MIAMI — Christ Fellowship’s pastor Rick Blackwood announced his retirement as the church’s lead pastor on Sept. 8 during the launch of the message series “Season 15,” designed to build excitement as the church transitions to its 15th lead pastor.
“I have no greater joy than pastoring this church,” Blackwood told the congregation, “But I’ve got to tell you, after a heart attack, stage 3 colon cancer, and 44 years in the ministry, I cannot keep the pace for the vision that I helped cast.”
Under Blackwood’s leadership for the past 23 years, Christ Fellowship has grown from a single campus in Palmetto Bay to become a diverse and multicultural community with more than 80 nationalities represented, six campuses spread throughout the city of Miami and international campuses in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia and others. He will continue to serve the church as a member of the teaching team.
Planning for Blackwood’s succession began in 2016 when he received his cancer diagnosis. Today, Blackwood is cancer free, according to a church statement, but believes he has accomplished God’s purpose as the lead pastor of Christ Fellowship.
Blackwood will pass the baton of leadership to Omar Giritli upon approval by the church members during Sept. 21-22 worship services.
Giritli joined the Christ Fellowship family in 2009 as a student ministry intern. Not long after, he became pastor of small groups, launched and pastored Christ Fellowship Miami Springs Campus. He currently serves as the teaching pastor and director of campuses.
“I consider Omar my son in the ministry,” said Blackwood. “He is a young man that we all know, we all love, that loves Christ Fellowship, and preaches the Word of God with great authority and power.”
“I feel so honored to be considered for this,” said Giritli, as he was presented to the congregation as the lead pastor nominee during the Sept 7-8 services.“I have served this church for 10 years in so many different roles. I have served the Lord, the church, the staff, and the city of Miami with everything I have. And if this is something that the Lord wants for this church, then I am going to do my best. It will be the greatest honor of my life.”
“I think this is a well thought out pastoral transitional plan from the leadership of Christ Fellowship in promoting long time staff member Omar Giritli as lead pastor, while at the same time retaining Dr. Rick Blackwood to be a valuable member of the teaching team,” said Al Fernandez, southeast regional catalyst of the Florida Baptist Convention.“This combination of harnessing the strength of the younger generation and the wisdom of the older generation will serve the ministry of Christ Fellowship well for many more years to come.”
Blackwood will continue as a member of the church’s weekend teaching team and will teach church leaders in the Master of Arts program through the church’s partnership with Wheaton College.