Monday, June 22, 2015

(UPDATED & UPDATED) Tullian Tchividjian: It's not the celebrity pastor, megachurch model that is the problem

Updates at bottom. And still more updates at bottom.

Here is a kind of a part 2:
Fallen Pastors can still lead- here's how


Billy Graham’s grandson steps down from Florida megachurch after admitting an affair
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, saying it was on behalf of him and his wife:
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.
source
Tchividjian is pronounced Cha-vij-in. It's Armenian. His mother is the oldest of Billy Graham's children. Tchividjian is the nephew of Franklin Graham.

The first public news of this broke late last night. I was saddened and my spirit was in turmoil. I slept restlessly, awakening to read a rousing chorus of mainstream news article and many bloggers joining the chorus of wh-at?!

Monday Morning, Mrs Kim Tchividjian released a statement to the same newspaper, that indicated she has a different version of events than her husband's.

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.”
I had wondered if the two of them wrote the initial statement sent to the Washington Post together, or if he had released it himself. I also wondered even if it was true, why the husband would not want to cover his wife and leave her behavior out if it in his own admission.

What can I, a quiet, non-seminary trained layperson in a rural part of a southern state contribute to the discussion? I'm really nobody, so not too much, but I'll add a few thoughts. I was preparing to write about John MacArthur today, but this happening now will provide an even better bookend of the extolling I want to do regarding wise and solid pastors (best represented of living pastors in MacArthur). Then I'll point you to some resources that I believe are better for shedding light on this dark situation.

First the personal. I have seen the effects of adultery in a marriage close-up. When two are married, especially under the Lord's ordinance as Christians, they become one flesh. Adultery rips the one flesh apart, and it is painful. It hurts in a way that practically no other grief can hurt. Only spousal death is more painful (I imagine) but adultery is almost worse because it is not only a ripping apart, as death is, it's a betrayal of monstrous proportions.

I can't imagine the heartbreak in their family right now, and a double adultery is towering in its devastation. They have three children.
The Tchividjian family

For pastors the temptation is even worse. It seems there are always available ladies fluttering around, ready to fill in any gaps, real or perceived, in a pastor's marital situation. And pastors are only men, just men, under stress and overworked and having weighty responsibilities. I understand we are all human and I am glad we have a Savior who understands our human frailties. (Hebrews 4:15).

However the danger of celebrity lifestyles is in view here. A pastor's primary responsibility is to his flock. Period. This is a non-negotiable. Tied for that primary responsibility/calling is his responsibility to his family. Pastors who are "rising stars," "prolific authors", "sought after speakers" mix unbiblical responsibilities with biblical mandates and soon their perspective shifts from Jesus to self. The ones who start extra-biblical parachurches, movements, global outreaches. Tchividjian started the movement "LIBERATE" and his stated reason was "our big goal being to reform Christianity on a global scale" Is that a pastor's job? To take his eyes of his own flock to reform Christianity? Even the great reformer Martin Luther didn't have reformation as a goal. He simply asked 95 questions, he didn't form a focus group, hire website designers, install contributors, then post the 95 questions on the Door at Wittenberg. It was a Spirit-led, organic movement. But today's celebrity pastors sure do enjoy the book tours, conferences, speaking engagements.

I'm not saying a pastor should never write a book, nor am I saying a pastor should never fill another pulpit or speak at a conference. I'm speaking of the lifestyle and a slow but poisonous gravitation toward a shift in perspective when one shifts their eyes from their primary calling. Here is Joe Thorn on Dethroning Celebrity Pastors.
The "celebrity pastor" is now a thing. Maybe it's always been a thing (1 Cor. 1:10-17), but over the past few years it has become a source of concern and consternation for many. On the one hand I do see a problem, and on the other hand I can't help but feel that some speak against popular preachers out of a sense of jealousy. I do not think that a pastor whose "platform" is large, influence is broad, and following is numerous is a celebrity pastor. At least, not in a bad way. The real problem is leadership that loses sight of the glory of Christ and focuses on the glory of man. Or, at least one man.

