Dr. James Johnson and Cedar Grove Tabernacle of Praise

by Tonya Dixon | March 12th, 2016
Dr. James Johnson and Family (Photos by Cedar Grove)

Dr. James Johnson and Family (Photos by Cedar Grove)

For the past 28 years, Dr. James A. Johnson has been the senior pastor of Cedar Grove Tabernacle of Praise in Greensboro, N.C. His tenure at the church included many firsts, a few challenges and even some heartache, but the bountiful blessings of God have certainly outweighed it all.

Under his leadership the church has grown physically and spiritually. Many things, people and situations came and went, but Dr. Johnson has always remained steadfastly committed to the Lord; never wavering or changing his position of faith.

Clearly hearing and yielding to the dictate and voice of God, this year he is determined to transition into his next assignment. Effective April 17, he will preach his final sermon as pastor of Cedar Grove Tabernacle of Praise.

The church will honor and celebrate Dr. Johnson and his wife of 53 years, Helen; and daughters Wanda Johnson Mitchell and Rhonda Johnson Minter and even his granddaughter, Courtney Helen Mitchell for their sincere dedication and service to the ministry with a grand banquet and gala at the Sheraton Greensboro at Four Seasons on April 16. Although the celebration is somewhat bittersweet and Cedar Grove will indeed miss Dr. Johnson, the legacy that he leaves behind includes a ministry spiritually equipped and prepared to fervently move forward in God. Dr. Johnson says the hallmark of his success is bringing the people that he has lovingly served to the revelation, knowledge and acceptance of his appointed successor.

Nevertheless, his legacy and ministry began years before he even knew of Cedar Grove. From an early age, the Louisburg, N.C. native was aware he had a special calling upon his life. He may not have been able to fully articulate what he just simply “knew,” but he definitely “knew” it was God who compelled him to receive salvation on Tuesday after the second Sunday in August, 1950 and got baptized on the second Sunday in September of the same year.

Many years have passed since then, but Dr. Johnson remembers it just like it was yesterday. It was something he says he will never forget. Sixty-six years later it is evident that young James knew what he was talking about. The call of God was certainly upon his life.

“I remember when I was a young boy I used to preach to my sisters. In order for me to play student with them, they had to sit and listen to me preach,” Dr. Johnson said.

Preaching to his sisters proved to be a prophetic precursor to what God had in store for him. In 1980, the call manifested itself and Johnson preached his first sermon at St. James Baptist Church. Eight years later Johnson went from preaching to pastoring. In 1989, he was formally installed as the pastor of Cedar Grove Baptist Church.

Dr. Johnson said he made a point not to make too many changes, but one thing he did implement was a church slogan that has stood the test of time and became an unofficial anthem for the ministry: “Jesus is Lord. Expect a Miracle.” It wasn’t just something that he and the church members just said; rather they believed it too.

Seemingly so insignificant, the slogan speaks volumes particularly to the mindset of Johnson and the atmosphere of Cedar Grove. He says there was a spiritual connection and impartation to speaking it out loud. It announced the deity of God and proclaimed with assurance that God would indeed show Himself.

Dr. Johnson said when the church really caught on and began speaking the words to the mantra, “We began seeing healings and people being saved all the time.” With all glory given unto God, Johnson walks in a gift of healing with specific attention given to issues of migraines and asthma.

“I can humbly say that I walk in the gift of healing,” he said. “I used to have migraine headaches and the Lord gave me the gift of speaking to them and telling them to leave. The only people that don’t get healed are the people that don’t come up for healing. I also have the gift to speak to asthma and back aches.” Some have even been healed over the phone during the ministry’s Tuesday call-in Bible study in which people from all over the state and country are able to dial-in and be taught the word of God.

Undoubtedly, the gifts and callings that Johnson has been graciously given by God haven’t come without some level of discomfort or heartache, but any challenges he has faced are insignificant in comparison to the level of God’s blessings. Dr. Johnson says there have always been challenges and frustrations, particularly as a pastor but he says, “just when you feel the weight is too heavy the Lord will come in and do something that can and will delete it all. Seeing people saved and delivered is refreshing and makes you feel like you can keep going.”

Ministry has always been about one thing for Dr. Johnson and that is to teach the word. Dissecting and expounding upon scriptures has always been his passion, which is why he challenges people to bring their Bibles with them to church and read the word of God for themselves and get a true understanding of what they read.

“I believe the church is a learning institution. If a person is not learning then they are not growing and if they are not growing then they are standing still in their Christian walk and if they are standing still, they have the promise of eternal life and salvation, but they miss out on how to live on earth,” Dr. Johnson said.
“I believe we need to learn to live on earth. Jesus said he came that we might have life and life more abundantly and I think that we should have that life. The way we live here on earth is a testimony for others to be able to see and say that there is something about you that they like. Your life should be a witness.”

And for Dr. Johnson, being a witness includes the business office as well as the church. He whole-heartedly believes Christians should be entrepreneurs and show the world that God has foot soldiers in area sector of society. In fact, he has owned several businesses himself, including a bookstore and a choir, a clergy store and a Men and Women’s Fashion website (Specialbuysandsales.com).

In addition, Dr. Johnson believes in using whatever tools are available to witness. Although, he started in ministry quite some time ago, he will be the first to advocate for the use of new technologies in order to share the Gospel with the world. An avid and active user of Facebook and Twitter, he can be found sharing scriptures and offering encouraging words of wisdom.

Over the years, Dr. Johnson has certainly acquired wisdom that only God and time can produce. His first order of business after relinquishing his pastoral duties will be to write the book that has been on his heart for years. With years and years of sermons and teachings, dating as far back as 1996, on everything from faith to salvation to grace, he says he has more than enough material and he certainly has a great deal more to say.

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