Passion for the Church inspires new Providence president

OTTERBURNE, MB—David Johnson wants to see the Church flourish, and in his new role as president of Providence University College and Theological Seminary, his goal is to facilitate that.

"My purpose in life is to strengthen the Church," says Johnson, who became the institution's 14th president effective July 1. "I started out as a pastor and got to experience the Church in that way, then I did my doctorate, all the while thinking: How can I strengthen the Church? My passion still today is to make the Church stronger all over the world, and that's what we do at Providence."

Johnson's appointment follows the presidency of August (Gus) Konkel, who retired in 2012. Johnson, who also teaches New Testament courses, served as interim president since July 2012, and previously held other administrative posts, including executive vice president and provost, vice president for seminary academics and chairman of biblical and theological studies.

Johnson says he is honoured to lead Providence into the next chapter of its growth as the institution strives to provide students with a second-to-none, Christ-centred education.

"I think that higher education in general contributes to the public good by contributing economically and helping people to fill the right jobs," he says. "At Providence, we offer university programs but also emphasize the idea of building character."

That's the goal and vision Johnson says he believes in: Building the character of Providence students as well as providing them with an academic formation comparable to any other institution.

"I think Providence has a bright future," he says. "We've turned the corner in terms of enrolment. Last year we were up significantly—in our graduate program, anyway—and this year looks to be up in our undergrad and seminary enrolment as well. I think Providence has a role to play in Christian education in Manitoba and across the country."

Johnson says one of the biggest things he learned during his time as interim president was fundraising, which is a major part of his job.

His goals as president include securing the donation resources Providence needs; increasing enrolment; engaging with churches; and expanding the university's program offerings.

"We are in the process of trying to add some science," he explains. "We've begun to offer a science course and we're intending to add a science major and a math major."

Johnson grew up in Roseville, Minnesota, just north of St. Paul and east of Minneapolis. He came to Providence in 1990 to teach New Testament in the seminary.

He lives in Steinbach, Manitoba with his wife, and has three grown daughters and five grandchildren. During his free time, Johnson enjoys the outdoors and is an avid gardener, runner, hiker and basketball player.

He is a member of Emmanuel Evangelical Free Church, and preaches and teaches frequently there and in other churches.

Johnson says he is always looking for new places to preach, and he looks forward to meeting with pastors in Manitoba and strengthening the connections he has with the local church.

"I believe in the Church," he says. "I think the Church is a great place."

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Special to ChristianWeek

Aaron Epp is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer, Musical Routes columnist, and former Senior Correspondent for ChristianWeek.