By Victor Ochieng
Pastor Joel Hunter, who got famous after the public learned he was President Barrack Obama’s evangelical adviser is leaving Northland Church. Reports indicate that the pastor is stepping down from his position, a position the church will find to be quite challenging to fill.
“There is no one like Pastor Joel,” the church wrote in their statement announcing Pastor Hunter’s plans to relinquish his position after serving for about 30 years as the senior pastor. The pastor made his decision known to his staff on Wednesday, just after he arrived from his sabbatical.
In 1985, the church had hundreds of attendees, but through Hunter’s leadership, the church grew to 20,000 weekly attendees, gathering in three different locations. The tech-savvy pastor rose to become the first of few to lead multi-site congregations that offered streaming services.
Northland Church elders haven’t figured out the best timing or the most appropriate approach to handling the transition, although Hunter, 69-years-old won’t be completely retiring from the 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 spoke well of Hunter, calling him “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.”
Still, Rainwater reinstated Northland’s focus to “bring people to maturity in Christ” adding that they’ll “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 sits on the National Association of Evangelicals and World Evangelical Alliance boards. He became quite famous when he served in President Obama’s spiritual cabinet, coming years after he left the Christian Coalition.
“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 front line ministry.”
In his Northland bio, the pastor said more: “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.”