Tullian Tchividjian has been removed from ministry by his new church

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TylerR's picture

Editor

The article reads:

The fresh allegations will likely reinforce concerns over whether Tchividjian—who spent only about two months away from public ministry—was restored to ministry too quickly.

I believe TT is a PCA minister. Some of my Presbyterian brethren, please help me out here:

  • Isn't "restoration" an issue for his local presbytery to decide?
  • Did his presbytery ever "restore" him?
  • Does he have authority from his presbytery to actually be an elder?

Regardless of the answers, this man makes me sick. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

Can't say enough praise for the article Daniel linked.  Polity only matters if Godly men insist on that process.  

And this case?  I've read through each article linked here and on "spiritual sounding board" at least twice, and it appears somewhat convoluted, as if there could well be a lot more ugliness to this than we might have guessed.  To be subtle but blunt about the matter, we might well find that his ex wife was being very, very kind to him by not publicly describing what went on, and it's yet another example of how deacon and elder boards need to get to know pastors WELL.

For that matter, all of us--there but for the grace of God go we, no?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Don Johnson's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

... it's yet another example of how deacon and elder boards need to get to know pastors WELL.

And this guarantees pastoral fidelity exactly how?

  1. Who can really know someone else well enough to GUARANTEE no failure?
  2. Where does the Bible give any board such authority?

In the end, these relationships depend on trust. Sometimes the trust will be broken.

We should apply reasonable levels of accountability in our church polity, but we can't guarantee that we will never have failures.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Bert Perry's picture

Don Johnson wrote:

Bert Perry wrote:

... it's yet another example of how deacon and elder boards need to get to know pastors WELL.

 

And this guarantees pastoral fidelity exactly how?

  1. Who can really know someone else well enough to GUARANTEE no failure?
  2. Where does the Bible give any board such authority?

In the end, these relationships depend on trust. Sometimes the trust will be broken.

We should apply reasonable levels of accountability in our church polity, but we can't guarantee that we will never have failures.

It doesn't guarantee honorable behavior by the pastor at all.  What it does is to provide a greater chance that dishonorable behavior will be detected before things really get out of hand, and in doing so, provides an incentive for the pastor to resist temptation.  I've personally been in a few churches where I never heard from the pastor until he needed something from me.  Think someone who is so distant from the flock is going to have a little more trouble resisting temptation?  I sure do.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Bert Perry wrote:

It doesn't guarantee honorable behavior by the pastor at all.  What it does is to provide a greater chance that dishonorable behavior will be detected before things really get out of hand, and in doing so, provides an incentive for the pastor to resist temptation.  I've personally been in a few churches where I never heard from the pastor until he needed something from me.  Think someone who is so distant from the flock is going to have a little more trouble resisting temptation?  I sure do.

I agree with this, and to respond to Don a little more, I agree with him that there is no special responsibility given to deacon "boards" to keep the pastor on the straight and narrow.  However, as I read the NT, everyone in a church should know each other (a little harder in large churches, but house-to-house meetings like in Acts can at least have groups that know one another) very well to be able to speak into one another's lives with encouragement, admonishment, and, at times, even rebuke.  There is probably a *really* fine line between this and being a busybody, but if we don't know one another, we can't pray for or help one another as we ought.  The pastor is not excused from this.  He should also have close relationships and friends within the church that can act as accountability (person-to-person, not a police force), just as he is for them.

I've definitely seen the "rule from on high" method in small fundamental churches as well, so this is not strictly an evangelical or mega-church problem.  It never engenders the kind of closeness that should be evident in an NT church, even if it doesn't always lead to blatant immorality.  Broken trust can definitely still happen with accountability, but when the pastor is not well-known among (and *by*) his flock, I'd say there's not really any trust there in the first place.

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

Look closely at the epistles of Paul, John, and Peter if you want a picture of how well pastor (apostle) and church leadership knew each other.  John knew Diotrephes was preventing the church from receiving fellow believers, enough to specifically challenge them on their specific needs, etc..  Paul knew them well enough to learn of a member sleeping with his stepmother, and well enough to know they were reluctant to readmit that member when he was repentant.  He knew of the false teacher leading the Galatians astray, and what they were teaching.  He knew of the quiet bragging "I was baptized by...." among the Corinthians, that their collection for the needy wasn't going well, etc..  

And then you've got the knowledge that Christ had of the apostles...I would dare say that pastors ought to know at least the elder/deacon board pretty well.  What do they drive, what are their hobbies, where do they live, how are things going in their families, what do they do for a living, what are their spiritual/personal strengths and weaknesses, what new things are they doing, etc..

Not a guarantee against misbehavior, and certainly there's a fine line between knowing people and meddling.  Regarding that last bit, one thing I learned when working in a little electronics factory was that very often, when I visited a line worker to check documentation, I would very often get to know a bit about them personally, sometimes way more than I thought I really needed to know.  So the line between interaction and meddling is, with a lot of people, far more on the "personal knowledge" side than we would guess.  

