‘He was leading us to this moment’
Editor’s note: At its Dec. 8 services, Lead Pastor Rob Decker honored members Jason and Julie Johnson for 25 years of service to Triad Baptist Church.
For nearly 21 years, Jason was a youth leader with Julie and also taught Sunday School — first for third-5th grade boys, and for the last 15 years to adults. Julie taught Sunday School to 3- to 5-year olds for three years and to youth for 16 years.
Their son, Jordan, is the associate head athletic trainer and adjunct professor at Lees McRae College in Banner Elk, while their daughter, Jessica, is an EC resource teacher at W.B. Wicker Elementary School in Sanford.
As the Johnsons leave Triad Baptist to help found City Park Church in Winston-Salem — Triad’s first church plant — they reflect for Connections on what God has taught them over the past 25 years, and how He’s guiding them now.
Connections: Over the past 25 years, which experiences do you think most prepared you for this new direction in ministry?
Jason: We have seen Triad in a lot of different phases since we joined — times when there were plenty of people to take on different roles, and times when there were barely 100 people and you had to do a little bit of everything.
At City Park, there are about 40 of us right now, so we’ll all have to be prepared to take on whatever is necessary to see that services happen, and that administration happens. Triad has allowed me to see all those different levels of service.
Julie: We’ve seen Triad go through the ups and downs and have pitched in to do what needed to be done. The same thing will be said for City Park Church where everyone will pitch in to do what needs to be done. I think having the opportunity to serve in various areas has given us the experience needed for City Park.
Connections: As one of the architects of Triad’s new church-plant initiative and deacon over this initiative, how will your role change?
Jason: As of the first of the year, I will no longer be a deacon at Triad, but since Triad is still supporting us as at City Park as the sending church, there will most likely be some liaison responsibilities back to Triad. Executive Administrator Dennis Roberts is helping us set up all the administrative aspects of the new church, and I’ll will be working closely with him to get transitioned over the next two years.
Julie and I stepped away from both Sunday School and youth duties at the end of August. It coincided well with Kyle Cox coming on as the new youth pastor and Toby Pegram transitioning to become City Park Church’s first pastor.
Connections: Why did you decide be part of establish City Park Church?
Jason: I have been a proponent of Triad planting churches for a while now, initially more as one way to ease our space issues. But, over the last three to four years, God really started to put into my heart the desire to work with a church plant. So, it was great when Pastor Rob mentioned that he wanted Triad to plant a church since God already had given me that same burden and call. Even then, I was placing restrictions on being a part of the plant — saying things to myself like, “if it is close enough, it depends on the pastor” — but God continued to work on me to the point where, I was willing to go with no restrictions. Anytime the Gospel goes out, it’s exciting, and this is an opportunity for the Gospel to go to an area where the majority of the people do not have any type of relationship with Jesus Christ.
Julie: The opportunity to be a part of spreading the gospel is exciting. To be able to partner with my husband in that endeavor is a wonderful opportunity.
Connections: What do you hope the establishment of this new community of Christ followers in Winston-Salem does both for City Park and Triad Baptist?
Jason: It would be great for this to be just the first church for Triad to plant. To see Triad become a church with a culture of planting would be awesome since I think it would further deepen its outward focus and reaching everyone where they are.
Julie: I would love to see many churches planted by Triad, and also other churches planted by City Park. Triad has an amazing opportunity to reach the community with the gospel and to multiply.
Connections: How can Triad and its members best support you as you leave to help establish City Park?
Jason: Pray for the Holy Spirit to go before us in all that we do. Pray for Pastor Toby and his family — Melissa, Grayson, Emery and Camden. And Pray for the people of Pocket 29 (that area in south Winston-Salem) and all who are not currently Christ believers and followers and for the Holy Spirit to move in their lives.
Julie: Pray for Christ to be shown in all that we do — for His glory. Pray for unity with our group. Pray for us and for the community, and for open hearts and minds for everyone.
Connections: Looking back, what are some key ministry milestones that stand out for you?
Jason: On our mission trip to Haiti in 2001, God revealed Himself in an incredible way. He changed my life during that trip. Another was my Sunday School teacher, Jim Brown, teaching me, “God’s will for your life is to be in the right relationship with Him.” And still another milestone was Pastor Rob’s sermon on serving others with “No Strings Attached.” All those things led me to a deeper faith in God.
Julie: The mission trip to Ecuador in 2008 allowed me to see that God is much bigger than I ever thought and that I could be a small part of His story. I realized I was attempting to put God in a box that I designed. The mission trip to Guatemala with my family in 2011 was impactful for us to be able to serve together.
I had the privilege to be a small group leader of young ladies for 12 years and that will always hold a special place in my heart. Those times to share, laugh, cry, and hold up one another in the faith are memories that are so special to me. To be able to see those ladies continue to follow after Christ all those years later is inspiring. Those early Vacation Bible School years with Mr. Tim (Gerber, executive pastor for children and ministries) also are memorable.
Connections: What will you miss the most about Triad — and carry with you — as you embark on this new direction in ministry together?
Jason: I will miss the people. There are a lot of friends who we are leaving behind, and that is bittersweet. What we will take with us from TBC? The sense of community and family, everyone being so welcoming and pitching in to serve for a common cause. We would like to incorporate some type of Worship Night or other special worship services like we’ve enjoyed at Triad.
Julie: I will miss the people; we grew up in this church as a couple and raised our children in this church. There are people that have had a big impact on my life. Some of our dearest and closest friends to this day are other leaders we met through the youth ministry at TBC. I pray we can carry that sense of community and family to City Park.
Connections: Why do you think you were able to serve so long at the same church?
Jason: The Sovereignty of God. It is amazing to look back and see how God used different people or different circumstances for us to stay at Triad. There have been times through the years that we thought about leaving or when we were getting burned out in service, and God would do something to rejuvenate us and keep us going — not really knowing that, all the while, He was leading us to this moment.
Julie: Triad is a special place, with special people and God has His hand here. Triad is like a family to us, and you support family.
Connections: As you leave Triad, what do you think God has taught you from being a part of its community of faith?
Jason: That God is great, and that I need Him every day. That God is sovereign, and that He is always moving and working in our lives. Pastor Rob, Toby and I were all going in seemingly different directions, but, in reality, God was putting in each of our hearts church planting. Then in His timing, He brought us all together, and, out of that, we now have City Park Church.
Julie: I have learned that God must be the center of our life, marriage, family, and church. We must keep Him there and in our focus. Everything we do should be for His glory. We serve God because we want to bring Him glory, and not for our own selves. We have tried to instill that in our family as well.
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