A few years ago in a sermon at our Synod Assembly, then Assistant to the Bishop, Rev. Ron Hoyum, preached a great sermon and quoted someone I had never heard of before. That person was Tullian Tchividjian. Tullian is a grandson of famous evangelist Billy Graham and pastor of the huge Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft Lauderdale, Florida. This church was developed by the late Dr. James Kennedy, a famous and very staunch and dynamic preacher. Tullian was called to Coral Ridge after a long process to replace Dr. Kennedy as lead pastor of this huge congregation. Not surprisingly, as Tullian is very different from Dr. Kennedy, there was soon a movement and even official vote to remove Tullian. Nevertheless, the vote failed and Tullian then was granted some extended leave to recover from all the difficulty. From early on, interestingly, Martin Luther has been one of Tullian’s favorite theologians/Christians. He calls Luther his “hero.” While recovering he delved into reading Luther and Lutheran Theologians like the late Dr. Gerhard Forde and now as one listens to Tullian, he sounds more Lutheran than … well, a lot of Lutheran pastors. He talks about the proper distinction between Law and Gospel and celebrates our much celebrated paradox of “same time saint, same time sinner.” He actually has in Latin “Iustus” (saint) tatooed on one arm and “peccator” (sinner) tatooed on the other. Even more exciting is that because of his position he preaches these themes in Evangelical circles that, according to him (and I agree), are rife with works righteousness or to use his words “Do more, try harder, get better, or else sermons.”
So the other day while I was doing some web surfing on Youtube I came across Tullian being interviewed on Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). Now you have to understand, I’m not a fan of TBN (if you are – please do not take offense). The majority of preachers on TBN preach the prosperity Gospel (have faith and God will make you rich and remove all your troubles) and simply present a kind of Christianity that I believe turns more people off than on – bottom line it is a glitz and glamour kind of Christianity that, for me, is not helpful. To say the least, the Christianity espoused most of the time on TBN is on the other side of the spectrum from mine. So here is Pastor Tchividjian talking about these “Lutheran” convictions on the glitz and glamor set of TBN. My jaw dropped. Then I said a prayer of thanks that common life restoring Lutheran convictions which of course are simply the Gospel rightly proclaimed are getting voiced in evangelical circles and to people who would never listen to me or will probably never come to my church. Unless, that is, when they burn out from hearing a constant diet of “Do more, try harder, get better, or else sermons” they don’t throw in the towel completely and search for a church that believes, like we do, that everyone of us need to hear the Gospel, not just once, but every Sunday and everyday.
Here are some links so you can hear for yourself more from pastor Tchividjian. This is the link to the TBN interview – the good stuff starts about 11 minutes in. This next link is to a very recent key note address given at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. This lecture is a great summary of what he is emphasizing. Check them out. They are worth your time.