Meet Pastor Sabra Johnson
Pastor Sabra Johnson is an Inspirational Life Coach, Speaker, Author, and Pastor of City of Faith Church in Houston, Texas. Pastor Sabra has a passion for reaching the underserved and often overlooked men, women, teens, and children in need of direction and a strong biblical foundation on which to succeed in life.
Sabra Johnson –is the grandson of a preacher and the offspring of Jennie and the late Harrison Johnson – had an enthusiasm to learn and meditate on God’s word from an early age in life. Although Sabra had peculiar acclaims such as winning the citizenship award at his elementary school and even being chosen as a Jr. Deacon at the age of 12, Sabra Johnson grew and developed as the average kid as a love for basketball, watching television and hanging out with friends were a forefront of focus.
1992 marked a year of special challenges in the life of Sabra Johnson. Three days before the end of his senior year in High School the suburban student whom had not seen legalized troubled or tragedy found himself shot and over 15 bullet holes in his car as a drive by shooter unloaded on he and his friends. This was the first time Sabra experienced great tragedy and challenge in his life since the earlier death of his father at the age of 2. The teenager graduated and enrolled as a Freshman at Clark Atlanta University in the AUC of Atlanta. The first semester was a season of heavy drinking, marijuana use as the teenager dealt with the changes of becoming a man, being a new student and the recent victim in a shooting. Then the Spring of 1993 marked a moment of visitation by Almighty God that led pre-law major to become serious about God, prepare to transfer to the then named Augusta State University. Back in Augusta, Sabra sought Word Knowledge by attending bible study, additionally enrolling in Augusta School of Biblical Studies and volunteering at the local Youth Detention Center as a mentor and biblical witness.
At the young age of 19, Sabra Johnson began his ministry praying and identifying with local youth alongside Phin Hitchcock and others through Fireside Ministries. This outreach allowed Pastor Sabra to regularly serve as a volunteer evangelist at the local Youth Detention Center. It was during this time that Sabra developed his unique ability to present biblical truths using real-life applications that caused others to “get-it”. After a short time, his reputation as a charismatic youth communicator spread through Augusta and South Carolina. Youth ministries, churches, and even rural football coaches began asking the young Sabra to speak and pray with their youth. Sabra’s earlier messages to young people was “I am You…”- Sabra identified with the guys in the youth center for after becoming a victim of the senseless shooting the young teenager responded with revenge and violence. Sabra says “I went with a double barrel shotgun for nights looking for the ones who shot me… but God would not allow me to find them as he was working to change my heart”. To the athletes and young football players, he would share with them how trouble and being a statistics is not reserved for gangsters and inner cities kids as he would share his becoming a statistic and fallen prey to the temptations of youth. These messages connected and news about this transparent young person began to spread.
This ability to personally connect with others through transparency and truth of God’s love serves as the foundation upon which Sabra was able to build his work as a lead urban ministry coordinator at Young Life International at the age of 19. As part of Sabra’s work with Young Life, he was able to minister to youth and young adults throughout Georgia and South Carolina, while attending college classes. After four years of due diligence, the “boy” para-church youth worker grew and developed into a “man” called to the work of the pulpit.
1997 was another interesting year for the young Sabra as he became a licensed and ordained Baptist minister at the age of 23… then months later to experience the untimely loss of his “brother” when his first cousin Tolan V Dunn died. After the funeral, the young Sabra spent many evenings at the graveside of his beloved brother thinking and asking God many tough theological questions. It was another challenge in the life of Sabra Johnson. Sabra’s ministry went from the football stadium locker rooms to inner city and rural churches throughout GA as the art of the pulpit was being developed.
