Joel Hunter Is Done Pastoring His Orlando Megachurch

Obama’s spiritual adviser explains why his gifts are at 'their highest potential' but his call to local churches like Northland is ‘fulfilled.’

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.

 

Joel Hunter, the innovative megachurch pastor who spoke out on the national stage as an evangelical adviser to President Barack Obama, is stepping down from Northland Church in order to minister “outside the four walls of the church.”

“My call to the pastoral role in a church is fulfilled,” wrote Hunter after serving 32 years as the Orlando-area church’s senior pastor and a previous 15 years as a United Methodist pastor.

While grateful for Northland’s accomplishments at discipling its congregants and community, he explained that, like Jesus, he now feels called to focus on those “unincluded in the Kingdom” outside religious settings.

“My experience, relationships, and apostolic gifting are at their highest potential,” wrote Hunter, “and I will spend them in the most productive way possible in this final season of my journey.”

“There is no one like Pastor Joel,” Northland wrote in a statement announcing Hunter’s plans, which he revealed 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.”

Hunter explained:

“You’ve often heard me express a desire to serve at Northland for the rest of my life. So you may be asking, ‘What changed?’

I believe God will continue using Northland in wonderful ways, but He is calling me to focus my life on a new season of ministry outside the four walls of the church.

When I knelt at the altar to give my whole life to Jesus, I was a part of the Civil Rights movement. My focus on Jesus was not only for personal salvation after this life but also for compassion towards the marginalized in this life. My call to follow Jesus and serve the vulnerable is stronger than ever.

Jesus often taught in different synagogues but the bulk of his teaching and work was outside established religious settings. Following his way, I will seek to include the unincluded in the Kingdom.

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