When D. James Kennedy was preaching at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church – the fastest growing Presbyterian church in the nation for much of his tenure – his sermons and comments to media sometimes sparked fireworks.
One time he said: “We hear today that this is a pluralistic nation and that it is not a Christian nation. But Christianity itself, general Christianity, was conceived as the support of all our government.”
Kennedy, who died in 2007 after 47 years of ministry at the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, church, preached that Jesus is the only way to God, urged Christians to discern between good and evil, pointed out the failings of the theory of evolution, affirmed the resurrection of Jesus and believed the church should be a social force in society, defending traditional marriage and opposing abortion. He named one of his efforts “Reclaiming America for Christ.”
When it comes to faith in the public square, Coral Ridge is now moving in a new direction.
Pastor and popular evangelical author Tullian Tchividjian is in the pulpit and has made it, for the most part, a no-comment zone when it comes to matters such as the sanctity of human life and the sin of Sodom.
Regarding social and moral concerns, Tchividjian is happy to talk about them in the public library or somewhere else, but the 42-year-old grandson of Billy Graham says the pulpit should be reserved for leaders “to diagnose sinners by preaching God’s law and then to deliver sinners by preaching God’s gospel.”
“I think it’s fine for the preacher to comment on things that are going on in the world,” Tchividjian told WND, “as long as the preacher recognizes that his role is first and foremost to deliver rest to the weary and heavy laden.”
Pulpit has ‘unique job description’
Tchividjian, who preaches each week to some 1,600 people at the Fort Lauderdale church, said the pulpit has a “unique job description,” and using it to “predominately speak as an activist on social issues” is not being faithful to its primary purpose.
“That’s not to say,” Tchividjian said, “that Christians aren’t supposed to have a biblical world and life view, and have certain convictions regarding things that are going on in the world and speak those convictions.”
But that’s not something for which Tchividjian, a gifted speaker and writer, is known. The author of eight books, including his latest, “It is Finished: 365 Days of Good News,” Tchividjian rarely addresses abortion – arguably the greatest human rights issue in U.S. history. And he says little about the redefinition of marriage, a historically unprecedented moral revolution taking place in less than a generation.
His new devotional, “It is Finished,” mentions abortion once and same-sex marriage not at all. “Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different,” Tchividjian’s 2009 treatise on Christian cultural engagement, mentions these front-burner moral concerns just a handful of times. He approvingly cites columnist Cal Thomas’ claim that Christian political engagement has achieved little in the last 30 years or so.
And he tells readers: “Lots of people think of Christians as embittered, angry people, especially in relation to highly charged social issues such as abortion and homosexuality.”
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