3-Year Documentary Filming by Jerry and Cristie Jo Johnston

Over 100 iconic atheist, leaders in atheism, agnosticism, secularism, sociology, philosophy, apologetics, nones, dones, and deconversions have filmed with Cristie Jo and me for our upcoming documentary and ancillary products. We have learned very clearly the arguments against the Christian faith. Further, and even more important, we have discerned how professing Christians, or evangelicals, are perceived by thinking people who do not believe. This has been a stunning and very emotional journey for us.

In a few weeks we will fly across the Atlantic for the fourth time and film with the famous atheist, Richard Dawkins, and his Oxford, England contrarian, the equally renown Christian philosopher, Richard Swinburne, in addition to numerous other notable leaders.

Too many North American Christian leaders seem illiterate to the de-Christian movement proliferating across Canada and America and fully realized now in the United Kingdom. Our original research is designed to ask serious questions about the paradigm of the church. Are we effectively and cognitively “making disciples” or, as repeated studies seem to indicate, is our techno, sleek presentation of the Gospel lacking in producing Christians who can critically think and articulate their faith? Jesus stated that the greatest commandment was “loving God with all your mind.” That involves cognition — teaching that has intellectual substance.

Cristie and I are not finished on this investigative journey. So we ask for your thoughts and prayers. A faith that is not tested is no faith at all.

Can your faith stand testing? Stay with us.


Researchers, Drs. Jerry and Cristie Jo Johnston, are Executive Producing a quick-paced film via trans continental, staccato interviews documenting the shocking rise of the non-religious.

Cristie Johnston interviews Nabeel Qureshi

Nabeel Quershi is the author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. It is his personal story where he transitioned from a committed Muslim to a follower of Jesus Christ. The book has made quite an impact. Nabeel has now moved to Houston, Texas to receive treatment for Stage IV stomach cancer. Detractors have made the outlandish statement that Nabeel’s cancer diagnosis is due to Allah’s revenge. Unthinkable that people could be so brazen. How does Nabeel respond? What are his thoughts? He is both a father and a husband. Cristie Johnston sat down for one hour and filmed with Quershi asking questions why he disaffiliated from Islam. Interestingly, both Christianity and Islam in North America is experiencing disaffiliation – the phenomenon known as “nones.” Ayaan Hirsi Ali told delegates at the American Atheist Convention, where we were filming, that atheists needed to turn their attention away from “Christians” and focus on radical Islamists.

To secularists, religion is “dangerous.” If you watch Bill Maher or listen to Sam Harris, you are left with the impression that Christians don’t know how to critically think. If we asked professing believers in Christ “critical questions” regarding their faith could they answer? People today query, “Is Jesus the only way to God, the only way to heaven?” Barna research indicates that a significant percentage of Christians, when polled, say there are multiple paths to eternal life.

We remember Nabeel, and his family, in our thoughts and prayers and ask you do to the same. Our documentary journey has taken us throughout the world and impacted us in many ways. Nabeel’s present challenge is no exception.

Cristie Jo: Recently you were diagnosed with stage 4-stomach cancer. What’s your prognosis and how has it impacted your faith?

Nabeel: They didn’t know what stage it was. So I thought, “Ok, this is at least 70%.” Then I had to come back in to get staged. Then later that week on Thursday they said, “This is at least stage 3,” and that meant my survival rate was at best 20%. And then they said, “Come in the next day and we’ll determine whether or not this is stage 4.” And I came back in the next day, and they did a scan and they said “In fact this has metastasized, uh, this is stage 4- stomach cancer,” which has a survival rate of 4%. Um and so you know 90%, 70%, even 20%, you can think, “I can beat the odds. I can do this. I can do this.” But when they come back and say you
have a 4% chance of surviving, you really don’t walk away thinking, “I can do this.” You walk away thinking, “I need miracle.” But here’s the thing—our God exists. Our God is real, and he is a miracle-working God.

