NRJohnson Bio (The Synopsis)

Photo of Nathan Johnson (NRJohnson)

My name is Nathan Johnson (NRJohnson), and I have an overwhelming passion for Jesus. I am a writer, teacher, and communicator who helps Christians discover and experience a passionate love for God and His Word so that they can grow in their faith, live victorious lives, share the Gospel boldly, deepen their intimacy with Jesus, and transform the world through the indwelling life of Christ.

Though I grew up in a loving, Christian home, it wasn’t until I spent a summer traveling with an evangelist as an intern that God turned my world upside down. Scripture opened up to me unlike ever before, a deep hunger and passion for Jesus and the Word grew in my life, and I found victory and a foundation in Truth. My life hasn’t been the same since. You can read the full story below.

Now, for nearly two decades, I have taught thousands of Christians to study God’s Word, grow in intimacy with Jesus, and build their lives around Him. And I’d love to help you do that too.

While I teach full-time at Ellerslie Discipleship Training and travel the country preaching the Gospel in my spare time, I also produce Christ-centered Bible teaching and resources here on through podcasts, articles, books, online courses, and other helpful tools and materials. Here is a good overview and a place to dive in.

The Longer Version

I grew up in a loving, Christian home, the oldest of two boys. Though I participated in every church activity from a young age, my faith was little more than show. Sure, I believed, but I only read my Bible when I had to, and prayer lacked power. It wasn’t fake; it just wasn’t alive.

Shaky Foundations

Through my teen years, an incredible wrestling match arose within me as I attempted in my own strength and ability to live a good Christian life yet failed miserably. This struggle and failure to be perfect in my own ability produced a deep sadness and funk in my life—and for someone who is overwhelmingly joy-filled and optimistic, this was quite the depressing season of life. All that compounded with a losing battle with purity and pornography; I was in a downward spiral of destruction.

Yet despite my struggles and problems, looking back, I see God’s faithfulness and His loving Father’s heart for the prodigal, desperate to have His child transformed and in intimacy with Himself.

As a senior in high school, I found myself in a place of desperation. It was then, as I came to God in deep shame, humility, and surrender, that God began to loose the chains of depression and began to free me from the power of impurity. He began to restore and transform my life. My joy and smile returned, a love for the Word and for God stirred within me (though I didn’t know how to study or cultivate intimacy with Him at that point), and for the first time, I felt like I didn’t have to perform or try to live a holy, righteous life on my own. I was His. I had encountered His overwhelming love, and it was changing me, albeit slowly.

I went to college and received a degree in business, and during that time, I was asked to lead the church’s youth ministry. Something changed within me during those couple of years. Though I had been involved in serving and leading in a variety of ministry capacities at my church, God used working with teenagers to begin changing my heart from a business/project focus to one where a love for people was central.

I was learning a lot about the Bible and the God of the Bible but felt ill-prepared to progress in ministry. So, I applied to a seminary for further studies. I also remembered that several years prior, an evangelist named Stephen Manley came to my church and preached, gripping my life in a profound way—I had never heard anyone preach with such depth, power, or authority. Before he left, he casually mentioned he had a summer ministry intern program and invited me to participate in the future. So after I graduated college, I emailed Stephen asking if the internship was still available. This led to the greatest turning point in my life.

The Turn-My-Life-Upside-Down Summer

It was June 2005, and as I arrived in Michigan for the start of the summer internship with Stephen Manley, I was filled with tremendous excitement and anticipation. Even now, looking back, I am awestruck at how God transformed my life over those few short weeks.

We began the summer with the annual Cross Style Training Camp, a weeklong conference (open to the public) to train and equip the interns for their summer experience. Through a variety of preachers and teachers, my understanding of the Bible was transformed. I had grown up in church and heard thousands of sermons, but I had never discovered the depth and power of the Word that these men proclaimed.

My heart grew strangely warm with a passionate hunger for more. I had longed for something real, a Christianity that actually worked, a spiritual life that was authentic and alive. I had read about it in the Word but never understood how to have it myself. And here were men proclaiming the “unfathomable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8). It was as though a veil was lifted and I saw and experienced God’s Word for the first time. It truly became “living and active [powerful] and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12). It pierced and transformed my life, and I’ve never been the same since.

Though the entire summer was an incredible experience, it was my time with Stephen that turned my world upside down. Dr. Stephen Manley became a pastor at age 17 but felt a call to itinerant evangelism. At age 25, he left the pastorate to preach and teach full-time around the country and world. When I traveled with him, he had been in full-time itinerant ministry for nearly 40 years. Everything about him captivated me. It wasn’t just his incredible insights into the Word or his powerful preaching; it was living with him for weeks and watching how he lived. He truly lived the Gospel. He showcased humility. I had heard and read about heroic Christians of yesteryear, such as A..W Tozer, Oswald Chambers, Andrew Murray, C.T. Studd, Charles Spurgeon, and the like, but I had never met anyone who was fully given to Jesus Christ and possessed a vibrant Christian life that actually worked.

Under Stephen’s mentoring and discipleship, I discovered the importance of studying the Word of God (which he called Saturation Bible Study1), and I came to realize that the Christian life is not to be lived in my own strength, wisdom, and ability but in surrender to and dependence upon the Holy Spirit who lives within me.

