To kick off the new year, I would like to introduce you to Mike Johnson, who serves as a Regional Catalyzer for Classis Central Plains and the western United States. Next week, I will begin introducing you to the team of people who support the regional staff of Faith Formation Ministries. Stay tuned!
Mike, you lead an organization called Ascending Leaders. Can you tell us a bit about what Ascending Leaders does?
We seek to help churches, disciples and leaders flourish. We do that through coaching, teaching and resourcing. Most of our coaching with congregations focuses on growing more fertile disciple-growing environments. We also coach individual leaders independently, or in conjunction with, congregational coaching. We teach about building discipleship environments and systems in churches, and resource churches with various tools to analyze their church and effectively grow disciples. Currently, 85% of our work is serving Christian Reformed churches.
How does your work with Ascending Leaders intersect with your work as a Regional Catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries?
When Ascending Leaders works in Christian Reformed congregations, we carry out the purposes of Faith Formation Ministries. My years of experience with Ascending Leaders makes me a better Regional Catalyzer for churches. In addition, I am learning much from the CRC Faith Formation community that is improving Ascending Leaders.
Describe people who played an important role in your faith formation.
There are many including: my mother, my father (and his father especially), cousins with whom I spent more time, and various teachers with the right words at the right time. My boyhood Cadet group head counselor had a particular impact. He saw my interest and encouraged me. He invited me and a few other boys on a monthly mission trip. He encouraged me go after the next rank. And he consistently talked about what really mattered in life—living for Jesus.
Before you became the Executive Director of Ascending Leaders, you served as a pastor and church planter. What do you miss about working in a local church?
Pastoring a local congregation involved lots of face-to-face ministry with people through leading worship and preaching, small groups, committee work, pastoral care and evangelism. The pastoring I do for people today is more indirect. I spend lots of time communicating with people through writing, a computer, and the internet. There are times I miss the direct ministry of pastoring in a local context. However, I do get the joy of direct ministry as I coach and teach. And I get to be a catalyst who is also available to preach, which I get to do about once a month. In actuality what I miss the most is the increased opportunities to sit with people as they cross the line to faith, which I had when pastoring a congregation.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be, and how would you use it in your role as a Regional Catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries?
Proverbs 20:5 tells us “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” When we experience growth in our faith journey, we bring excitement, insight, and the deeper presence of Christ into the community of faith in which we participate. People and churches in all generations have struggled with times of being stuck in life and faith. I wish I had the superpower of insight to see clearly what is causing a person or church to be stuck, and to help them to get past it—you could call it “soul-stretching.”