Thursday, November 8, 2007

New City Church

Church Field Trip #18 There are three reasons I wanted to check out New City Church.

  1. The name was different. I'll check out any church with a name that doesn't begin with "First Church of...." or carry a denominational tag in the name.

  2. The logo looks cool.

  3. The Senior Pastor, Tullian Tchividjian, is the grandson of Billy Graham. (I watch Billy Graham preach almost every Saturday night on t.v. This would explain why I am so geeked up to hear the Gospel on Sunday mornings. Graham can really lay the smack down, and I love every minute of it.)

This church was founded about 4 years ago. Their attendance runs at about 500 at two services at the Monarch High School auditorium. Upon arrival, we received no greetings, though one gentleman did hand me a bulletin (a twelve page booklet.) The bulletin/booklet listed just about every piece of information you could possibly want about the church: mission statement, order of service, the words to all of the songs - because they haven't been able to use a projector/screen in the school, 4 pages of ministry descriptions - more than 25 listed, as well as a list of all staff, elders, and deacons - we did notice that all of the deacons were men.

The worship was enjoyable, with a quaint, authentic atmosphere. The style was classic contemporary praise and worship choral anthems without the choir. They didn't do Shout to the Lord, but did manage to work in Awesome God, Come Ye Sinners Poor and Needy, and Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow. This church was heavy on the prayer, I like that. Before the sermon had even started, we had already prayed at least 4 times.

The preacher, Pastor Tchividjian, was young, energetic, and articulate. He spoke for almost an hour and he leaned heavily towards philosophy and intellectualism. I understood most of his references to philosophy, theology, authors and speakers, but I doubt that most would be able to keep up with him. I'd say that he was possibly too smart for his own good, at least in presentation. For more than a year now, he has been working his way through the book of Ephesians - a 7 page book with only 6 chapters. This week, he taught on Ephesians 6:13-20 - the armor of God, more specifically the Sword of the Spirit. Here are some excerpts from his teaching:

Sword of the Spirit = God's Word

God's Living Word = Jesus

God's Written Word = Scripture

"Many think that this means that we should simply know Bible verses to use in times of need." He criticized those who continually pick verses out and toss them about, without having a holistic view of the Bible.

"Red-Letter Christians make a fundamental mistake in thinking that the words of Jesus are more important than the rest of scripture."

His grandfather, Billy Graham, turns 89 this week. Recently, Graham told his grandson that he hasn't been able to read the Bible for more than a year because of poor eyesight. He is lucky that he knows the Bible so well through meditation and memorization. (During the sermon, he told 3 anecdotes about his grandfather and grandmother.)

The 3 Big Questions that Everyone Asks:

  1. How did it all begin?
  2. What is wrong with the world?
  3. What is the solution to the problem?

The Story of the Bible Answers those 3 Questions:

  1. Creation
  2. Fall
  3. Redemption

Why don't people read the Bible?

  1. Don't know where to begin.
  2. Don't understand much of what they've read.

He made a few off-the-cuff references to the Gospel. One member of our group described it perfectly by saying that the "preacher danced around the Gospel, but never actually presented it." Bummer. That's all I have to say about that.


Chris said...

Thanks for checking out this church and for the report that you gave. Heard that the pastor was a "five-point Calvanist". Did you sense any of that while you were there.

Because He is BG's grandson, I was very surprised that he danced around the Gospel. But then again... I've seen Billy Graham do some pretty good dancing too.

Keep up the good work.

revolution said...

I couldn't care less about the Calvinist/Arminian argument. So no, I didn't sense it.

I too, was surprised and dissapointed that he "danced around the Gospel."

I watch Billy Graham consistently, and he makes me want to repent and submit my life to Jesus every single time.

Tullian Tchividjian said...

Dear Lew,
Thank-you for visiting New City. I'm sorry that I did not get the chance to say "hello" to you. I'm sorry, as well, that you were not more warmly welcomed. Thank-you for giving me some points to ponder. God knows I never want anyone to get lost when they hear me preach and I never want the Gospel to be veiled--ever! Although I'm not exactly sure what you mean, "Danced aroud the Gospel" will be four words I'll never forget. I'll take them with me into every sermon I preach.

Blessings to you and your family!

Anonymous said...

Hey Lew... Man, 2007 is an interesting time, don't you think? As I read your post, I couldn't help the peculiar feeling that I was reading about a church the way I would a movie review or a restaraunt critique. Not that that's a bad thing at all, just different is all. And in this day and age, sadly enough, probably somewhat necessary.

I don't attend New City, but I've been there several times and have heard Tullian preach on numerous occasions. A couple of things that I couldn't help thinking:

1. In all the times I've heard Tullian preach (at least a few dozen in person and countless more times via podcast and his website), I've very rarely ever heard him mention his famous grandfather (or grandmother). So I have a hard time picturing him mentioning them 3 times in a single sermon. However I have heard him, on occassion, mention "my grandfather" or "my grandmother" - but certainly not by their famous names. (And to be honest and fair, I can't remember hearing a pastor that DIDN'T - from time to time - mention his or her grandparents in a sermon.) So I guess I find that part to be misleading, which I'm fairly certain is not your intent. I haven't listened to that particular sermon online yet, but I will - and will be curious to hear for myself what you're talking about.

2. Also, I agree with Tullian above, in that "I'm not exactly sure what you mean, 'Danced aroud the Gospel'". Again, its not really fair to make that statement without clarifying what exactly you mean. Do you mean he didn't have a traditional Southern Baptist altar call? Or a Billy Graham style invitation? Because at one point you mention that the meat of his sermon focused on Creation, The Fall, and Redemption - which sounds an awful lot like the meat-and-potatoes Gospel, if you ask me. So I question how he could on one hand dance around the Gospel, while on the other hand center his entire sermon around it.

Keep making a difference.

revolution said...

Dear Mr. Anonymous,

I think a church review is necessary in any day and age. Just look at the reviews Paul was getting about his churches.

You are correct that he didn't mention his grandparents by name (I think). You are also correct that that was not my intent. For once, it wasn't the preacher telling us an anecdote about their "2-9 year old children" which taught them a valuable spiritual lesson.

The reason I don't go into more detail about the particulars of the sermons is threefold.
1. I don't want to bore people to death.
2. I try to keep my posts relatively short (and the church reviews are by far already the longest posts on this site.)
3. As you said yourself, I usually link to the church website and even sometimes the sermon audio page as well. People can listen for themselves.

There are a handful of us that attend these churches, so after each visit, I am able to bounce my observations off of them as well.

Pastor Tullian did indeed say that the great message of the Bible is Creation/Fall/Redemption, which is right on the mark. Unfortunately, he didn't go any further to explain those three elements for the unchurched/non-believers in the house.

Too often, Christians, and especially Pastors forget how to think like an unbeleiver. I usually link the word "Gospel" in my posts to a video of Mark Driscoll delivering the Gospel in less than five minutes. Mark, like Tullian, preaches upwards of an hour. I think, in a 55 minute sermon, a preacher should be able to devote at least a couple minutes to clearly explain the Gospel to the unbeleivers in the house.

As I've said before concerning this matter. I'm not looking for a call to response/invitation or any "magic" words like sin, hell, redemption, etc. I am simply looking for the preacher to tell the non-beleivers in attendence the essence of the Gospel. Tullian almost did that. He told us the 3 Big Questions and the 3 Big Answers, but he did so in a manner which assumed we already knew what he was talking about.

Fil said...

pastor tulian,
thanks for your ministry, I believe you are solid when i com pare your ministry with the bible. i also notice your church is on 9marks(, praise God, Satan will not be able to deceive the elect.

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