It is possible this post is really just my own need to process some memories and help to grieve the loss of a spiritual father. I know that it does not say all that could be said, or even that I would like to say. My prayer is that someone is encouraged, that someone realizes the power of a life lived for God, that someone presses on to finish well. This is the (partial) story of John Paul Jackson’s influence in Dawna and I’s life.
In 1997, around one year from when Dawna and I had responded to the Lord’s call, John Paul Jackson came as a guest minister at Vineyard North Phoenix and spoke a message called Storms, Faith, and the Miraculous. He had a group of people get up front and stand straight, then squat, then stand straight again making waves that he hid behind as he described our need to keep our eyes on Jesus when the waves of life come. He encouraged us to keep faith for the miraculous and shared astounding stories of God’s miraculous intervention in his own life.
In many ways that created a foundation in my faith—this expectation of God being bigger than I could imagine and Him not being afraid to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart’s are completely His.
After he finished speaking he said that he felt God was telling him things about people in the congregation. He started asking people to stand up and he would tell them a little about their past, a little about their present, the God’s plans for their future. We knew some of the people that he had stood up and I knew that he could not have known what he said unless God spoke to him. I also recognized that the people were “better” after he had ministered to them. (I know now that I was seeing their spirits respond to God’s voice.)
He called Dawna out and told her how God was going to heal her heart from her childhood and how she would dance in freedom and joy. Then he looked at me and told me, “I see a banner over your head and it says, ‘pastor with an evangelistic flare.'”
Something in my heart leapt and I told God, “If that is available, I want that! I want to do that!” John Paul announced that he would be teaching a course in a few months called The Art of Hearing God. I had to go. At the time the course cost $350 for the weekend and working as a pizza delivery guy was not paying well. God provided half the registration through a friend and that course really changed my life!
I can look back over the last 18 years and see specific circumstances, that I realize now we’re forks in the road, where I made the right choice because of what I had learned from that course. I was teaching a variety of classes and small groups at our church and I started to teach principles I learned from that course in those classes. I went back over the tapes and notes almost yearly, doing all the homework, reading all the suggested resources, and changing.
A few years later Dawna and I were at a different place financially and we would use our vacation time to go to conferences so that we could keep growing and learning. We had a hunger for the things of God and the presence of God. We served at our church and kept responding to invitations to various aspects of leadership. We were being groomed to be church planters for the Vineyard movement.
We drove from Phoenix, AZ to Atlanta, GA so Dawna could take the Art of Hearing God live and we could both take the Understanding Dreams and Visions course. Immediately following Streams had an event called Extreme Moments With God. During the dreams course John Paul shared about God taking him into the Throne Room described what he saw. As he spoke I was sitting on the front row vibrating under the power of God. I thought I was going to fall out of my chair!
The next day during impartation, John Paul and the Streams staff gave us all hugs. As John Paul hugged me he told me, “I saw the hand of God touching you when I shared about the Throne Room. God deposited a seed in your spirit and it will bloom in the next 90 days.”
Dawna and I were out walking one night in the neighborhood where we lived in Surprise, AZ and talking about our desire to keep growing and our hunger for more. We knew there was more and we were not seeing it as regularly as we knew was possible. God had been speaking to us about moving and receiving more training and equipping. A phrase I had heard from John Wimber’s teachings kept coming up, “The things of the kingdom are more caught than taught.”
One of us asked the question, “Well, who’s the most like Jesus that you want to be like?” I replied, “John Wimber is dead. The person I think of is John Paul Jackson.” Dawna asked, “Where does he live? Let’s move there.” That started a journey!
It took almost a year from making the decision before we were able to move. During the process as we looked at all the revelation God had given us about this move we realized it had been 90 days, almost to the day, from John Paul’s word to when we decided to move.
In May 2004 we arrived in New Hampshire full of expectation and dreams. We knew no one, had only met John Paul at conferences, and had no jobs. I think now we must have been crazy, but when God speaks the only safe option is to obey! We started going to the BRiDGE church John Paul had started for his staff and taking every course we could. We went to the Fireside Chats where John Paul would answer all kinds of questions about how the spiritual world operated. We started to serve in whatever way was needed.
Three or four months later Streams called and asked if Dawna would be open to helping with customer service. A couple months after that I was asked if I would help oversee the Partner ministry (those that supported Streams financially). We never asked to be on staff, but God pulled us in.
The following June I was getting ready to leave for the day and John Paul’s assistant, Karen, grabs me. “John, can you stick around for a few minutes? John Paul wants to talk to you. It’s like Christmas in July!” When I sat down in his office John Paul told me that the Lord had showed him that I was called to plant and pastor churches and that he was suppose to equip me in whatever way he could, would I be willing to travel with him and ask him questions?
Christmas in July does not describe it! Streams was not able to cover airfare for traveling but much of what John Paul was doing at the time was in New England, including pastoring a church in Natick, MA called The BRiDGE Metrowest.
For the next nine months anytime John Paul ministered within driving distance I was there, often with Dawna as well. We helped John Paul with The BRiDGE Metrowest and also helped plant The BRiDGE North Shore. We went to conferences and church services. We sat in meetings with staff and leaders. We learned a lot!
