned, and how he found light on the other side.
How did you respond when you received the invitation to come to Coral Ridge?
I was humbled. I was honored. But I wasn't interested, for a variety of reasons. First of all New City, the church I had planted and pastored for five years, was going strong. God was doing great things in and through that church and I was very happy there. I also wasn't naïve. I knew that whoever comes in after a founder is probably going to be gone in a year or two. The success rate of guys who follow a founding pastor isn't great.
Second, Coral Ridge had been in pretty serious decline for 10 or 15 years. While everybody outside the church knew it was declining, most people inside the church thought everything was just fine. There were some people who realized things needed to change, but for the most part people in charge ...