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The vote is over, so now I’ll write.

Much has already been written of course regarding Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and it’s new pastor, Tullian Tchividjian.  Some of it was fair, some of it not.  Much of it was gossip and much of it was very shallow.  Some of it was written by people who failed to do any first-hand research and some of it was utter foolishness.  Still, some of it was well-written and some of it inspired.

I will tell you up front that I have some very strong opinions about a lot of what happened — opinions to which I believe I am entitled because I am no outsider.  Shortly after my conversion to Christ (in 1977), I joined CRPC and I worshiped there until shortly before Jim Kennedy’s passing — nearly thirty years.  I was baptised there, married there, taught there, served in various positions, and was ordained there as a Ruling Elder, later to be chosen as the Clerk of Session.  Suffice it to say that I had, and still have, strong ties to many there at many levels.  I have very close friends who support the direction of the present CRPC leadership and very close friends amongst what the local paper is calling the “dissidents.”   I have lost sleep on several occasions over this and the effect it has had on my friendships.

I have come to several conclusions.  Want me to tell you who was “in the right” in all of this?

Sorry, wrong blog.  Not my job.

If not to cast my “vote” for one side or the other, then what is my reason for writing?

Some have chastised others for airing “the Church’s” dirty laundry outside of the Church.  That criticism, it seems to me, has some scriptural justification, but it might be missing the mark.  You cannot read the Bible without noticing that God has recorded for all to see (that is, not just the Church) the mistakes, failings, and corruption that have taken place within the ranks of His followers.  (I have sometimes wondered how much of the Bible would have made it past the Public Relations Department if it were being edited and published today.  Imagine the editing necessary for just Abraham’s life!).  God has made it very clear in His Word that we are all sinners — and then provided us with examples!

Why does God publish our shortcomings to the world?

1.  Because there are “unchurched” who are very self-aware of their own sinful states and they will not come to Christ because they think they’re not good enough. God screams out:  “If you know you’re not good enough, you just passed the entrance exam!  Come on in!  I’ll introduce you to some of the biggest goof-ups and sinners you’ve ever met!  We meet in church buildings on Sundays all around the world!  There’s room for one more, I promise.”  (I love Bob Coy‘s illustration of God visiting the dog pound and choosing the mangiest of mutts for adoption.  Like Pastor Bob says:  “I’m just a pound dog, man!“)

2.  To give the Church the opportunity to show the world the difference between Christians and non-Christians. I’ve heard Steve Brown say many times that whenever God allows cancer in a non-Christian he allows it in a Christian as well so the world can see the difference.  Becoming a Christian did not signal the end of conflict for you on earth.  You don’t get all green lights, you don’t always get the fastest line in the store, your appliances still break, and you still have struggles . . . even with your friends.  Despite that, we’re supposed to be different.

So why am I writing?

Jim Kennedy was fond of saying, especially to new members:  “You’re in the army now!”  He often and properly admonished us to put on the full armor of God — but never to fight against each other.  (As an aside, the Church can and should have passionate debate within its walls — I have been involved in that myself.  Passionate debate is an indication that you really care about something.  It is fitting, for instance, to care passionately about the purity of the Church.)

So to my brothers and sisters involved with the CRPC situation, I admonish and encourage you:  Think about what you are doing (preferably before you do/say/write it) and how you are doing it (and practice “prospective retrospect“).  Show the watching world that Christ in you really makes a difference.  Memorize Matthew 18:15ff.  This situation is a mess, but it is also an opportunity.  Disagree . . . like Christians.  It might not make CNN, but it will count . . . forever.

I’ll pray that for you.  Pray that for me too.

–M. Glenn Curran, III, Esquire

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INTEROFFICE MEMO

From:     Marketing
To:         Staff
Subj.:     Business Opportunities

We are introducing a new marketing idea for the alternative dispute resolution business:  Gossip. Gossip itself is hardly a new concept, but we believe that its usefulness in creating conflict has not yet been exploited fully.  We think now is the time.  Remember:  More conflict, more business!

We don’t believe this will have to be that complicated.  Simple gossip should work fine.  Questions starting:  “Did you hear . . . ?” and “You know what’s happening over at  . . . ?” will get you started down the hill.

Most people don’t think they are gossips, so we should be able to slip this in without too many alarms going off, if encouraged appropriately.

Here’s an example:  In the last few months, there has been a controversy within a certain local Christian community.  This controversy has been discussed in emails, blogs, letters, and lunches.  One of the most common themes running through these forums is second- (and third- and fourth-) hand “news.”  [Note to Staff:  Never say “gossip”; always use the word “news.”  If necessary, spiritualize it with “Oh, we really need to pray about . . . .”]

Sometimes, people bring this stuff to us and it goes something like this:

Did you here what Bubba just did?

“Nope, what?”

He just [painted his car red,  or whatever . . . ]!!!

“Hmmm…. That’s strange.  Why did he do that?”

Well, isn’t it obvious?!  It’s because of ______!

“Really?  That’s what Bubba told you?”

Whadya mean?

“When you asked Bubba why he did that, is that what he told you?”

Well, I never asked Bubba myself, but

check one:

[  ] What other reason could there be?
[  ] I got that from an impeccable source.
[  ]
Everybody knows it.
[  ]
That’s just the kind of person he is.
[  ]
His father did that too ya know.
[  ] Where there’s smoke, there’s . . . well, you know.

Now at this point, you have to be careful.  The more sanctified saints are going to feel a little Holy Spirit poke right about now.  The G-word might even come to mind.  Quickly change the subject.

The power of gossip to create conflict in the Church cannot be overemphasized.

  • It allows the judging of other people’s hearts in their absence.
  • It precludes the subjects of the gossip from responding or explaining themselves.
  • It permits little grains of sand to grow into beautiful pearls of controversy!

Now, there are admittedly some problems with this marketing approach.  For instance, we need to stay away from certain Scriptures.  The admonitions about taking your concerns one-on-one to your brother first (Matt. 18:15) are a problem as are any verses about doing unto others as you want them to do unto you (Matt. 7:12).  (A handy list of other verses to avoid is at the bottom of this memo.)  We can’t blatantly ask professing Christians to tear those sections out of their Bibles or they’ll know something’s up.  For the time being, Marketing is suggesting “the dodge.”

Change the subject.  Emphasize how “juicy” this news item really is and how “cool” and “connected” they’ll seem when they repeat it to their friends.  Are these not “choice morsels”? (Prov. 26:22)  Appeal to their need to be accepted and this will get you past most of the objections.

Remember, just because we are recommending avoidance of certain Scriptures, doesn’t mean we don’t recognize the truth!  In fact, this whole marketing concept is based on truth found in the Scriptures!  For instance, Prov. 26:20 rightly tells us that “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down” and Prov. 16:28 truly advises us that “A slanderer separates intimate friends.”

So, in summary, if the alternative dispute resolution business is going to grow, we are going to need more and bigger disputes.  Gossip is the perfect fuel for controversy:  It’s easy to do, takes no time or monetary investment, makes you feel superior, and is nearly self-perpetuating.  What are you waiting for?!

–Marketing

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