1999 Mark another challenge in the life of Sabra Johnson. Early January of 1999, Sabra was involved in a life threatening accident that left permanent clinical damage to his cognitive skills. Then early summer, a tragic home fire left the young preacher with 18% body burns, multiple surgeries, a 2 month hospital stay and a 18 month recovery process. “The tares and wheat have seemed to be an equally present aspect of my life from the days of my adolescent. God always gave me great opportunities as he allowed great challenges in my life whether that was the loss of my father, being a wounded by a bullet, my cousin’s death, near death accidents while at the same time He blessed my career and my personal life by giving me preaching assignments, a home and a relationship with my now wife Matilda…”
At the age of 25, Sabra felt in his heart that it was time to pastor his own church. Pastor Sabra Johnson followed the desire that God had placed on the inside of him and after a period of prayer and meditation, he became the senior pastor elect of a historic Baptist church just outside of Augusta, Georgia. In this role, Pastor Sabra’s passion to reach the overlooked grew and he not only served as a lead pastor but also as a keynote crusade evangelist. This season saw Sabra Johnson work to help launch young life urban in South Carolina and help the South Carolina Burned Church Coalition reach the youth victims of church arsons in the southern portion of the United States. This latter work allowed the maturing Sabra to fly as a regular to Washington DC to meet with government officials in the Office of Victims of Crime in Washing DC then under leadership of Janet Reno.
Sabra met countless people, each with their story of hardship and pain, followed by their testimony of hope and salvation. Whether he was preaching in the pulpit, in a stadium, hospital, or street corner, Sabra spoke from his heart and followed the lead of the Holy Spirit. To this day, as pastor of City of Faith Church, he does not use a manuscript or reference sermon notes. Pastor Sabra can be found at each sermon with a bible in his hand, speaking freely with the intent to inspire his congregation and preach God’s ever living word. “I just speak as I did to my teenage peers in those earlier days when I stood in football locker rooms and when I sat next to others in jail cells at the local youth detention center when I was a teenager… they did not want a high powered polished manuscript sermon, just a positive word of encouragement from a non-judgmental friend. I have been preaching the same was over the last two decades.”
In 2004, the pains and private discomforts of his brain injury coupled with the pressures of ministry served as a private challenge for the public figure. “I never shared with anyone the private pains I experienced physically and the private burn-out… The positive never been in troubled kid, was struggling and I kept it silent. I started self-medicating through beer, wine and then alcohol as a method to get me through the pressures of the day. Then in 2004, the newly married Sabra took a sabbatical from pastoral work as he focused on he and his young bride’s rapidly growing entrepreneurial food investments, and a growing itinerary of travelling “faith” conferences. “The tares and the wheat continued… My joy left as my private self medication increased resulting in lifestyle imbalance, lazy thinking and irrational high risk behavior… Business grew from GA to FL to Texas to New Orleans… and so did the private drinking”
Then in 2008, the biggest challenge of Sabra’s life happened, The boy preacher was now in court facing a federal indictment. “That was the start of my Fall… The 2008 challenge was different from the other challenges as this one was a result of my own poor behavior and sin. In John 5:14, Jesus teaches the lame man was lame as a result of personal sin in his life… That was the start of my Humpty Dumpty moment… and the moment I stopped and gave the keys of my car to God Almighty.” Sabra accepted full responsibility for all charges, served time in federal prison and then began life again with God as the driver. Internal and external struggles and challenges remain, yet Sabra has learned to allow God to help him feel the way he wants to feel without the use of drugs, alcohol and high risk situations. “Prison – the worst time of my life- was used by God to rekindle my spiritual walk of faith as the worst time of my life in the hands of God became the best time of my life”
Sabra believes that life is a canvas upon which we can learn and he applies this philosophy in his lectures, speeches, and sermons. “I hope my life can be a metaphor through which others can learn through my mistakes… I am committed to sharing my stories, my life experiences and life lessons with others facing tragedy and challenge so they can avoid the pitfalls in my story especially hard to reach youth…. But most of all I am just happy to be Sabra- not Pastor Sabra- not Mr. Johnson the Businessman – just enjoying walking the joy and reality of Sabra a man after God’s own heart”
Today, Sabra Johnson and a faithful group of Houstonians are changing lives through City of Faith Church of Houston (Loft Worship Experience) and Born to Succeed Conferences and Life Coaching.