Joel Hunter, the tech-savvy megachurch pastor who spoke out on the national stage as an evangelical adviser to President Barack Obama, is leaving Northland Church with a big spot to fill.
“There is no one like Pastor Joel,” the Orlando-area church wrote in a statement announcing Hunter’s plans to step down after more than three decades as its senior pastor. He broke the news to staff on Wednesday, after returning from an annual sabbatical.
Under his leadership, Northland grew from a couple hundred people in 1985 to 20,000 weekly attendees at three locations, and Hunter became an innovative leader among the early wave of pastors building multisite congregations with streaming services.
Elders at his nondenominational congregation have not yet identified the “best timing” or plan for his transition following the announcement, which indicated that Hunter, 69, will not fully retire from ministry.
“Pastor Joel made it clear to us that he is not finished serving God and this community,” stated Northland’s lead pastor, Vernon Rainwater. “However, he has completed his pastoral call.”
Rainwater praised Hunter for being “a man of integrity, full of compassion for others and infectious love for Jesus Christ,” as well as “a catalyst for worship and service throughout this city and around the world.”
Meanwhile, Rainwater stated that Northland will remain focused on its purpose to “bring people to maturity in Christ” and will “continue to be a community that includes the unincluded, the marginalized, and gathers to worship God for who He is and what He has done.”
Hunter, who serves on the boards of both the National Association of Evangelicals and the World Evangelical Alliance, famously served as a moderate evangelical (and registered Republican) on Obama’s spiritual cabinet, having resigned from the Christian Coalition a couple years earlier.
“Politics is one venue in which the Lord can work, but his plan A has always been the local congregation,” Hunter said in a 2009 CT profile. “My calling is to be part of that frontline ministry.”
He explained more in his Northland bio: “I am not partisan, nor am I politically oriented. But as God has ordained three institutions—the family, the church, and the government—I work as a pastor in all three of these arenas to promote love and caring and service, especially to those who need it most.”
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SOURCE: Christianity Today