After nearly 40 years at the helm of the Forest Hill Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, which he built from a 180-member congregation into a 4,000-member, six-campus ministry, Pastor David Chadwick has resigned.
More shocking, however, is his realization that the multi-campus church model, so popular in America’s suburbs and pastors to expand their influence, may not be the best model.
“Looking ahead, through discussions with my family and the council of elders about the future of the church, I have concluded Forest Hill would benefit from new leadership. So today, I want to let you know I will no longer serve as senior pastor of Forest Hill Church,” the 69-year-old announced in a letter to his congregation Thursday after pointing to a 10-year vision that has already been established for the church.
Stacey Martin, a spokeswoman for the church, told The Charlotte Observer that Chadwick’s resignation was voluntary and the church would form a transitional leadership team to determine its next steps.
“The campus pastors will be sharing preaching responsibilities and will work collaboratively with senior leaders to continue to lead Forest Hill while we format the next leadership structure of the church,” Martin said.
Despite his resignation, Chadwick said he and his wife, Marilynn, have no desire to get out of ministry altogether and pointed to plans to expand his “Moments of Hope” media ministry.
“Marilynn and I feel called to the opportunity to expand our ministry through the work of Moments of Hope, which is positively affecting lives nationally and internationally through our media outreach. We also feel the continued call to serve the Charlotte region where we have spent our lives in ministry together,” he said.
“As I approach my 70th birthday, please know I am as excited about sharing God’s Word today as I was in 1980 when I came to this church. While I will broaden the focus of my ministry, I will remain in Charlotte and faithful to God’s direction in His service so people everywhere may know and grow their relationship with God through the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” he added.
Chadwick, who has three children and five grandchildren, told The Charlotte Observer that part of the reason behind his resignation was because he wanted to see his family more often and reduce stress. He added that he was open to the idea of starting over as a pastor at a much smaller church.
“I love to build things,” Chadwick told the publication. “With God’s help, I built (Forest Hill) from 180 members to however many thousands it is right now. … It’s in great health. So I asked myself: ‘Do I want to continue to oversee this, or do I want to build something new?’”
He said while he loves preaching he had grown weary of some of the administrative responsibilities of running the 150 staff, $25 million a year operation.
“I’ve told Marilynn many, many times that if I didn’t have preaching opportunities every week, I’m not sure I would want to do this job,” Chadwick said. “It’s so much — meetings, planning, staff oversight, job performance reviews — all of those things.”
Chadwick, who’s also working on his 10th book, said the church has not yet decided on his replacement and is considering making each of Forest Hill Church’s campus pastors more autonomous.
He said prior to his decision to resign he had started having doubts about the multicampus church model where lead pastors mainly connect with the congregation through video.
“Churches all over the country are doing it, with videos shown on the screen in other places,” Chadwick said, “Elevation (Church) is probably the primary example here in Charlotte. You know, I just began to wonder more and more — how effective is that?
“I know I’m a good communicator … I can have people come and listen. But doesn’t a pastor need to speak to his people? So I began to struggle with that, too,” he said.