WESTMINSTER, CO (December 21, 2015) – In October three key leaders in the Covenant flew to Denver to spend the day with Jim Persson, former director of Church Growth and Evangelism and the man each of them considered a “spiritual father.”
“I’ve known a fair number of good men,” said Steve Dawson, president of National Covenant Properties. “None, not even my own dad would fit the title of ‘spiritual father’ like Jim. Always the encourager, always pointing to the Savior’s love for us, always helping us to envision the kingdom impact that God has called us to, always willing to take a back seat so God could be glorified. It’s a lot to even think about paying forward to those around me. And that is only a little bit of the life change Jim has helped me toward.”
When Dawson, together with ECC president Gary Walter, and Lon Allison, a Covenant minister who formerly served as director of evangelism for the ECC, visited their 81-year-old friend, they knew it might be their last time to see him because his health had been failing. Although at the time he was the best he had been in months, on Sunday Persson died while in hospice care.
“Jim was a friend to us all, a remarkable model and inspiration of a God-first life given to Jesus, family, Christ’s work in the world, and the ECC,” said Walter, who was recruited by Persson to serve as director of church planting.
Allison was one of the church planters. Persson had mentored him for more than three decades and then led Allison’s father to faith.
Allison became a Christian when he was a teenager and then began attending Hillside Covenant Church in Walnut Creek, California, where Persson was his pastor. When Allison was in his early twenties, Persson asked him to take a three-month interim youth ministry position.
That stretched into three and a half years until Persson asked him to plant Hope Center Covenant Church in Pleasant Hill, California. “He always saw more in me than I saw in myself,” said Allison, who also planted Life Community Covenant Church in Roseville, California.
Persson later encouraged Allison to serve as the ECC director of prayer and evangelism. Allison went on to serve as executive director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. He currently serves as pastor of teaching and outreach at Wheaton Bible Church.
In a book Persson wrote about his life for his family, he recounted that his years as director of Church Growth and Evangelism were “the most enjoyable and fulfilling years of my lifelong call to be a pastor in the Evangelical Covenant Church. The reason was the bonding that occurred with Lon Allison, Steve Dawson, and Gary Walter.”