Our documentary journey continues. Soon Cristie Johnston and I will film extended interviews with noted atheist Richard Dawkins and Richard Swinburne, a British philosopher. Swinburne is an Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford. Over the last 50 years Swinburne has been an influential proponent of philosophical arguments for the existence of God. You could not meet any more polar opposites that those two people. Stay with us on the journey. Soon we will be filming extended interviews in Oxford, England, with noted atheist Richard Dawkins and Richard Swinburne. You could not find any more polar opposites than these two men.

Read more about Nabeel Quershi at nabeelqureshi.com


Researchers, Drs. Jerry and Cristie Jo Johnston, are Executive Producing a quick-paced film via trans continental, staccato interviews documenting the shocking rise of the non-religious.

Jerry & Cristie Johnston Interview Frank Schaeffer … A Self-Described Atheist Who Prays?

We learned something interesting in our two-hour filmed interview with self-identified atheist Frank Schaeffer, son of the late theologian Francis Schaeffer. Frank told us that he prays.

FRANK SCHAEFFER:  “When I pray in the morning when I get up; when I use the words ‘Jesus’, and ‘Christ’, and ‘God’, and all these other things that I was raised with.  And you say to me, ‘Then, why do you use that?’  And I have a real answer for you – although you didn’t ask it.  ‘Because I was raised that way.  You got a problem with that?  That’s who I am.’  And somebody else is somebody else.  But rather than reach for some intellectual explanation like, this is right and everybody else is wrong; or this is the truth; or I put it correctly – I just simply say, ‘You know, at this stage of my life, as a 64 year old, I’m ready to admit that I’m who I am because I was raised that way, because my life experience points in that direction.’  But what I’m very, very certain about is that I’ll never be a None, any more than I’ll be an Evangelical again, because I embrace the fact of paradox itself, which is past explanation.”

That is a bit of a mind-bender. Perhaps, if you can understand ‘paradox’ you may be able to discern Frank’s statement.   While there may be a Nones phenomenon proliferating in America of adults disaffiliating with the organized church or religion, there is no shortage of people who pray.

Only a small percentage of nones are atheists. Indeed, the majority has an interest in some form of spirituality. The current $2.8MM Templeton Foundation research grant, Understanding Unbelief, is a three-year scholarly study profiling nones. Who exactly are they? What is their ethnicity? Why are they leaving? Why do a significant percentage of nones pray. It will be fascinating research.

The late sociologist-novelist-priest, Andrew M. Greeley, in his research center, claimed 78 percent of Americans pray, more than half (57 percent) daily, and that 1 in 5 atheists still pray daily! Since Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440, Google Books claims 129,864,880 books have been authored and published. Did you know that the topic of prayer is one of the most popular topics – over 2,000 different published works on prayer?

After enduring WWII and becoming President, Eisenhower commented to Senator Carlson regarding the White House, ‘Frank, this is the loneliest house I’ve ever been in.’ President Reagan later retelling the story indicated Senator Carlson replied, “Mr. President, I think this may be the right time for you to come and meet with our prayer group. And Eisenhower did just that. In 1953 he attended the first combined prayer breakfast.” History repeated itself today at the Sheraton in Washington, D.C.

What is it about prayer that engages people?

 


Researchers, Drs. Jerry and Cristie Jo Johnston, are Executive Producing a quick-paced film via trans continental, staccato interviews documenting the shocking rise of the non-religious.

Jerry & Cristie Johnston Interview J. P. Moreland

In our high tech, digital world, do we take the time to think seriously? Are we asking and answering the deeper questions? As we reach for our iPhone every 10 minutes, according to a recent report, when are the moments we drill down deeper about the issues of life and eternity? Are contemporary sermons too shallow? Do we live too much in the area of the euphoria of our faith always subjective to feelings-of-the-moment while suffering from our lack of cognition? Seminar sermons, skyscraper sermons (one story upon another) are giving indication of insufficiency. One in three Millennials has disaffiliated from the church. How can we begin to calculate the future religiosity of the “postmillennial” cohort that now number more than 60 million people? These kids and teens have no concept of life without the Internet and have been called the App Generation and Generation Z.

