John & Beth's Biography
Beth and I are honored to share our lives with you. The Lord Jesus has made us the two richest people on the planet, and we are constantly grateful to Him.
We are passionately in love with the Lord, with each other, with our son and daughter, and with our Liberty family. In this biography, we will share the following:
- Childhood events that helped shape each of us
- How we each came to know Jesus
- How we met, dated, and married
- Our family
- The beginning of Liberty Church
My childhood was shaped by three main influences.
1. My Family
I am the third child and oldest son of six kids. All of my siblings and both of my parents are all passionate Christians. I was the first one to become a Christian when I was 19 years old. It was a fascinating season to watch my parents and all of my siblings give their lives to Christ over the next few years.
2. A Horrible Season of Persecution
I was born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1957. In 1965, my family moved to Philadelphia, PA. Those seven years in Philly were very hard on me. I was a skinny, awkward young man with glasses living in a rough area of town. I was picked on daily and rarely went a month without some type of physical abuse at school ranging from being spit upon to being knocked down and kicked. I was terrified all of the time and did not have any friends.
3. A Shocking Season of Success
In 1972, my family moved to Marietta, GA. I was entering the tenth grade and began to attend Wheeler High School. Wheeler was much larger than my old school in Philadelphia. My school in Philly only had about 150 in my class, while Wheeler had 770 students in my graduating class. To my shock, no one beat me up when I came to Wheeler High School. Wheeler was dominated by "born again" Christians. I had never heard of a "born again" Christian. I hardly knew anyone who even went to church in Philadelphia.
At Wheeler, I experienced a remarkable turnaround. I began to excel in every area.
By the time I graduated three years later, I had experienced the following:
- Voted Most Likely to Succeeed
- Appointed State President of the National Honor Society
- Won seven different wrestling titles
- Voted Mr. Senior Class
- Graduated 11th out of over 700 students
- Popularity and Happiness
I was NOT a Christian and did not become a Christian until after my junior year of college. However, these two extremes of living helped to shape my understanding of my need for Christ.
My childhood was shaped by two main influences.
1. A Very Happy Childhood
I had two very wonderful parents and a terrific older brother. My family was very faithful in the Lutheran Church, and my parents lived out their faith every day of their lives.
I was born in Seattle, WA in 1964. We moved to San Jose, CA when I was one year old, to New Jersey when I was seven years old, and to Marietta, GA when I was ten years old. I enjoyed each place that I lived.
2. My Mom's Accident and Surgeries
A month before my 12th birthday, my mom fell down a set of stairs while my brother and I were at school. This fall, combined with my mom's medical condition of syringeomyelia and a number of surgeries that followed the accident, left my mom mostly paralyzed from the shoulders down.
My mom lived for fifteen more years, and the way she and my dad handled that time has a lot to do with who I am today. My parents NEVER complained. They lived each day in great thankfulness, joy, peace, calmness, and love. My dad personally and lovingly took care of all my mom's physical needs while working a full time job and taking care of my brother and myself.
In some ways, my mom's accident made us closer. My mom was my best friend. We would sit and talk for hours. My mom was always excited about what was happening in my life and was my biggest cheerleader. I still miss my mom to this day.
How We Came to Know Jesus
I fought against Christianity. After experiencing such success in high school, I was greatly irritated by the message of Christianity - that I am a sinner and need forgiveness for my sins. I began to persecute and debate against Christians. Over those two years, the Lord was kind enough to show me how empty my life was without Him. I had seen the best of this world and the worst of this world, and they were both empty.
In July 1977, I went with a friend to a home Bible Study because they were the most passionate Christians I had ever met. If I was going to give my life to Jesus, I did not want to hold anything back. This small group Bible Study was part of Mt. Paran Church of God. I went with the group to Mt. Paran and gave my life to Jesus. I gave Him ALL of my heart and have been fully ALIVE with passion for Him every day of my life since that day.
My coming to Christ was a bit softer than the way that John came to Christ. :) I truly believed and received Jesus as my Savior and Lord as a young child in the Lutheran Church.
At Walton High School in the ninth grade, I befriended John's younger sister, Julia Fichtner. Julia and I joined a choir at a small new church called Covenant Chapel that was a church plant of Mt. Paran Church of God. At Covenant Chapel, there was a strong youth group and choir. In that atmosphere, my love for Jesus grew greatly.
How We Met, Dated, and Married
As you have already read, we met through John's sister, Julia. I, John, was at college at Auburn University during most of the time when Beth was getting involved in Covenant Chapel. I would come home on the weekend to find this cute little blonde who was my sister's best friend and practically another member of the family. Beth was over at our house constantly. We dated a little bit in Beth's junior year of high school, but only for a few months.
When Beth finished high school, I had graduated from Bible College and was working in the ministry in Birmingham, AL. Beth wound up going to Samford University in Birmingham for her nursing degree. She attended church where I was on staff, and we resumed a friendship. We then dated for almost three years and were married in March of 1984.
In 1987, our son John David was born. He graduated from the University of Georgia Law School cum laude in 2011. He is currently practicing law in the Atlanta area.
In 1990, our daughter Gemma was born. She graduated from Kennesaw State University magna cum laude with a degree in nursing. Gemma married Austin Cooley on April 20th, 2013.
John David, Gemma, and Austin are three of our best friends. They have great wisdom, humor, love, and joy. We are very thrilled that all three of them have loved the Lord with all of their hearts since they were young children.
The Beginning of Liberty Church
Twice in Bible College, the Lord spoke to me that my lifetime calling was to pastor a church in Marietta, GA. When I first came on staff in Birmingham, the Lord spoke to me that I would be on staff for five years. Exactly five years later, the church in Birmingham sent me out as a missionary to Marietta. They gave me nine months of income and their complete blessing!
For four months, we rented a Lutheran Church on Sunday nights in East Marietta. After that, we moved into the Strand Theater on the Square in Marietta for seven years. From the beginning, our vision for Liberty has been the same; we hunger for Liberty Church to be a place of great love, safety, warmth, close friendships, and high excellence.
For the first five years of the church, we lived in a small garage apartment, and Beth worked full time as a nurse, while John worked full time at the church for free. :) After about five years, the church was able to pay John a salary.
As we mentioned in the church history, in 1993 Liberty was able to purchase the property where we currently house all seven congregations. This property was an old "Wicks Lumber" building. Miraculously, we were able to purchase the property in a bankruptcy hearing for approximately one fourth of the value of the property.