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Teen’s ‘revolution’ continues 6 months after untimely death

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–It’s been six months since Chris and Kathy Johnson lost their 16-year-old son Nathan in a tragic car accident. Amid their grief, the Johnsons have a story to tell -– of their son’s love for life, football and, most importantly, his love for the Lord.

Last July, Nathan was on his way to football practice at Beech High School in Hendersonville, Tenn., when his Jeep Cherokee drifted across the centerline and struck a cement truck head-on. He died shortly after a LifeFlight helicopter transported him to the Vanderbilt University Hospital emergency room.

“We woke up that morning and we were excited because it was the first day of football practice,” Johnson said, recalling the early morning moments prior to Nathan leaving for school. “I remember sitting across the table from Nathan and I just looked at him. I was looking at how handsome he was, how smart he was and just how proud I was of him.” An hour and a half later Nathan was gone.

In months following the tragedy, Nathan’s testimony has echoed throughout America and even Germany and Africa, inspiring others with his penchant for leading the lost to Christ. On Friday, Feb. 16, Nathan’s witness will extend still further via a segment on the “700 Club.”

“We want Nathan to be remembered for his love for God and how he told others about Jesus,” said Johnson, pastor of Central Baptist Church in Hendersonville and editor in chief in LifeWay Christian Resources’
church resources division. “It is our desire that Nathan be remembered for the revolution he started for Christ.”

That “revolution” came from an entry in Nathan’s diary, written more than a year before his death. Nathan penned the following at his mission statement at Beech High School: “Today, through His mighty power and glorious grace, God has brought me back to Him. He has enlightened the eyes of my heart to His will in which He has with no doubt called me. His will for me is to radically impact my school for Him.”

Nathan was steadfast to his commitment and led many to the saving knowledge of Jesus. “Just nine days before he died, Nathan called me and said, ‘Dad, I just lead a ninth-grader to the Lord,” Johnson recounted. “That is what Nathan was all about. I knew he was committed to winning souls, but we didn’t know how pervasive it was until after his death.”

At his high school mission field, Nathan was determined that nothing would derail his efforts to boldly confess the Gospel, even if that meant forfeiting a contract with a record label. The day Nathan died, his band Through a Glass was scheduled to play at a local music venue where record company representatives would be in attendance. A music contract was within reach, but Nathan didn’t want to neglect ministering to his high school.

“Nathan always knew that his mission was his high school,” Johnson said. “He said if there was one person at Beech High School who needed to hear about Christ he would forfeit touring or signing with the record company.”

Nathan’s impact on his school and community was evident when more than 2,000 people attended his July 31 funeral. Many waited in line several hours during the family’s visitation. After a series of testimonies by families and friends at the funeral, Nathan’s older brother Andrew asked attendees to trust Christ as their Savior. More than 30 received Christ at the funeral and an estimated 300 more have professed faith in Christ as a result of his faith. The Feb. 16 segment on the 700 Club will focus on events since Nathan’s death, with interviews of his parents and various others.

Johnson said he and his family are “surviving” and continue to walk through the grief process. “We are so grateful to our LifeWay family,” the 10-year employee said. “So many have sent cards and e-mails. We are especially grateful for the prayers. Keep praying for us.”

Johnson added, “We have had many people express that they can’t imagine what we are going through. We always tell them -– don’t even try. It’s worse than you can imagine.” Healing is a process, he said, and part of that process is telling Nathan’s story so that others will know the hope and grace of Jesus Christ.

“[W]e want his story to motivate others to move out of their comfort zone and reach others for Christ.”

    About the Author

  • Kelly Davis Shrout