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Follow and trust God: Rev. Ron Johnson’s ministry journey

By: Abby Ferris, Samuel intern and member of First UMC, Pierre, SD

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Rev. Ron Johnson. Dakotas Conference file photos.

In 45 years of ministry Rev. Ron Johnson has been able to see how God works in awesome, diverse ways, through the people you would least expect to see in a relationship with Christ.

“I am just amazed how God comes to you. ‘Hey, pay attention! This is for you to remember that I’m here. I’ve got this and you don't have to worry.  You just have to keep following and trusting me’ God can come to people in so many ways, like a beautiful sunset,” says Rev. Ron Johnson, who is retiring after serving the Dakotas Conference for 25 years.

Rev. Ron Johnson was baptized a Methodist. As a junior in high school, he first felt a call to enter ministry, while attending church camp.

“During the week of camp, it felt like God was in my ear and tugging at my heart and saying, ‘Ron I have something for you to do,’” says Johnson.

On the last night of camp, Ron went off by himself to talk to God and understand what he was feeling. He originally wanted to be a teacher and coach, but after that moment with God, Johnson knew that God was saying that “you will be teacher and coach in a different way for me”.

“It was exciting and challenging 45 years of ministry,” says Pastor Ron.

In 1975, he became an ordained deacon in the Iowa conference. Rev. Johnson was appointed to his first parish in 1977. In 1978, he became an ordained elder and became a full member of the Iowa Conference. Six years later he was appointed to Rock Valley, Iowa and served that congregation for 14 years.

“I remember when I was serving my first parish,” says Johnson. “A 95-year-old member of the congregation told me that she prays for me every day. She encouraged me to always move forward in in your relationship with the Lord, because the day you stop moving forward is the day you die.”  

He sent a resume to Bishop Mike Coyner, who was serving the Dakotas Episcopal Area, at that time. Bishop Coyner appointed Johnson to serve the United Methodist Church in Canton, South Dakota. Pastor Johnson served at Canton UMC for 13 years.

In 2010, Pastor Ron Johnson was appointed by Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey to serve First United Methodist in Yankton, South. He has been serving the congregation in Yankton, South for ten years.

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Rev. Ron Johnson participates in the annual conference session.

Working with the youth of the church is a passion for Rev. Johnson. He loved talking with them and sharing with them. Going out to breakfast and listening to youth talk about school and sports are some of his favorite youth activities.

Rev. Johnson sees Bishop Mike Coyner as a mentor who changed the path of his ministry career. Bishop Coyner encouraged him to come to the Dakotas. Johnson enjoyed Coyner’s style of ministry and what he was about. “He had the local church in his heart,” says Johnson.

Clergy colleagues who guided Johnson’s ministry career are: Rev. Cliff Isaacson, who was like a spiritual father to Johnson when he was discerning his call into ministry. Rev. Dick Pfaltzgraff, Rev. Howard Grinager, and Rev. Art Scanson encouraged him and welcomed him.  

In retirement, Johnson is leaning on the advice of friends to not be so quick to find something to do; take time to rest. He plans to connect with family and follow his grandchildren through sports, school, and other activities. In the future, he hopes to mentor some younger pastors and will fill-in when needed at the pulpit. Rev. Johnson is also investigating being a spiritual advisor at a rehabilitation facility.

Pastor Johnson calls on everyone to remember how much God loves you and that God calls us to love one another.

“We are all called to be a vessel of His love for His people,” says Rev. Johnson. “Healing will come in many ways, not just physically but also emotionally and socially. We have to remember that God has a path for us. We need discern that path together. Even though we may disagree with each other, that doesn't mean we stop loving each other.”


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