Our Elders

  • Dennis Black

    Dennis Black

    Dennis was born and raised in a Christian family in southwest Colorado. His commitment to Christ came early at about seven years of age. The early years were easy, attending weekly Sunday School and Church. In High School, part-time work after school and weekends became a distraction to church attendance. The time was the 1960’s, in which all of its turbulence and cultural changes were to be lived. Two years into college the draft took him to Vietnam. He was to leave a newly wedded wife but came home to her, and it’s now been some 45-years together.

    After Vietnam and year on the East Coast they moved back to Colorado, raised two sons, attended church regularly, and taught Jr. High and High School classes for several years. Dennis also taught a men’s weekly Bible study. A year or so before moving to Mesa, AZ in 1984, an itinerant Baptist preacher and former evangelist, moved to their town. Earlier in his life of preaching and teaching, he came to understand the Reformed faith as taught by John Calvin. The Baptist Church was not having any of his new, but old doctrine, so he preached in small groups and taught Bible studies. Dennis and his wife sat under his teaching and found a stronger faith and clearer appreciation of God’s sovereignty and His forgiveness of all of their sins, past, present and future.

    In Arizona, they moved from church to church the first few years, trying to find a home in which the Reformed faith was taught and preached as its underlying foundation, framework, and capstone. It has been about 20 years now that they have attended Church of the Redeemer, Mesa, AZ, where the Reformed faith and confessions are its center of attention. Church of the Redeemer is their home and place of service to Jesus Christ, our prophet, priest and king, in whom the redemption of his people is eternally accomplished. For we all are not of this world, but are only pilgrims passing through.

  • Gary L.W. Johnson

    Gary L.W. Johnson

    Our Senior Pastor, Gary L. W. Johnson, holds a B.A. from Edison State College; M.A. from Faith Theological Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; Th.M. and PhD. Studies from Westminster Theological Seminary; D. Theol. (cand.) from University of South Africa. He has held several pastorates, and has taught at several colleges. He has written for Table Talk, The Reformation and Revival Journal, Modern Reformation, and The Westminster Theological Journal. He was a contributor to The Coming Evangelical Crisis (Moody Press, 1996), co-editor with Fowler White of Whatever Happened to the Reformation? (P&R, 2001), co-editor with G. P. Waters of By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification (Crossway, 2007), editor of B. B. Warfield: Essays on His Life and Thought (P&R, 2007), and co-editor with Ron Gleason, Reforming or Conforming? A Critique of Post-Evangelicalism (Crossway, 2008).

  • Hal Thompson – Chairman

    Hal Thompson – Chairman

    Hal was born and raised in Amarillo, TX where in his youth he pursued a life of sin and dissolution. In his college years God granted him repentance. The mid 70’s was an amazing and confusing time for a young Christian with no real grounding as the Charismatic Movement was in full swing and The Late Great Planet Earth was jumping off the shelves. But another movement was also underway to counter the false doctrines with the great biblical doctrines such as justification by faith. The great Calvinist professor S. Lewis Johnson was at Dallas Seminary in those days, and by God’s grace and kind providence Hal soon fell in with students of his. The world of Warfield, Charles Hodge, and Calvin was opened up, and Hal began to see more and more the love of God and the marvels of the work of Christ. Hal was blessed to study Greek and Hebrew at Believers’ Chapel in Dallas and has continued to study and teach the Scriptures. Hal has been at Church of the Redeemer since moving to Phoenix in 1993 with his wife and three children.

  • Jon Nitta

    Jon Nitta

    Jon is originally from Fresno, California, and was raised in a home with Christian parents but as a young boy remembers that his family did not attend church regularly. However, when he was in junior high, Jon’s family was invited by a neighbor to visit a local Baptist church where they became regular attenders and involved in that church. During his junior year in high school, Jon had doubts about his salvation and talked with his youth pastor who urged him to make sure once and for all. So Jon got down on his knees and asked God to forgive him based upon Jesus’ death on the cross. After praying, Jon didn’t feel any different but knew he had done all he could do (more about this to follow).

    After graduating high school, Jon attended The Master’s College (formerly Los Angeles Baptist College) for two years before transferring to Fresno State University where he graduated in 1988 with a B.A. degree in mathematics. Then Jon began his teaching career at a public school in Fresno where he taught 7th and 8th grade math for eight years along with coaching the boys’ basketball and baseball teams. In the summer of 1996, Jon moved to Phoenix and began teaching high school math at Scottsdale Christian Academy. During the ten years he was at SCA, Jon taught everything from Algebra to Calculus. He also helped coach junior high boys’ basketball, girls’ varsity basketball, and boys’ golf. While teaching at SCA, Jon was introduced to the doctrines of the Reformed faith by a colleague and to Church of the Redeemer by the parents of one of his students. It was during this time that Jon came to understand the mercy of God in His plan to save some through the merits of Christ alone. There was no decision that Jon made, but rather, the decision was made by God’s own choosing and grace (Romans 4:5). Jon has been attending COR since 2001, has also served as deacon, and currently teaches an adult Sunday school class on the Westminster Standards.

    Jon has been teaching at Redeemer Christian School since 2006 where he teaches junior high and high school math. He has also taught junior high Bible and Logic as well as high school Physics, Apologetics, and Physical Education. Jon has coached the RCS girls’ volleyball team and boys’ basketball team. Having finished his 28th year of teaching (2016), Jon has seen God’s faithfulness throughout the years and is grateful to be in a school where Christ is exalted in classical education.

  • Norm Butler

    Norm Butler

    Norm is an Arizona native who was raised on a farm in east Mesa. He graduated from Arizona State University with a BS in Finance and an MBA. Currently he is the Market Executive for Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Middle Market Banking Group for Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. He has attended Church of the Redeemer since 1985 and has served as a Deacon from 1996 to 2011. During the 1980s and 1990s Norm served as a youth leader at Redeemer. He holds firm to the Confessional and Reformed doctrines. Norm has been married to Sharon for over 23 years. They have three children, Kirsten, Lauren, and Brian.

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