But Celebrity Pastors do not simply build themselves. They are built with the help of fans. It's not wrong or idolatrous to get a photo with a person you admire. Nor is it dangerous to love the preaching or teaching of a particular leader. But at some point admiration turns into allegiance, and allegiance gives birth to adoration, and adoration, when it is full grown, produces idolatry. I am not sure exactly when the line is crossed--maybe when we start asking well-known pastors to sign our Bibles. Maybe. But the line is well behind us when a leader's word is more valuable to us than God's word and when they become our authority.
Source
It's the losing sight of the glory of God that is the downfall. Pastors who overextend beyond the pulpit will fall. We have seen this borne out time and again. Tchividjian is the fourth megachurch pastor in Florida alone just this year alone, to resign in sin. Then there's CJ Mahaney, Mark Driscoll...the list goes on. In 2011 John Piper took an 8-month leave of absence from all his duties as pastor and media celebrity expressly to re-evaluate his life. He'd drifted, you see, from the primary goal. He wrote in part that his main goals were four-fold:
to enter this eight-month season of detachment from public exposure and public productivity with a view to serious biblical examination, assessment, nurture, and growth in four areas: 1) our own individual persons, both physically and spiritually; 2) our marriage; 3) our relationship with our children and their families; 4) our pattern of ministry on returning to Bethlehem.
He had begun to recognize the poisonous cup that fame and notoriety brings,
You could view this as a kind of fasting from public ministry. One of the goals in this kind of fasting is to discern levels of addiction. Or, as Paul Tripp or Tim Keller might say, levels of idolatry. The reality check is: What will happen in my soul and in my marriage when, to use the phrase of one precious brother on staff, there will be no 'prideful sipping from the poisonous cup of international fame and notoriety'?
And that poisonous cup led to a wedge between he and his wife. Families need tending.
But on the other hand, I see several species of pride in my soul that, while they may not rise to the level of disqualifying me for ministry, grieve me, and have taken a toll on my relationship with Noël and others who are dear to me.
It remains to be seen whether his time away strengthened him or allowed the poison to continue but in a slower fashion when still riding the roller coaster of fame and notoriety.
Gross sin among Christian leaders is a signal that something is seriously wrong with the church.
~John MacArthur

Yet pastors who remain true to their primary calling will not fall, we have seen this again and again. There are pastors who lead megachurches, celebrity pastors John MacArthur, fifty years and not a hint of scandal. S. Lewis Johnson, David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Charles Spurgeon, all long lasting pastors who pastored their churches steadily without scandal. Each was just as busy as Tchividjian. Each were or are famous in their own right. MacArthur is busy, he started a college and seminary, has a global media outreach, a daily radio show, preaches several times per week in church, is a prolific author, and attends conferences several times per year. Not to mention the appearance on television (rarer nowadays). Spurgeon was busy. He started a college, and an orphanage, preached 10 times per week, read 6 books per week, kept up with correspondence and preached to thousands at a time. He worked 18 hour days. Was his the World's First Megachurch?
As a case in point, Spurgeon preached regularly, often 10 times in a week to audiences of 6,000 and more. He once addressed an audience of 23,654 (without aid of amplification).
Actually, the world's first megachurch was Peter addressing the thousands at Pentecost and the weeks and months after. And they were celebrities as 1 Corinthians 1:12 shows us. So what makes the difference between busy, famous pastors who fall and those who do not?

Ministry Mag: Why Pastors Fall into Sin
the pattern in their relationship that preceded the fall was similar. In earlier years, they had a call of God upon their lives, a passion in their marriage and zeal for the ministry. But somewhere along the way, misplaced priorities led to a gradual decline in intimacy, and ministry began to take precedence over relationship.
Ed Stetzer wrote in Christianity Today last year, When Pastors Fall: Why Full and Public Repentance Matters
Pastor scandals happen. Needless to say, I don't say that with any enthusiasm. In fact, it is greatly discouraging to me, but it's true nonetheless. Furthermore, this is not just a recent phenomenon, though the evangelical world has been filled with reports over the last few months. It's just disheartening. ... What's more, unless we pastors engage in public repentance, our "bold" preaching about sin and grace often appears to be little more than window dressing. In other words, what we believe about God, sin and grace is proven true when we treat our own sin as seriously as we say others should. Too many leaders are not repenting in accordance to scripture and too many churches don't know how to work through repentance to restoration. Both matter-- and scripture provides a path for both.
It remains to be seen of Tchividjian professes a full and complete repentance, and submits himself to a long process of counseling and restoration at his church under the Presbytery. Given that he apparently hid his adultery from Paul Tripp who had counseled him a few days before and only confessed it when directly asked...doesn't seem to give rise to immediate optimism. His use of the passive tense in his statement "it was decided" he should resign seems to indicate he has a less than full and thorough grasp of his biblical responsibilities of the situation. Again, time will tell.
Coral Ridge church, Ft. Lauderdale

