In this interview with Leadership magazine, Tullian Tchividjian describes some of the ugliness and pain that resulted from attempting to merge his church plant with Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in 2009:

There were people in the choir who, when I would stand up to preach, would get up and walk out.

People would sit in the front row and just stare me down as I preached.

It was extremely uncomfortable. People would grab me in the hallway between services and say, “You’re ruining this church, and I’m going to do everything I can to stop you.”

I would come out to my car and it would be keyed. . . .

They put petitions on car windows during the worship service.

They started an anonymous blog, which was very painful . . . fueling rumors and lies. The blog almost ruined my wife’s life.

Anonymous letters were sent out to the entire congregation with accusations and character assassinations.

It was absolutely terrible.

He then recounts a family vacation that summer when he poured out his frustration to God. But then things began to change as he read God’s word:

But then I started thinking, why does this bother me so much? Yes, I have people writing nasty things about me, lying about me, spreading rumors about my team. They’re after power. And they’re not getting it, and these are the tactics they’re using. But why does that bother me so much?

I remember saying to God in that moment, “Just give me my old life back.” And he said, “It’s not your old life you want back. It’s your old idols you want back. And I love you too much to give them to you.”

I opened up my Bible. In the reading plan I was following, it so happened that the day’s passages included the first chapter of Colossians. As I read those verses, my eyes were opened. My true situation came into focus. I’d never realized how dependent I’d become on human approval and acceptance until so much of it was taken away in the roiling controversy at Coral Ridge. In every church I’d been a part of, I was widely accepted and approved and appreciated. I’d always felt loved in church. Now, for the first time, I found myself in the uncomfortable position of being deeply disliked and distrusted, and by more than a few people. Now I realized just how much I’d been relying on something other than the approval and acceptance and love that were already mine in Jesus. I was realizing in a fresh way the now-power of the gospel—that the gospel doesn’t simply rescue us from the past and rescue us for the future; it also rescues us in the present from being enslaved to things like fear, insecurity, anger, self-reliance, bitterness, entitlement, and insignificance. Through my pain, I was being convinced all over again that the power of the gospel is just as necessary and relevant after you become a Christian as it is before. When that biblical reality gripped my heart, I was free like I had never felt before in my life. It gives you the backbone to walk into a room full of church leaders and say “this is what we’re going to do and this is why we’re going to do it, even if it gets me thrown into the street.” There is a fresh I-don’t-care-ness that accompanies belief in the gospel. Whether you like me or not doesn’t matter, because my worth and my dignity and my identity are anchored in God’s approval. Christ won all of the approval and acceptance I need.

Tullian’s new book—just published by Crossway—is called Jesus + Nothing = Everything. There he tells the full story of what went wrong, and glories in the gospel afresh as liberating truth. It’s a great model for how to read Scripture—in this case the book of Colossians—and to apply these biblical teachings to our everyday life. Crossway has also put together a page of short video discussions from Tullian, designed to complement each chapter. Here’s an example from chapter 2: