I come from a Baptist/Pentecostal background; raised in the Southern Baptist Church and later finding further fulfillment in the baptism with the Holy Spirit or the Pentecostal expression of faith. I simply became convinced scripturally of the perpetuity of the gifts of the Spirit and asked Jesus to do for me what He has done for his apprentices throughout history. My wife, Natalie, comes from a Lutheran background and she too found fulfillment in the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
In the '70's, after the baptism, I started writing music and playing in Christian venues in the Denver area. Along the way 'John Carlson Band' formed and we did an album – No Longer Strangers. We played throughout the Rocky Mountain region and we started opening for some nationally known individuals and groups.
In 1984 I came to the Seattle area and plugged into River of Life Fellowship in Kent, Washington. I led praise and worship there for a number of years stepping down January 1, 2000 to further prepare to start a church.
The idea to start a church did not originate with me although I wholeheartedly embraced the idea. We had a meeting the evening of November 14, 1994 of various leaders who taught Bible studies and led small groups and we had a time of prayer for our pastors and the direction of our church. It was a normal meeting and near the end we gathered together for a final prayer. We stood in a circle at about 10:25 pm and prayed for God's traveling mercies and safety as we closed the meeting. It was during this final prayer that the LORD drew very close to me and He spoke to me in English. I heard His words just as though one of the men there had spoken to me. He said just three words: Start a Church. They were spoken with great authority and I felt as though I might fall on my face. The prayer concluded and I asked if anyone there had heard anything from God. Everyone said, "No." I simply bid everyone there goodnight and I left. I needed to pray and I needed to talk to my pastor.
I told my pastor what had happened and he said I would need further study so I enrolled in the ministerial internship program with the Church of God, Cleveland, Tennessee. They had an established program in Washington State. Both my wife and I went through the program. Upon completion of the program I was commissioned by River of Life Fellowship, an offering was taken up for us and we were sent out to start a church. There was to be no on-going financial support from our home church and to this day I work a separate job to meet our obligations.
If you're like me little red flags appear whenever someone says, "God told me …" so I understand if you wonder about what happened to me. I can only say that I have heard that voice only one other time in my life and that was at least twenty five years ago. This time He spoke three words to me. But last time He spoke only two – so I'm making progress! I would like you to know that those three words have become very precious to me. God has used them to sustain me when times were tough and they have been like a guide for me when I might have gone in a wrong direction. God knew when He spoke them to me that I would know exactly what He meant; what He wanted me to do and forever after I would be without excuse if I failed to follow through and do it. Sound Christian Fellowship exists because of those three words.