Last night I read that Shaun King resigned on September 1 as pastor of Courageous Church in Atlanta, GA. Here’s what he said to the congregation:
After much prayer and many discussions with my family, friends, and mentors, I have decided that it is time for me to transition out of my role as Lead Pastor of Courageous Church. These three years have been the most meaningful, fulfilling, exciting years of my life and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
I thank God that I am not stepping down in shame or scandal, but it is clear that God is calling Rai and I to take our family in a direction that is just significantly different than what most in the church are asking for. Over the past 6 months I have taken Courageous Church down a difficult, counter-cultural road in an earnest attempt at building true disciples. It’s been rough. All but a few families are now yearning to go back to a traditional Sunday focused system and I am sure that I am not the person to lead you there.
I know this will cause many mixed emotions, but just know that I am making this decision out of a sincere desire to never lead you in a direction that I don’t actually believe in myself.
I did not know King before reading about this decision, but he has apparently made quite a name for himself. Calling himself a “techie-humanitarian,” his website notes that he has launched nearly a dozen different successful startups designed to help empower and show compassion to hurting people throughout Atlanta, as well as Haiti and other developing nations. He has won numerous awards and has been the subject of articles in many major periodicals and media outlets.
One of his entrepreneurial efforts resulted in a “successful” church plant known as Courageous Church.
Shaun King described Courageous Church as a “super cool Sunday worship-service-centered church with 700 people.” The church was intentionally diverse, with a mixed race congregation, and it was viewed as one of the cutting edge churches in the city. In developing the plant, King followed the advice of church growth experts who counseled him to focus on making the Sunday morning service a special, dynamic “worship experience.” This, they told him, is what draws people and keeps the church exciting and growing. Looking back, Shaun King now says, “I sold my soul for church attendance in our first week and I could never quite get it back.”
When he realized it had all been a mistake, that everything revolved around the Sunday morning “show,” and that the church was not making disciples or looking anything like Jesus and the priorities of his ministry, he tried to change things. He tried to transform the congregation from their Sunday morning focused program into a community based in small groups that would meet monthly for large group celebrations. People responded well to his sermons about this. His leadership helped set up the structure.
Within three months, he lost 85% of his congregation.
And as of this month, he has stepped down from pastoral leadership in the congregation.
Hooray for Shaun King! He has proven himself perhaps the most courageous member of Courageous Church. He was willing to say, “The emperor has no clothes,” even when it cost him his ministry. He had enough insight to see that megachurch Christianity bears little resemblance to anything seen in the NT, that “church growth” principles may build American cultural Christianity but can be deadly for the way of Christ.
As he himself put it:
What I am saying is that church attendance, Sunday morning services, sermon-listening (or even sermon preaching), song-singing, hand-clapping, amen-saying and all the other things that “Christ-ians” have lifted up so high look so little like Christ himself that I am utterly convinced that we are completely off base with what discipleship means. Considering all of this, I think I have given up on church as I knew it. Big buildings. Huge crowds. Few disciples. I’m not with it. It’s inefficient and just doesn’t feel right with my soul. This is not a rejection of big buildings or huge crowds, but an indictment on how few disciples are being made in the process of it all. A better way has to exist.