031: Emerging Eagles [with guest, Pastor Ken Johnson]
Pastor Ken Johnson and I discuss his work with the Indianapolis Colts, how he and his wife Della has always opened his home to Other People's Kids, and we talk about him preparing for his legacy by planting a church, New Heights Church.
The urgent wail of a police siren provides the background noise for the street where young Ken Johnson walks. He walks the street, absently kicking a discarded beer bottle. The surroundings mirror his own heart; dark and bleak. The neighborhood carries the same poverty-stricken, drug-laced stench of the last four years he has lived. Clutched in his hands is a tattered football; a symbol of the young boy’s one passion. Even though his mother sets aside her own well-being to provide for him, it isn’t enough. By high school graduation, he will have memorized a total of eighteen addresses, each one another dismal ghetto.
As a young boy, Ken knew temptation and struggle intimately. Outside of his athletic ability, there was little hope for him to excel. He faced a future as just another urban statistic unable to fly above the tragedy of his own life. Despite success on the high school football field, he continually battled to overcome the obstacles of his desperate surroundings, fighting to pull free.
Then in 1979, Ken’s passion became his ticket out. His blue chip success on the high school football field earned him a scholarship to play for the University of Tulsa. His perseverance had finally paid off and he began his career as a college athlete. It was there that Ken was introduced to Jesus by his fellow teammates. After grappling with many difficult truths about himself and about God, Ken decided to follow Jesus and gave his life to Him. That decision that was the beginning of a deep transformation for Ken.
Throughout his college career, Ken navigated through adversity and obstacles one day at a time, growing in wisdom and self-esteem with each success. In 1984, he earned a B.S. in Education and was ready to take the next step in life – pro-football. But another obstacle stood in his path. A devasting knee injury would prevent him from chasing his dream.
Ken’s relationship with God empowered him to move beyond yet another crushing disappointment. He pulled himself up and decided to serve his country in the military. He then went on to become a police officer, devoting much of the next six years to the inner city neighborhoods of Tulsa. It was there that he recognized the face of hopelessness in the youth, and it stirred a deep compassion inside him. He saw his own childhood reflected in their eyes, and his heart was moved to take action.
By this time, Ken had begun to soar on the wings of hope in his own personal journey. In every facet of his life, he continually made choices that strengthened his commitment to being a man of excellence in Christ. He wanted to share the transformative power of Jesus and eternal hope with people everywhere.
Through a series of choices and opportunities, Ken resigned from his commission with the Tulsa police department and moved on to a position in Indianapolis with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Soon thereafter, he became the Protestant Chaplain to the Indianapolis Colts, a station he still holds today. He uses his platform as a springboard to reach out across America, effectively inspiring and empowering people of all ages and from all walks of life.
Ken resides in Indianapolis, Indiana with his wife Della, who accepted in hand in marriage in 1983. They have three adult children, Dominick, Kristina, and national recording artist, Kendall.
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