John Leonard – The Missionary Miracle

The Leonards

Today it is my privilege to re-blog an article that my alma mater, Faith Baptist Bible College, posted on October 15, 2019. Our Associate Pastor’s wife gets some great publicity in this article… 🙂 Yes, this article concerns none other than Jonna O’Tool’s father, John Leonard, “The Missionary Miracle”…Enjoy!


The fact that John Leonard is still alive is a miracle. That he returned, at all, to the mission field where he was nearly murdered, and continues to minister today, is nothing short of heroic.

John Leonard was born in Des Moines, Iowa, and raised in Brazil, South America, as a missionary kid. His wife, Bev, was born and raised in Marysville, Kansas. They both attended Faith, where God prepared them for ministry. While at Faith, Bev said she gained confidence in her belief, and she was then able to talk to the unsaved and give good answers when asked about Christianity.

The two met at church while they were attending Faith in 1981. They were married on December 31, 1983. Before meeting Bev, John had served in Brazil for four years as a leader of a church that had closed its doors. He felt called to return to Brazil as he knew of their great need for the Gospel. Bev also had felt led to ministry, and her “life calling” was confirmed when John wanted to minister for the Lord. They now have four adult children who are grown and married and serving the Lord.

When asked what he would tell a current student interested in ministry, John said, “Missions is not for the faint of heart, but if God is calling you, you won’t be happy doing anything else. God will make a way where there seems to be no way!”

There certainly seemed to be “no way” for John to ever return to Brazil after he was shot six times by a pair of drug lords outside of his church in Alagoas, Brazil, in 2005. One of the bullets struck Leonard in the spinal cord, and doctors in Brazil were unable to remove it. Leonard was in a coma for 12 days and was not expected to live. After being transported back to Iowa, doctors were able to remove the bullet, but not without consequence. Leonard woke in his hospital bed, paralyzed from the neck down.

John has faced significant challenges being in a wheelchair, but he said the biggest lesson he’s learned in his ministry is “How big God is, and how little I am. Nothing is impossible with God.”

John and Bev returned to the mission field in 2007, where they continue to serve the Lord faithfully. Recently, two young families have been saved as a result of their courageous work. John spends time preaching, teaching, counseling, and discipling, as well as overseeing building projects. Bev works with ladies and children’s ministries, and music ministry.

The story of missionaries John and Bev Leonard demonstrates God’s glory received even through trials. John’s testimony is a powerful tool used to witness to the people of Brazil. Together John and Bev have been involved in ten church plants.

You can follow the work and ministry of John and Bev Leonard on their blog: prayforjohnblog.wordpress.com

From Megachurches to Micro-churches: What Ever Happened to Faithful Churches?

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As a local church pastor, I like to keep a good pulse on church trends and fads. At the very least, it provides interesting entertainment value. Like clothing styles and music styles, church styles can be all the rave one season and totally drab the next season.

Such is the case with the megachurch model. Indeed, it seems like Americans are quickly becoming disillusioned with the idea that “bigger is always better” when it comes to church life. So, enter the latest all the rage church model – the micro-church!

This model of church goes by many names. A recent Christianity Today article states, “These communities go by different names – fresh expressions, missional communities, micro-churches – but they bear many similarities….Though the structures of these communities vary, their values are generally consistent. These include intentional focus on mission to a specific population (fitness enthusiasts, or single moms, etc.), an emphasis on lay leadership, low costs, and a high rate of reproduction.” Interesting, isn’t it?

My goal in this short blog post isn’t to argue the merits of micro-churches over megachurches (or vice versa), but to simply ask a simple and direct question: What ever happened to the biblical model of church? What ever happened to churches just being faithful? What ever happened to this whole Pauline notion that “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6-7)?

Does it really matter how big or small a local church is? Maybe to a degree. I mean, numbers tell us something, right? But isn’t it possible for a church to be on fire, faithful, and fervent in their mission to “make disciples” (cf. Matthew 28:18-20) and be either huge in numbers or quite tiny in numbers? I think the answer is obvious.

Perhaps local churches that intentionally strive to be either mega or micro are totally missing the boat. Maybe, just maybe, we should desire church growth without demanding church growth? Perhaps trying to reach the crowd for simple numbers sake isn’t really fulfilling the Great Commission after all. And is the solution to this problem really to tailor church to a specific demographic just because big church isn’t working out so well? Again, I think the answer is obvious.

Here’s the bottom line, perhaps churches have a responsibility to steward, plan, and strategize for church growth BY MEANS OF staying faithful in prayer, preaching, and meeting the needs of the people that God brings to them (cf. Acts 6:1-7). Perhaps we should keep the main thing the main thing. So, in the case of Prairie Flower Baptist Church, what is the main thing? Well, it’s “to be a strong church that makes disciples for the glory of God.” Can’t we just devote ourselves with white hot passion to that mission and vision and leave the growth results to God?

I mean, who was it that said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”? Oh yeah, that was Jesus. And who is Jesus? Listen again to the words of Paul from Ephesians 2:19-21, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”

Honestly, I don’t think it’s all about being a mansion of a church or being hipster with a tiny church model. Perhaps you can be a megachurch and faithful. Perhaps you can be a micro-church and faithful. Perhaps you can be a “normal church” and faithful. Indeed, at the end of day, I think that mere faithfulness provides some rich fruits, whether that be visible, tangible fruit like numerical growth or invisible, spiritual fruit like spiritual growth. But faithfulness always yields the sweet rewards of fruit. Yes, at the end of the day, I think Jesus just wants us to strive to be faithful churches. Amen?

Three Videos of Interest…

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  • This Sunday is Communion Sunday! We’ll showcase the following video during our Communion Service, but it’s worth checking out beforehand…So moving! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfLWA5G8jSI.
  • This Sunday we’ll also continue with our special fall series, “Core Values: Who We Are – Take 2” by discovering our sixth value – “Inspiring Worship.” To do this, we’ll dive into Isaiah 6 and witness a magnificent scene – a holy God upon His majestic throne! But what does it mean that God is holy? We’ll showcase the following video during the message…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9vn5UvsHvM.
  • This Sunday is also the day of our Quarterly Meeting. What a busy Sunday! But during our meeting, we’ll showcase the following video in order to encourage you to continue to give, serve, and INVITE – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myhjFikFrbE.

Enjoy and (Lord willing) we’ll see you Sunday!