JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After 12 years in the pulpit of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, that is where Mac Brunson announced Sunday that he was resigning as senior pastor. Then he and his wife, Debbie, left the sanctuary.
"Deb and I are stepping away from the church at the end of the month [April 30]," Brunson wrote in a statement posted online. "My last Sunday to preach will be next Sunday morning, May 6."
In his announcement to the congregation, Brunson noted there is no place of ministry awaiting him and his wife, but they are "excitedly waiting for the Lord to show us His perfect will for our lives."
The congregation was stunned by Brunson's announcement, sources told Georgia Baptists' Christian Index.
Brunson, who came to First Baptist in February 2006 after seven years as senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, wrote that he and his wife have spent the last several weeks looking "in three directions -- inward, outward, and upward. Allow me to reminisce as we look back over our ministry here."
Heath Lambert, who was hired in 2016 and was elevated to co-senior pastor of the 10,000-member church last year, will lead the church.
I am so grateful for the ministry of Mac Brunson, and am praying for his next phase of fruitful ministry. https://t.co/SwLcrvEaAq— Heath Lambert (@HeathLambert) April 30, 2018
First Baptist, one of the Jacksonville's largest churches and which owns several city blocks downtown, has long been influential in politics and civic affairs in the city.
The church issued a statement addressing what might appear to those outside the church as an abrupt change in leadership.
"Whenever a pastor leaves a place of service it is common for rumors of a scandal to circulate. We want to be clear that no such scandal exists at First Baptist, or in the ministry of Dr. Brunson," the statement said. "Dr. Brunson’s service has been characterized by moral and ministerial faithfulness, and no individual or group within our church asked him to leave."
Brunson concluded his online post to the congregation saying: "We love you. We leave a little of our hearts here with you. We take a part of you with us as we look to the future. We trust that the greatest days are ahead for First Baptist Jacksonville."