I know this post might seem a little late, seeing as this news broke weeks ago. But I felt remiss not furthering more perspective on this situation. As I’ve said before, I’m an unabashed grace-addict. I know I need it. Therefore, I try my best to saturate myself in it, daily. This is why the tagline for this site reads, “Encouraging lives with the timeless truth of God’s gospel of grace.” It’s the good news of God’s great grace that is the true impetus for change.
Oftentimes, Christians get this sort of thing backwards. We think that harping and coercing and forcing people to change will actually make them change. And, perhaps, it will . . . for a season. But changes that are done under force are merely outward, for appearance’s sake. That’s not the sort of change God’s after — he’s after your heart. And true heart-change only happens when you’ve been gripped by unconditional love, by free grace.
Nevertheless, in my endeavor for grace to reign in my own life, this platform (this blog) was founded to remind myself of God’s grace for my heart and soul, constantly. This site is as much for my own benefit and learning as it is yours. I need this outrageously gracious gospel as much, probably more, than the next guy. Therefore, along my journey to saturate myself in the gospel, Tullian Tchividjian became the preacher and writer I most adhered to. So, naturally, it was vexing and devastating when his world imploded amidst scandal and scorn. Then, in a somewhat surprising move, it was, at first, perplexing when it was announced that he’d be working for a church again.
But after musing upon this recently, I asked myself, “Why am I up in arms about this?” The truth is, I do think it’s a little soon for an announcement such as this. The wound still seems a bit too fresh. Regardless of the church’s, the pastor’s, and Tullian’s motives, my own mindset sees this as “too soon.” But, nevertheless, Willow Creek Church senior pastor Kevin Labby, their Session, and even Tullian himself all believe that this is the right transition. Therefore, it is not my place to sit back and judge anyone’s motive and critique such a move for being “unbiblical,” or what have you. As one writer said, “This is not circumventing the process to get back in the limelight. This is the process at work.”
Tullian, unfortunately, has disqualified himself for pastoral ministry and shepherding a church. That much is true based upon principles in the Word of God. (1 Tim. 3) However, this in no way means his ministry is over. It may appear in new and different ways and lights, but Tullian is still as much a minister as ever. Furthermore, his new position at Willow Creek is not a pastoral one. He’s a paid staff-member furthering the reach of the church and answering to the church’s Session as his “bosses.”
Let’s not cast stones at this church, its pastor, or Tullian for their seeming lack of good timing. The wound may seem fresh, but the process of healing must begin somewhere. Restoration has to have a beginning and I hope and pray that this is the genesis of that. For more clarity and perspective on this situation, I invite you to read the following articles: “The Taste of Crow,” by T. L. Arsenal (superb!), and “Clarity on the TT Situation,” by Michael Newnham.
I’ll leave you with this, though: a quote from one of my favorite Reformed Baptist writers of the 18th century, Abraham Booth:
“Preaching the gospel, therefore, is proclaiming salvation by sovereign grace — is exhibiting Jesus, not as willing to supply the deficiencies in upright characters; nor, merely, as granting assistance to persons already in the way to heaven; but, as the only, the all-sufficient, the absolutely free Saviour, of the condemned — the worthless — the lost.” (Booth, 41)
Notes & References:
Abraham Booth, Glad Tidings to Perishing Sinners (London: J. Chidley, 1839).