Dr. Jonathan Edwards graduated from Bob Jones University in 1975, which was an entirely different plan than he originally envisioned for his life. By the time Jonathan was in high school, he had learned to love working with his hands, specifically the art of welding which he learned from his father. As a senior in high school, he earned a scholarship to a public college and intended to enroll with the goal of becoming a high school shop teacher. But the Lord had other plans and at a Bible conference, he submitted to go where the Lord wanted him to go. He wrote 3 Christian colleges and the first to respond was BJU. So, in 1970, after prayerfully considering his options, he packed up and came 3000 miles from California to Greenville, SC where he knew no one. But his welding skill did not go to waste as he became the University’s welder.
Through an extension, he met a student who recommended an internship in California with seasoned pastor, Dr. David Innes which he pursued and completed. In addition to this internship, a chapel announcement at BJU helped guide Jonathan and his wife, Chrissa, into their future vocational ministry. In 1974, Dr. Wally Higgins spoke in chapel and announced a new mission board meant to reach the Intermountain West which is predominantly Mormon. Jonathan began to diligently pray for this new ministry and the Lord in turn began to burden his heart for that area of the country. Remembering their first survey trip during Christmas break of that same year, Chrissa, Jonathan’s wife, described how the Lord used that trip to direct them. “The lack of Bible-preaching churches and the dark cloud of oppression that hung over the area overwhelmed us and we felt strongly that God was leading us to spend our lives bringing the light of the Gospel to those people.”
In 1975, Jonathan joined Northwest Baptist Missions, graduated from BJU, and moved his family to Delta, Utah to begin deputation. In 1978, Jonathan along with a few others planted a church in the Salt Lake City area and in the same year along with fellow missionaries, founded the first Christian camp in Utah called Utah Independent Baptist Camp. This camp started a horsemanship program which Jonathan ran for 25 years. When the camp season ended each year, he and the family would care for the horses during the remaining year. Because of his commitment to this camp ministry, Jonathan continues to serve on the board of this camp.
ANOTHER COMMUNITY TO SERVE
In the early 80s, the Lord burdened Jonathan for a small town in Salina, Utah. He began praying for this all-Mormon community and the Lord led them there to start a church. At the same time, Jonathan was praying God would give him other ways to impact the community and the Lord opened the door for him to join the emergency medic squad. He served for 10 years in this role, became president of the county’s EMS, and led approximately 100 other EMTs. Jonathan’s willingness to take on another role in the community led to countless witnessing opportunities among co-workers, patients, and their families.
After 13 years, when the church in Salina was strong enough, Jonathan and Chrissa prayed for another place in Utah to take the gospel light. The Lord led them to Marysvale, Utah, where He miraculously provided a massive ranch for all the horses and provided a building– once the town’s bar– to start another church. During their time at the church in Marysvale, they started a horse-riding business to meet people and support the camp’s horse program. They formed Eagle’s Nest Baptist Ministries, now a conference center and a retreat for Christian workers in need of respite. Additionally, Jonathan began a radio broadcast which plays twice each weekday on two secular radio stations and has proven to reach many people Jonathan otherwise would not be able to access.
In 2017, Jonathan began driving 80 miles to Tropic, Utah to help an attempted church plant with a weekly Bible study. The Lord once again was leading Jonathan and Chrissa in a new direction. And in 2020, after 25 years of building and shepherding the church in Marysvale, Jonathan resigned as pastor.
STILL PLANTING CHURCHES
About 5 years after Jonathan began leading that weekly Bible study in Tropic, the time seemed to be right to officially plant a church. So, this year, Jonathan formed Community Baptist Church right near Bryce Canyon where 2 million visitors come each year. Once again, this new church plant is the only non-LDS, Bible preaching church in the Bryce Valley and Canyon area.
When we in Alumni Relations talked with Jonathan and asked for a takeaway from his life spent giving the gospel in Utah, he simply posed a question– “where would these people be if God had not called us here?” Jonathan’s ministry verse is Zechariah 4:6: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” For being willing to be led and empowered by the Spirit and for being a faithful laborer and leader in the difficult fields in Utah, the Alumni Relations department at Bob Jones University is honored to present Dr. Jonathan Edwards with a Lifetime Achievement Award.