Concerning Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church

There are many dangers facing a church that is looking for a new pastor. Especially, there are many dangers facing a large church that is looking for a new pastor.

Firstly, large churches are targets for wolves. False teachers like nothing better than to disrupt the sheep, while feeding on the sheep as they go. I cannot imagine too many churches that a wolf would rather “pastor” than Coral Ridge. Please pray for Coral Ridge as they go into uncharted territory (Dr. Kennedy was the founding pastor of that church).

Secondly, the expectations of the church can be a real problem. No one is going to be identical to Dr. D. James Kennedy in gifts. They should look for a pastor who faithfully preaches the Word of God, and who faithfully administers the sacraments. That should be the highest priority. Of course, the mission of the church has always been huge at Coral Ridge. It is the origin of Evangelism Explosion, the teaching tool developed by Dr. Kennedy.

Thirdly, the expectation of the church can often be for someone snazzy, with all the latest gadgets and whistles, and “methods.” He has to have a Ph.D., etc. They should look instead for someone who is faithful.

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16 Comments

  1. Carey said,

    August 26, 2007 at 9:40 pm

    I can’t agree more with your sentiment. Being a pastor who’s been on both sides of the equation, all the fluff has to be taken out of the way to see what GOD wants for both church and Pastor. It’s not an easy place to get to – but it MUST be done…

  2. August 26, 2007 at 11:40 pm

    Wow, those will be tough shoes to fill, but the Lord is gracious to His people.

    You are so right about seeking someone who is faithful first and foremost. We were without a TE for about a year and a half a while back. The search committee eventually picked someone who they all really liked–personable, charismatic, energetic, eloquent speaker, etc. Before the initial Session meeting with him, I found what I thought was a misstatement on his data form. I emailed him privately to minimize any embarrassment to suggest that he correct the form before meeting the Session. Well, he went ballistic. He never answered me back, but sent my kind email inquiry to a host of his buddies and railed about being “grilled.” They were aghast at his response. After further inquiry, his friends determined that he didn’t make a misstatement on the form at all. He was anything but Reformed and wanted to use our church to further his personal agenda. The Lord really stepped in to deflect that bullet from us.

    The next TE we picked was a faithful and dedicated servant of the Lord with a heart for the lost. He sailed through the approval process and has been a super blessing to our church. The Lord knew best, and preserved us beautifully through the process.

    I belonged to CRPC for several years some time back. I am confident that the Lord will preserve His ministry through His gracious providence. But, I will pray that, as you say, the search committee goes for faithful over flashy. Thanks for the heads up.

  3. flatcap said,

    August 27, 2007 at 4:37 am

    Our congregation recently went through an upheaval involving a couple of pastors, so I understand your concern. It may sound predictable, but I would recommend trusting the outcome of the process to God.

    I agree whole-heartedly that faithfulness should be considered above academic credentials. There’s one teacher in particular who comes to mind, who lived a couple of thousand years ago, who most definitely didn’t receive a seal of approval from the presiding religious authorities.

    Having witnessed the complete blow-up of an attempted co-pastorate at my own church, I’ve become convinced that the administration of churches is self-correcting, not always in a way that is pleasing to the people. The plan that’s always going to work out is His plan, no matter what, perhaps with a lot of hurt feelings and bruised egos as a result.

    A church or even an entire denomination may break apart, but His will will be done.

  4. August 27, 2007 at 9:16 am

    Lane
    I was down at Knox in Feb., and preached from the pulpit at the commencment in May of 2006. Kennedy was already in bad health and did not look good.The faculty from Knox Fowler, White , Cal Beisner Warren Gage, and Samuel Lamerson were doing their best to fill in during Kennedy’s absence- and giving the people a hearty diet of sound Biblical exposition I might add- but they all realize that the person who immediately follows Kennedy is more than likely probably going to be canon fodder. At least that is usually what happens in these kind of situation. Think back to what happened to the fellow that followed Barnhouse. It took almost a decade for that church to regain it’s balence with the coming of James Boice. That being said, it can be done, as in the case of Phil Ryken following Boice. But this was a tailor made situation in that Phil was being groomed for that very purpose. There is no one in the wings ,so to speak, like that at Coral Ridge. The future of Knox, for better or worst, also is at stake here, May God be pleased to bless the efforts of the search committee.

