Catechism     No. 421  |  July 2014     Study     Faith 101     Life     The Church     A Preacher's Confession     Sisters     Politics     Keeping It Real     Zion     Donate

I came to a point in my walk that I wondered if God really cared. In the midst of the pain and being sick so much I just could not understand how a loving God would allow his child to go through all of this. I was hurting and felt all alone. I have learned that I can call on God even though I don’t understand why I had to go through this all. He has shown me that He has a 911 for me to call. The line will never be busy. There won’t be any mix up with the address. There won’t be any traffic jams to slow down the response. God is an on-time God. He will be with us in our time of need.

by Dr. Henry Johnson

The nurse had just come on-shift, checking the I.V.’s and the blinking digital numbers on the Star Trek-looking equipment near the patient’s bed. The patient’s hand, weakened and lethargic, touched hers and she heard him ask her name. “I’m Miriam. I’m your charge nurse this afternoon.” Seems like every time I visited there was a new nurse, a new tech, a new face. “Pleased to meet you, Miriam,” the patient said. “I’m Henry. I’d like to pray with you.” Everyone in the room let out a small groan, oh, here he goes again. “I like to pray for my nurses when they come on-shift,” the patient said. And he did—he prayed with every nurse, tech, aid and gopher who passed through his room. Sometimes sounding a bit intoxicated, he was clothed nevertheless in his right mind and seeking to place every part of this wondrous, advanced medical science into the domain and purview of the Original Equipment Manufacturer—God Himself. It was almost like a TV sitcom, every few hours, there he’d go again, praying for folk. Occasionally winding into song—singing like Paul and Silas in prison. This hospital room had become very much a prison, one that, at times tried his seemingly inexhaustible faith and patience. The hospital itself became a place both he and I would come to know far more intimately than ever before.

On February 1st, 2001, Rev. Dr. Henry F. Johnson was voted in as the interim pastor of the Friendship Missionary Baptist Church of Colorado Springs, a church he’d come to call home nearly from its inception. Most of his Colorado family were also members of Friendship, and Henry rejoiced in having found the favor of God in stepping into the pastoral role—something he’d prepared his entire life to do. Pastoring his home church, shepherding his friends and family, was an added bonus, as he easily and effectively stepped in to guide a church family he already knew intimately. No start-up time was needed; he already knew everybody’s name. everybody’s children’s names. He knew who was sick. He knew who was lonely and shut-in. He regularly took communion and sat prayers for the elderly pastor emeritus and ailing members of the congregation.

Henry placed his name in consideration for the permanent pastor’s position at Friendship. The pulpit search process, typically consisting of about a year, began to drag on to a year and a half, and Henry was asked to extend his interim pastorate. Another local church called Henry as their permanent pastor, but Henry felt an obligation to see his beloved home church through, and declined, choosing to stay the course at Friendship as eighteen months stretched, remarkably, into two years.

Political infighting seemed to bar the door to Henry as factions within the church seemed to fear Henry’s large family having too much political power within the church. The details of that struggle are complex and unwieldy, but suffice it to say the struggle itself broke Henry’s heart, as his love of the Friendship family—of all of them, regardless of blood relation or not—was second only to his love for his wife and children, which was itself second only in his love for Jesus Christ.

The Pastor's Call: Henry's only ambition: to faithfullyh pastor a local church.

Extending Jesus' Ministry

Finally, Friendship called a new pastor from out of town, and Henry seemed well prepared and disposed to transfer his duties to the arriving pastor. He looked forward to having more time for preaching and teaching and seeking the Lord’s will on his life, and with waiting on the ministry God had planned for him. Only, something unforeseen occurred: though called, the new pastor did not answer.

The called pastor simply vanished. Without explanation, he simply declined to take the pulpit. Henry, his office nearly in boxes, was rushed by the board of deacons and asked to extend his pastorate yet again. The thought of leaving his beloved church was difficult and emotional for Henry, but he had gladly resigned himself to God’s will in this matter. Agreeing to a second extension would be tough as, the longer he stayed, the more entrenched he became as pastor, the harder leaving would be.

By the time Friendship Missionary Baptist Church finally called their new pastor (who accepted *and* actually showed up), the Reverend Dr. Henry F. Johnson had served as Friendship’s Interim Pastor for about three years. On his watch, God greatly added to Friendship’s membership, and the church’s spiritual, emotional and fiscal health remarkably improved.

But the final leaving was very difficult for Henry. This was a church he loved. This was a church body he loved—even the rascals who worked against him. These were men whose friendship and counsel he valued, whose service honored him. Women whose commitment he respected and whose support he cherished. Not being called as the permanent pastor was difficult to accept, but Henry has always bowed to the will of the God he serves.

And so began more than a year of pastoral interviews and applications, as Dr. Johnson was approached by a number of churches, flown to various parts of the country, meeting with various committees and groups, and usually landing in the top two or top three of the final candidates before learning the disheartening news—that he had not been called. Henry is a man who takes rejection hard, and this process became extremely difficult for him as he began to question God’s plan. He didn’t get Friendship. He was not being allowed to leave. He wondered, “What’s next, God?”

On December 14th, 2005, The Reverend Dr. Henry Fred Johnson underwent routine minor surgery. His heart stopped, and he died.

No. 421  |  July 2014   Study   Faith 101   Life   The Church   A Preacher's Confession   Sisters   Politics   KEEPING IT REAL   Zion   Donate