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There’s a lot to take in when you meet Christ Community Church Pastor David Johnson.
A jovial man who always seems to have a smile on his face, he’s quick to greet people at the door of his church on Sunday morning, and even quicker to hug them.
He’s been preaching for 50 years now, and has the attitude of a man that truly loves his work. Yet, the happy pastor is entering a new phase of his life.
He’s taking a step back and retiring.
“They gave me a reception honoring my retirement at 11 years here,” Johnson said of his retirement party. “It was on my birthday, and it marked 50 years in public ministry. I don’t feel 50 years old. It’s hard to believe I’ve been in ministry for 50 years, but it’s been an honor.”
The son of a Baptist preacher, Johnson was born in Memphis, Tennessee, but would quickly find himself in Arkansas through his father’s ministry.
He found Christ early in life and was baptized at the young age of seven. A few short years later, a teenage Johnson found himself wrestling with his faith and his father.
“I just heard this very personal voice that said, ‘David, I want you to preach,’” said Johnson. “I surrendered to that call just like I did the call to give my life to Christ at seven, but shortly after changed my mind because of my dad and our conflict. I said, if that’s what he is, that’s the last thing I want to be. So, it took me about four years to work through that.”
Johnson described the time in his life as a low point, but one that he would eventually overcome after learning how to differentiate between his earthly father and heavenly father. By 17, Johnson stepped up to the pulpit for the first time at Macedonia Baptist Church, his father’s latest church, in Harrisburg, Illinois.
From that moment on, Johnson’s life was fully dedicated to becoming a full time pastor.
After graduation from high school, the budding minister packed up and began attending Williams Baptist University, a college closely linked to family through his grandfather, who taught at the school. His mother was one of the school’s first graduates.
During this time, Johnson met his wife, Roxanne Smith. The two would get to know each other through various school activities before finally taking the plunge.
“We were both engaged to other people when we arrived at school,” Johnson said. “It ended with both of us breaking off those relationships. I proposed to her before I went overseas as a summer missionary. I proposed to her on the phone and sent our engagement rings by mail. We planned our wedding by snail mail over the entire summer.”
After returning from the West Indies, the two quickly married. Following their wedding, the couple began attending Judson College in Illinois, where they would graduate with a Christian religion and philosophy degree.
From there, the couple would move to Kansas city, where Johnson would finally attend the Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary to earn his Master of Divinity degree in Biblical Studies and a Doctor of Ministry degree in Family Ministry.
“I started as a youth pastor in Rockford, Illinois at Calvary Baptist Church,” Johnson said. “I went from there to the First Baptist Church of Addison, Illinois. That’s were I was ordained, and then I went to Seminary.”
While in Seminary, Johnson pastored on the weekends at Baptist church in Spickard, Missouri, driving 110 miles one way each weekend to fulfill his duties. Following the completion of his masters degree, Johnson took up a preaching at Mosby Baptist Church in Kansas City. He would serve there for six years.
His wife would give birth to their first child, Adrienne Johnson, during this time. He said that becoming a new parent while preaching and finishing his doctorate was a challenge, but he was able to pull through.
With his doctorate and newborn in hand, Johnson would move his family back to Arkansas.
“I accepted a church in Horseshoe Bend, Arkansas, which was coming home for my wife. She’s a native of Arkansas,” Johnson said.
Johnson learned a lot during his time in Horseshoe, and even welcomed the birth of his son Nathan.
Yet, Horseshoe Bend would not be Johnson’s final church. Some six years after joining the church, the more experienced pastor received a call to move to Mountain Home to become the pastor of First Baptist Church of Mountain Home, one of the city’s largest and most prominent churches.
And the church was good to Johnson, who would stay on as pastor for 20 years before deciding to resign in 2011.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Johnson said. “For almost a year, at least nine months, I didn’t know what I was going to do. We had been praying about it, what to do next, and I was sitting at Bomber Stadium in the rivalry game between the Bombers and Harrison Goblins. All the hollering, screaming and cheering faded into white noise and I had that same inner voice that spoke to me when I was seven and thirteen. It just quietly said, ‘I want you to start a church.’”
Johnson committed and told his wife about his new plan to create a new church in Mountain Home. Christ Community Church was born.
The couple began to dive in, opting to leave behind their Baptist roots in favor of creating a non-denominational church where everyone from all walks of life could be welcome.
Johnson said the decision was based on his own experiences as a pastor. Most people, Johnson said, don’t walk through the doors of churches because they feel that they would be unwelcome for being raised as different denomination.
By eliminating the distinction between Baptist, Catholic or Methodist, Johnson hoped to welcome more people into a life with Christ. He would host his first church gathering in the halls of First Assembly of God after an invitation to use the building by Pastor Mike Howl.
Eleven years later, and Christ Community Church is now a flourishing church that is filled with people from all walks of life.
“I was happy to finish a 10 year anniversary, that’s a great mile marker,” Johnson said. “There have been amazing people in every church that I’ve ever gotten to serve. Christ Community Church has excelled at the top of the list. I’m thankful that I got to end my official career here.”
While Johnson is stepping back as leader of Christ Community Church, churchgoers can still expect to see him on stage from time to time as the church’s senior pastor emeritus thanks to the church’s new pastor Robert Weisner, who asked Johnson to occasionally help preach following his retirement announcement.
In those moments where he won’t be preaching, Johnson will be traveling back and forth between the Gulf Coast and San Diego to visit his son, Nathan, his daughter, Adrienne, her husband, Steven, and his granddaughter, Blakeley.
Christ Community Church is a non-denominational church for people of all ages and background, and features programs for children, youth and adults. The church is regularly involved in missionary work in locations like Africa, where they focus on helping impoverished communities and churches gain access to clean drinking water.
Service at Christ Community Church begins at 10 a.m., with communion taking place before service starts. A nursery is provided for toddlers. Children four and up usually attend worship service before being dismissed to the youth program.
The C3 Café is also available for those wanting to grab a quick bite to eat and drink before heading in to worship.
Christ Community Church is located at 1605 Hwy. 201 N. in Mountain Home, Arkansas.
“We want Christ to be first,” Johnson said. “We want anybody and everybody in the community to know that they’re welcome here. They’re wanted. They don’t have to grow up Baptist, they don’t have to be anything. We’re all about connecting people with Christ. We want to do that with everybody in the community that we can.”