Changing of the Guard at Coral Ridge

kennedy-funeralThe news has just reached me that the search for a new pastor has come to an end at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Last year’s loss of Dr. D. James Kennedy has certainly brought much change and transition to the local congregation. It certainly came immediately to the Coral Ridge Hour television show. The formerly hour-long program was immediately reduced to a half hour, cutting out my favorite part of the program, the music. From the exhilerating one verse processional, during which the choir and pastor enter the sanctuary and take their places to open the service, to the choir specials and classical solo features, it was part of my weekly preparation for worship at my own church. As a concession, I noticed that they began to squeeze in the song that is sung after the sermon, for which I was grateful, but it certainly was not the same.

tullian1But I digress. The Session (or, board of Ruling Elders) of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, whose concern is to shepherd a large, influential church without a Teaching Elder (Pastor), has recently called a young minister of some noteriety who is building a church which has yet to obtain its own building. In this way, its quite an interesting match–a church without a pastor offers its building to a church with a pastor but not a building. That’s right, they’re not just calling the pastor, they’re negotiating a merger. The name of said minister of note, who has received a call to pastor Coral Ridge, is Tullian Tchividjian (the last name rhymes with “religion”). Rev. Tchividjian is an up-and-coming pastor in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, (Coral Ridge is in the Presbyterian Church in America) who happens to be the grandson of “America’s Pastor,” Evangelist Billy Graham. But many Reformed believers may know him better as the guy featured in the promotional videos that recently introduced the Bible reading public to the new ESV Study Bible (which study Bible I highly recommend).

You can read the report on Rev. Tchividjian’s call and the subsequent merger negotiations here, and you can also keep up with the ongoing process at his New City Presbyterian Church blog (here, here, here, for starters). While this is an interesting event, I must say that in the inevitable changes that will come to the church, especially grievous to me personally will be any metamorphosis of Coral Ridge’s amazing music ministry, which, while it was technically “blended” (combining the singing of traditional hymns with contemporary music), it was effectively presented in a manner that majored on the classical, “traditional,” even the liturgical. One Reformed blog, Green Baggins, expresses concerns (read it here) similar to mine. I share some of this blogger’s concerns, especially about the implications of contemporary worship music, and the possibility of a “seeker sensitive” approach to the church’s ministry, although some of the comments on his post help alleviate my concerns.

Be that as it may, I’m glad to see that a changing of the guard is in the works, and I wish both churches (Coral Ridge and Tchividjian’s New City Pres.) the reformation and revival for which both are praying and working. May the Lord grant it to the advancement of his Kingdom throughout Florida, and, through their various TV and radio ministries, America and the world.


7 responses

  1. Coral Ridge uses contemporary music, so the concern over Tullian using contemporary music is not a strong critique. The contemporary music that Tullian uses at New City is the same music they use at First Presbyterian of Margate, and it is a solid church. I am not sure how you are defining “seeker” driven or sensitive, but Tullian does not subscribe to this trend. He has been very critical of seeker driven worship.

  2. See, before I wrote this post, I was not aware that Coral Ridge already had a separate contemporary service. After posting, I did more extensive reading, and the points you make became clear to me, much to my own relief. Thanks for the clarifications you provide both here and at Green Baggins.

    But as it is, I remain one of those for whom the extensive use of contemporary music, even in the context of Christ-centered, biblically ordered Reformed worship, is a step in the wrong direction. But that is about as deep on the subject as I’m prepared to go, so it’s not a topic for which I’m inviting debate. Suffice it to say, I’m an advocate of the views of Paul Jones of Tenth Presbyterian, as presented in his book Singing and Making Music (Presbyterian & Reformed Publising). Anyone interested to hear more about it are directed to this good review of the book:

    And I would also like to point out Dr. Jones’ website:

  3. Thanks, John. I appreciate the input. I would concur with you about the contemporary music issue. I follow Rev. Terry Johnson on the issue of worship and find it refreshing.

  4. Hi,

    As a fellow follower of Reformed Doctrines (especially salvation is of God alone, and TULIP), I was wondering about the apparent gladness of the endorsement of the ESV bible, given by “America’s Pastor”, Billy Graham.

    You stated….”But many Reformed believers may know him better as the guy featured in the promotional videos that recently introduced the Bible reading public to the new ESV Study Bible (which study Bible I highly recommend).”

