More than 14 years after launching Impact Church in Atlanta, Georgia, with just 25 volunteers, Olu Brown announced Sunday that he plans to retire as lead pastor of one of the United Methodist Church’s fastest-growing congregations in June 2022.
The progressive, church which boasts a weekly attendance of 2,400 in-person and 1,600 online, was ranked among the top-five quickest-growing large United Methodist churches in 2019.
“With any call that God gives us for our lives, there will always be a vision. And as we move toward realizing that vision, it becomes clear that the call is much greater than we can ever think or imagine,” Brown, 43, said in his announcement. “Impact is part of my call, and when God gave me the opportunity to partner with 25 launch team volunteers to start this ministry, I knew there would come a time where God would call me beyond Impact Church.”
Once he steps down as pastor of Impact Church, Brown is expected to pursue entrepreneurial and consulting endeavors full time. He aims to start a “Normalizing Next” movement to celebrate and promote succession planning, retirement and pastoral transition.
“I count it an honor to have been the founding and lead pastor of Impact Church and I will always be grateful for my time as a pastor and servant leader in the local church,” Brown said.
“Over the years, I have had the opportunity to serve in ministry with phenomenal people and travel the world. I will always cherish my wonderful ministry experiences and the people I have been honored to know and serve. Life and living is a continuous journey and a series of next and I hope to help people ‘Normalize Next’ and embrace tomorrow with hope and expectation. When I think about one of the most important themes of my ministry, it has been about helping people change, transition and embrace their next.”
Before he takes off from the church he founded, Brown will help the church’s new lead pastor settle in once an appointment is made by the Bishop of the North Georgia Conference, Sue Haupert-Johnson.
“It goes without saying that a change like this can be difficult to understand, but change does, in fact, happen, and when it does, we embrace it and move in the direction where that change is taking us,” Sheldon Snipe, Impact Church’s Staff Parish Relations Committee chairperson, said in a statement.
“This is a very exciting time for Olu, and for Impact, and we are confident that our plan to transition the leadership of our outgoing and incoming pastors will ensure undisrupted continuity to our ministry.”
Robert M. Franklin Jr., the Laney chair in moral leadership at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology and former president of the Interdenominational Theological Center, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Brown is a “pioneer” in establishing “inspiring innovations in 21st-century urban ministry that has been copied by others.”