The new face of Coral Ridge

Billy Graham’s grandson makes his mark on South Florida as the new pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian – preaching revival all along the way

Tullian Tchividjian is making a statement in South Florida, and it’s not very fashionable.

Tchividjian, founding pastor of New City Church in Coconut Creek and grandson of evangelist Billy Graham, is slated to take over the helm of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church on Easter Sunday, April 12.

The merging of Tchividjian’s church, which has a contemporary worship style, with the traditional Ft. Lauderdale landmark and home of the late Dr. D. James Kennedy, has created a stir in the evangelical world over the past few months.

But neither the merging of the two churches nor this month’s release of his third book, “Unfashionable,” gets Tchividjian as passionate as when he talks about revival.

And he is praying that revival comes to South Florida – and the entire nation.

A rocky start
Things weren’t always so clear-cut for Tchividjian. In fact, this husband and father of three went through a deep rebellion during his teenage years.

“Around the age of 14 or 15, I believed if I surrendered my life to God I would have to give up my freedom,” explained Tchividjian in a recent sermon.

The young teen decided to walk away from the faith-filled heritage God had given him. He was kicked out of Westminster Academy (a Life of Coral Ridge) and eventually dropped out of high school all together. His parents had him escorted off their property by police because he refused to abide by their rules, and young Tullian decided to “pursue pleasure with all of his might.” 

Gigi Graham, Tchividjian’s mother and a frequent commenter on his public blog, recently reflected on that time in her son’s life. She wrote that although she had many difficult years with her son, she knew from the time he was born that “God had a destiny” for him.

Tullian was “chosen by God, to be used of Him. This is not because we … were anything special, but because He knew He could trust [Tullian] with this challenge,” she commented on his Feb. 26 blog.

When Tullian turned 21, the prayers of his parents were answered. Tchividjian realized that his “so-called freedoms” had enslaved him and were destroying his life.

As he shares in his first book, “Do I Know God?” Tchividjian returned to God and learned that true freedom comes from knowing God personally through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Start-up church to megachurch
In 2003, after graduating from Columbia International University and Reformed Theological Seminary, Tchividjian accepted the invitation of a group from South Florida to start his own church.

New City Church, which meets at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek, quickly grew from a mere 75 attendees to several hundred. Soon the auditorium could not hold all the congregants, so the church added an additional service and made plans to buy land and build their own church home.

Meanwhile, Tchividjian was quickly gaining a reputation as a fervent intellectual and unashamed preacher. He was earning the respect of local Christians, local pastors and scholars at Knox Theological Seminary where he guest lectures – as well as fans of his books.

Jeff Masters, an elder at New City Church, says that people are drawn to the young pastor because “he doesn’t base his direction or leadership on statistics or movements or popularity.”

“His trump card is a commitment to truth and staying on track with that, not deviating from that and not going into what’s fashionable,” explained Masters.

The leadership at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church began to take notice, too, and in 2008, the staff of Coral Ridge asked Tchividjian to consider making a move to their church. D. James Kennedy, their founder and pastor, passed away on Sept. 5, 2007, and they were still without a leader.

It seemed like a perfect fit, but one thing was holding Tchividjian back: his unwavering commitment to New City Church.

Over the next several months, talks ensued between the two churches, and a plan was suggested to merge the two churches. New City had a dynamic, young pastor but no church facility, and Coral Ridge had impressive facilities but no one to lead their flock.

After “a time of due diligence” set aside to let both churches consider and approve of the merger, Tchividjian was officially chosen as senior pastor of Coral Ridge on Sunday, March 15. On April 12, the two churches are scheduled to become one.

The pulpit committee introduced Tchividjian by saying they believed “the next man in this pulpit will speak to the nation, and we believe Rev. Tchividjian is a man for such a time as this.” 

Preaching from the pulpit of the church his grandfather, Billy Graham, dedicated when Tchividjian was just 2 years old, the pastor preached his “unfashionable” message – that God is using people who know that they are nothing, but God is everything – to bring revival to His Church. 

“The world does not need our programs; the world needs God’s power,” Tchividjian said.

The message of revival
In Tchividjian’s recently released book, “Unfashionable,” he challenges Christian readers to look at life through a different lens.

While the world walks by sight, flaunts its power and showcases human talent, Tchividjian says that in God’s economy, everything is turned upside down. In fact, Tchividjian says that the true power of a Christian is found in human weakness, people who are “at the end of the line – desperate, in the wilderness, hungry and thirsty.”

During his times of prayer and seeking God as to whether he should proceed with the merger of the two churches, Tchividjian says God impressed upon him to look for men and women who had a deep understanding of their own weakness and their utter dependence on God. 

“The Bible makes it very clear that God opposes the proud,” says Tchividjian. “God does big things through people who know they’re small. He does everything through people who know they’re nothing.” 

Like his grandfather, the great evangelist Billy Graham, Tchividjian’s preaching is always centered on the cross of Jesus Christ and the need of sinners to repent and turn to God.

“Look at the cross,” he reminded his congregation recently. “It is there that we discover true power is found in weakness, in human frailty.” 

This is a lesson Tchividjian knows well. From a high school dropout to one of the most influential preachers in South Florida, Tchividjian has seen firsthand the power of the Gospel in his life.  “It’s only when we come to the end of ourselves that we come to the beginning of God,” Tchividjian says.

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