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EU Alumna Perspective: Rená (Gorbett) Johnson

Name:  Rená (Gorbett) Johnson 

Graduation Year:1984

Major: BS Elementary Education 

Current Position: Executive Pastor of Missions, Student Ministries and Women’s Ministries 

City and State: Springfield, Illinois

Tell us about your career and what you do now. 

After graduating from Evangel, I returned to my hometown and began teaching junior high at Calvary Academy. The school is affiliated with my home church. I married Mark Johnson, an associate pastor, who eventually became the senior pastor. 

After teaching for seven years, I was asked to change roles and become the youth pastor at Calvary Church. God has given me a unique ability to connect and spiritually lead young people. The group grew from 30 to about 120 under my leadership. I led mission trips and took the youth choir on tours in the U.S. and Canada. I served in this ministry role from 1991 until 1993. 

I have a passion and calling to minister to children. I have served as my church’s Vacation Bible School (VBS) director for over twenty-five years. Throughout my time as director, our attendance has ranged from 500 to over a thousand children. Our VBS runs three hours a day for five consecutive days. We spend the week teaching gospel truths in energetic and creative ways. We minister to children from 2 years old through those entering sixth grade. Our volunteer base typically involves just over 200 individuals. Many children who have grown up attending our VBS become dedicated volunteers after they age out. Our VBS is touted as one of Calvary’s most exciting weeks of the year. One parent said, “Calvary is the Cadillac of VBS” Through the years, families have discovered God’s love for the first time and have made Calvary their home church after their children attended VBS. We are always thrilled to see children and families experience and encounter Jesus through this ministry. 

Another part of my role is to oversee our Student Ministries Team. We have five staff members who focus on ministering to those from birth through college. Our aim is to fill young lives with a solid spiritual foundation. In our preschool and elementary department, a child will be taught the entire Bible three times before they age out. Through our school and church, we are raising up future Christian leaders. I am humbled and blessed to be a small part of investing in the lives of young people. 

I have served as the Missions Director of our church since 1996. Calvary supports over 75 missionaries and organizations representing about 40 different countries. We send out missions teams globally two or three times a year. In 2022, we were recognized as the second-highest missions-giving church in Illinois. Calvary participates in the Convoy of Hope “One Day to Feed the World” program. This year we contributed over $80,000 to feed hungry people around the world. Missions is in our DNA. 

Topping the list of my accomplishments are my six children. By the grace of God, they are all serving God. My husband and I like to say God brought our youngest and oldest to us special delivery and our other four are biological. 

Two of them are graduates of Evangel.  Four of them serve in full time ministry and my other two daughters serve faithfully in their churches every week. This fall I will have two granddaughters attending EU. 

My husband and I have been the senior pastors of Calvary Church in Springfield, Illinois, since 1994. We have many arms of ministry in our community, including two campuses. We house a daycare, a school ranging from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade and retirement home at our Jefferson campus. On the east side of Springfield, we have a hitting center and Hope Thrift Center. The hitting center has impacted many young athletes for the Kingdom, and all proceeds from the thrift center go to community and global missions. 

As the senior pastor’s wife for nearly 30 years, I have had the privilege of serving in various positions in the church. As I have stepped into each ministry role my aim has been to approach it with a favorite scripture at the front of each moment. “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”

‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3‬:‭23‬ ‭NLT‬‬

 I give glory to God for any good thing that has come out of my service. I am honored to serve my family, church, community, and the world with the gifts, abilities, and opportunities God brings me. To Him be all the glory!!! 


What is your favorite memory from Evangel?

I attended public school until I went to Evangel. I absolutely loved the integration of my faith with my education. “All truth is God’s truth” is forever etched in my memory. Thanks, EU! 


How did Evangel help you identify/develop your calling?

I felt a call to the ministry before I attended EU. Evangel helped me to develop some of my spiritual gifts and deepen my understanding of God. I was taught how to integrate my faith into my teaching career. As I became a teacher in a Christian school, I was equipped to help students tie their faith to what they were taught. 


How did your experience at Evangel prepare you for life after graduation?

EU prepared me in so many ways to enter the workforce. I met various people through my classes and dorm and campus life. My classes trained me for my time as a teacher, and I still use many of those skills in my ministry today. The professors were always ready to guide and equip us. 


What advice would you give a current student preparing for the workforce?

Seek Jesus first. Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you! 


What would you look for if you were in a position to hire new graduates from Evangel?

A young man or woman devoted to God, who knows who they are in Christ and has given themselves entirely to Him and His cause.