Wow. It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 7 months since Heather and I moved to Gastonia for Revolution Church. I can’t begin to describe how thankful and grateful we are to Richard & Holly for giving Heather and I the opportunity to minister to the students here at Revolution.

Hopefully by now you guys know that Heather and I LOVE students. We love student ministry. And we love the students of this church specifically and deeply. But outside of that, you may not know too much about me, so I thought it would be cool for you guys to hear a little bit more about my story: my background, how I came to know the Lord, and where God has taken me since then.

I grew up in a Christian home. I’m excited because my parents are coming up in a few weeks and you’ll get to meet them. They are genuine, generous, loving, incredible followers of Jesus. I came to know Jesus on Sunday when our church was doing communion, and I didn’t understand why my mom would let me have juice other times but not this time. So I sat in my pew for what seemed like an hour after service was over, pouting. Frustrated. Ticked that I couldn’t have that bread and that juice, man! Every other time, there’s grape juice, it’s mine… But today it’s not… I didn’t understand.

When my parents got home, they explained to me communion, what it meant to partake in it as a follower of Jesus. Subsequently, they explained the Gospel to me and I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and began my relationship with the Lord. Shortly after, I got baptized. And that was pretty much that. I made a decision to follow Jesus, but there really wasn’t very much outward evidence of what was inwardly executed. I was a good kid… at school. But a little bit of a troublemaker and tyrant at church… For whatever reason.

I remember when I was in 7th grade, finally a part of the youth group, I felt like I was a part of something, and welcomed in something, that really gave me a taste of what the body of Christ looks like. Simultaneously, I was called out for things, pushed to grow. I gained an understanding that my actions not only didn’t show that Jesus was in me, but, in fact, could deter from others coming to know Him.

After that first year, our longstanding youth pastor resigned, and throughout the course of my time in youth group, we had 5 youth leaders in 5 years, and sometimes we didn’t have one at all. I was shaken by the lack of consistency, and somewhat hardened towards church because of the constant turnover. I remember feeling unimportant, and as if I was put in a box that people assumed because of where I went to school, the things I wore, or my personality, that those things defined me as one thing or another.

I struggled with a lot of jadedness towards the church at that time. I remember when I was graduating, I told God, and other people, “You will never catch me working for a church”… God apparently has a sense of humor, because, obviously, here I am.

But I had to fight a lot of that jadedness; which was a mixture of my own pride, arrogance, as well as feelings of unimportance and abandonment, alongside a lack of consistency, a slew of empty promises, and just general hurt I felt from other people.

The Lord had to restore a lot in me, which He has and still is. In college, I tiptoed on some lines, crossed a few others, but ultimately, I believe, through the fervent prayer of my mom & dad and the consistency of a couple of great guys around me in college, I chose to seek after the Lord.

As the Lord began to draw me closer to Him, He began to break me of my jadedness. He began to show me that the church was important, that the church was His bride. That in order to be doing what we are called to do as believers in Jesus, we must accept the church for what it is, and, instead of complaining about all of the imperfections, do everything in our power to help it along.

For me, that meant instead of complaining about the fact that I had 5 different youth leaders in 5 years, letting the inconsistency push me away. I could be the consistency for other students for which I so desperately yearned.

There are definitely things from that time that I regret, some of which happened after I really chose to follow Him and make this whole relationship with Jesus thing my own instead of something I did for my church or my parents… But God is so good. And he pursued me. There were so many times that I asked God “where the heck are you?” And every time, without fail, I would realize that it was I that had walked away and not our gracious Heavenly Father, who awaits us with open arms the moment we turn back to Him.

As God began to break me of that jadedness, it was those regrets that I used to further (try and) convince God why I could never work in a church. Throughout all of college, I worked at Crossroads Summer Camp, which Heather and I are ecstatic to be taking our students to this summer. And it’s funny because the whole time I was telling God I wouldn’t do ministry, there I was every summer… doing ministry. And God began to grow in me a desire to minister to young people and be the consistency for which I had longed. But I dangled my regrets, my sin, and my shame as reasons that He could never really and truly use me.

And I’ll never forget the night that this happened. Heather and I were at a conference, the worship pastor shared a story of absolute forgiveness, the substance of which I had heard 1,000 times over. But it was in that moment that I finally understood that Jesus really and truly forgave me individually. And that in the same way that He was not bound by those chains, that He had already freed me from them, and I needed to step into that freedom, that victory, to stop telling God what I was incapable of doing, and start listening to that which He was capable, and it broke me. It freed me. And that night I accepted the call to ministry from which I had fled for the entirety of my adult life.

In that moment, I accepted and believed that God could use me… ME?!? In the context of ministry. I couldn’t be more grateful that God called me to Revolution Church, and that He chooses to, and delights in, using broken people to bring Him glory.

Thanks for reading,
AJ Johnson


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