Criswell”s Johnson to lead National Religious Broadcasters

DALLAS—Criswell College President Jerry Johnson is leaving the Dallas school to become CEO and president of the National Religious Broadcasters. Set to begin Nov. 1, Johnson told the TEXAN he would promote the threefold mission of the NRB to advance biblical truth, promote media excellence and defend free speech.

The Washington, D.C.-based NRB is an international association of Christian communicators whose member organizations represent millions of viewers, listeners and readers worldwide via radio, television and the Internet. Johnson’s election to the post came on Tuesday (Oct. 1) during an NRB board meeting. He succeeds Frank Wright, a Presbyterian who will step down Oct. 4 after a decade of leading the NRB.

Southern Evangelical Seminary President Richard Land, who serves on the boards of both the NRB and Criswell College, described Johnson as having “the leadership skills, strength of character, range of experience, and vision” for the job. “America has never needed the NRB as much as it does right now to defend freedom of religion and freedom of speech, which are under unprecedented assault.”

Johnson said he has devoted his life to advancing the gospel, affirming NRB’s desire “to make sure people who are broadcasting in the name of Christ do it in a way that is faithful to the authority and infallibility of Scripture. That’s what Criswell College trained me to do,” he added, having received a B.A. in biblical studies from the school.

He said he recognizes the importance of Christians using the media “in a winsome, excellent way,” having hosted a program on KCBI-FM in Dallas addressing current issues from a Christian perspective. “I’m very concerned for Christians who are preaching and broadcasting today as we are entering a hostile environment,” he added, praising NRB’s commitment to keeping the airwaves and Internet open for Christians who have biblical convictions on issues such as the sanctity of life and marriage.

After earning a master of arts from Denver Seminary, Johnson received a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he majored in ethics. “I’ve given a good bit of study to religious liberty and as a Baptist I have a particular commitment to the principles of religious liberty and free speech.”

Johnson first served as president of Criswell College from 2004 to 2008, resigning over philosophical differences with the board and chancellor related to the school’s governance. After the school negotiated a separation from its founding body, First Baptist Church of Dallas, Johnson returned in 2010 with the unanimous support of the board.

Since that time, Criswell College has added a concentration in church planting and revitalization and a fully online master of arts in Christian studies. The school also embraced an unengaged, unreached people group in partnership with the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board.

A three-year affiliation agreement with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention was signed in 2011 that provided 3.25 percent funding from the entity’s Cooperative Program budget.

SBTC Executive Director Jim Richards told the TEXAN, “Dr. Johnson was the right man for the right time at Criswell College. He was the catalyst for positive change and will do the same at NRB.”

A year ago, trustees adopted a vision Johnson outlined to expand beyond the school’s core Bible curriculum to “train biblical leaders in strategic disciplines” of business, law, communication and education. The board also approved a long-range planning committee’s recommendation to work toward developing a residential campus at a new location to accommodate expected growth and to better meet the needs of the 323-member student body.

“I’ve struggled a little with why God would allow me to see that vision and yet not be there to realize it,” Johnson told the TEXAN. “In God’s timing he has someone else for the next level. I want to be a part of that as an alumnus, donor and friend of the college.”

Richards stated, “As Criswell College continues forward with the expansion of curriculum and relocation to a residential campus, God will bring the leader who can move the school forward.”

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