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Church Culture

Elders at Large Calvary Chapel Melbourne Congregation Remove Founding Pastor from Position as Senior Pastor

Calvary Chapel Melbourne, a large congregation in central Florida, announced early in September that founding Pastor Mark Balmer would no longer be serving as senior pastor of the congregation.

Although we are sure Pastor Mark would want to stand in the pulpit until his last breath, the Elders with support of Senior Leadership, believe it is time for Pastor Mark to pass the baton,” elders said in a letter to the congregation. “We have been in discussion with Pastor Mark for the past two years, and although this decision was not easy to make, we believe it is the right time.”

Balmer, age 77, started the church almost 30 years ago while still working full-time as a pharmacy director at a nearby hospital. He eventually left his pharmacy career and entered the ministry full-time.

The congregation grew over time from a small congregation meeting in rented facilities to becoming “the largest multi-site church venue in Brevard County” with several thousand in attendance every weekend.

As part of its explanation of the change in leadership, the elders assured the congregation their decision “is in no way due to moral failure or any financial impropriety.”

Balmer’s future with the church seems uncertain at this point. According to the elders’ letter, they have “encouraged Pastor Mark to enjoy a long-deserved sabbatical after which we are in prayer with him as to the best utilization of his gifts to further serve our fellowship and the Body of Christ.” He has been given the title of Founding Pastor/Pastor Emeritus.

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Calvary Chapel Melbourne’s Facebook post of the letter received almost 1,000 comments, many of which praised Balmer’s leadership and others which questioned the decision and why the announcement was not delivered by Balmer himself.

On another of Calvary Chapel Melbourne’s Facebook posts about prayer, a fellow Calvary Chapel pastor in Sarasota, Carl Dixon, wrote, “ If he would move to Sarasota I would gladly step aside for him to take over the church here and be his biggest cheerleader. There is absolutely no reason for him to have been set aside (fired) as Pastor of [Calvary Chapel Melbourne].”

In reply to one post calling for more transparency, Calvary Chapel Melbourne replied, “We have chosen not to share certain details on social media, but if you continue to have questions about what happened please reach out to the pastors and elders as we are more than willing to share more info through personal conversations.”

The letter from Calvary Chapel’s elders also included an email address and invitation for any to contact the elders with concerns or questions.

MinistryWatch contacted Calvary Chapel Melbourne with follow-up questions about the decision but received no response.

Calvary Chapel Melbourne is part of the Calvary Chapel Association. The first Calvary Chapel began in Costa Mesa, California, by Chuck Smith. The non-denominational evangelical church movement has spread across the nation and the world and now encompasses over 1,800 congregations.

Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a freelance writer who holds a Juris Doctorate from Baylor University. She has home schooled her three children and is happily married to her husband of 25 years. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, gardening, and coaching high school extemporaneous speaking and debate.