The Best Schools recently named “The 50 Most Influential Living Philosophers,” and evangelical J. P. Moreland made the list along with Simon Blackburn, Daniel Dennettand others. So Cristie and I flew to Los Angeles and drove to Moreland’s home in Yorba Linda, California for a fascinating filmed interview. When I asked J.P. how he felt about the condition of the contemporary church, he responded, “It makes me sad.”

J.P. Moreland’s background is spread across multiple disciplines: B.S. in chemistry from the University of Missouri; M.A. in philosophy from the University of California, Riverside; and a Th.M in Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary prior to earning his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Southern California in 1985. He currently holds the title of Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University in La Miranda California and is a member of the Board of Advisors for the Center on Culture and Civil Society at the Independent Institute. Moreland’s work combines metaphysics, philosophy of mind, chemistry, and theology, and he is known for his defense of the existence of God and the supernatural.

J.P. MORELAND: “In fact, Os Guinness wrote a book a few years ago called The Gravedigger File, where he made the point that some of the very tools the church was using to gain short term success, by making its message easy to understand and making things comfortable for people, ultimately became the church’s gravedigger over the long haul.  And you cannot have a flourishing church if you don’t have Christians valuing learning why they believe what they believe and being able to graciously, without being angry, to speak and dialogue about those in the public square.”


Researchers, Drs. Jerry and Cristie Jo Johnston, are Executive Producing a quick-paced film via trans continental, staccato interviews documenting the shocking rise of the non-religious.

Jerry & Cristie Johnston Interview Phil Zuckerman at Pitzer College

A Christian student attends a university and is confronted with very aggressive, seemingly knowledgeable professors challenging the tenets of Christianity they have embrace during their young life. What happens? Statistically, approximately 75 percent or more stop attending church in their new environment, and many never return.

The Pew Research Center often quoted 2014 study,America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” states that, “The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of the U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing.” Sounds grim. Atheists and agnostics have repeatedly told us there are 55 – 70MM “nones” in America. Is it true? In 1950, only two percent of adult Americans were “nones.”

Pew again, “Between 2007 and 2014, the Christian share of the population fell from 78.4 percent to 70.6 percent.” Yet, their data indicates the religiously detached “unaffiliated” phenomenon was driven among “mainline Protestants and Catholics.” In contrast, evangelicals have lost less than 1 percent of their market share holding steady at about 1 in 4 Americans (25.4 percent).

Pitzer College is one of the Claremont Colleges in California. The college has a curricular emphasis on the social sciences, behavioral sciences, international programs, and media studies. Cristie and I filmed with renowned scholar, Stephen T. Davis, PhD, the Russell K. Pitzer Professor of Philosophy, at Claremont McKenna College, who is a solid believer in Jesus Christ.

His impressive colleague, Phil Zuckerman, PhD, at Pitzer College, is an atheist, and filmed with us as well. Maybe you watched him as he interpreted religion @chelseahandler on Netflix. He is articulate and very sharp. How would the average “Christian” university student respond to Phil’s remarks?

“So basically, secularization is what we call the process whereby religion weakens or just appears in a society over time.  Now there have been many theories to explain how this might happen and some of those are sort of general universal theories of secularism saying, you know, no matter what society we’re in, no matter what country, if X happens the result is going to be a weakening of religion.  And these are kind of, you know, universal theories.

“So the big universal theories are — well, as populations get more educated, strong religious belief tends to go down.  As societies becomes more technologically advanced, religiosity tends to weaken a little bit.  The biggest theory that I have the most data, is what they call the existential security theory which is basically that when people in a society are existentially secure meaning they have, you know, food, shelter, a relatively stable government, access to medicine and healthcare and life is essentially more or less secure, barring you know some extreme.  Those societies tend to have religiosity go down.  Societies that are more racked with more precarious situations — life is nasty, brief and short, housing is scarce, jobs are scarce, health and medicine are scarce, there’s political instability, a lot of war, corrupt governments — those societies tend to have higher levels of religiosity, and tend is the operative word here.  It’s not an absolute.  We work in tendencies, correlations and averages in social science.  So on average, societies that are most secure — where people have the best housing, healthcare, job situation, stable governments, democracies — they tend to be more and more secular, religion tends to weaken there.  And in societies that are racked with more social problems and life is more precarious for your average person, religion tends to be strong there.  So that’s the bigger, larger picture.”

