A 22-year veteran pastor who considers Saint Mark United Methodist Church one of the “flagship” black churches in the denomination has been chosen as the new pastor for the Wichita ministry.
The Rev. Robert Johnson was announced as the new pastor of Saint Mark on June 26. He will begin on Sunday, Aug. 14. Johnson, 50, replaces the Rev. Junius Dotson, who was selected in April as general secretary of the Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church after 14 years at Saint Mark.
“Saint Mark is just a great church in every aspect of what people consider a great church,” Johnson said. “It’s a great worship experience, great teaching ministries, great involvement in the community.”
A native of Columbia, Mississippi, Johnson has served just less than two years as pastor of Aldersgate UMC in College Station, Texas. Prior to that, he spent 7½ years as the senior pastor of NewWorld UMC in Houston.
Johnson spent a decade as associate pastor at Windsor Village UMC in Houston, with a membership of more than 16,000, making it one of the largest protestant churches in the country. Windsor Village’s pastor, the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, taped a video introduction of Johnson for the Saint Mark congregation.
“It’s a good marriage,” Caldwell said on the video, “I’m happy for you.”
Johnson said he admired Caldwell’s boundless energy and dedication.
“I’ve never seen anyone who works more passionately, day-in and day-out. He loves it,” Johnson said. “The joy and passion of being a pastor and how that impacts what happens at your church.”
A church, Johnson said he learned from Caldwell, can have a multitude of ministries, but without a powerful presence on Sunday morning it’s like McDonald’s deciding not to serve hamburgers.
“He said, ‘I will put everything I’ve got into making that hour count,’” Johnson said. “Kirbyjon was really big on ‘We’re not perfect, but let’s make every effort to polish it up and make it appealing to reflect excellence.’”
Saint Mark, with two campuses in Wichita, is considered one of the top five black United Methodist Churches in membership in the country.
Johnson said he considered the church a flagship for other United Methodists.
“To have an opportunity to serve a church where you have other, smaller churches in the denomination looking to you for guidance, I just see that as a great opportunity,” Johnson said. “I’m passionate not only about local churches, but I’m passionate about the welfare of our denomination and the welfare of the global church.”
To continue to thrive, he said, the church must become more diverse in many different aspects.
“Sometimes local churches can do ministry in a way that makes it very clear that while they’re not excluding people, that they’re targeting a particular demographic. And that demographic can be super limited,” Johnson said.
“You can still be particularly relevant to a specific demographic without being exclusive. You focus on the things that are bigger than culture and are bigger than race and bigger than age and bigger than the worship wars. You’re intentional about seeking to communicate God’s truth and God’s presence to all human beings that you encounter,” he added. “That’s what church should be about.”
Johnson is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi and Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. His wife, Linda, is a senior financial manager for Shell Oil who will continue her career when the family moves to Wichita. They have two daughters, Giselle, a film student at Howard University in Washington, D.C.; and Kayla, who will be entering her junior year of high school this fall.
View a video welcome from Johnson.
Contact David Burke, Great Plains Conference communications coordinator, at email@example.com.