By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
December 19. 2019
ASHEBORO – Pastor Johnny Henderson (64), former executive director of the Christian Action League from 1996-99, passed away Friday, December 13th. Henderson suffered from congestive heart failure.
Henderson served as pastor to three churches, Western Avenue Baptist Church, Rocky Hill Baptist, both in Statesville, and Victory Baptist in Seagrove, before becoming director of the Christian Action League. He had been serving Cross Road Baptist Church in Asheboro since leaving the League and at the time of his death. In total, Henderson had 45 years of full-time Christian ministry.
Cross Road Baptist hosted a “Celebration of Life” service for their deceased pastor on Monday of this week. The service featured remarks by Dr. Martin Windle, President of Lancaster, Pennsylvania – based, Bible Centered Ministries International (BCM). Pastor Gary Mason of Balfour Baptist in Asheboro officiated. Danielle Henderson Kelly spoke on behalf of the family.
Windle told attendees Henderson had been a member of BCM’s Board for 15 years and chairman for 8 years. The ministry, he said, has more than 850 missionaries serving in 50 countries across 5 continents.
Windle said that when Henderson became ill and hospitalized, he sent out an email, and hundreds of pastors and missionaries responded. “People were praying for him, his wife Renea, and Cross Road Baptist Church,” he said.
“Johnny would always preach the Word and be the pastor he knew how to be, whether it was standing with orphans who had lost their parents because they were believers, or standing at a campsite in the middle of a pineapple field in the Philippines, or standing at a new church, or being in Sri Lanka traveling with some of the pastors we had there,” added Windle. Notices from around the world came at his passing.
Gary Mason, who was the police chief of Asheboro before becoming pastor at Balfour Baptist Church, said that he had a twenty-year close friendship with Henderson.
In addition to telling humorous stories about his times with Henderson, Mason said: “Johnny Henderson was an amazing man. He lived an amazing life. I think most of us would agree that he left way too early by our own terms, but God knew what he was doing. He’s gone way too quickly.”
To a chorus of “Amen” from dozens of people, Mason added that he thought Henderson was probably the most well-rounded preacher he had ever seen. “He could preach. He could evangelize. He could get involved in social issues. He could love you into the kingdom. He would literally visit himself to death. He would do all these things, and there weren’t many that could hold a candle to him,” said Mason.
Mason recalled when Henderson first came as pastor to Cross Road, and there were a little more than 160 people in attendance. Within two years, the number had increased to over 480.
“He ran the race. And he completed it. And he finished well,” said Mason exuberantly, “Now he’s experiencing the peace, and the joy, and the total healing that Jesus provided for him.”
Danielle Henderson Kelly, the middle daughter of Henderson, spoke on behalf of the family and said that family members kept a vigil at her father’s side throughout his hospitalization. She said her father would fall asleep and then awaken to share something with the family. One time he awakened and shared a quote from the 19th Century renowned evangelist, D.L. Moody, who said, ‘I firmly believe that a great many prayers are not answered because we are not willing to forgive someone. Earth recedes. Heaven opens before me. If this is death, it is sweet. There is no valley here.’”
Kelly said hundreds came to say their goodbyes to Henderson before his passing. She said that she and other family members lost count at around 450.
Rev. Mark Creech, the current executive director of the Christian Action League, attended the service for Henderson, sitting in designated seating for approximately two dozen other ministers. Creech said he had never been at a funeral service where there was so much joy expressed.
“There were tears, but also worshipful singing, holy laughter, and gladness permeating the sanctuary. This is the way it is at death for someone who has embraced the Gospel of Christ, been saved, and devoted their lives to the Lord,” said Creech. “There’s a hope, a peace, a promise, an assurance of even better things to come. The separation is only temporary for those of us who know Christ.”
Upon learning of the former executive director’s death late Friday, Creech, sent out a press release early Saturday morning, expressing sympathies to Henderson’s family and church, adding:
“We are living in an age when religious leaders
all-too-often pander to the selfish interests of their hearers. They
accommodate their message to the corruption of the culture. They do not stand
solidly on the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. They dilute and diminish God’s
commands. They demonstrate little to no courage, nor are they willing to carry
a Cross to be faithful to their high calling. I believe this ministerial malady
is the primary source for the current moral meltdown we’re witnessing across
“Pastor Johnny Henderson, however, was a premiere model for faithful pastoral leadership. He was humble, but bold. He was tender, but not timid. He was sensitive, but strong. He was compassionate, but not compromising. He dared to be a ‘voice in the wilderness’ calling people to repentance. He yearned for the salvation of souls. He wanted people to accept Christ. But he also understood the Gospel is much broader in scope than trying to get people into heaven and filling church pews. The Gospel is about redemption for the whole man, and it stretches into every realm of life that humanity operates. So when he was executive director of the Christian Action League, he spoke truth to power. He addressed the politics of our day, calling on state lawmakers to ‘consider the goodness and severity of God’ in their decisions.
“Throughout the remainder of my life, I hope never to forget Johnny’s last words to me. On his death bed, he texted: ‘Preach the Word!’
“As the Christian Action League’s current executive director, I feel humbled to have followed such a man. And may God give me the grace to finish my race, having been found faithful as he.”
Henderson is survived by his wife of 44 years:
Renea Mitchell Henderson; daughters: Adrienne Macon of Asheboro, Danielle Kelly
of Asheboro, and Elizabeth Henderson of Raleigh; eight grandchildren: Gracie
Faith Macon, Josiah Kelly, Chloe Macon, Carter Macon, Joselyn Kelly, Sawyer
Macon, Justus Kelly, and Landon Macon; mother: Elizabeth Alaine Davis
The Christian Action League urges its supporters to
pray for the Henderson family and their church at this time.