Clerical couples

The Revs. Mark and Christine Johnson lead Kemah’s Life Fellowship church.


The Christian pulpit has historically been filled mostly by men and in its earlier years generally by sole, celibate males.

Quaker Elizabeth Hooten is often cited as the first lady to preach publicly. A convert of Quaker great George Fox, she died in 1672. More famous was the first nationwide female celebrity preacher, Amy Semple McPherson who used theaters, radio and her newly founded Foursquare Church to preach the gospel to America in the second and third decade of the 20th Century.

In a recent article in Christianity Today, the increase in women pastors was noted, “One trend the Barna Group noted is the slow and steady rise of female pastors. One of every 11 Protestant pastors is a woman — triple as many as 25 years ago — yet women often lead smaller congregations than men.”

Galveston County has been ahead of the curve in this change, but what hasn’t been widely studied are those couples who choose to lead a church together.

The Revs. Mark and Christine Johnson lead Kemah’s Life Fellowship church. The couple have been married since 1983. During the early years of their wedded life, Mark played drums in church while Christine taught Sunday school.

“After living in League City for about four years, Mark felt that the Lord was calling him to full time ministry,” she said. “We prayed for six months before we stepped out in faith. The church was birthed in our hearts and then in our living room. We were both ordained by our pastor of 25 years in Corpus Christi. This year we will be celebrating 9 years of leading and teaching the congregation of Life Fellowship.”

Mark Johnson, whose concert drumming initially attracted Christine, said the first meeting turned into a catalyst which God used to energize both of them.

“When we met, I was looking to rededicate my life to Christ, and Christine was on her quest to find him,” he said. “It was shortly after we were married that we began to build our relationship with Jesus. It was a natural progression to begin serving in ministry together.”

Not all couples can work closely together whether the family business is a tire shop or a church. We asked the Johnsons for their experienced advice on just how to pull off joint pastoring.

“Remember why they are in ministry, that is, that they are called to be the hands and feet of God and that they are there to serve his people,” she said. “And that though they will have tough times, they will also have amazingly wonderful times together in ministry. Lastly, that they need to share all the joys and most of the tears with each other — they are one in the eyes of our Lord and should be each other’s best friend.”

We’ll give the final word to Mark who cautioned that the pastorate, joint or otherwise, is not for everyone.

“Pray together and individually for direction from the Lord,” he said. “It helps to understand that ministry is the hardest, most enjoyable, challenging, fun, exciting, heartbreaking and demanding position. Although difficult at times, it can be extremely rewarding. A person and/or couple needs to know that they are called by the Lord to take on the mantle of pastoring. If a person is doing ministry to earn a paycheck, they are in it for the wrong reason, and probably won’t last. There are easier and more profitable ways to earn a living. I have found that our growth and maturity is a process and the Lord opens doors as we are ready and can handle His plans for our life and ministry.”

Next week in Our Faith: A second pastoring couple offers advice on working together.

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