Local pastor celebrates 50th year in ministry

By Staff
Melissa Dozier-Cason, FCT staff writer
A Franklin County pastor celebrates his 50th year in the ministry this month.
Eighty-three-year-old Rev. Dr. James Johnson of Russellville is still busy serving the Lord by continuing to pastor Cherry Hill Baptist Church in the Waco Community.
"Every Sunday I tell the congregation that I am not able to do a lot of the things needed from a pastor and anytime they decided to get someone who is able that will be fine with me," Johnson said. "But they keep me coming back."
Johnson began his ministry career at the age of 12 when he began having bible study with youngsters his own age.
"I would read the Bible to other kids my age," Johnson said.
Johnson said that after a while he had begun to make other plans for himself. He joined the military. First the Air Force, and then the 4th Infantry division, which has been disbanded in recent years.
Johnson served in World War II, where his arm was shot off in April 1945. His arm was reattached at a military hospital in England. However, the injury cost him is military career.
"If I had served in World War I and received that type of injury, I would have lost my arm," Johnson said.
After being discharged for the service, Johnson trained to be an electrical engineer at Howard College, now Sanford University, but was lead back into the ministry through in the 1950s.
"I was fighting my calling until I became very sick," Johnson said. "Several doctors told me that I only had six months to live without reason."
Johnson was so sick that he went to another doctor in an attempt to cure his sickness.
"The last doctor I went to was a Christian and he asked me if I had a bargain with God that I wasn't living up to, and I told him yes," Johnson said. "That doctor told me that I needed to do what I was told, and that was my last warning."
Johnson said that he entered the ministry at that point and miraculously became healthy again. He took at Associate Pastor position at Gariwood Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1957.
Johnson's first full-time pastor position was in Perry County, Alabama. He later moved to Ft. Worth, Texas to attend Southwestern Seminary, and to pastor Connolly heights Baptist Church, just outside of Waco, Texas.
Johnson said that the Lord sent him to pastor at a church in Michigan right out of seminary.
"We had four children and it was big challenge but the Lord saw us through those times," Johnson said.
Johnson admits that his wife didn't marry a minister since he was training to be an electrical engineer when they wed, but he feels that God cultivated her to help him with his work.
"I had some church members tell me that they could do without me, but I'd have to leave my wife," Johnson said.
Johnson and his wife made a home in Franklin County in 1989. They came here, and stayed because they loved the people here, and couldn't leave, Johnson said.
Johnson's wife died in 2000. Together they had five children, one of which had died.
Now, 50 years after he first gave into God and joined the ministry, he is still busy spreading God's work. His church, Cherry Hill Baptist, is active in the ministry, giving to forgien missions and the children's home in Decatur.
Johnson said that he would like to travel but the Lord will not let him retire because there is still work to be done.
"I'm on cloud nine until He's ready to take me on up," Johnson said.