It’s been quite some time since I last wrote and shared my thoughts on the circumstances surrounding Tullian Tchividjian’s departure from ministry. And even as I write these words down, I in no way intend to add additional noise to an already loud situation, in which many opinions have been shouted and spouted off as virtuous when they’re actually filled with nothing but vitriol.
I cannot tell you how dismayed I was when the news broke of subsequent cases of infidelity on Tullian’s part. It’s like darkness somehow got darker. I have no qualms in saying that I still support and love Tullian for all he’s done. His books Jesus + Nothing = Everything and One Way Love were extremely formative during my days in Bible college (and still are), significantly impacting my transition from a Fundamentalist to a slightly Reformed perspective of the Christian faith. I am greatly indebted for his impact on me. Nevertheless, this entire saga is both a prime picture of the gospel and of the fallacy of placing your faith in men. When men become more beloved than the message, we’re doomed for a fall. Without taking anything away from what Tullian accomplished at Coral Ridge and beyond, it was easy to see followers of his — dare I say, disciples — joining the masses in singing his praises. Warranted as they might’ve been, the burn victims from the firestorm of his infidelity were many of those sheep that lost sight of a message that transcended this man.
As I’ve said before, the message of gospel of God’s unilateral love to unlovely people is a message that transcends you and me and whoever else dares to speak the audacity of that message. It’s not tied to a man or to men or to a single generation. The good news of God’s free grace is a song that’s been sung throughout history and we’ll continue to hear it ring throughout all eternity. For all of his polish, we can’t forget that the message is more important than the man. Some will see Tullian’s guest post on ExPastors.com (since been removed) and subsequent interview with Jonathan Merritt as him angling for a glorious comeback into the larger evangelical scene. Some will see this as nothing more than him chasing glory and acclaim by promoting himself and his “restoration” to the faith. And, no doubt, there’s some truth to that.
I’ve been made privy to additional details regarding Tullian’s departure from ministry, both from Coral Ridge and Willow Creek, such that with this entry, I am closing the chapter on my “commentary” on Tullian. The fact that I was unsurprised by what I was told is telling enough. Without running the risk of being melodramatic, I can’t help but think of this exchange from Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring:
Frodo: “I wish none of this had happened.”
Gandalf: “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, in which case you also were meant to have it and that is an encouraging thought.”
I, too, wish that none of this had ever happened. I wish that what Tullian had started would’ve been allowed to continue and flourish. Yet God’s mission wasn’t foiled by this failure, nor have any of his plans been hindered by our failings. God’s plan has never been thwarted by man’s infidelity. The movement of the gospel didn’t discontinue upon Tullian’s departure and it will continue still, forever.
I only wish to say this: Tullian, brother, I love you and am praying for you. If your eyes perchance fall upon these lines, know that there are scores and scores of people who you inspired that pray you are likewise inspired by the “God of all grace” to return to strong arms of your prodigal God. To those directly involved or linked with these incidents, do know and believe that this doesn’t define you. You are not your sin. God is bigger and stronger than any ruinous thing you can conceive. His salvation isn’t for the worthy but for the wretched; his promised rest is for you who are wrecked. There’s a force in this world that’s greater than that of evil. Despite all we see being some form of sin or scandal, the gospel still moves, God is still good. And even though this Gospel Kingdom is bigger than everyone of us, it still involves us and we still have an intricate part to play in it. And that’s an encouraging thought.