It is time for believers to learn how to ‘critically think.’ Cristie and myself are working on multiple, digital, informative tools to help them do just that.

Stephen T. Davis

www.philzuckerman.com

www.pewresearch.com

 


Researchers, Drs. Jerry and Cristie Jo Johnston, are Executive Producing a quick-paced film via trans continental, staccato interviews documenting the shocking rise of the non-religious.

Jerry Johnston Queries Regarding the $2.8MM Templeton Grant to Study “Nones”

“Nones” represents 21 – 28 percent of American adults have disaffiliated from the church or organization religion. This represents a staggering cohort of 55-70 million Americans.

It was my third time to film with Stephen Bullivant, PhD, this week. We have also filmed in Oxford and London, England. Bullivant was an atheist who helped co-found the Nonreligion and Secularity Network (NSRN) in England with Lois Lee (co-editor of Secularism and Nonreligion and of the De Gruyters-NSRN book series, Religion and Its Others: Studies in Religion, Nonreligion and Secularity), Miguel Farias (he now leads the Brain, Belief and Behaviour group at Coventry University), and Jonathan Lanman (Director of the Institute of Cognition & Culture, and Lecturer in Anthropology at Queen’s University Belfast.) An initial conference was conducted in 2009 in Oxford, England, dedicated to the social scientific study of atheism – 40 years after (March 1969) the request by Roman Catholic Church Second Vatican Council’s symposium on “The Culture of Unbelief” in Rome. Bullivant states, “One-third of all cradle Catholics now identify as having a different religious identity other than Catholic and of those, nearly half of the total, identify as “no religion,” and that is going to be the same for Episcopalians or Baptists—across the board.”

While some may ignore or deny the “nones” phenomenon in North America, the John Templeton Foundation, Understanding Unbelief is a major new $2.8MM dollars research program, aiming to advance scientific understanding of atheism and other forms of ‘unbelief’ around the world. The growth of atheism and other forms of ‘unbelief’ in many parts of the world is attracting increasingly wide attention. Yet significant questions remain about how to understand such phenomena, and scientists rely still on categories developed by social actors, not social scientists, to do so. We do not currently know how best to characterize the various forms of unbelief as psychological and sociological phenomena, the extent to which other beliefs – about religion, or the existential – underpin these forms, how diverse they are, and how they vary across demographic groups and cultures. Yet understanding the nature and variety of unbelief is necessary if we are to answer big questions about the causes of ‘unbelief’ in the future, and its effects on such outcomes as personal wellbeing and social cohesion. The “Understanding Unbelief” project will be the first major scientific research program to address the nature and variety of unbelief.

“Bullivant: Umm, so the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network began you know kind of three doctoral students in a post-doc in England, and it grew because we realized very rapidly that this was an area that a large number of grad students but also established scholars in the social sciences were starting to get interested in, psychology, anthropology, umm political science, sociology. Umm, so we had a conference in 2009 in Oxford, which was as far as we know the first conference dedicated to the social scientific study of atheism and kind of related phenomena since 1969, which is when the Vatican had one. Umm and, now its, you know there’s there’s dozens of people umm across the world, although, you know, there’s large pockets in North America and western Europe umm working in this area. There’s all kinds of fascinating new stuff coming out.

 Johnston: Well this has been fascinating. Thank you, Dr. Bullivant. And we’ve been talking to Stephen Bullivant, author of the upcoming NonvertMass Exodus, and the 2019 co-leader, of the new John Templeton project. We look forward to connecting with you in the days ahead.”

Stephen Bullivant is a Visiting Fellow at UCL SSS (Secularity and Secularism Studies) at the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies, and Senior Lecturer in Theology and Ethics and Director of the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society at St Mary’s University, Twickenham.

