If you ask Ted Johnson to describe the Bible Church of Owasso—where he has served as the senior pastor since it was founded in 2007—he is sure to smile broadly and use words like loving, faithful, and unified. And if you dig a little deeper—ask Ted why this local congregation is defined by those qualities—he will talk about the kind, loving, biblically-minded congregation he has the privilege of shepherding. And at some point in his answer, Johnson might also bring up a series of defining elder meetings that took place not long after the church was founded.
“Every time the elders met during the first four years the church existed, we dedicated a significant portion of time to refining the church’s doctrinal statement” Johnson said. “We’d analyze every Scripture we referenced, and we’d make sure we were describing our convictions in the best way. Before moving to the next doctrine, we’d make sure there was 100 percent agreement among the elders.”
Fifteen years after the church was planted by Tulsa Bible Church—and more than a decade since the elders finished honing the doctrinal statement—Johnson is still seeing massive benefits from those early meetings.
“That was a blessed time, and it’s continued with stable, growing leadership that unites around a clear vision and philosophy of ministry” Johnson said. “That doctrinal foundation affected everything we did in those early days. Certainly, that started with preaching, but it also included the programs we developed, the music we sang, the outreach strategies we put in place. And to this day, there’s an understanding that Scripture is what gives direction to the Bible Church of Owasso. So when there are disagreements, we go back to the Scripture—back to that doctrinal foundation—and we work to understand what the Bible says and what direction it has for our church.”
Though the church has remained grounded in its biblical, doctrinal foundation, it has, at the same time, seen significant change. Of the four pastors currently on staff, Ted is the only one that’s been there all fifteen years. And from a group of 100 in 2007, the church has grown to over 400. With that fourfold increase, Ted’s responsibilities have changed. Today, the priority is building a strong team, and strengthening them for the work of the ministry.
“Right now, I am focused on helping our leaders grow so they can help others grow” Johnson said. “And I’ve had to learn how to both assemble a team and lead it together with our elders.”
Currently, the team at Bible Church of Owasso consists of four full-time pastors, all of them graduates of TMS. Alongside Ted, associate Pastor Chuck Finster (MDiv 2007) has served in pastoral ministry for more than two decades. These two seasoned pastors work alongside two younger master’s men, Andrew Ramos (MDiv 2020) and Andrew Copley (MDiv 2021). For Ted, it’s a joy—and a benefit to the church—to have a diversity of age among the pastoral staff.
“There’s unique value in having both seasoned pastors and young pastors at our church” Johnson said. “Youth brings a vitality, life, and long-term thinking to the church body. They make sure we are always working for the next generation of the body of Christ. And experienced pastors provide leadership, stability, and shepherding. They keep the church from being blown about by every wind of doctrine. There is so much benefit to having a diversity on the pastoral staff.”
Johnson is quick to add a qualification: he’s not talking about a diversity of doctrine. In his ministry, and the ministry of many others, he’s seen the havoc a church brings on itself when it tolerates differences in conviction regarding the fundamentals of biblical doctrine. The diversity he’s referring to is one of gifting. As the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. And there are varieties of working, but the same God who works everything in everyone.” Over his years of ministry, Johnson has seen how effective leadership can be when that biblical diversity is coupled with a unity of conviction.
And as Johnson works with his team—both in its diversity and unity—he’s grateful for the influence of TMS on each pastor. “We’ve brought on two new pastors within the past year, both from TMS” Johnson said. “They are exactly what I would expect of a TMS graduate. The product coming out of my alma mater today is similar to what it was when I was there. Guys at TMS today are getting as good, if not better, training and education than they did nearly 20 years ago. That’s so encouraging to me.”
These are blessed days at the Bible Church of Owasso. There is strong cohesion among the leadership, and the church is growing, both in maturity and in size. And Johnson knows that growth is not because the leadership is trying to meet the felt needs of their congregation. Instead, they are devoting themselves primarily to Scripture. What does God’s Word say? That question drives the leadership today, just as it did when the elders were sharpening the doctrinal statement. And 15 years later, Johnson has seen again and again that the answer to that question is what the congregation needs the most.
“Men who go to the Scripture for everything: that’s the kind of leaders we strive to be here” Johnson said. “And that focus is the greatest thing I received from TMS. My training was always pointing me back to the Scripture in every way, from theology to pastoral ministry. That mindset marked my time at TMS and it has defined my ministry here. Everything goes back to the Scripture.”