call to ministry
call to ministry

A Biography of Bishop Johnson

His Early Call To Ministry

Perhaps the underlying factor in his coming to Christ, can be accredited to his contact with some people in his community who were members of a Holiness Church in the vicinity. To most people in the settlement they were an erratic bunch; queer to this extent; they were so much different from the average individual, until their fame spread around the community as being erratic; religious fanatics. The expression was often made that even the mule looked sanctified. One day a lady in question said to Sherrod, then a lad; "Son, how would you like to be Holy?" This question stayed with him, took root, and then grew to be an actuality. In Halifax, N.C. there was a Holiness Church. Here it was that Sherrod Johnson went and here it was that he first heard Holiness preached. Here it was that he deeply considered Holiness. To the other spectators who came in mostly for curiosity, the words might have been the fanatic babbling of some fanatic minister. Here it was that he first knew God. His whole soul cried out for the gift that God promised, the gift of his precious Holy Ghost. One night while in bed, God poured out upon him the gift of the Holy Ghost, as it was received in the scripture; Acts 2:4. Surely his cup was filled to overflowing. From the moment that he received the Holy Ghost, he went around fighting for Christ, as much as he knew.

 

Then one day Suddenly, from out of the womb of eternity, God spoke; "Peace be unto thee, and again I say, Peace be unto thee; as my father has sent me, even so send I you." This would begin the motion which would one day lead to the greatness he would experience as a minister of the gospel of God. Upon his arriving in Philadelphia, he took residence with his cousin. And as you might expect his cousin was the exact opposite in character. Wherein Bishop Johnson's whole soul, mind and object in life was to be something for the Lord and to do good on this earth; so his cousin's was to fulfill the lust of the flesh. Often were the times when he would accompany his cousin to the various houses of amusement and stand outside and wait for him until it was over to go home, because as yet he hadn't learned the way home. Sickened at the loose way of the sinners and longing for the blessings of God in the vocation to which he had been called.

 

Because of his desire to live a sanctified lifestyle apart from the lust of the flesh, he moved and took up residence with another boy from his home state. He found lodging in a little room on the third floor, in back of the building. An attic room with a window that at this time of the year was completely covered with ice and snow. There was no heat in the room and very little covering for the bed. Having no money for food, the two of them were forced to share a loaf of bread and some cheese for a number of days. Finally, after a long search, he obtained work.

 

Now it was here on this job, that he contacted a man who told him the good news, of water baptism in Jesus' name as it was administered in the 2nd Chapter of Acts and 38th verse. Because his heart was open to receive the word of God, he readily went to 1720 South Street and was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ; thus completing his salvation according to God's eternal word. His First Church - His Ministry Brother Johnson became pastor of his first church in the year 1919, at 1524 South 17th Street. He rented a store front at 1754 South 17th Street with the idea of opening a church. After going in and getting it painted and fixed up nicely, the owner of the building said that he didn't want it for a church, but he would let him have it for a store. Since so much time and energy had been spent in fixing the place, Bishop Johnson decided to open a store. The store prospered and at the time that it was sold, it was valued at more than $1300. Father Bruan, who is called by the more familiar name of Father "B"; came over from New York City to visit Bishop Johnson, and while there, he said to him. The Lord wants you to sell out." Immediately, without any hesitation, Bishop Johnson did just that. He gave up everything that he had accomplished and began to go out into the streets and tell the people about this gospel of Christ and the goodness and grace that could and can be found in His righteousness.

 

After the business was sold out, he had to move. This he did willingly. Then began the long, hard struggle which has at long last come to pass, with blessings abundantly. All of the money that he had was soon used up and he had 1 horse; and the time soon came that he was unable to buy food for it nor for the 1 child that he had at that time. All efforts had failed to get work and one day just as the sun was going down, a man came up and asked if he would go and clean a cellar for him. Truly this was one of God's manifold blessings in disguise. Afterwards, he moved to Styles Street. While at the Styles Street address, Bishop Johnson took the first room of his home for a church. Even thought the battle was hard, his soul had the satisfaction of knowing that he was doing the will of God. Once the water pipe broke in the kitchen of the house and as fortune would have it, it was winter of the year; ashes had to be put on the floor to keep from slipping.

 

There was no money for bare necessities of life. During this crucial period, the gas was turned off and having no money to buy coal by the ton, Bishop Johnson was forced to take a bucket and carry coal into the house, in this manner. When the time came for the rent to be paid, Bishop Johnson had to go on Chestnut Street and suffer the humiliation of never having all the money for the rent. The rent collector would say to him when he would see him coming in, "How are you Doctor," because he knew he was a preacher. His mind was recalled to the scripture where God called Gideon a mighty man of valor. But in spite of all this, he told God that he would hold on and this he did. When all hope was gone, he held on. When hungry, cold, barefooted, destitute; when down to his last pair of pants, he preached the gospel. He was determined to bring to the world a gospel above reproach. While in New York one year preaching, he could see a tent set up. The people gave an offering of $240.00. He took the money that had been raised and bought a tent and set it up at 45th and Aspen Streets in Philadelphia. The children annoyed him so, he moved to 58th and Race Streets. There he had every kind of chair that you could mention in the tent. From this tent meeting, Elder Johnson moved to 11th and Warnock Streets and obtained a building there. His membership increased to about 12. He stayed there approximately 1 year and then moved to 911 Master Street.

 

During this the depression that swept the country during the late twenties and early thirties had reached its peak. It was only the blessing of the Lord that enabled them to pay the expenses that were eminent. A few years later, from 25th and Jefferson, he moved to 22nd and Ridge Avenue. Here he stayed for a while and moved to 1748 N. 22nd Street. At this time, he became tired of the slack, loose way of the head Bishop of his movement that he was with at that time. He had been ordained Bishop, in the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, so the Lord said to him, "Come out from among them and be ye separate." This he did and with a remnant of the saints, started his own work. He called the church, "The Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith." One Sunday morning, Bishop Johnson was led across the street from his church to a vacant lot that was there. It was then he said to the saints that he was going to build a church. It was about the middle of the great depression and all of his people were begging bread on the welfare and in general it was the most trying years of the depression. Bishop Johnson began to preach faith to the people. He told them to trust God for food and the necessities of life and told them to come off the welfare. They obeyed and with most of the people out of work, they were able in the face of all this to build a tabernacle for God in eleven weeks. From this time forward all those who were members of the Bishop Johnson movement knew that this humble man was indeed a true man of God and that victory would always be his regardless to the odds. And that the mountain would always be conquered no matter how large the size and how steep the summit.

 

Victory Abroad

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