Since our founding in 1981 PMI which now operates in over 30 states, has won some 17,000 precious souls to Christ while enrolling and or graduating 20,000 Bible and Ministry students.
From humble beginnings involving prayer and intense Bible study, the Lord laid out a careful plan that literally led us from one open door to another. Here’s briefly how it happened. In the late 1970s, bro Mike Johnston was involved in jail and prison evangelism where scores of incarcerated men and women were surrendering their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. By 1981 the ministry was touching lives across the State of Michigan and presenting a new set of challenges: Biblically based training for all the new converts. In response to prayer, the Lord made it very clear that the answer was in providing doctrinally sound correspondence Bible studies, which has been the path this ministry has followed since that time.
As the ministry grew, two things naturally expanded with it: expenses for operations as well as a growing interest from fellow Christians wanting to support what brother Mike was doing. In the fall of 1981, he and long time friend Rev. Mike Olney organized this prison outreach into Promise Ministries (aka PMI). And while the original intention was centered on local follow-up ministry to those being reached through the evangelistic efforts of brother Mike and PMI, the Lord began to speak to his heart about the tens of thousands of other hungry souls out there that likewise needed to be fed, and yet were not. This spiritual nudging proved to be the leading of God in many wonderful ways, including brother Mike finishing his Bible school and seminary training where to date he has received the following degrees: Bachelor of Theology (Th.B); Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies (BA); a Master of Theology (ThM), Master of Divinity (M.Div), a Doctor of Ministry in Church Growth (D.Min), a Doctor of Philosophy in Theology (Ph.D), and an Honorary Doctor of Divinity (D.D.).
Localized Ministry via 36 Letters to Jackson Prison
Dr. Mike's friend and associate in jail ministry, Chaplain Jerry Key of Kalamazoo County Jail, gave him 36 names of inmates that had recently transferred to Michigan State Prison in Jackson, Michigan, the largest walled prison in the world. Brother Mike hand wrote a personal letter to each of them offering FREE Bible correspondence courses and waited for the response which was very encouraging.
Expanding into Florida via Rev. Frank Costantino
Scripture promises: "A man's gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men" (Proverbs 18:16).
Two great men of God (besides his father, Dr. Bob Johnston) verified this for Dr. Mike.
The first was Rev. Frank Costantino, a born-again ex-con who founded Christian Prison Ministry in Orlando, Florida. From their first phone conversation, brother Frank saw the possibilities and immediately became an avid supporter by spreading the word throughout the Florida penal system. This soon produced a flood of hundreds of applications from dozens of Florida prisons we still work with to this day.
Covering the USA via Dr. Jack Van Impe
The second great man is Dr. Jack Van Impe. In October, 1982, Dr. Van Impe was contacted to serve on the Board of Reference (a position he still holds today). Brother Van Impe became so excited about our Bible school that he immediately began promoting our school across America through his newsletter. This resulted in thousands of dollars in donations and thousands of his books and commentaries we still use today. Here's what he wrote: "I am excited about the external studies program for prisoners offered by Dr. Michael Johnston's ministry. It is meeting the definite and growing need for discipleship and Bible training in this segment of our society . . . his school has now opened the door to a complete, tuition free program of Bible study for these babes in Christ. I have personally reviewed the curriculum, and find it to be scripturally sound. Therefore I am happy to endorse Dr. Johnston's program for prisoners and recommend it to all who are interested in becoming students of the Word and servants of the Lord Jesus Christ."
With these two great men of God promoting our school nationally, PMI quickly grew from a local Bible study program into a national Bible school ministry encompassing hundreds of prisons and thousands of prisoners all across America—and all in the span of about 2 years. With enrollments up, additional help was needed and Dr. Mike's father- Bob Johnston- was more than happy to provide. This selfless servant of God- facilitated in no small way by my mother Merry- literally donated tens of thousands of dollars in money, supplies, and man-hours over a 25 year period in a tireless effort to keep this ministry functioning from the mid 1980s through 2006 when health forced Dad to slow down.
PMI will forever be indebted to many precious friends who over the years believed in our ministry and supported it in one fashion or another. And yet, those mentioned above stand apart in a kind of selfless example of the sacrificial commitment that really brought this ministry from a promise to its current place where we now serve the Body of Christ located in and out of prisons across America, and for which we will continue to do for as long as the Lord Jesus Christ continues to provide the means necessary to do so.
Our beloved founder and friend, Dr. Michael Johnston went home to be with the Lord on December 23, 2018. He leaves behind a legacy of service to the Saviour that is a shining example to all. In his foresight, Dr. Mike has made provisions for the ministry to carry on under the direction of Dr. Ted Horton. As we look over the many cards and letters that pour in from around the country from students, it can be said with certainty that Michael Johnston made a difference for Christ in the lives of so many people. We may not be able to fully appreciate the impact he made in the lives of prisoners until we stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
As we enter the new year, our first year without Dr. Mike, we look to continue his vision of reaching men and women for the Saviour: Bringing them the glorious Gospel that their sins are paid for and they can know that they have eternal life when they place their trust in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and then discipling them to live for Christ and to take that same message to others. Won't you help us in reaching prisoners for Christ?