    Not knocking the ESV bible, but do we, as fellow Reformists, want to raise awareness and pride that the so called “America’s Pastor” endorsed what we read?

    Billy Graham is as far from Calvinism and “TULIP” doctrines as a teacher of the Word can get. He is rather firmly entrenched in a “free will” salvation plan, which we Reformist KNOW cannot save ANYONE, nor do anyone any good.

    We know this kind of teaching, that a man plays ANY part in his salvation, is perhaps history’s most widely used doctrine used to actually lead people AWAY from the truth of salvation.

    Please do not mistake me here, we are like-minded Reformers I conclude by looking at your blog. I’m sure as a fellow “Calvinist” you would agree that we distance ourselves from any sort of promotion of a free will gospel. And certainly we would want to witness in the like, so God may open understanding of people that they are hopelessly lost, and they come to God realizing this and beg Him, broken and contrite, for His mercy.

    If I may quote from Mr. Graham’s website his “4 Steps to Peace with God” what is “Peace with God?” Well of course it is Salvation. So we can rightly say these “4 steps” can also be called “4 Steps to God’s Salvation” here they are, (condensed)…

    “Step 1: God’s Purpose: Peace and Life

    God loves you and wants you to experience peace and life—abundant and eternal.

    Step 2: The Problem: Our Separation

    God created us in His own image to have an abundant life. He did not make us as robots to automatically love and obey Him. God gave us a WILL and a FREEDOM OF CHOICE!!!!!

    Step 3: God’s Bridge: The Cross

    Jesus Christ died on the Cross and rose from the grave. He paid the penalty for our sin and bridged the gap between God and people.

    Step 4: Our Response: Receive Christ

    We must trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and receive Him by PERSONAL INVITATION!!!!!!”

    We must as reformists, take heed where we show allegiance, and whom we align ourselves with. May God give us the

  5. Oops, sorry about that…

    I mistakenly clicked the “submit comment” button before I had finished typing.

    Thinking upon it, perhaps I shouldn’t finish those thoughts as I’m sure you understood where I was leading in conclusion. I think as Reformists and followers of a Calvinistic belief, (which is in tune with the true salvation plan God lays out in the Bible) that we may want to give pause before we relay to others just who endorses and promotes what we read.

    This is in no way a knock on the ESV. Nor do I attack Mr. Graham personally, rather the free will doctrine he has promoted through the years with great vigor, and to countless devoted followers. We reformers KNOW, that this doctrine attempts to “stir people up” to reach out and “take hold” of the Lord, by their own will and merit. We Reformers KNOW this is IMPOSSIBLE for man to accomplish.

    Isa.64:7 And there is NONE that CALLETH upon thy name, that STIRRETH UP HIMSELF TO TAKE HOLD OF THEE: for thou hast HID THY FACE from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.
    8 But now, O LORD, thou art our father; WE ARE THE CLAY, and THOU OUR POTTER; and we ALL are the work of THY HAND.

    God wants His elect to come to the point of realization that they are dead in sin, hopelessly lost, and CAN DO NOTHING of himself to escape God’s wrath and obtain salvation. When we TRULY arrive to this point, (though this in itself is no guarantee) we know we are on the path God wants us to be on. He wants us to know that salvation is of HIM and Him alone. Notice how God powerfully demonstrates this when Jonah FINALLY realizes this and cries with his heart COMPLETELY “broken and contrite.” Only when Jonah brokenly came to this point, did the Lord mercifully save him from the whale’s belly.

    Jon 2:9 But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. SALVATION IS OF THE LORD.
    10 ¶ And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.

    Amazingly, later in the book of Jonah, God powerfully demonstrates the same concept of coming to the horrible realization that only HE can save, that there is nothing YOU can do, and that ONLY when we reach THAT point, can we dare HOPE that God MAY save us (if that be His will). The people of Nineveh reached that point, and from the king down to the lowest, put on sack cloth and sat in ashes (a picture of complete brokenness). Then they cried for mercy, saying “who can tell” if the Lord will spare us. He did of course, and granted His gift of salvation to the entire city of 120,000 people.

    Jon 3:4 And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
    5 ¶ So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
    6 For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
    7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:
    8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and CRY MIGHTILY UNTO GOD: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.
    9 WHO CAN TELL if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
    10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

    Many point to verse 10 to show that your “works” can save you. However Reformists KNOW this is not the case. For we know TRUE repentance is a gift from God, just as Grace and salvation is.