Stephen is co-leader of the The Scientific Study of Nonreligious Belief (SSNB) project and of the Understanding Unbelief (UU) programme. For more information on Stephen’s work, visit his UCL webpage.


Researchers, Drs. Jerry and Cristie Jo Johnston, are Executive Producing a quick-paced film via trans continental, staccato interviews documenting the shocking rise of the non-religious.

Jerry and Cristie Johnston interview Texas Super Lawyer W. Mark Lanier

Lanier has won court verdicts totaling between $12 – $13 billion dollars. In October 2012, Mr. Lanier was awarded the coveted Clarence Darrow Award. In 2015, Mark was named the 2015 Trial Lawyer of the Year by The National Trial Lawyers and The Trial Lawyer magazine during the Trial Lawyers Summit in Miami. Pepperdine, St. John’s, and Trinity International Universities have bestowed Honorary Doctorate degrees on Mr. Lanier. Cristie and I sat down with him at his remarkable Lanier Theological Library, which exhibits exquisite, unique architecture and houses a comprehensive collection of 100,000 books, periodicals, magazines, artifacts, and historical documents all designed to aid the serious study of Scripture in Houston and include one of the highest esteemed collections of C.S. Lewis. The Stone Chapel on the grounds of the Lanier Library is a reconstruction of a 500 A.D. church in Tomarza, Cappadocia (Turkey) and was built using photos of the original church ruins taken in 1909 as well as an analysis of the site by a Harvard student published in 1971. Mark extended his legal defense skills in his book, Christianity on Trial: A Lawyer Examines the Christian Faith.

“Let’s talk first about Christianity on Trial. Cristie, I know you had some questions about the book.

Dr. Cristie Johnston: Well, Mark you spend your life in the art of convincing. So if you had 60 seconds or less to convince me the truths about Christianity. How would you approach that?

Lanier: Cristie, the biggest problem I see with a lot of people is they want to prove Christianity in the way you prove science. In science, you can prove in a laboratory.  Mathematics, you can prove on a chalkboard. And those are valid ways to prove science and mathematics, but if I want to prove does Cristie love Jerry; Dr. Johnston love Dr. Johnston? You can’t prove whether someone loves another with science, in scientific methodology. It’s the wrong measure of proof. In courtrooms, we recognize that because we have to prove not only who ran the red light, or did the product cause a heart attack, or did so and so murder so and so, but we have to prove things like, what is the level of pain and suffering. What is the level of mental anguish? Does someone love someone? And you can’t prove those things scientifically. You prove them by what’s called the preponderance of the evidence. What’s more likely than not? And that’s proof. And so when I want to engage someone in whether or not Christianity is true, the first thing I try and do is help them understand that proof is not simply science. There are loads of things. We can’t prove ‘was Napoleon at Waterloo’ by science. We have to use other methods of proof, and that’s where I start with people.”

We certainly captured on film a stunning interview with one of America’s very finest trial attorneys. Are there proofs for the Christian faith? Why are believers not informed and articulate to share these faith facts? Further, what are the specific reasons why nearly 70 million adult Americans have “disaffiliated” from the church? Cristie and I drilled down on this issue and Mark’s answers were thought provoking. We have now filmed with nearly 90 international leaders and our documentary saga continues. We will keep you informed as we move to its release and the invaluable ancillary support resources designed for children, youth, and adults.

www.lanierthelogicallibrary.org


Researchers, Drs. Jerry and Cristie Jo Johnston, are Executive Producing a quick-paced film via trans continental, staccato interviews documenting the shocking rise of the non-religious.