Towards the end of 2005 John Paul began to share that God was calling him to move to Texas so that he could focus on TV—he was suppose to start a TV program. Since he would not be able to pastor a church in Massachusetts while living in Texas he asked if Dawna and I would take over leadership of The BRiDGE Metrowest which we did.
On the day we were ordained and set in as pastors, one of the elders of the church asked John Paul when he knew Dawna and I were suppose to be pastoring the church. He replied, “When I asked them to travel with me.” That was nearly nine months earlier but he had never told us. He received the revelation, used his authority to open a path we could walk on that had the potential to lead us there, but never told us we should. He let us follow God and not him. I learned a lot about prophetic guidance through that!
As part of the move, John Paul also started a number of training centers so that the courses he had written could be taught regularly in various places around the US and internationally. I was asked to run one in New England, which we did. I realized that I needed to start a ministry to run the training center through and that is how I began Life Empowerment. I taught Streams courses all over the US, but mainly in the Northeast and started to be asked to do other ministry as well.
Around 2011 God began to speak to Dawna and I about stepping down from our leadership role at The BRiDGE Metrowest so we could minister to more churches. I had a series of dreams where I was at Streams offices or in John Paul’s house, or John Paul was driving us somewhere in his car. We knew that we needed to be closer to Streams and John Paul for the next season.
In November 2011 we turned the church over to our associate pastor and my best friend, Paul David Guidry. In April 2012 we moved to Texas. John Paul was glad to have us close by again but at the time Streams was going through transition and he wasn’t sure what things were going to look like. I can remember sitting in the cafeteria at Streams as he explained where things were at. I let him know that we did not move down to TX with any expectations of him or Streams. We just wanted relationship. That put his heart at ease.
Over the next few months I volunteered at Streams and started helping develop new resources. I knew the course material well and had heard John Paul teach well over a hundred times. I spent a couple months working part time at Streams while traveling and ministering but God’s favor increased and I had less time to be at Streams offices.
God began to talk to me about being a mature son. I had not moved down to Streams to “live at home” but to be near family. At some point every child needs to grow up and move out and even though the relationship with their parents changes it is not suppose to suffer—it can actually become stronger. My own insecurities fought the decision but I knew it was true. Over the next few months it proved very true.
I would periodically come into the office to spend time with the staff and when possible say hello to John Paul. We would talk about what God was doing as I ministered, he loved to hear about God changing lives! During one of those meetings he reminded me of a book that I had helped develop when I was on staff. He told me he was going to put my name on it as a contributing author to prepare me for more books I would write.
John Paul finally started his TV show. I had the privilege of being in the board room discussing potential episodes and how they would come together. I can remember when we got the first episode back from the production company. It was late and I happened to be in the office. Some of the staff gathered in the boardroom and we watched it together. The dream had come alive!
When John Paul first found the cancer in his leg, I met him in his office and I asked him if God had spoken to him. At that point He hadn’t, but we knew that contending for healing was what children of the kingdom do, so we contended.
I am sad at times that I was traveling so much and didn’t get to spend as much time with him as I would have liked but I don’t think he would have wanted me to do any differently. Each time I came back he wanted to hear about the miracles and how God moved. Each time I would pray again for healing.
I was part of a team of Streams teachers that went for John Paul to India, literally—he had been denied a visa for the trip he had planned on leading. He didn’t change any plans, he just plugged his sons and daughters into the spots he was going to fill and made sure it all happened according to plan.
It was a very fruitful trip. Hundreds of pastors and leaders from around India came to a conference in Mumbai and God showed up with miracles and great power. His presence was beautiful. Than we taught 170 pastors The Art of Hearing God, around 100 more attended Understanding Dreams and Visions, and 35 were trained to teach The Art of Hearing God. John Paul’s desire to see what God gave him help the transformation happening in India is being fulfilled—these courses will now be taught throughout India.
When I got back I was asked to come over to the house, he had taken a turn for the worse. Some of John Paul’s sons and daughters were there and again we contended for healing. The next day John Paul went to sleep. He passed on from this realm to that eternal realm he had given so many a glimpse of and a hunger for.
As I was driving over to the house after getting the news I heard the Lord tell me three things very clearly:
– The enemy did not win.
– This is all part of the plan.
– John Paul’s dream is not dead.
I repeat a phrase I have heard John Paul say many times, “I don’t understand You God—but I trust You.”
I will spend the rest of my life living out the lessons I learned from John Paul. The world is a better place because he was here, he truly was created to be a solution to someone’s problem. I am a better man because I know him. He taught me how to be a man that is a man of God, the human and the anointing both in one vessel, and how to carry both with integrity and character. He was always the same, whether on the stage or around a table. He finished well.
If I can only imitate one thing from his life may it be that. I want to finish well, having aimed for the stars and tried great things for God if I accomplish them all or not. I want to live for a vision that is bigger than me. I want to live for the King.
After staff prayer every morning he was there John Paul would finish with this statement that I leave you with, “Go forth, conquer, and advance the kingdom.”