BTW, new reports suggest that things are a lot uglier than we'd originally thought, so pray for all participants in this mess, especially Kim (Tullian's ex-wife) and their children.  Divorce is never fun--I know too well--and I can only imagine this kind of nonsense would make it worse, especially on the kids.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Don Johnson's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Look closely at the epistles of Paul, John, and Peter if you want a picture of how well pastor (apostle) and church leadership knew each other.  John knew Diotrephes was preventing the church from receiving fellow believers, enough to specifically challenge them on their specific needs, etc..  Paul knew them well enough to learn of a member sleeping with his stepmother, and well enough to know they were reluctant to readmit that member when he was repentant.  He knew of the false teacher leading the Galatians astray, and what they were teaching.  He knew of the quiet bragging "I was baptized by...." among the Corinthians, that their collection for the needy wasn't going well, etc..  

Please note that none of Paul, John, or Peter are deacons.

Bert Perry wrote:
And then you've got the knowledge that Christ had of the apostles...I would dare say that pastors ought to know at least the elder/deacon board pretty well.  What do they drive, what are their hobbies, where do they live, how are things going in their families, what do they do for a living, what are their spiritual/personal strengths and weaknesses, what new things are they doing, etc..

Again, this is not what you were talking about earlier. I certainly think pastors should be as aware as possible about what is going on in the lives of the people of the congregation, especially those in leadership.

I should say that I am not advocating that the pastor is immune from criticism or that the people of the church are not allowed to know him. However, it is a trust relationship. You should not have either pastor lording it over the church or deacons lording it over the pastor. Both are unbiblical.

But it is a pipe dream to think that you can prevent failures by accountability systems. (And that is not to argue against some kinds of accountability.)

And yes, it is quite likely that there is much more to the situation with TT than is currently known publicly. Probably it is none of our business.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Bert Perry's picture

Don, agreed wholeheartedly that we cannot absolutely prevent these kinds of moral failures. Nothing in life is certain except for death and taxes, as the adage goes.  However, we do choose our odds in a number of ways--not driving during severe weather or around bar closing, not gambling ("the house always wins"), and by getting to know a prospective spouse well before marrying them.  It does not guarantee we won't be in an accident, or lose money, or suffer infidelity or divorce, but it builds on the only law of psychology--that past behavior is indicative of future behavior.  

Same basic thing with a pastor.  When our church's leader suddenly gets a bunch of tats while spending a lot of time at the gym and on the road and starts wearing short sleeved shirts to display them, do we ask him what's up, knowing this is classic midlife crisis?  Or do we simply deal with an enlarged view of "minding our own business"?

(real example from the life of TT, BTW)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Don Johnson's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Same basic thing with a pastor.  When our church's leader suddenly gets a bunch of tats while spending a lot of time at the gym and on the road and starts wearing short sleeved shirts to display them, do we ask him what's up, knowing this is classic midlife crisis?  Or do we simply deal with an enlarged view of "minding our own business"?

(real example from the life of TT, BTW)

Well, again, that's not the same as the deacon board getting to know the pastor WELL as you said in this post

I was just reacting to your statements - overstatements, I thought. Over-reactions. We need to keep our polity closely governed by the Scriptures and be careful not to go beyond them. Churches lose balance if they aren't careful with this.

In this case, surely someone should have been able to see trouble on the horizon long before it erupted, but that's history now. 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Bert Perry's picture

Don, you're really splitting hairs here.  Now you can argue that it's obvious, but just as obviously, it doesn't appear that anybody on that elder board thought it was an obvious enough sign to take action.  And so my thesis stands; if the elders had known their pastor better, they'd have had the standing to say "Tullian, you're spending a lot of time at the tattoo parlor.  What's up?"

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Don Johnson's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Don, you're really splitting hairs here.  Now you can argue that it's obvious, but just as obviously, it doesn't appear that anybody on that elder board thought it was an obvious enough sign to take action.  And so my thesis stands; if the elders had known their pastor better, they'd have had the standing to say "Tullian, you're spending a lot of time at the tattoo parlor.  What's up?"

you don't know someone didn't question him on it. But regardless, simply pontificating that "this proves deacon and elder boards need to know their pastor well" is no solution to the problem.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Bert Perry's picture

you don't know someone didn't question him on it.

Exactly my point.  Thank you for making it for me.  

Now let's flesh it out a bit; if a deacon or elder would be extremely uncomfortable saying "Pastor, I notice you've drastically changed your wardrobe in the past year or so, and I'm seeing you've been spending a fair amount of time at the tattoo parlor.  What's up?" (or the pastor of deacons or elders), that is our "gut check" where we can recognize that we have a problem.  As everyone familiar with Alcoholics Anonymous knows, this is not pontificating.  It is our first step to recovery.

Like I noted in my first comment on this thread, it is exactly why deacons and elders need to get to know their pastors well.  For that matter, when church size allows, it's exactly why other congregants need to get to know each other well.  Connect on Facebook.  Comment.  Spend some time in the coffee shop--don't just guzzle it down while driving.  Ask their view on things.

Really, the very fact that we need to have this "fleshed out" speaks to the depth of our problem.  As I discussed in this comment, it can be really surprising what people will tell you about themselves if you give them a few minutes.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.