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TEMPLE, TX

September 26, 2017 | by Charis Saenz


Rev. Elwyn Johnston with his wife ReGina Johnston
Rev. Elwyn Johnston with wife, ReGina 

In 2006, alumnus Reverend Elwyn Johnston figured out a way to utilize a class project to improve the health of his church for years to come.

Rev. Johnston is the Senior Pastor of Bethel Church in Temple, Texas. About 10 years ago, Johnston was enrolled at Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) and was taking a course called Church Growth and Evangelism Strategies with Bible Professor Dr. Larry Hester. This course required students to research the growth history of their church, determine areas that needed improvement, and project a five-year plan for its future growth.

Rev. Johnston was already curious about the church’s growth history since his arrival at Bethel 15 years earlier and was eager to discover why the church had been experiencing a plateau since 1999.

After researching Bethel’s history of general funding, Sunday attendance, and leadership development, Johnston uncovered the contributing factor to the church’s stagnation: organizationally, his church was not aligned for growth.

“When churches plateau or start to decline, often, Pastors take it very personally and we don’t know how to fix it,” Johnston says. “This caused me to really do some inward searching and really helped me to look at what needed to change.”

Rev. Johnston recognized the need for his church to improve the training and equipping of staff and volunteers for service. Thus, Rev. Johnston began to develop a three-part plan for the church’s health.

This plan called for stronger concentration on leadership training and staff alignment, a more unified reorganization of the church’s worship program, and stronger evangelism efforts. After receiving approval from the Board of Directors, Rev. Johnston began to implement the plan. A year and a half later, the three-part plan was fully implemented within the church’s infrastructure.

“We’ve seen so many positive things as we’ve implemented some of these strategies,” says Johnston.

Since the plan was put into effect over ten years ago, the church has grown numerically and financially by 50 percent and in their missions giving by 80 percent. 

While the church has experienced a significant breakthrough, Rev. Johnston is optimistic for the continued progress of the church’s growth.

“It’s not over,” says Rev. Johnston. “It’s constant tweaking, constant movement, constant changing, but it started with me changing. It started with me expanding myself and my thoughts. It’s easy to talk about where you are, but when you actually sit and write it down, it helps to crystalize where you are.”

He is grateful for his training at SAGU including the course project which has played such a significant role in the health of his own church and his ministerial career.

“The Practical Theology degree is good for any pastor that wants to further their education, personally grow, and help their church to grow,” says Johnston. “It was a wonderful program.”

Johnston recommends all SAGU students to apply the knowledge gained from inside the classroom into their own church. “A leader has to be someone that grows,” he says. “Southwestern stretched me, they pushed me. It was hard, but it was worth it because it made me personally a better person.”

Johnston is in his 26th year of pastoring Bethel Church and is still witnessing the positive effects of the growth plan implemented 11 years ago. “SAGU provided me with invaluable relationships, a spiritual formation that gave me a broader understanding of the word, and a broader foundation for my ministry.”

To learn more about the Master's in Practical Theology degree, click here

To learn more about Bethel Church, click here

Southwestern Assemblies of God University is a private, Christian university located 30 minutes south of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex in Waxahachie, Texas. The university was established in 1927, and now offers more than 70 associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees on campus or online. More information is available at www.sagu.edu or by calling 1-888-YES-SAGU.

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