Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, in Fort Lauderdale, called Rob Pacienza to serve as the church’s next Lead Pastor, which was confirmed by a congregational vote following his sermon at the worship service on Sunday, March 13. Pacienza has been on staff of Coral Ridge for the past seven years, previously serving as Executive Pastor, and has a long history with the church.
“I am humbled and honored by the committee and congregation’s trust in me to shepherd them through this next stage of what I believe will be an exciting time of faithful and fruitful ministry,” said Pacienza. “This church is ‘home’ to me, and I cannot think of a congregation I would rather pastor.”
A national search
The Coral Ridge Pulpit Search Committee conducted a thorough and extensive process, considering more than 60 pastoral candidates. Following nine months of interviewing, listening to sermons, conducting detailed research, speaking with leaders and seeking counsel, the committee unanimously agreed Pacienza was the strongest and most-qualified to lead and pastor the church.
“After a comprehensive and exhaustive search, we are pleased to announce that we found the best candidate right underneath our noses,” said Rod Hayes, chairman of the Search Committee. “Rob brings a unique mix of appreciation for the history and tradition of Coral Ridge as well as a burning desire to capture the hearts of our city of Fort Lauderdale with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are excited about welcoming Rob to his new position of leadership at Coral Ridge and look forward to how God will use him in our midst.”
When asked early in the process if he would consider the role, Pacienza said, “My wife and I went away for the weekend and prayed. We wanted to be sure this was a calling both my wife and I felt called by. It’s really a family calling. We kept getting confirmations along the way and really felt a peace about it.” After coming to Christ at Coral Ridge, Pacienza said, “We felt this was really 20 years in the making.”
At the age of 15, Pacienza heard the Gospel for the first time during a mission trip with Coral Ridge. Shortly after sharing the Good News with his family, they joined the church and Pacienza began attending Westminster Academy, college-preparatory school ministry of Coral Ridge. It was there during new student orientation he met his future wife, Jen.
God’s calling to ministry became evident 20 years ago to Pacienza when Coral Ridge’s first pastor, Rev. D. James Kennedy, asked him, “Have you ever considered the ministry?”
Pacienza’s first job was pulling cable for the cameras on Sunday mornings at Coral Ridge. He attended Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, and continued to intern with the Coral Ridge student ministry during his summers.
After graduating with a B.A. in Religion, Pacienza married Jen and began serving as Student Minister at Rio Vista Community Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he eventually became Executive Pastor in 2007.
In 2009, Pacienza answered the call to “come home” to Coral Ridge, first serving as the Inreach Pastor and eventually as the Executive Pastor.
In addition to Samford University, Pacienza graduated from Knox Theological Seminary with a Masters of Divinity. He and Jen have three children.
“I have seen firsthand God do incredible things through Coral Ridge,” Pacienza said. “My prayer is that our church will continue to be a place of hope and rest for the people who live in our city – a beacon of light in the midst of darkness.”
Pacienza is filling the role of lead pastor following the resignation of Tullian Tchividjian, the grandson of evangelist Billy Graham, who stepped down as lead pastor in June after admitting to an extramarital affair.
When asked what direction he felt the church should take now, Pacienza said, “I feel like Coral Ridge has to return to being a local church again, actively present in the local community. For too long its focus has been national and global. There’s more than enough work to be done right here in South Florida, and I think people are longing for a shepherd — a pastor who is here for them.”
The church’s founding pastor, Rev. D. James Kennedy, was a strong advocate for civic involvement, so we asked Pacienza how he views the church’s role in the public arena. “My vision for the church is for it to be fully engaged in our culture,” said Pacienza. “I see politics as only one facet of that. I don’t want the pulpit to be used for any political agenda, but I don’t want people pulling away either. The Gospel has the power to renew all areas of our culture whether it’s through our work or vocation, leadership in civic associations, running for office, partnering with local officials, caring for orphans, rescuing those caught in human trafficking, or partnering with public education.”
For additional information about Coral Ridge, visit crpc.org.