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Last updated: Tue. Aug. 12, 2014 - 10:51 am EDT

Pastor at north-side megachurch leaving

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The long-time senior pastor of one of Fort Wayne’s largest evangelical Protestant churches has resigned and will give his last sermon as pastor there Sunday.

Pastor Kelly Byrd of Blackhawk Ministries said Monday he had not found another position but is leaving under “really good conditions” between himself and the congregation’s board of elders.

“I think with my gifts and my experiences, I think they felt, and I felt, after a lot of consideration and prayer, it was a good time for me to jump into some opportunities I’ve been looking into for a while, and they could have a pastor who was a little more settled and focused on the needs of Blackhawk,” Byrd, 51, said.

Byrd’s departure was announced at church Sunday and on “The Bible Hour,” a telecast of its worship services that airs on Sunday mornings on local TV stations. Congregation members also were told after worship services Aug. 3 and by email.

Byrd has served the 2,100-member congregation, which also has a preschool, an elementary school, a middle school and a high school, for 18 years. He said he is investigating opportunities in corporate and nonprofit settings, as well as in ministry in leadership development or teaching Scripture.

Church staff members, including Jesse Hanna, operations pastor; Mark Webster, teaching pastor; and Mark Ahrens, financial controller, will lead the church on a temporary basis.

“We’ve got a very capable staff in place, and we’re sure they’ll do a great job,” Byrd said.

Byrd said a move has been in discussion for about three months. He said he is “not necessarily” leaving Fort Wayne but is considering options in the Chicago area and in Los Angeles, where he and his family lived before coming to Fort Wayne.

“Of the several options that I’m considering, Willow Creek (Community Church) and the Willow Creek Association is an organization I’ve often thought about, and we are in conversation,” Byrd said.

Byrd has been instrumental in bringing Willow Creek’s televised leadership conferences to Fort Wayne for several years. Willow Creek, a Chicago multi-site megachurch, will present its 2014 Global Leadership Summit from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday at Embassy Theatre. About 1,100 people from more than 100 churches are expected to attend.

Byrd also recently returned from his second mission trip to India, where the church is working with a group that rescues girls at risk for becoming victims of human trafficking. He said that relationship, with As Our Own, also would continue.

Byrd and his wife, Kebra, have five children, with the oldest two in college. He said the church has agreed to continue his salary until December.

He said no particular incident caused him to change career direction and added he appreciated the congregation and the time he spent with it. He will speak during an 18th anniversary celebration at Blackhawk, 7400 E. State Blvd., at 9 and 10:45 a.m. Sunday.

“Sometimes you get restless after a while,” he said. “We’re not sure where we’ll end up.”

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