Ultimately the loss of a pastor and the destruction of a family is something one heavily grieves over. More grievous is the blight on the name of Jesus. Pastors are due double honor, rightly so. (1 Timothy 5:17). They are to be respected for their calling, their office, and their work. However their accountability is doubly high (James 3:1) and therefore grief associated with them when they fall below reproach is also worthy of double grief.

It brings such reproach onto the faith and the name of Jesus! Just a few of the heathens' comments:
  • Another member of the morality police falls from grace.
  • Most of us don't run around demanding that everyone do whatever we tell them to though. And we don't try to pass laws banning everything we don't like.  They on the other hand are gigantic hypocrites
  • I'll never trust anyone that peddles gods word for money. They're salesmen. lots of money to be made in the god racket.

I'm not reveling in this. As I said, I had a restless night with little sleep. I thought about the Tchividjian children. However, there needs to be a perspective of the larger reality. Pastors sliding into sin is an age-old problem, because sin is an age-old problem. However, the problem of pastors falling into sin, particularly sexual sin, is by this point in today's world endemic in our faith. It is practically a given, and it should not be.

Secondly, too many Christians are biblically illiterate. When a pastor scandal happens they  immediately call for a restoration- not to fellowship, but to their ministry, and worse, they believe this is helpful to the cause of Christ. It's not.

Here is John MacArthur on fallen pastors. This was written some time ago and is not a response to the Tchividjian situation.

Should Fallen Pastors Be Restored?
By John MacArthur, September 28, 2009

Excerpts
It has always saddened me over the years as I've watched church leaders bring a reproach on the church of Jesus Christ. What's shocking to me is how frequently Christian leaders sin grossly, then step back into leadership almost as soon as the publicity dies away.

Some time ago I received a CD that disturbed me greatly. It was a recording of the recommissioning service of a pastor who had made national news by confessing to an adulterous affair. After little more than a year of "counseling and rehabilitation," this man was returning to public ministry with his church's blessing.

That is happening everywhere. Restoration teams--equipped with manuals to instruct the church on how to reinstate their fallen pastor--wait like tow-truck drivers on the side of the highway, anticipating the next leadership "accident". Our church has received inquiries wondering if we have written guidelines or a workbook to help restore fallen pastors to leadership. Many no doubt expect that a church the size of ours would have a systematic rehabilitation program for sinning leaders.

Gross sin among Christian leaders is a signal that something is seriously wrong with the church. ...

What about forgiveness? Shouldn't we be eager to restore our fallen brethren? To fellowship, yes. But not to leadership. It is not an act of love to return a disqualified man to public ministry; it is an act of disobedience.

What should you do in the current crisis? Pray for your church's leaders. Keep them accountable. Encourage them. Let them know you are following their godly example. Understand that they are not perfect, but continue nonetheless to call them to the highest level of godliness and purity. The church must have leaders who are genuinely above reproach. Anything less is an abomination.

Please pray for your pastor. Pray for him to stay on the narrow path and energized by a renewing of his mind daily in the word. The sing of the last days is an increase in wickedness, particularly inside the church. (Mt 24:12, 1 Peter 4:17, 2 Timothy 3:1-5). Stay in the Word yourself, especially if you are in leadership.

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Cor 9:27)

This is the takeaway. As I read in one essay, satan works overtime in the bedroom of the mind, and pastors and leaders are especially vulnerable. It isn't a celebrity problem. It isn't a megachurch problem. It is straying from the primary goal, to stay within the narrow confines of a path that is only as wide as the letters J-E-S-U-S. It's not about global reformation, it is not about publish or perish, It is not about getting a prime speaking deal. It is not, if you are a pastor of a small church, getting a bigger building, initializing another program. It is an issue of priorities. Jesus-family-flock. The pastors of a church of any size who maintained a healthy prayer and bible life stayed. The ones who didn't, strayed.

