By Felicia A. Petro/Senior Reporter
With many pastors leaving their church families, David Johnson is celebrating 25 years with his.
Johnson, 68, has spent a quarter of a century at First Baptist Church on Cranberry Road in Pine Township.
When Johnson, his wife Lois and their growing family, arrived "The church had undergone some trauma," he said. Since, "We have seen the Lord do some really great things in people's lives. ... I am thankful I have been able to be involved in people's lives preaching the word and helping folks through some difficult times."
It seemed to be destined from the start.
The first time Johnson came as a guest speaker at First Baptist, a young woman came the first time with her baby, Charity.
He preached on 1 Corinthians 13, which speaks about charity - referring to love, which makes it famously known as the "love chapter" that has been recited in countless wedding ceremonies: "If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have charity (love), I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal," states vs. 1.
The Johnsons "had the joy of seeing (Charity) grown up and eventually became our church secretary," he added. "She has since moved on but it was exciting to see a baby eventually (be involved in the church)."
Church growth has continued at First Baptist "and real answers to prayer," Johnson said. "We have enlarged our missionary family and we've seen one of our young ladies go out as a missionary to Mexico. That's always a thrill for a pastor to see young people serving the Lord. She met her husband there."
First Baptist put an addition on the building with an elevator to make it more accessible for the handicapped.
"The Lord has done some really great things in the area of finances with our little church. When people are challenged to give, they respond in a great way," Johnson said. "I think stability is a key word."
The church is over 100 years old, and was formerly on the corner lot of North Center and West Main streets, where a BP now exists. The current one was built in the 1960s.
Johnson is originally from Grayling, Mich.; his wife, Bay City.
"Her uncle was a member of my father's church and came to visit and sparks flew," he said.
Johnson went to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago for his undergraduate work and the two married thereafter; they have four grown children in their 30s and 10 grandchildren. He also attended seminary at Washington (D.C.) Bible College.
First Baptist "is my fourth pastorate," he said. His first was for three years at a church in Saginaw, Mich., then seven years each in Great Falls, Va. and Woodbridge, Va. The latter two were in the D.C. metro area.
In his denomination, pastors are voted in by congregations and can stay unless "they get sick of us and we move on," he said.
He and Mrs. Johnson heard of the needs locally and applied, arriving from the D.C. area in 1987. "The Lord opened the door here. This church needed a pastor and we came up and we liked the people and liked the church," Johnson said. "I guess it was a good time."
Mrs. Johnson "has certainly been a big help," her husband said, concerning church work. She's also worked secretarial jobs, including one at Grove City College and her current position with an ear, nose and throat specialist at Grove City Medical Center.
They've not moved on because, "We love the people. We love the town of Grove City. It's just a wonderful place to live. I can't say enough about it. It's got that small-town atmosphere, yet close to the big city of Pittsburgh. All the way around we really enjoyed it," Johnson said. "Our kids have kind of grown up here. I guess it's home."
At 68, Johnson plans to retire in Grove City "unless the Lord has other plans and moves me on," he said. Otherwise, he has no plans to leave First Baptist just yet. "I want to go as long as I can but there are some physical challenges I face," he noted.
Johnson believes the model of a good church is based on the Bible.
"A biblical philosophy is that the church is actually the ministry. The members are really the ministers. And the pastor is the teacher and equipper of the saints to be involved in the ministry," he said. "It's great to see people serve in many capacities and reach out to others."
With so many ministers burning out from leading churches, Johnson has seen his time pastoring as a "privilege," he said.
"It's a wonderful thing to pastor, if the Lord works in your heart and directs you to the ministry," Johnson said. "It's kind of difficult but very rewarding. There's not one personality type that is 'the' pastor and everyone else is inferior. God can use you just as you are if you present yourself to Him."
Published Dec. 8, 2012, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.