What's It All About?

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At 16 years old, Nathan Johnson had everything going for him.

Good looks. A ton of friends.

And a bright future as the kicker at his Tennessee high school.

He was also a gifted musician and part of an increasingly popular Christian band called "Through a Glass."

But Nathan didn't live for the fame of football or a spotlight on the stage.

His real joy came from sharing with others his faith in Jesus Christ.

Nathan's dad, Chris Johnson, said, "He was always inviting people to church and always talking to people about Jesus."

A passion Nathan shared with his friend, Tyler Foltz, on the night of July 27, 2006.

"There are so many people that I have yet to reach…so many people I have yet to have an impact on to influence: the Beech football team, my high school, the Davison football team, Davison high school, Hendersonville," Tyler said Nathan told her.

But the next day, Nathan was suddenly and tragically killed in a car accident while on his way to football practice.

Dad Chris said, "The worst day of my life was Friday, July 28th -- but on the worst day of my life, I remembered one of the best days of my life, I remembered Nathan giving his heart to Jesus Christ."

Nathan became a Christian at 7 years old, and since that time, he had gone out of his way to help others know the Lord too.

"A week before he died," Chris recalls, "he called one night and said, 'Dad, I just led this guy to Christ.' It was his whole life."

That desire was the overriding theme at his funeral, attended by more than 2,000 people.

Andrew Johnson, Nathan's brother, spoke that day.

"There are people in this room that I know, if you died right now, you would not go to Heaven," Andrew said, "and so I'm just here right now saying that I want you to know this love that Nathan had. I want you to come to know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, because that's what he would want you to do."

More than 40 people - adults and teens alike - were saved at Nathan's funeral.

But his parents say the harvest from their son's life has only just begun.

"We would get contacts from kids who then had gone from the funeral and started Bible studies with their football teams," said Chris. "We would hear about 10-20 kids who would make commitments to Christ at football camps just after his funeral."

And it was at Beech High School that Nathan Johnson's life had the most impact -- where his life touched not only students, but the faculty as well.

Allie Brooke Shelby, a friend of Nathan's, said, "He had a light like I had never seen before."

"He always had a smile on his face and he would come up to you and he made everybody feel so special," said another friend of Nathan's.

Nathan's football coaches say they were inspired and challenged by his witness.

Beech High School Asst. Coach Scott Murray said, "Nathan had asked me about my salvation - I know that personally. And some of the other coaches questioned what we had been doing and how we had been acting, and we're supposed to be a role model for this guy, and in all actuality, he was a role model for us."

Anthony Crabtree, the head coach at Beech High School, said, "The thing that amazed me the most was how a 16-year-old child could impact the number of people that he did - everyone of those people knew what Nathan was about…which was Christ."

But Nathan didn't want just a few of his friends to get saved --  he dreamed of something bigger. Something he wrote about in his diary.

Chris said, "He wrote, 'He has enlightened the eyes of my heart to His will, in which He has with no doubt called me. His will for me is to radically impact my school for Him…I am strongly convinced that if I finally do this, many people's lives will be greatly impacted by God and will be the start of a revolution at my school for Christ.'"

A revolution that's continuing.

Students from schools across the region say that Nathan's life inspired the idea for  "What's it all about?" t-shirts -- on the back it states, "Nathan knew -- let's finish what he started."

Cody Bryan, a friend of Nathan's, said, "I just realized that this God that Nathan is living for is just so real -- like He loves us and we're supposed to love him too. Nathan just loved him more than anything, and that's just the way we all need to live."

"It hit me that life is short, and we live for stuff that doesn't matter right now," said another friend,  Chris Turberville. "God's not going to ask us about that stuff. God's going to ask how we lived for Him and when we accepted Him into our life…that was a big wake-up call for me."

Many who knew Nathan say his burden for the lost was so strong that he often wept for them in prayer.

Friend Kyle McClung remembers. "Nathan cried over me, how I struggled in my walk…that's something that really hit me hard."

But Nathan's influence is extending well beyond his high school and his peers.

Nathan's mom Kathy said,  "Because of Nathan, my daughter Mercedez Bonnet and my son Mitchell Bonnett have given their life to the Lord. Nathan's death has had such an impact on my family's heart and soul. I'm 39 --I want what Nathan had with God."

"The Bible says, 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend.' A verse many would agree sums up Nathan's love for those who don't know Christ.," said Youth Minister Jeff Lovinggood.

Meanwhile, Nathan's family is comforted by the fact that he is alive and well in Heaven.

And that, even in death, his passion for God, and the power of his life are still touching people for God's kingdom.

It's summed up in a favorite line Nathan was fond of saying, that now marks his grave:

"Dude, Heaven is sweet! See you there."

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CBN News
Charlene  Aaron

Charlene Aaron

CBN News Reporter

Charlene Aaron serves as a general assignment reporter and helps anchor for the CBN News Channel.  Follow her on Twitter @CharNews and "like" her at Facebook.com/CharleneIsraelCBNNews.