    Anyway, t/y for reading JJ

  6. Oh gosh, I finished and a question popped in my head. I figured the best place to have my question answered is here as you stated you “highly recommend” the ESV study bible, which I am not familiar with. I AM familiar that MOST study bibles teach opinions of the “study” notations, some of which are not in line with Scripture.

    I’m not saying this about the ESV, as I haven’t used it, but I am curious, and thought you may be able to answer my question.

    As I signed off, I wondered why a “free will doctrine” teacher recommend it. Do you know if the ESV perhaps points the reader to the “free will” of man within it’s study notes?

    In particular verses like John 1:12 and Romans 10:9 & 13.

    Jo 1:12 But as many as RECEIVED him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

    Ro 10:9 That if thou shalt CONFESS with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt BELIEVE in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, THOU SHALT BE SAVED.

    Ro 10:13 For whosoever shall CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED.

    I was wondering if Mr. Graham endorses this study bible due to it teaching “free will” within the study notations of these verses? I don’t know the answer to this, and thought you may do some checking on this.

    If though it does, well Reformists would know what to do. If it does, Calvin would surely be turning in his grave. Hopefully it does not.

    take care JJ

  7. James. Thanks for the extended exposition of the Bible’s teaching on the sovereignty of God in his salvation of sinners. It really was a great read.

    I agree with you that the theology of Billy Graham leaves something to be desired. While you and I and most of the silent majority of readers of this blog certainly know one or more people who came to genuine, saving faith at a Billy Graham crusade once upon a time (like my own mother, for instance), the fact remains that you and I and some of the readers of this blog agree that his form of evangelism likely reaps more chaff than wheat, and we still do not endorse it.

    Did you know, however, that Billy Graham was raised a Presbyterian before he changed to Arminian and Baptistic doctrine? Did you further know that his wife, Ruth Bell Graham, remained for entire life, a Reformed, confessional Presbyterian? She may have even remained a member of a PCA church, for all I know, but I don’t know that for a fact.

    And did you FURTHER know, that the father of Ruth Bell Graham, Dr. L. Nelson Bell, was instrumental in getting the ball rolling that eventually led to the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America? In “Presbyterian Church in America: A Manual for New Members,” on pages 25-32 it reports how Dr. Bell returned from medical mission work in China to find “that a relatively small group of liberal ministers and seminary professors in the Presbyterian Church in the United States–the so-called Southern Church–were engaged in an organized effort to gain control of the church” (p. 25). In response, Dr. Bell edited “The Southern Presbyterian Journal” to counteract their efforts. Later, when the libs tried to influence the Southern Church to merge with the more liberal Northern Presbyterian denomination (whose particular initials elude me), Dr. Bell and others led a successful campaign to persuade the majority of local presbyteries to vote “no” on such a merger. I’m not going to belabor the story by further summary, but suffice it to say, from these beginnings under Dr. Bell’s leadership, the seeds were planted that eventually took root and brought to fruition the separation of the conservatives from the Southern Church which finally succumbed to liberalism, culminating in the formation of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in 1973. So, indeed, Dr. Graham does have a shining Reformed pedigree. Too bad he was led astray from it.

    Finally, the first daughter of Arminian Billy and Reformed Ruth, Gigi, apparently also remained a Presbyterian, and her son, Tullian (actually William Graham Tullian Tchividjian–the Tullian comes from church father Tertullian), would eventually go into the Presbyterian ministry, and now to be approached by Coral Ridge Presbyterian to accept their call to him to pastor their church.

    But, my dear brother James, there’s one little thing you overlooked in your concern about what you read as Billy Graham’s endorsement of the ESV Study Bible. No, the notes do not lean toward Arminianism, it is the product of a number of leading Reformed scholars like J. I. Packer, Wayne Grudem and a host of others. But I’m afraid I must finally inform you that you misread my reference to who endorsed the ESV Study Bible. If you’d clicked the link in that paragraph to “ESV Study Bible” it would have shown you the videos which feature, not Billy Graham, but Reformed grandson, Tullian Tchividjian, helping advertise it.

    You’ve just experienced what I call around here a “misadventure.” Welcome to the club! 🙂

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