John pastored two congregations in Illinois from 1972–1992, the last one for sixteen years in Wheaton. He grew up in Tennessee and Alabama but moved to Chicago to complete his formal education at Wheaton College (B.A.) and Wheaton Graduate School (M.A.). John met and married Anita, his wife of 46-plus years, in Wheaton.
John and Anita have two married children (40 and 44 years old). They have four grandchildren. He is the author of thirteen books and has served as an adjunct professor of evangelism and guest lecturer in many seminaries and colleges.
In John’s two halves of life he has been a church planting pastor and then the pastor of a church in a decade-plus of renewal.
During the second decade of his twenty years as a pastor he began to build deep friendships with ministers throughout the Chicago region. This led him to form a monthly trans-denominational gathering for spiritual renewal among church leaders (1981).
Over time, this effort led him into consulting and empowering leaders and churches. The first half of John’s ministry life thus led him directly to the second half–which has been a ministry of teaching, writing and mentoring leaders for mission and evangelism. In this capacity he wrote his story in the book, Your Church Is Too Small: Why Unity in Christ’s Mission Is Vital to the Future of the Church (Zondervan, 2010). This book has opened doors for what John calls missional-ecumenism.
This vision has led John into a number of contexts, including Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant dialogue and mission. Through this vision he works with many partners to build bridges for the growth of the kingdom of God, especially by mentoring younger (millennial) leaders for the the church in North America and beyond.
John believes that we are failing to reach and disciple the youngest leaders in our midst and as a result the church of the future, at least in North America, faces grave challenges.
At the very moment when mission is in our neighborhoods and on our doorsteps in common public space where our people live and work we must do better. We can only do better if we find our way forward as partners and collaborators in Christ’s mission. The way forward is the reasons he wrote Costly Love: The Way to True Unity for All the Followers of Jesus (New City Press, 2017).
His ministry vision is to “empower leaders and churches for unity in Christ’s mission.” He does this because John 17:20-23 makes it profoundly clear that the world will see the love of God when we love one another in real relationships; cf. John 13:34-35.
This summer (2017) ACT3 began to work out a vision for John to transition out of leadership. The mission is now to become a covenanted community that intentionally lives and promotes missional-ecumenism. The dream is that in 2019 this community will replace ACT3. John will be a member of this community but not the leader in this expression of lived ecumenism through deep friendships.