Yet, as a layperson I am wearied by these successive pastor scandals. Come soon, Lord Jesus.

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Further Reading

Updated to add several other essays in reaction tot he scandal, plus two of MacArthur's blogs on hypergrace, published prior to the scandal becoming public.

This esay addresses what I believe are the three elephants in the room, Tullian's blame-shifting, his sinful decision on how he addressed his wife's alleged adultery, and his free-to-fail grace stance,
An Open Letter to Tullian Tchividjian

By Marshal Segal, When Leaders Fall, All Are Punished, with this excellent quote, "Heaven is not thrown into crisis with a scandal, however shocking or hard the fall."

Chris Rosebrough (Pirate Christian) over-wrought and emotional with some excessive hyperbole, ("I just witnessed one of the most elaborate satanic schemes pulled off in modern history." Nooo, that would be the elaborate scheme of the Catholic Church), but important for the fact that Pastor Chris was invited to Coral Ridge to counsel in the days prior to the scandal breaking and thus truly has a unique perspective:
My Perspective on Tullian's Sin

In this one from The Cripplegate, Jordan Standridge offers his view of Ten Lessons from the Tullian Tchividjian Confession. It is very good. I also enjoyed one of the commenters, Greg Pickle, who offered several wise insights, including this about the conscience-killing effects of hypergrace, and the importance of public rebuke. His entire comment is excellent and should be read in its entirety, as well as the essay itself.
Public rebuke makes people *fearful* of sinning (1 Tim. 5:20). That's where this confession should lead, whether he is rebuked or not. Paul had no problem naming names when showing Timothy (and the Ephesian church) the deadly fruit of not fighting the good fight of faith and of rejecting a good conscience (1 Tim. 1:18-20).

When he has been happy to sell his books and spread his articles to people in the churches I have shepherded, I have no problem pointing out the devastating fruit of this kind of theology. I'm not going to gloat, but rather pray for him and those involved, while yet saying: "This is exactly where this theology leads."

Regeneration & Hypergrace (MacArthur on Tchividjian and Coral Ridge are ground zero for Hypergrace Theology)

Abusing Grace (MacArthur on Tchividjian on overemphasizing the role of grace)

Tullian Tchividjian's Sin and Resignation Attracts Prayers and Piranhas

On Living In Stained Glass Houses

Tullian Tchividjian stripped of ministerial credentials

Tullian Tchividjian files for divorce
There was little public information available about the divorce filing. Under Florida law, one party must establish that the marriage is “irretrievably broken” in order for the union to be dissolved. Tullian and his wife, Kim, married in 1994 and have three children.
And yet, God hates divorce and under most circumstances does not allow it. Grounds for divorce in God's Law

3 comments :

  1. Is pray regularly for our pastors, that their marriages would remain strong, and that they would be faithful to their wives. My church runs just under 700 on Sunday mornings, so it's not a megachurch, but being shepherds over that many people is difficult at times I am certain.

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  2. "It is straying from the primary goal, to stay within the narrow confines of a path that is only as wide as the letters J-E-S-U-S. ... It is an issue of priorities. Jesus-family-flock. The pastors of a church of any size who maintained a healthy prayer and bible life stayed."

    Well said, the sin problem amongst pastors isn't a celebrity issue, though the public exposure certainly makes the challenge of a fallen pastor more difficult. I'm with you, I'm growing very sad of hearing about all these scandals.

    Yes pastors - whether celebrity or not - are under tremendous pressure and temptation, and need prayer.

    -Carolyn

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    Replies
    1. One more thought, what stands out to me in the Mrs.'s statement is this: "The statement reflected my husband’s opinions but not my own."

      Why would she call his statement an "opinion"? There's no opinion about an affair, it's pretty black and white, and it's a sin. Either an affair happens or it does not. There is truth and there is lying, and neither of them are opinions.

      That said, I believe this would best be handled by CRPC, since that is where TT served. It's really not any of our business, excepting to know that a well known pastor can no longer hold that position in the church globally.

      I pray the full truth comes to the surface (if it has not yet already) so genuine repentance can take part as needed.

      -Carolyn

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