• For the Rev. Olu Brown, the decision to retire from local ministry was part of a 30-year journey that began at age 13.
• He offers a vision for “Normalizing Next,” moving through life transitions without fear and open to God’s call for the future.
• Life is meant to be lived with curiosity, faith and risks, going from the “now and here” to the “next and there.”
On Sunday, May 16, I stood on the stage at Impact United Methodist Church and shared with the world that I was retiring from pastoring in the local church.
This was a big announcement. Immediately afterward, I was flooded with calls, texts and emails with words of congratulations, shock and surprise.
Although hearing the announcement may have seemed like a single moment for the viewers, for me it was part of a long journey that began at the age of 13, when I was given the opportunity to serve in my hometown church praying and reading Scripture. The opportunity the pastor and church gave me set into motion a wonderful journey of global and passionate ministry that was more than I could have ever imagined at 13 years old. So, when I gave my announcement, it was not one moment, but it was the millions of moments that I had experienced over a 30-year period.
We can never assume that life happens by chance or luck. Rather, we are part of a larger and grander plan that God Almighty has for us, and each moment we experience is a moment of grace and favor.
During my retirement announcement, I cast the vision around the idea and philosophy of Normalizing Next and how we can embrace life and live life to the fullest right now, if we aren’t afraid of next and how God wants to use us in the future. It’s all about seeing next as normal and being prepared for the future instead of being anxious. In other words, we choose faith over fear, hope over despair and abundance over lack.
I have had the great fortune of being a church planter and serving as the lead pastor of the church plant called Impact for more than 14 years. I knew from the very first day as the founding pastor that the time would come when I would have to say goodbye to my role as the lead pastor and my role as a pastor in the local church. Although coming to this awareness was not easy, it was possible because I fully embraced my next and refused to get stuck in now.
Sometimes people can never transition into what God has for them next because they are not willing, or prepared, to release now.
Isaiah 43:19 CEB is one of the most powerful Scriptures in the Bible, speaking not only to Israelite exiles living in Babylon but also to modern-day believers stuck in now: “Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness.” The very first word, “Look!” is enough to release inspiration within the soul of the receiver to remind them that there is more to life than now or here, because God is calling you to next and there.
Since making my announcement, I have been blown away with the number of people who have been inspired by my decision to make next normal and not abnormal and are applying the inspiration of the decision and the inspiration of Normalizing Next to their personal and professional lives. They are awakening to the promises of God on their lives, and they are daring to “Look!”
Normalizing Next is more than a pastor making a decision to retire or a dynamic church named Impact daring to navigate the change and transition of a founding pastor. It is a movement of hope and inspiration declaring and decreeing that life is meant to be lived and fully embraced in times when we are sure and in times when we are unsure. Life is meant to be lived with curiosity, faith and risks, knowing that God is doing a new thing within you and the world you live in.
My prayer for you is that you choose to live and not just exist. That you choose to thrive and not just survive. That you choose eternal joy and not temporary happiness. You have a choice today. I made my choice, and I am living my next. I hope you choose your next and make it normal and not abnormal. I will see you in your next.
Brown is the founding pastor of Impact United Methodist Church in Atlanta. Normalizing Next is trademarked.
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