Contentment in the Midst of Being ‘Nuts’

This is the last of the personal posts to help you get to know me. This one answers the question, “How did a pastor leave the paradise of Central Oregon and end up in the North Dakota Oilfield?” Yes, longer than most.

“I hate this place.”

How many times of we thought those very words or said them out loud?

Our last year as Lead Pastor’s at Faith Christian Center in Bend, Oregon crept into February of 2014. My wife Tami and I had felt over the previous year that we were going to experience a change in location. When this fact became clearest to me, I went home to my wife and said it was time to go. She immediately concurred.

Two days after speaking with my wife I had a job offer in the Bakken Oilfield in Williston, North Dakota.

We heard, “Are you nuts?” more than a few times.

Two weeks later was my last Sunday preaching, in a church and community we loved. Ten days after that I was in a state I had never been to before, in a place filled with people from every state across our nation and a wide compliment of countries around the world. The oil boom was on and Williston was known by many as the new ‘wild west.’ Not only are minus temperatures normal for months on end during the winter, you didn’t go shopping after dark for fear you might run into someone who wanted to commit illegal acts against your property or person.


I was in an office at about my four month anniversary in the community and became involved in a conversation with two near-retirement aged staff who literally said in unison, “I hate this place.”

They were long-time residents.

You would completely understand their pain. Long-time residents of a quiet town of 12,500 sees their community explode to 35,000 in five years? Crime running rampant, semi-trucks everywhere, city services overtaxed, topless bars opening and thriving in a community and state that still has “blue laws” (no shopping until after 12 pm on Sundays). Certainly their world has been turned upside down.

Ever had your world rocked like that in such a short period of time? They were living it.

Tami and I understood that. But we also understood something else. We know that wherever we are, it is not an accident. Remarkably, in my short time here I’ve never had more “great talks” with people outside of the confines of my former church office as I’ve had in my position as a salesman. We’ve also grown in a greater appreciation for the struggles that people have because now WE are living outside of our former “Christian work bubble.”

So I shared with these great staff people whom I very much like, that Tami and I had learned to appreciate wherever we are. We had met many wonderful, amazing people. We attend a great church. We had good jobs. The prairie certainly lacks the beauty of the mountains we came from, but absolutely has a majesty all its own.

Okay, I’ll admit it; my eloquence only caused four eyeballs to roll…

Two years later the boom has gone bust and tens of thousands have left the Oilfield. Williston has become a better place to live as policing, roads and infrastructure have been radically improved, topless bars have closed and we now have double the restaurants, housing and shopping since then. We’re seeing more families, better school facilities and no feelings related to one’s mortality in going to the store after dark.

There was a guy named Paul who wrote about learning to be content with your life, regardless of where you are or what lane you’re in. He’s right. Imagine our lives if all you can think about is every bad thing about where you are. BTW – Did you know that Harley Davidson just opened here? Oh yes, Famous Dave’s BBQ and Buffalo Wild Wings predate our arrival, and Menards (think a midwest chain that’s a cross between Home Depot and Lowes) has opened here as well. We have GREAT golfing, the Medora Musical with the Pitchfork Fondue, the North and South units of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and AMAZING hunting. Why several times I’ve gotten my limit of pheasants by coming around a corner…in my F150…

Oh yes, game is EVERYWHERE.

I love this place.

Do you love where you are? What is great about where you are, right now? Focus on the lane that gives life…

Philippians 4:11


As promised, these first two posts are to let you know a little more about me. These are likely to be a little longer than most…

I was born in Ellensburg, Washington to Stan and Bev Johnson. Soon after our family moved briefly to Seattle and then to our home in Federal Way where I was raised with a younger sister and brother. Our parents still live in this home.