  5. tim prussic said,

    August 27, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    Cool… PhDs are snazzy!

  6. Steven Carr said,

    August 27, 2007 at 2:06 pm

    I don’t want to be too harsh on a man who has been greatly used by God, but if I was a member of Coral Ridge, I might not miss having Kennedy as a pastor. What I want to hear week to week is expository preaching on biblical texts not sermons about the Christianity of our founding fathers. There is a place for that but not the pulpit. I hope Coral Ridge finds a pastor who loves expository preaching.
    As for Evangelism Explosion, I have never been impressed by it. It is more a marketing scheme than evangelism. Think about it. Would you want some sap to come to your door and give a canned sales pitch? That is what EE is. My friend Terreth Klaver gave the best analogy of EE when he said it reminded him of the Borg on Star Trek. “You will be assimilated.”
    All that being said, Kennedy is a great man and greatly used by God he just had flaws like we all have.

  7. greenbaggins said,

    August 27, 2007 at 2:08 pm

    Yes, Gary, what happened at Tenth was very providential. The vote for Ryken was almost unanimous (I was there). And the membership never faltered. Instead, it continued to grow (and is still growing). I hope that you are wrong about the cannon fodder bit! But I understand what you are saying, and unfortunately, it is all too easy for something like that to happen. Di Gangi did not last long at Tenth, it is true. However, there were some race issues involved there (Di Gangi was adamantly opposed to racism, whereas some in the church were racist). Beyond that, I would not want to speculate.

  8. August 27, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    test… Rev. Keister, did my comment here earlier today show up on your moderation board? I was seconding Bob’s comment’s in #2 here (then #1 at the time)

  9. greenbaggins said,

    August 27, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    No, they didn’t show up, Eric. I am sorry that they were lost. Comments having two or more links will always be held for moderation, but I didn’t see any of your comments in my queue.

  10. August 27, 2007 at 7:47 pm

    It must be some problem with my computer then. I didn’t have any links in any of my unsuccessful postings. :/

    Oh well, here is basically what I was trying to post: Re: #2 – Thank you, Bob, for your due diligence in fully vetting that applicant’s application. We have indeed been blessed with a most godly and winsome man in Pastor Brian Webster, and your efforts helped ensure we got him instead. I know that I – as well as so many others at Christ Church of Arlington – have been most blessed by his ministry, and my prayer is to have such a loving heart as his. I pray, too, that Coral Ridge finds a similar man to replace Dr. Kennedy.

  11. Bedell said,

    August 27, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    Might it not be a wise course of action for Coral Ridge to seek an interim that might make a transition to a new minister a potentially easier task? Wise interims can be great bridges, allow search committees a bit of breathing room, and take some of the “this guy isn’t the old guy” shots.

  12. greenbaggins said,

    August 28, 2007 at 10:26 am

    Bedell, that would be an extremely wise thing for Coral Ridge to do right now. Someone older and wise, who can feed the flock temporarily.

  13. NHarper said,

    August 28, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    #6
    Have you ever tried EE yourself? It can be a very good tool for evangelism. We have to remember that it is just a tool. But, the Holy Spirit can and has used it to open many doors and hearts to the gospel. EE takes one out of his/her comfort zone and forces us to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit and not ourselves. That’s a good thing. As far as I know, EE is about the only evangelism going on in the PCA right now. 99% of new members in a church are PCA transfers. The majority of PCA members are sitting on their “covenant Laurels” assuming they and their children are all saved because of their covenant status. Sadly as a result, evangelism as a vital ministry has been pretty much abandoned in both the church and the home.

    Perhaps, the passing of the baton at Coral Ridge will serve as a wake-up call to the PCA. It seems to me the wolves have already been let in with the false gospel of the Federal Vision. The concern for faithful biblical expository preaching is a genuine concern – not just for Coral Ridge but for the entire denomination.

  14. Bedell said,

    August 28, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    NHarper, sadly truth be told probably the greatest percentage of growth across all NAPARC churches comes from Reformed transfers and picking off a few Baptists and others along the way. I praise the Lord for covenantal growth; but lament that we have so little impact reaching the lost. We leave them for the Charismatics and Baptists to reach.

