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Investment adviser ventures to bivocational church

VANCOUVER, Wash. (BP) — A mind for finance coupled with a heart for ministry is a natural recipe for bivocational ministry for Jonathan Johnson.

Firmly ensconced in the financial world as a registered investment adviser, Johnson worked his way through college and an MBA program.

“I worked fulltime at a bank, then became a manager at a credit union while going to school fulltime at night,” Johnson said. He also married his wife Kristen at age 18 after meeting her at a youth camp five years earlier.

But Johnson also felt called to ministry at a young age and started a Bible study as a student at Centennial High School in Gresham, Ore., that drew up to 30 people.

He subsequently served alongside pastor Troy Pound at The Crossing Baptist Church in Hillsboro, Ore., west of Portland, as worship leader; preached occasionally at various churches throughout the Portland area; and assisted pastor Aaron Bennett during the early stages of Spring of Life, a new church in downtown Portland.

Then Johnson was asked to speak at Evergreen Baptist Church in nearby Vancouver, Wash., on short notice due to an illness.

That initial encounter eventually led to an invitation to become Evergreen Baptist’s pastor, a calling the 29-year-old relishes.

“It is a small church that was in need of a pastor who could support himself,” he said.

Recapping his early months at the church, Johnson noted, “There are two large apartment complexes near our facility and I want our church to be healthy so we can reach out to those around us. I would like to start community groups that meet at the apartments.

“Right now we are focused on improving our building for first impressions of newcomers. I’m a ‘charge-ahead’ guy and our church hasn’t been used to this level of activity, so they are putting a lot of trust in me.”

Neighbors saw some of the activity as walls were painted, old carpet removed and new flooring installed. Also underway is the election of deacons, changes to Sunday School, updated financial plans and added staff.

“We placed an ad on Craigslist for a worship leader because I was initially teaching adult Bible study, leading worship and preaching,” Johnson said. “I probably interviewed 50 people before finding Alex Abdallah, who is also bivocational, and we have recently added Stephen Eastburn as a children’s pastor through the same method.”

Though Johnson travels occasionally to manage work-related concerns of $2 billion in assets, his firm is supportive of his new schedule and he spends his lunch hour studying, making calls and taking care of other pastoral concerns.

“I get to share my faith frequently at work,” Johnson said. “A lot of people there are quite open and most know I’m a pastor.”

Kristen Johnson is on board as she supports her husband’s new ministry and cares for 4-year-old daughter Kaylee, who is included at renovation work parties. A new church logo and website designed by Kristen present a contemporary online presence.

Evergreen Baptist will hold a Vacation Bible School in mid-August, the first VBS in several years at the church. Johnson’s ordination to the Gospel ministry is slated in the future, and he plans to attend seminary.

“We have been focused on our facility, but we’re sending out mailers, door hangers and invitations to our neighbors,” Johnson said. “We want to meet tangible needs for those in nearby apartment complexes. We have already grown without really trying through this phase. Ultimately, I would love to help other churches do what we are doing, by revitalizing churches and seeing new churches birthed.”

While Johnson would consider fulltime ministry in the future, he feels called to his bivocational role, having sold his home in Gresham to move to his new ministry location.

“I have sense of peace and inevitability,” Johnson said, “with how God engineered my circumstances.”

    About the Author

  • Sheila Allen/Northwest Baptist Witness

    Sheila Allen is managing editor of the Northwest Baptist Witness (GoNBW.org), newsjournal of the Northwest Baptist Convention. Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston contributed to this article.

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