As Ian Thomas says in one of my favorite quotes,

“The Christian life can be explained only in terms of Jesus, and if your life as a Christian can still be explained in terms of you—your personality, your willpower, your gift, your talent, your money, your courage, your scholarship, your dedication, your sacrifice, or your anything—then although you may have the Christian life, you are not yet living it! … True Godliness leaves the world convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that the only explanation for you, is Jesus.” 2

I craved true godliness and desired to live an authentic Christian life—a life filled with Jesus through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. I hungered for the Word of God, and I finally had practical tools to study it—not just for academics and information but for intimacy and transformation. And, for the first time, I began to truly know God’s Word, experience rich intimacy with Christ, and live triumphantly as I walked in His victory. Jesus was becoming my source, my delight, my focus, my love … my everything. My life became obsessed with Him.

Moving into Ministry

Jesus used that summer to ground me in Truth and form the foundation of where He has led me these past two decades.

As the summer internship concluded, I packed my bags and headed off to seminary to get a Masters of Divinity. Three years later, I graduated with honors from Asbury Theological Seminary and moved to Lebanon, Tennessee (near Nashville), to work behind the scenes for Stephen Manley at his ministry office.

It was during this time that a dream Stephen had had for decades began to be realized—to start a practical ministry school that would train up a generation of ministers who wouldn’t just know the Word of God in theory but in the practical living and experience of everyday life and ministry.

So, after 45+ years of full-time itinerant ministry, Stephen came off the road (sorta), and we started Cross Style Church as the training ground for the new practical ministry school, which launched in 2013. 3

Throughout those years, I served Cross Style and Stephen Manley in my role as an administrator, teacher, pastor, graphic designer, webmaster, book editor, and publisher. I also spent considerable time “in the trenches” of inner-city work ministering to the homeless, elderly, and underprivileged children.

During my time in seminary, I also had the opportunity to be trained and mentored by Eric Ludy, who quickly became a good friend. So while I lived and ministered full-time in Tennessee with Stephen, I also began to travel back and forth to Colorado to help Eric with Ellerslie Discipleship Training, which he started in 2010.

Ellerslie began with the desire to train and equip Christians in the Word of God, prayer (intercession), leadership, honor, and world-altering missions. Eric and Leslie Ludy’s desire was (and is) to return to historic Christianity and to create an environment that fosters the development of the next generation of heroic Christians like Hudson Taylor, George Müller, Amy Carmichael, Vibia Perpetua, Gladys Aylward, and C.T. Studd. Since its beginning, Ellerslie has discipled nearly three thousand men and women from around the world.

In October 2013, I felt led by God to flip-flop my life and move to Windsor, Colorado, to work full-time with Eric Ludy and teach at Ellerslie Discipleship Training—and travel back to Tennessee each year to speak at Cross Style Conferences (I also continue to serve Stephen Manley by publishing his books and resources).

In my role at Ellerslie, I serve as an instructor, pastor, director of our discipleship programs, and I work a lot with Eric and Leslie Ludy behind the scenes on admin, ministry projects, and content development.

Passions and Hobbies

I have a passion for Biblical training and discipleship, and over the last two decades, I have been a guest speaker/preacher at many churches, youth retreats, camps, and Christian conferences around the country. See my speaking page.

I also have a desire to see strong, honorable, and godly masculinity and femininity return to this world. As such, I have the joy of mentoring several young men from around the country in masculinity, purity, Biblical truth, victory and freedom over sin, and authentic Christian living.

In my free time, I enjoy reading, writing, watching musical theatre, going to rodeos, playing disc golf, and I’m slowly finding a joy when I go to the gym and train. I love to laugh, listen to worship and soundtrack music, and drink tea.

I started writing on a personal blog back in 2009, and that eventually became the ministry of Deeper Christian as my enthusiasm to teach believers how to study God’s Word, grow in intimacy with Jesus, and live the victorious Christian life increased to a near obsession.

I also took my massive collection of classic Christian quotes and began releasing them daily on deeperChristian Quotes. We have released inspiring, profound, and convicting classic Christian quotes since May 2011.

Books by NRJohnson

I write books under the name NRJohnson (if you’re curious, my middle name is Ray). While a few of my early titles are no longer available, the following are my current books in print:

  • Knowing Jesus (2014)
  • 5 Pillars of Christian Growth (2016)
  • Saturation Bible Study (2023)
  • 30 Day Adventure to Know Jesus More (2023)

I’ve also republished several classic titles with Deeper Christian Press:

  • The Deeper Christian Life (by Andrew Murray)
  • Chocolate Solider (by C.T. Studd)
  • Power Through Prayer (by E.M. Bounds)
  • The Centrality of Christ (by Charles Spurgeon)

Still Want More?

  1. I later wrote a book by the same title, which introduces believers how to study (and “saturate”) within God’s Word—a curation of everything Stephen taught me and my own journey into studying the Bible over the last twenty years. Learn more about the book Saturation Bible Study. ↩︎
  2. Ian Thomas, The Saving Life of Christ and the Mystery of Godliness (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1988), 162–163. ↩︎
  3. The focus of the practical ministry school has shifted to more of a “recovery program” to ground those with broken lives (usually coming out of jail) in God’s Word and practical Christian living. ↩︎

Receive the Deeper Digest

Receive Deeper Christian’s weekly content in ONE convenient email each Saturday (all the quotes, articles, podcasts, etc.)

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, deeperChristian will receive an affiliate commission (with no additional cost to you). It is a great way to support the work and ministry of deeperChristian. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use personally and believe will add value to our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”