Dr. Jerry Johnston and I reflect on November 9th

Dr. Cristie Jo JohnstonTODAY is November 9.  What a special day for me and it’s been that  for thirty-eight years now.  Almost twenty-four hours have passed since America elected Donald Trump as President Elect. Social media has been inundated with people sounding off either “for” or “against.”  News media outlets now reporting demonstrations where fires are being set along with overturned cars in major cites throughout our land. College protesters are burning United States flags, angry over Trump’s victory.  I just put my sweetheart, Jerry Johnston, on an airplane for the kajillionth time since we said, “I do” years ago.   Just prior, Jerry and I grabbed a quick salad at a local, quiet place and I reminded him of TODAY.  “It’s November 9,” I gleefully explained.  In response and at the memory of it, Jerry flashed that darling smile, at me, from across the table.  It was so reminiscent of the one that made my heart flutter for the first time on Sunday night, October 22, 1978.  Daddy invited Jerry Johnston to come over to our home that night for some good food and fellowship.   Jerry was nineteen and wearing a blue suit.  I stood at the kitchen island preparing some snacks.   I glanced over at Jerry sitting at our family’s dinning table.  Our eyes met and Jerry flashed that coy smile at me.  He had me at “Hello!”  I had no clue Jerry and I would be in the same room, sitting at that exact table, only days from when the first smiles were exchanged and my life would forever change.

After the airport run, I arrive home to the cool of the evening in anticipation of a quiet and reflective night decked out in my favorite flannels.  I have digested enough of this “today” in 2016.  It is time to redirect my thoughts toward my “today.”  Jerry has a long flight.  I need to open my laptop and quickly check Flight Aware to track my darling during his overseas flight.  As always, I pray for Jerry’s safety and protection. I turn the television on for updates, but gladly mute it.  The quiet is eerie and I hear the refrigerator running. I glance over at the other matching swivel rocker chair and the manly presence that filled it, earlier today, is gone.   Like my grandchildren always ask me, “O” (short for the German form of Oma), how many sleeps until Papa is home?” It’s only five sleeps until that matching chair rocks again in tandem with mine.   Come home my love.  Jerry’s flight is delayed almost an hour.   Before I close my laptop, I see a Religion News Service commentary titled On Nov.9, we are all Zacchaeus by Randy Hollerith.

