The co-senior leader of Bethel Church, Beni Johnson, passed away on Wednesday following a prolonged battle with cancer. Carrie Lloyd pays tribute to her
Lay down the flags, turn off the phone, the happy intercessor has left, for Jesus’ home.
At 8:59pm on 13 July, Beni Johnson passed away, after a long battle with cancer.
Collating words for this piece, there are one hundred strings to her matriarchal bow.
Senior co-pastor to Bethel Church, Redding, California; mother of Eric, Brian and Leah, beloved wife to Bill Johnson, grandmother to eleven children, spiritual mother to hundreds, the intercessor of intercessors, horticulturalist, nutritional connoisseur and author of several books including The Happy Intercessor, Healthy and Free, The Joy of Intercession, 40 Days of Wholeness, Embracing Transition, Experiencing Jesus Through Communion and The Power of Communion.
Having only been witness to this dancer in the divine for the last ten years, I do not know of the younger Beni, the one her husband mentions, whom aged 18 was shy and timid. For I only know of the lioness, the one who held a room with an authority like that of a monarch in a palace.
Such is the encounter she had that one night in Toronto during the 1990s, while her husband watched on in awe and reverence. In just one evening, with one encounter, her heart for God and the world took on an entirely new, and breathtaking intercessory posture. Fearless to any mountain, unabated as a prayer-warrior, it was Beni, who ensured the intercessors took priority in the church. It was Beni, who would give room for our tears with her compassion, while reminding us to persevere. It was Beni who told us to dust off the communion cup and break the bread, long after the rest of us had given up.
She was the one who laughed amid the travailing. Who could lift our spirits as much as she could potentially lift a Buick (there is was reason we called her ‘Grandma with muscles’). Who rejoiced at the miracles as well as our goof-like sarcasm. She taught us to ask what God is doing, not what we want him to do; to pray with him, not at him.
She taught us to plant, to build, whether it be the flowers in our gardens, or the souls of our children.
She reminded us that when God gives you freedom, it was our responsibility to keep it.
She taught us to wait with his sun and salute the rising of it (pun intended).
She would giggle on witnessing generosity from one person to another, and bee-line for the ones hiding in the corner. I know this much is true, for I was one of them. You had to be careful to comment on how much you liked her shoes, for the very next week you’d find the same brand-new pair, in your own size, waiting upon your door step. Whatever she did, she did it with formidable passion. And even as the world could scream cancel, she smiled with an embrace.
Like many things, she chose the harder choice, over the popular taking.
Ever warm, ever tender, ever brave.
We speak of Beni losing a battle, as if death had the final curtain call, but it is heaven who cries encore, as the thousands of our individual stories, across the earth, retell the impact of Beni, flooding down on us from heaven like confetti. ‘Tis a brutal beauty that echoes in the chasm of grief. But one that we are willing to persevere through, just like our own Queen B taught us.
But we do not grieve the embrace she now encounters, we grieve the motherly one she left behind.
You can see why saying goodbye will be so hard. For many of us she was a transformational matriarch, one that we owe much wisdom and revelation to. For the select and favored few, they lost a mother, a wife, and in the knowledge that the happy intercessor leaves us with tears flooding down our face, I know in time, following her compassion to let us grieve, she’ll nudge us once more to pick up the flags, to unmuffle the drum, let the mourners be done, so that the kingdom can come.
It was her observational reckoning that called upon more breath for her breathless new grandchild, it was her prowess of seeking him, that restored marriages, that injected hope back into a depressive. It was her undeniable peace that made any intimidating and unwanted giant buckle, while we stayed in the room to watch those miracles take place.
If ever there was a legacy to gain from Beni Johnson, aside from the prayer life and the passion, aside from this sign and wonder that Bill would often introduce to a crowded room, it was the significance of one woman, one individual, whose heart for the Lord was so fully committed to Christ’s, it changed our own - forever.
Although our natural urge is to seek her for comfort in a loss as huge as this, in time, we shall raise the flags, we shall unmuffle the drum. We shall let heaven ensure your encore Beni…for his kingdom still comes.