  15. Steven Carr said,

    August 29, 2007 at 10:25 am

    NHarper,

    I took a class on evangelism at Reformed Bible College (now Kuyper College) which used the EE curriculum. We had to use it at several different venues, so, yes, I have used it. I don’t like it, though, nor do I think it fits the biblical model for evangelism. You are right that it is just a tool. We need tools to do evangelism, but we need the right tools. Don’t get me wrong, I think many, many people have come to faith through the EE ministry, but that doesn’t justify its use. Incidently, my friend and I were both called theological pinkos by our Evangelism professor. Preaching, Bible reading and catechizing are the only tools we need to help us do evangelism. It is a sad fact that we keep these things for ourselves and not use them to bring others to Christ. These things, the Bible said, are for the equipping and perfecting of the saints. Let’s use them to make new covenant members.

  16. R. F. White said,

    August 29, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    Steven Carr,

    For what it’s worth, your comments about Dr. Kennedy’s ministry in #6 are based on a mix of truth and misinformation. I have been one of the assistant pastors at Coral Ridge for most of the 14 years that I have been at Knox Seminary. Perhaps my comments will help.

    As for your characterization of the topics of Dr. Kennedy’s sermons, during the 36-40 weeks of his annual labors in the pulpit (the year’s remaining weeks are taken up with quarterly missions conferences and annual study leave), he regularly preached twice on Sunday morning and once on Sunday night. As a rule, the morning preaching focused on evangelizing unbelievers; the evening preaching focused on teaching the church’s members. The topic of the Christianity of our founding fathers was actually quite rare, being limited to Sundays that occurred around presidential birthdays. Of the sermons he preached, a fair estimate is that fewer than 1 in 10 were actually on that topic. If we were to add to that number his sermons on moral issues, the overall picture that emerges is that 8 in 10 his morning sermons were (yes) topical sermons from a Biblical text. In them his intent was to press the major claims of the Bible on man’s creation, fall, and redemption. His evening sermons ordinarily consisted of either a running commentary on a Bible book or a series on a Bible doctrine (such as the five points of Calvinism, the fourfold state of man, etc.).

    I share your keen preference for what I would call exegetical-doctrinal exposition of Bible books, but I temper my enthusiasm for it with the recognition that the examples of preaching that we have in the Bible are what most homileticians would call topical. That reality, together with the limitations of his training at Columbia Theological Seminary, account in large measure for the choices that Dr. Kennedy made with regard to the pulpit.

    As for your comments on EE, there are features of the ministry that I too would prefer to change because, as an EE teacher-trainer, I have seen and tried to correct its weaknesses. Your sweeping comparison of EE, however, to “a marketing scheme” in which “some sap [comes] to your door and give a canned sales pitch” lacks charity and portrays the ministry only in its worst possible expression. Don’t get me wrong: I have seen EE practiced in a manner pretty close to what you describe; that is not my point. My point is, rather, that EE ministries in local churches (and, evidently, at Kuyper College) face an issue that every other ministry in local churches faces: quality control. In the wrong hands, EE can be a poor tool—a marketing scheme, if you will; in the right hands, it can be a good tool.

    EE, however, is really not the bottom line, is it? The more basic issue is what Scripture requires of me as a teaching elder. Reflecting on my ministry some years ago, I realized that part of my scriptural job description, particularly as a teaching elder, is to do the work of an evangelist and to teach others to do the same. Before you say, “well, duh,” do yourself a favor and set those directives over against your own life and realize that, if you wanted to, you too could spend the rest of your earthly existence speaking thoughtfully only to Christians. Dr. Kennedy’s example taught me the folly of that perspective. He, of all the pastors I’ve known or observed, had every reason to delegate the doing and teaching of evangelism to somebody else. He didn’t delegate that assignment, however; he knew it was his own. I have never met a man, a Calvinist to boot, who strove more, in public and private, to see sinners won to Christ and who equipped them, once won, to win others to Christ too. In that regard—leaving the tool of EE out of the picture—Dr. Kennedy’s example changed the way I conceive my ministry. We need more elders to do as Dr. Kennedy did: do the work of an evangelist and teach others to do the same.


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