Home Christian News Atlanta Pastor John Onwuchekwa to Leave the Ministry, but Not the Church

Atlanta Pastor John Onwuchekwa to Leave the Ministry, but Not the Church

John Onwuchekwa
Pastor John Onwuchekwa preaches at Cornerstone Church in Atlanta, Dec. 11, 2022. Video screen grab

(RNS) — Whenever John Onwuchekwa met someone new and that person asked what he did for a living, he never minded answering.

He was a pastor.

That title, he said, even in these skeptical times, was met with a certain amount of respect. And it’s a title he recently gave up, leaving him wondering what he’ll say now when asked what he does.

“That’s the question I fear,” he said.

Last week, Onwuchekwa, co-founder of the Crete Collective — which starts churches in communities of color — and a pastor of Cornerstone Church in Atlanta, announced that he was stepping down from his congregation at the end of the year.

His last sermon will be this Sunday (Dec. 18).

Onwuchekwa and his congregation made headlines in 2020 when he and the church broke ties with the Southern Baptist Convention over what he saw as a lack of urgency in dealing with issues of race. At the time, Onwuchekwa was a rising star in the SBC, helping other Black pastors connect with the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.

“The SBC liked me,” he wrote in 2020. “But I feel like they’ve failed people like me.”

Onwuchekwa said he and other leaders at the church have been talking for months about his possible transition. In 2021, he cut back to half time at the church, becoming a bivocational pastor, so he could have time to write and pursue projects outside the church.

RELATED: For some pastors, the past year was a sign from God it was time to quit

Pastor John Onwuchekwa. Courtesy photo

Those projects still ended up taking a great deal of his time away from Cornerstone, which Onwuchekwa helped found in 2015. The church had grown fairly quickly to a congregation of about 400 people, which brought challenges.

Onwuchekwa said his skill set fits well with being a pastor of a startup congregation — gathering people together, setting a vision and getting the church off the ground. But he felt he didn’t have the kind of administrative skills needed to pastor a larger congregation.

“There was a mismatch between the church’s needs and my gifts,” he said.