Mike Johnson was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. His father, Frank, was a computer engineer and his mother, Helen, a retired real estate agent. Mike grew up in a small Baptist church where his family faithfully attended. As a seven-year-old boy, Mike accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior after conversations with his parents.
stories and the Bibles
There are two things Mike vividly remembers as a child growing up in this small Baptist church. First, his family was at church almost every time the doors were open. Second, once a year, a man would come to speak about Bibles. As a child, Mike had a hard time following everything the speaker would say, but one thing was clear, the speaker was going to start with a story that typically had a happy ending. The stories intrigued Mike—they involved a person’s life that was forever changed, turning to Christ as a result of reading God’s Word. He recalls sitting on the pew as a typical, fidgety child, anticipating the story and absorbing every word.
On one occasion, Mike was again fascinated by one of the stories, and he felt a leading of the Holy Spirit. He didn’t know where, when, or how, he knew one day he would be the person telling these stories to others.
Public Speaking Class in College
In the late 1970’s, during Mike’s second semester of his junior year of college, he needed an elective to complete a full load for the semester. Mike went to a small liberal arts college and the selection for electives was limited. This particular semester he had only one option—public speaking. Mike had no desire to take public speaking, but he had no other choice if he was going to graduate on time.
Mike entered his public speaking course with great reluctance. The plan was to keep a low profile, get by with doing minimal speeches, and finish the course with a C-average. On the first day of class, Mike observed three things about the professor: he enjoyed teaching, had a gift for it, and he recognized Mike as a reluctant student. The professor taught Mike to write out his thoughts in a way others could understand, verbalize thoughts in a way others would listen, and control his nervousness to provide a smooth delivery. By the end of the semester, Mike felt confident enough to deliver a prepared speech and ended up with an A in the course.
Mike graduated from college in 1982 and found that jobs were scarce. He decided to enlist in the United States Navy, where he repaired medical equipment for the next eight years. After this, Mike began to work for hospitals employing the same skill set he acquired in the Navy – biomedical engineering.
Membership and Ministry with The Gideons
In the fall of 1996, Mike and his family moved to a mid-sized community in Florida, where Mike started a new job. The family found a church home, and Mike met a man who would influence his life more than he could ever imagine. The man’s name was Len Plisk, an older man, now deceased, who was the president of a Gideon camp. Mike observed that Len was a passionate follower of Jesus, practicing what he preached.
As an engaged Gideon, Len took Mike to a membership dinner and Mike answered God’s call to join the Association. “One of the best aspects about being a Gideon is the ability to take skills learned in the workplace and use those skills to glorify our Lord,” says Mike. “Our camps require skilled treasurers (accounting), presidents and vice presidents (administration), computer and media skills (IT), promoters and speakers (marketing), church relations (customer service), and other skills.” Mike’s advice to fellow believers is to be faithful in following the Holy Spirit’s leading.
One month after joining, Mike qualified to begin giving presentations in churches. Within two months of joining, he spoke during a service on a Sunday evening at a small church with about 20 people in attendance. Mike told a story of a man who had stumbled through life without direction, a plan, or hope, until a Gideon gave him a New Testament. The man accepted Jesus Christ as His Lord and Savior, forever changing his life. At the end of the service, an offering was taken up that amounted to US$67.00.
“One of the best aspects about being a Gideon is the ability to take skills learned in the workplace and use those skills to glorify our Lord.”
As Mike drove home that evening, he looked at the small gray envelope that contained US$67.00, funds that would go completely toward purchasing Scriptures, so people will have the opportunity to read the greatest story ever told—the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. Mike stopped the car and began to sob, realizing the Lord had taken him on an incredible journey to get him to this point.
“It had always been about the Lord,” says Mike. “God was present with me as a child, as a college student, and in that car. It is not about Mike, it is about God and what God can do in and through a person for His glory. It is about being obedient to what God has called you to do.”
In the 21 years following his first church presentation, Mike has had the privilege and honor to speak in many churches to thousands of people, but the message is still the same. “It’s never about me, it’s always about Christ.”