I’m a little curious so I linger.   I like the article, and, one line, in particular stands out because it’s my today.  Hollerith writes, “The results of Election Day are not an end; they are the beginning of a new path.”  How apropos because thirty-eight years ago today is when my new path began.   Like Zacchaeus, I needed a “better view of Jesus,” but who would show me the way?  At nineteen, my life had encountered some horrific challenges, and I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.   I finished Cosmetology school in record speed and graduated top of my class.  State boards were completed and only 3 days until my official license would arrive via post.   The landline phone rang.  I ran up the split-level stairs and answered. It was Mrs. Schut extending an invitation for the entire Huf family of 8, along with spouses and significant others, to attend a special church meeting.  “His name is Jerry Johnston and he is a nineteen year old preacher whom I know your parents will enjoy hearing.”  I agreed to pass the message along, but had my mind on other things.   I hear the mail truck delivering the day’s mail.  I dash down the long gravel driveway to see if that one distinct envelope has arrived.  The return address is from the Michigan State Board of Cosmetology, but the size looks different from what the official licenses do.  I rip into the envelope while heading down the long driveway back to the house.    I pause midway and reread the letter thrice.  The tears flow, but not from joy.  My heart is broken.  They claim I failed.  I run into the house and hastily call the president of my school to let him know.  He is shocked.  “My star pupil and how could this happen?”  He calms me down and encourages me to “hold steady” for a few days until he investigates.  I hang up the phone: the same one from where I first heard the name Jerry Johnston, moments earlier.  The waiting is excruciating.  My heart is spiritually tender. Somehow, I feel like accepting Mrs. Schut’s invite to hear this guy, Jerry.  On the next Sunday, my family fills the entire second row and I am within spiting distance away from the preacher, Jerry.  He mounts the pulpit and my body language almost dares him to compel me.  I expect nothing, but then Jerry opens his mouth and the Scripture begins to tenderly flow.  He is not reading from the Bible. It’s all from memory.  I’m riveted and nearly catatonic.  Jerry thunders out one scripture after another and it captures me.  I sit in the middle, my boyfriend to my left and my future sister-in-law to my right.  They want to pass notes so I act as their courier as I sit mesmerized by the Word.  I can’t take my eyes off the preacher.  I’m hooked!  I find things to keep me busy for the next few days, but always find a way to end up back at that church to hear Jerry each night.  Days have passed and I finally get word that an error was made by the State Board and my license would be dated October 17.  It would be arriving within days and I could be ready for work.  Somehow, my heart was shifting and I sensed  “the beginning of a new path.”  Could it be, amidst the teenage chaos encircling my life, I missed that view of Jesus?  That Saturday was a special youth event and I felt I needed to go.  Jerry spoke again that evening and I felt struck.  “God, are You dealing with me?”  I am feeling things I’ve never encountered before.  There is such sensitivity toward the spiritual.  Jerry concludes his message and comes to sit with my sister and me.  We exchange a few words and from that night begin a friendship that quickly matriculates into a relationship.   It’s now Halloween day and, at Jerry’s invitation, I am flying to see him in Kansas City.  The Michigan air is damp and chilly.  I chose my favorite fitted chocolate brown corduroy pantsuit for the trip.  Jerry picks me up at the airport in his blue, Dodge Charger.  The forty-minute drive passes in the blink of an eye.  Just before we pass 95th street, on 69 South, Jerry leans over to gently kiss me.   We arrive at Jerry’s family home.  Jerry’s father is in bed, ill with the flu.  We peek in to say, “Hello.”  Jerry’s mom has prepared a generous and delicious seafood meal and we indulge.  It’s beginning to get dark and the trick-or-treaters ring the doorbell.   Jerry and I walk to Monkey’s Island to be alone and get more acquainted.  That week was filled with treasured memories.  We talked and laughed and ate and prayed and wept and it was time to leave.  Jerry accompanied me back home to Michigan and decided to stay a few days.  I was thrilled.  We stuck together like glue.  It was difficult to separate us.  This love grew fast and deep.  Jerry Johnston and Cristie Jo Huff Johnston Dating November 1978Today is November 9, 1978.   It’s chilly enough for a flannel shirt. Jerry wears a sweater.  He asks me if I want to study some passages from the Bible.  I am all in!  We dig in deep and hours must have passed when I realize Jerry was leading me to the view of Jesus that I needed.  I acknowledge my transgressions and need for a Savior.  Jerry graciously prays with me.  After, I feel like a ton of burdens have been lifted.  Perhaps it is because I realize for the first time, I don’t have to carry them alone.  God, and His Son, Jesus are with me.   As the clock struck midnight, I told Jerry that I feared for my sister, Debra, who lived directly down the street.  I knew, like me, her life was not at all right with God.  But, I knew she was at a place in her life where she was willing to hear.  We rang the doorbell and woke her from a dead sleep.  I shared my journey with her and she tenderly said, “I need Jesus to do the same for me.”

Jerry is great with youth.  As a struggling fourteen year old, he contemplated suicide and ended up at a summer youth camp as a last ditch resort.  It was called Windermere in Roach, Missouri.  Sounds exciting?  Not!  What teenager wanted to spend the week in Roach, Missouri?  It saved his life.  He had a spiritual encounter with God and went home a changed person.  Little did I know that after we wed, God would allow us to speak to thousands of young people in summer youth camps all over the country? Over the years, Jerry was invited to be the camp evangelist at several camps including Southern Baptist Camps.  And, fast forward, God allowed our children to experience several with us.  Our daughter sang at Falls Creek during one of her high school summers.  Jerry was also honored to speak for his good friend, Rick Gage at Go Tell camps.  

I guess I feel like God allowed me to experience my own personal youth camp on November 9, 1978.  So, as the clock strikes midnight tonight and I come to a close with this blogging post, this day holds a very different set of emotions for me.  Jesus is the leader of my world and has been for thirty-eight years.  I will now do what I have done every year since that fateful night.  I will contact my sister, Debra and wish her a “Happy Thirty-Eighth spiritual birthday,” because it is now November 10.    Thank you, Jerry and I love you like crazy!