My goal in life was to be a college football coach. Just prior to the start of football practice to start my college career, I had a profound experience that led me to Bible college in Kirkland, Washington. After this I served as an associate pastor in Auburn, Washington, Ephrata, Washington, back to Auburn, and then to Corvallis, Oregon. This was followed by lead pastor roles in Hermiston, Oregon and Bend, Oregon, where we served until February 2014. Along the way I earned two graduate degrees at a distance while serving local churches, a Doctorate and Master of Christian Ministry.

First, I’m a little sheepish when it comes to the title of “Dr” in both my website and WordPress blog. I’ve never gone by that title, except from smiling friends in jest, signing legal documents for my church, letters of recommendation and when I’ve taught overseas. The real reason behind using that title on the Internet is due to the commonality of my name and how many Mike Johnson’s have their own websites!

There were three Mike Johnson’s, one in each grade at Decatur High School in Federal Way, Washington during my junior year in 1977-78. Humorously I was asked to reconsider my attendance twice during that year, as I received the cumulative absences from the other two on my personal record. It hasn’t gotten any better over time as there have often been at least seven of us sharing the same doctor, dentist, chiropractor, etc, etc, over the years.

Yes, I have my date of birth memorized by heart…

Where we previously lived in Bend, Oregon, a few times I received calls in the late hours of the night asking, “Are you the Mike Johnson who is the pastor?” I think they met a few of my namesakes…

Secondly, I’m proud of my Doctoral degree because I earned it. Understand that it is a Christian ministry degree and not a medical degree. Sure, I’ve been and continue to be involved in healing in people’s lives, but it’s not the same as your primary care physician. I have a Doctor of Ministry, a D.Min.

Have you ever thought about the titles you have in this life? Let’s try a few:

  • Mr/Mrs
  • Grocer
  • Police Officer
  • Customer Service Representative
  • Receptionist
  • Heavy equipment operator
  • Roustabout
  • Company Man
  • Manager/Boss
  • Leader
  • Boyfriend/Girlfriend
  • Actor/Actress

My present title is, “Salesman.” I sell the service of removing and mitigating liquid waste from the Bakken Oilfield in Northwest North Dakota.

I thoroughly enjoyed my decades-long title of “Pastor.” It mattered. Not only is there a bond of relationship with a congregation, but also a massive amount of hard work and effort tied to the degrees one earns to show themselves as being approved for the work.

What’s interesting is that I’ve given my life’s work to this one primary title of “pastor.” But the truth is there are four titles that matter much more to me than that last one – Husband, Father, Son and Friend. Some call the ministry a labor of love. Yet these latter four labors are oh so much more important to me…

What is the most important title in your life and why?


Start Here…

Welcome to my new blog!

The purpose of these writings is to be a source of help and encouragement in the lives of others. Humbly, I point to two qualifications to share the hundreds and perhaps thousands of stories that will follow. The first is my long years of experience in previous decades of helping others while being a vocational pastor. It has been a privilege to walk with others through life’s ups and downs, victories and defeats. About the time you think you’ve seen everything, something new rises up. Secondly, I’m still learning myself, and do not presume to have “arrived” at some place of perfection. While I’m looking forward to that day, I know it will not happen until I am directly in the presence of deity. On that day we will all know what it means to be unworthy…

Over this first shortened week I will share with you a few insights as to who I am so you can better understand the significance behind this new season of blogging for me.

Life in a Lane recognizes that regardless of what lane we are cruising in through life, we are ALL in a lane.  What we do in that lane is what matters. I would be humbled to have you join me by receiving my feed via email in the column to the right on the blog page.

To begin with, here are a few things you should know:

  • I’m a friend
  • I’m a husband
  • I’m a father
  • I am a Christian man, with degrees in Christian ministry
  • I will post three to four times per week
  • I will write on a wide variety of topics
  • I will not waste great quotes and great ideas from others, using them to encourage, equip and inspire others
  • Wednesday’s will normally feature a “Wednesday’s Wisdom” post/quote/idea that you can use in life and work
  • I will be asking for help from you the reader along the way
  • Be sure to check out my platform at as it will continue to expand in content to help in the lane that you’re traveling in.

For the journey,