Inside the Battle at Coral Ridge
Tullian Tchividjian shares how he survived the attempted coup.

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.

Some of the reasons you were opposed seem trivial. You didn't wear a robe, like Dr. Kennedy did. You weren't political enough from the pulpit. Was there something beneath those objections?

Not preaching politics was a big one. But yes, I'm sure there was something underlying those complaints. Part of it may have been an old-fashioned power struggle. There were people who had been in places of power under Kennedy who felt that this was their church, and they should be in charge of running it.

I think some of them probably saw in me a young guy who would be wide-eyed by coming here and would basically do whatever they said. What they underestimated was that we had prayed and thought hard about what God wanted this church to be, and we were very determined to get there.

What was your initial reaction to the resistance?

Well, we expected it. But it's one thing to talk about war and another to be a soldier on the ground when the bullets are flying. It was hard. It was the first time in my life where I was leading a church where I knew many people didn't like me.

Things started blowing up pretty quickly because there were things that had to change immediately. There were issues on staff that had to be addressed immediately, dangerous things. Yet if you're not in the know, all you see are these changes taking place. To some it looked like we were just being disrespectful, that we were bulls in a china shop. We were coming in as the guest and taking over. So there were a lot of those kinds of accusations. They weren't accurate, but we couldn't disclose all the reasons we had to make the changes.

Displaying 1–7 of 7 comments

Chuck Maglaughlin

February 21, 2014  8:10pm

MMM, let's get this straight. You say Coral Ridge needed to be restored to focus on the gospel and real life giving Truth? All Dr. Kennedy did was to start a church from nothing, top off around 8000 members, 15,000 attendance on Sundays(three services), author Evangelism Explosion and place it in EVERY country on the planet, speak simply, yet profoundly, preach about Christians blooming where they've been planted, reach 3 million over TV every week, and still find time to sit down and talk to idiots like me for 45 minutes whenever I needed a friend. He kept "the main thing, the main thing"...saving the lost, glorifying God and enjoying Him to the fullest. No man, other than Jesus, walked, talked, acted, preached and was loved more than Jim Kennedy. To imply that confusion reigned supreme is downright BLASPHEMY. Get thee behind me, NATHAN.

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allen

June 27, 2013  5:06pm

dr kennedy i am sure would want this congregation to carry on .i watched dr kennedy for years. and i miss his power sermons.noone can quite deliver a sermon the way he did.he held my attention through to the end .may he rest in peace.and may this church find peace and harmony without him.time they say heals all wounds.

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Georgiana

April 20, 2013  5:43pm

I always spent my half an hour to read this weblog's articles everyday along with a mug of coffee.

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nathan

November 21, 2011  7:49am

@David, It's basically a three person process. The first pastor, long serving, etc. generally loved, leaves/dies/retires. The second pastor is hated simply because he/she is not the last pastor. They drive him out. The third pastor is beloved and a relief because he/she ain't the one they hated. nevermind everyone wasn't mature enough to manage what was really going emotionally for them and they railroaded the poor #2. But the Coral Ridge story shows that the second pastor doesn't HAVE to be a sacrificial lamb.

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David

November 20, 2011  9:20pm

Don't be the pastor who follows the famous pastor; be the pastor who follows the pastor who follows the famous pastor! By that time, it hurts too bad for the congregation to let ANOTHER good one go, and they get it right that time. :- }

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Tim

November 19, 2011  1:21am

"Did you ever question yourself and think, Was I really called here?" Or, Did you ever question yourself and think, Did God EVER ask for this one-man-controls-the-show-one-man-lectures-the-saints-one-man-is-the-pastor-with-nobody-has-a-mutual-relationship-with-this-guy? Or, Did you ever question yourself and think, Did God EVER call anyone to this sasserdotal routine? No, it probably never entered his mind even though it should have. Nathan What's sad is nobody wants to talk about how the whole clergy system of line-em-all-up-in-pews is sooo remiss in their spiritual responsibilities and the created setting for the venom and vitriol that will flow from believers who are lectured to devote 84% of their "giving" to by this fluff for themselves. That is super-sized selfishness.

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Nathan

November 16, 2011  2:16pm

I feel for Tullian. He was the inheritor of a church whose leadership had confused the gospel with revisionist American history. When the Gospel is renewed in a community it confronts our idolatries. What's sad is nobody wants to talk about how the previous leadership of Coral Ridge were remiss in their spiritual responsibilities and they created the setting for the venom and vitriol. There's a leadership lesson, and it's not merely about weathering storms, it's also about the results of the betrayal of the Truth in the name of "truth" and righteous, smug indignation. I praise God every day that the current Coral Ridge leadership were able to restore CR to a focus on the gospel and real life giving Truth.

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