Jerry Johnston Interviews Youth With A Mission Senior Leader Mark Anderson regarding the Largest Missions Organization in the World

Are all Millennials “nones”? Not at all. Over 30,000 young people are engaged in evangelism throughout the world serving through YWAM in over 180 countries in 1,100 locations. I spent the day with Mark Anderson who has served for decades next to YWAM founder, Loren Cunningham. Multiple thousands of people are coming to Christ in China, Indonesia, and many other countries — the true “news” stories of our day that the media will never report. I consider him one of my most respected friends. Spending time with Anderson, founder of the global pastor/leader movement call2all.org, I was captivated by stories he shared that sounded like the Acts of Apostles in the 21st century. The Chinese church is raising up 1MM missionaries to take the Gospel worldwide. YWAM features no hierarchical organization chart, which is perhaps one of the reasons for their massive growth and effectiveness. Antidotal to a grim spiritual landscape in North America and Western Europe, YWAM and its army of passionate youth committed to the Great Commission reminds us of what the power of prayer and vision can accomplish.

“The idea that Loren had … and he got it from the Lord, very sovereignly, was that you don’t have to wait until your 30, 35, 40, to engage the Lord and move into some category of influence. God made it clear to him that you can help the young people who are still teenagers, certainly college age, to experience missions and have their lives changed, and encounter the Lord on very deep levels, and make a difference even while they are young. So Youth With A Mission idea is ‘catch them young’ and give them an opportunity to do what we typically think are ‘adult things’ particularly 50 years ago. Nobody thought you could send an 18-year-old to a mission field. You had to be Bible college, Seminary, experience something somewhere, and then be funded, and then you could go. He blew all that up, by God’s direction … now it is normal.”

Why does it seem God is moving in demonstrable ways in nations other than the United States of America? Why do Chinese and Indonesian Christians, who often suffer for their faith, eagerly risk their lives, social status, and much more? One distinction Cristie Jo and I have observed as we travel the globe is their determination to learn “why” they believe “what” they believe. Discipleship has replaced ‘entertainment’ Christianity. As a couple, we will take you on an international journey transcending the shallow reasons for American Christianity’s decline, paradoxically, at the same time it is booming in other nations where Christian leaders are daring to call people to a higher level of commitment and catechism long overdue.

Mark Anderson is the founder and president of www.call2all.org. He has served in Christian ministry since 1977 in a variety of capacities including senior leadership in www.ywam.org.


 

Jerry & Cristie Jo Johnston Interviews Frank Schaeffer on His Journey to Atheism

Dr. Cristie Jo Johnston (@ChristieJoJohn) and I sat down and filmed an interview  for our upcoming documentary with Frank Schaeffer in Boston. He Executive Produced his father’s globally acclaimed film series, “How Then Shall We Live,” and “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?”  Regarding his dad, Michael Hamilton of Christianity Today wrote,”Perhaps no intellectual save C. S. Lewis affected the thinking of evangelicals more profoundly [than Francis Schaeffer]; perhaps no leader of the period save Billy Graham left a deeper stamp on the movement as a whole.” How then did his own son leave the faith of his father? Nearly 70MM adult Americans have left the church. One in three comprise Millennials. Why? The sons and daughters of notable Christian leaders have exited, too. Frank was gracious and kind during our 2 ½ hour absolutely fascinating interview. Cristie and I have a sincere motivation to dig deep with international research and help Christendom understand why this phenomenon is happening, what the future statistical prediction for America is barring divine intervention, and, most importantly, create a digital series representing extensive research to catechize those who believe on three different levels: children, youth, and adult. To this ambitious aim we have now filmed with 87 international distinguished leaders in atheism, agnosticism, secularism, sociologists, and Christian apologists. The digital tools we create will be designed in different languages and stretch around the globe in addition to a documentary that will capture the attention of millions of people. We appreciate your thoughts and prayers. Here is a clip from our recent interview with Frank. Cristie asked:  

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