Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dealing With Church Conflict

Because churches are made up of fallen people, there will inevitably be conflict, disagreements and varying perspectives on how church should be done. In most cases these differences can be worked out amicably without much harm. In other cases, it doesn't always turn out as one would hope.

Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, a well-known church founded by the late D. James Kennedy and located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, has been going through a bit of a rough stretch as its members adjust to having only their second senior pastor in the church's nearly half-century of existence. Just this past March Coral Ridge installed Tullian Tchividjian as senior pastor.

Shortly after Rev. Tchividjian's hiring some rifts began to form as some members of Coral Ridge had trouble with Tchividjian's style and approach to ministry. Tchividjian, who happens to be the grandson of evangelist Billy Graham, is significantly younger than Kennedy and ruffled the feathers of some long-time members of the church. Among the things that were mentioned were his lack of focus on political issues in his sermons and his refusal to wear a robe.

As is the case with many church disputes, the disagreements in this instance seem to revolve around things that don't necessarily have their basis in Scripture. For example, there are no biblical requirements for pastors to wear robes or for them to march in-step with a certain political party. Fortunately, the members of Coral Ridge voted to retain Tchividjian as their pastor after a congregational vote recently.

Pastor Tchividjian offered a brief interview with Christianity Today last week which you can read here. I appreciate the maturity with which he has handled this situation publicly and indicated desire to represent Christ well, even in the midst of disagreement with other Christians. When asked how to discuss the situation publicly without worsening it, Tchividjian said this:
"My commitment is to speak about those who opposed me in a forgiving manner, in a Christ-like manner. I will, by God's grace, do my best to take the high road, to not disparage anybody, to operate in a posture of understanding. Some of these people had only had one pastor ever. So that's going to be hard for some people.

So I am very much working hard to treat those who have opposed me the way God and Christ treated me."
As I said, conflict in the church is inevitable because we are each sinful people. How we choose to respond to that conflict is what a watching world is most interested in.

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