"Gifted & Multi-Talented Johnny Lee Cook"
By: Dr. Gene Higgins, President of the Christian Country Music Association
Rarely do you find a man who is as talented as Johnny Lee Cook. More importantly, he loves God, his family, his friends, and the church with everything that is within him. Johnny never meets a stranger and always takes time to speak with and encourage everyone he meets. When Johnny gets to Heaven, God will say, “You have fought a good fight and kept the faith; enter into the joy of the Lord.” He will finally rest from all his labor … but until then, you can forget about that!
So, who is Johnny Lee Cook?
The first time I met him, he was a pastor, and an incredible pastor at that. If you want to hear a man preach as called by God, then, Johnny is your man! He graduated with top honors from Emmanuel Baptist University, earned his doctorate of Theology, and for thirty-seven years, he’s been a dedicated Southern Baptist Evangelist. He is also a strong family man, having been married to his wife, Judy Nash Cook, for thirty-seven years. Then, there are his three handsome and talented sons, who are all born-again Christians in full-time ministry. The oldest son, Jonathan, is pastor at the Sanctuary Church in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Daniel pastors at the Sanctuary Church in Wilmington, North Carolina, where Timothy, Johnny’s youngest son, is also the youth pastor. (Timothy is also an incredible golf-pro at St. James in Myrtle Beach.)
His charismatic personality, spiritual anointing, and God-given talent have helped him to develop an amazing ministry. This is a man who lives to be a blessing and an encouragement to others. … Might I add, he is also a great singer! His love for Country music is undeniable, with influences like Merle Haggard, George Jones, and Hank Williams. Johnny was also inspired by some of the pioneers in Inspirational Country music, artists like James Payne, Ken Holloway, and Del Way. To date, he has recorded more than thirteen albums, with four additional albums currently in the works. With four top ten singles in the last year, he has achieved numerous songs on the national charts, and every day he is looking for a new song that will bless someone. Johnny travels to over 150 churches each year, in addition to many other prestigious venues. During 2010 Inspirational Country Music Week, he performed on the main stage during our showcases and did an incredible job as the guest speaker and performer for our annual Christian Country Music Association Membership Breakfast, where he sang an incredible duet with the legendary Razzy Bailey, “Whiskey Talkin’,” which was penned by 2009 ICM Living Legend, James Payne.
There’s more … In addition to the many other aspects of his ministry, Johnny is an incredible comedian. He says, “All my life, I had always wanted to be like Jerry Clower!” For years, Johnny worked at the Archie Campbell Hee Haw Theater in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where he developed a friendship with LuLu Roman. Actually, it was LuLu Roman who encouraged Johnny to pursue his love of making people laugh. Psalms 17:22 tells us, “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”
This is a man who has mastered the art of good, clean humor, and he is quick to remind people, “It don’t have to be filthy to be funny!” In fact, at the 2010 ICM Awards Show, he was honored with the covenant ICM Comedy Act of the Year award, up against some of the most talented comedians in the world. His motto is “Laughter is the hand of God on the shoulders of a troubled world.” His new comedy album, Cornbread, Buttermilk, And A Bald Headed Onion is due out next month.
But, with Johnny, there is no end to his visions, calling, and gifts. An accomplished author, Dr. Cook has written several books including: If You Have A Need, Plant A Seed; Unstoppable, which has sold over 11,000 copies; What Is Heaven Really Like?; God Has Sure Been Good To Me; and Commentary On The Book Of Revelation. He has recently completed his latest book, entitled Nuts And Bolts In Church Mentoring. With his incredible ability to convey emotions through his writing and to communicate a solid, relatable message, his writings help others to strengthen their walk with Christ, as well as to develop revelations about their own lives. When you read a book by Dr. Cook, I have no doubt that you will remain excited and fully-immersed from one chapter to the next.
To top it all off, Dr. Cook is also the founder and president of the North Carolina College Of Theology (NCCT), which equips students to excel in their calling from God. In the mid-nineties, Dr. Cook and his wife Judy started the college with only nine students. Today, the school has grown incredibly with 800-1040 students graduating each year. Now, the college has 168 schools in thirty states and seven different countries, which are overseen by Dr. Cook. This college is a training center for those whose strongest desire is to know Christ and to spread His Word, serving as a launching pad for ministries. Their mission is to “reach the world for Jesus, one student at a time.” It is also the fastest growing satellite school in the United States. In 2010 and 2011, he was voted Preacher of the Year at NCCT.
This inspirational author, speaker, humorist, and Christian Country recording artist is truly one of a kind. Known by many as “Mr. Encourager,” his love and compassion for others is always evident. He often says, “I believe with all my heart, if you can change your thinking, you can change everything around you.” I personally believe that he is absolutely right! His optimistic spirit and enthusiasm for life is truly amazing, and it’s even more inspiring when you read his testimony and life story. But then again, Johnny always says, “Every challenge is a valuable gift, and every setback contains the making of a comeback.” He is certainly proof of that!
Growing up, Johnny was very different from the spirited, enthusiastic man he is today. Raised in a very poor family, just outside of Asheville, North Carolina, he was forced to grow up far too quickly. Many times he went hungry, and he still recalls the painful memories of being made fun of for the old clothes he wore. However, even more painful, are the memories of his father… Johnny feared for his life daily. His father was physically abusive, and on countless occasions Johnny witnessed his mother being beaten. There were so many times he prayed for the Lord to just take him away. As a young man, Johnny headed down a rebellious path spending time in bars, trying to drink away his pain. Then, in 1972, an old friend invited him to attend a revival at Landis Baptist Church, where Dr. Ray Percy was preaching. When Johnny accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior, the Lord delivered him, and he has never looked back! It’s his empathy and understanding, paired with his undeniable enthusiasm for life that allows him to make such an incredible impact on others.
As I think about the trials he’s overcome, the incredible contributions he’s made to the Kingdom through his efforts, and his ability to inspire others, I am truly amazed. Johnny is quick to offer appreciation and praise for those who’ve influenced and guided him through his journey, especially Pastor Bill Purvis, of Cascade Hill Church in Columbus, Georgia. Johnny says, “Bill has been my mentor for ten years. He specializes in leadership, and he has helped me immensely to become a better leader, a better pastor, and even an entertainer. He has also been an incredible blessing to my sons as well.”
So, where does Johnny Lee Cook go from here? One thing is certain; he will continue to obey the call of God, wherever it leads him. In the future, we will see more recordings, books, jokes, and inspiring messages as he strives to reach the world with a message of encouragement, love, hope, and most of all, the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. When you ask him how he’s managed to balance the various aspects of his ministry-comedian, preacher, author, speaker, recording artist, and teacher- he replies with a smile, “It is all Jesus!” It only takes one man, one calling, and one gift to make a difference … However, the Lord has chosen to bless Johnny Lee Cook with a multitude of talents, allowing him to continue to move forward, touching lives and changing hearts.