Thank you, humble soldier of God’s army.
Douglas MacArthur is one of the most famous leaders in United States Military history.
A five-star general who was unceremoniously dismissed by President Harry Truman following a conflict with the then-Commander-in-Chief over handling of the Korean War, MacArthur wasn’t necessarily known as a feisty leader like General George Patton, but rather a brilliant strategist, working hard to serve the people under his charge.
MacArthur’s famous speech to Congress following that dismissal included the adage “Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.”
My interpretation of that quote is that even though someone may be gone from our sight, the impact of their teachings and life’s work will continue on through examples set and subsequent contributions of others in the future. MacArthur wanted no parade, no proclamation — just the knowledge that he had done his best to carry out the service his conscience dictated.
Gordon Johnson has an affinity for Douglas MacArthur.
Answering his call to the ministry several decades ago, Johnson has admittedly tried to follow the example set by MacArthur — surround yourself with good people and lead by example, with limited to no fanfare.
In 1967, many iconic things entered the world.
The pocket calculator was invented by Texas Instruments.
The first ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) began the world of instant money.
The Doors released their debut record album, and the Beatles unleashed “Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
Future generations of music fans would eventually be impacted by the birth of Robbie VanWinkle. He would later be known as Vanilla Ice.
And Walt Disney produced the final animated film before his death with the production of the classic “The Jungle Book,” based on the famous book by Rudyard Kipling.
Much like the characters in that film/book, that same year, the leadership of London’s First Presbyterian Church was looking for the “Bare Necessities.” Foremost on their agenda was looking for a new pastor to lead them into the future.
Fifty years ago, they found the right soldier to lead them.
Celebrating his golden anniversary in the London church’s pulpit, Johnson, delivers his final sermon as that house of worship’s leader on Sunday, Nov. 12.
I have had the pleasure of getting to know Gordon over the years. My first meeting was not until about halfway through his tenure as my then soon-to-be wife and I had sessions to plan our wedding for June 1989.
My recollection was that he was very welcoming and committed to making the day special. He has done the same for close to 500 other couples over the years.
He continued those times of joy with close to 900 baptisms, but was also there to console and reflect, compassionately facilitating 700-plus funerals.
Through his sermons and the resonance of his bass/baritone singing voice in the choir, Johnson has spread the message of his call to countless people over the years.
But that message has been far-reaching beyond the walls of the sanctuary with home visits, volunteer work and support of other houses of worship throughout Ohio. With his wife Ruthanne serving as the first lieutenant throughout his journey in this local branch of God’s Army, Johnson’s family became the church’s family.
And the church family, became his own.
MacArthur proudly finished his farewell speech with the following words — “I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the light to see that duty.”
So, like MacArthur, Johnson can be proud of who he served, how he served, and the message that he served to proclaim.
Congratulations on 50 years and Godspeed.
Jeff Gates has been a freelance writer for The Madison Press since 1996. Future column suggestions and/or comments? Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.