Joel Johnson ’80, S’86 Named Bethel Seminary Alumnus of the Year

From his long and fruitful ministry career, Joel Johnson, senior pastor of Westwood Community Church in Chanhassen, Minnesota, offers these words of advice: “Just make yourself available.” His willingness to be available to God’s call led Johnson to Bethel as an undergraduate, then to Bethel Seminary and a ministry that has included planting Westwood in 1995, leading its expansion, and serving on Bethel’s board of trustees. For his leadership, service, and impact, Johnson has been named 2021 Bethel Seminary Alumnus of the Year.

By Michelle Westlund '83, senior content specialist

September 22, 2021 | 1 p.m.

“God is looking for one primary quality of the heart: availability,” says 2021 Bethel Seminary Alumnus of the Year Joel Johnson ’80, ’86. Johnson has lived by these words, repeatedly making himself available to God’s call and direction in a ministry journey that led him to his current role as senior pastor of Westwood Community Church in Chanhassen, Minnesota. He also served on Bethel’s board of trustees for 14 years, and has supported Bethel Seminary in an advisory role during leadership transition. Johnson graduated from Bethel in 1980 and began using his ministry gifts at Wooddale Church in the Twin Cities. He earned an M.Div. from Bethel Seminary in 1986, crediting Bethel faculty with providing clarity in his leadership journey. “Bethel forever changed my leadership practice,” he says. “I got clarity in paths of leadership and management through Bethel faculty.” Johnson’s leadership was the right fit when Wooddale was looking to plant a new church. He started Westwood in 1995 at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, where the services attracted “dechurched” attendees who felt familiar and comfortable in the venue. The church, now expanded to its own campus plus two additional sites, continues to be available to God’s leading. “Where He is at work,” says Johnson, “that’s where we want to be at work.”

Nominate the 2022 Alumni of the Year.

Every year, Bethel honors three outstanding alumni. If you know an incredible alum who deserves to be recognized, let us know! Nominations are accepted year-round and remain in consideration for three years.

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