His stay as IPC pastor has remained steady, too. Even before he arrived, Johnson wanted to stay long-term, available to baptize, marry and then bury congregants, as the saying goes. His heroes served 30 to 50 years in one pulpit, a norm of the past, according to Johnson. Such time lessens disruptions with consistent pastoral oversight and care.
Independent Presbyterian Church Pastor Terry Johnson has served at the downtown church for 30 years.
Once, an intern at Independent Presbyterian Church of Savannah worried he lacked charm. The newbie feared his sermon wouldn’t entertain.
“The Bible has its own power if you fully proclaim it,” he recalls advising the intern. “You’ve got to preach the word.”
Indeed, Johnson believes preaching the Bible transforms lives and is the “most important thing in the world.”
But while he’s faithful to preach scripture, he’s also faithful to the congregation that welcomed the “young kid” three decades ago. Johnson celebrates 30 years as IPC’s pastor this January.
“It’s about a relationship,” Johnson says. “It’s not about me.”
Some stress Johnson’s influence nonetheless.
‘Grown and kept on growing’
Sunday morning attendance 30 years ago was about 125 people, and not enough to sustain the facility, Johnson recalls. Young families were sparse; many attendees were older, suggesting further attendance decline.
Now, about 500 people file in Sunday mornings. Sunday school and Sunday night services blossomed, too.
Also under Johnson, leaders planted six churches, added a school (see Veritas Academy students playing volleyball beneath the soaring steeple) and renovated neighboring property.
“Since Terry came, we have grown and kept on growing,” says Jean Ennis, a longtime parishioner and member of the pastoral search committee that called Johnson.
Leaders believed a good preacher could bring in people, recalls Don McLaurin, chairman of that committee. But someone thought interviewing Johnson, dubbed a “young kid,” was a waste of time, McLaurin says.
Then he preached — and the 31-year-old didn’t seem too young anymore.
“We were all blown away,” Ennis says. “We had not heard that kind of preaching.”
Even the genealogies
Congregants are now quite familiar with the verse-by-verse style of Johnson, now gray at age 62.
In 30 years at IPC, he’s covered 46 of the Bible’s 66 books. That’s it.