Horizon Weekly | 27 August 2020
By Salt Jones
Paul Johnson, who has served faithfully in many capacities at the Canadian National Baptist Convention (CNBC) over the last 35 years, has retired from his formal position from the denomination as of June 30, 2020. Although Paul will remain active in CNBC life in a volunteer role, we would like to recognize him and honour his commitment and many contributions to the CNBC upon his official retirement. The following tribute was written by his longtime colleague and friend, Salt Jones:
Paul (centre) in 1988 as newly elected president of the Canadian Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC) National Leadership Board. Also pictured, Jim Graham (left) and Bill Blackman (right)
I have known Paul Johnson for 30 years and I can say that Paul’s friendship has truly been one of God’s greatest gifts to me. I count it an honour to be called his friend. Over the years, as we have served our Father together, one thing has always been clearly evident: Paul is a man who is deeply committed to the values that he holds dear. If you truly know Paul, you will be smiling and nodding your head in agreement as I mention some of those values.
First and always foremost to Paul has been his value to know and obey God. He has shown a deep hunger to daily hear “Well done, my good and faithful son” as few people I have ever known. His relationship with God is no doubt the plumb line that every decision he makes is measured against. The Word of God and prayer are two of his most precious possessions. Anyone who has seen his Bibles and prayer journals would testify how important God’s Word and prayer are to him. He enjoys praying with friends and strangers alike. Paul’s strong conviction: “We need to get happy in Jesus before we face our day—then stay happy in Jesus through the day.” This desire and his daily devotional (Devo) results in a winsome attitude of joyful worship. He shares this message wherever he can: in emails, online, in chapel messages.
Paul visiting another pastor at the CNBC Annual Convention in 2011 that was held in Calgary
If you walked alongside Paul for a week or even a day, you would be moved to discover how much he values people. People—from his immediate family to the lonely and forgotten student in rural China—he simply loves people. This love is daily lived out through actions. If that means he needs to be up at midnight or four in the morning, whatever it takes to connect with one or fifty-one people, he joyfully does it. If my ministry caused me to regularly lose sleep, I would let someone know it. For Paul, however, if connecting with people requires him to limit his own personal need for rest, you will never hear him complain.
As Paul connects with people, there is always a compelling desire to help that person become a believer, first of all, and then to grow into a disciple-maker. Thus, training is a core value for Paul. I do not know of any other person who has as many spiritual drawings, diagrams and lists as Paul does. His mind is constantly thinking of creative avenues to share his faith and train others to become more like Christ.
His value of excellence in all he does constantly has him revising whatever he teaches. When we worked together, to be honest, sometimes this value drove me crazy. Just about the time I had learned one of his teaching diagrams or an alliteration, he would discover a new and improved diagram or alliteration. Just ask him how many changes have occurred with the “Stages” teaching materials and you will know what I mean. However, the necessity to find fresh and relevant ways to share one’s faith and help believers become disciple-makers inspires and drives him to constantly evaluate the material being taught.
Now, in order to remain current with each new generation, one has to be a constant learner. Few men value learning as much as he does. If you know Paul, you are well aware that he is a passionate reader. It is possible that he has read every book that certain spiritual mentors of his have written. Paul doesn’t only read books specific to Christianity, either. He enjoys reading about history, culture, people groups, countries, cooking and gardening; he even reads mystery novels. At times I have seen on his desk half a dozen books from different genres that he was reading at the same time.
Paul serving others breakfast in 1995 at a CSBC event
He not only loves to read: he also gives away more books than anyone else I know. His office and his car contain a veritable library of books aimed at specific readers. And he collects—and shares—countless quotes from the books he reads, distilling the wisdom of those who have gone before.
Because being a constant learner is so important to him, few people his age are as competent with the range of social media tools available today. As his colleague, I can clearly recall when a new computer program or internet tool was being revealed. Paul was ready to learn it and use it immediately—while I would be groaning from the depths of my being. Not Paul! His desire to use whatever he could—to reach the lost and disciple the believer—drove him to be a ceaseless learner.
Most people crossing the sixty-age threshold may continue to exercise, but the wear and tear of the body may result in choosing a more moderate exercise program. If you know Paul, you know that he values exercise. However, Paul’s exercise choices may seem wild and crazy to some. I ask you, what sane senior adult do you know who has taken up boxing, biking up the Cochrane Hill or to the office, competing with high school and young college students to see who could do the most burpees (if you don’t know what that is, look it up and try it), just to name a few? My guess is that part of the reason for Paul’s willingness to take on new exercise programs is the value he places on adventure. The adventure that results in experiencing something new.
Paul in his role as “pastor to pastors” visiting with Jon Las from Mosaic Church in 2020
Throughout the years, I have seen Paul embrace multiple new ministry roles and responsibilities. Possibly the greatest ministry adventure in his life was his willingness to become the pastor at ROOTS. That choice has resulted in numerous mission trips to several different countries, a disciple training plan that is daily reaching people in their home countries, the development of the “Stages” training program and—perhaps the most important—falling in love with a people group that has changed his life forever.
The last value I would like to share is that Paul values laughter and having fun. Obviously, from what I have shared above, Paul is hard-working, very serious about his faith and lives a disciplined life. But one of the most attractive things about being with Paul as he lives his faith is that he is also absolutely fun to be with.
Over the years we have shared hundreds of funny stories and have pulled many practical jokes on each other (and on other people). I would challenge you to play a practical joke on Paul. He will love it. However, I give you fair warning: he is the master of practical jokes. As I write this, I can see the sparkle in his eyes and the smile on his face as his mind begins to go a hundred miles an hour trying to figure out what joke he will play on you.
So, who is Paul Johnson? He is a man of deeply committed values. A man who sincerely loves God with all his heart, mind, soul and strength. A man who will put your needs before his own and a man who some of us have the privilege to call our brother, our spiritual father, our mentor, our pastor, our teacher. Our friend.
Do you have a story you would like to share? Please contact Lynda Blazina and let her know. We would love to share your stories with our CNBC family of churches.
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