Dr. John H. Armstrong is an ordained minister of Word and Sacrament in the Reformed Church in America (RCA). He is the second of two sons, born and reared in Lebanon, Tennessee. He graduated from Castle Heights Military Academy in 1967 and then attended the University of Alabama (1967-69) before transferring to Wheaton College. John received his B.A. (1971) and M.A. (1973) degrees at Wheaton and later received a Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) from Luther Rice Seminary in Atlanta (1979).
In 1981, while pastoring in Wheaton, John launched a monthly gathering for church leaders called the Whitefield Ministerial Fellowship. This meeting drew men and women from across a wide spectrum of churches and backgrounds. This group led John to eventually establish four similar Chicago area groups, resulting in a growing social and spiritual network. Over time he found himself regularly interacting with leaders from all denominations meeting over a wide variety of subjects. As a result he began to serve diverse congregations and missions as a consultant and spiritual advisor. This journey led to the birth of a new ministry (1991) that became the ACT3 Network some years later. In 1992 John left the pastorate and was commissioned by pastors and lay leaders to direct this new mission.
In the decade of the 1990s this new ministry developed dramatically. An office was opened and several staff were added. An extensive writing, publishing and conference ministry grew during this decade. But John says, “Deep inside my heart and soul John 17:20-24 had profoundly gripped me with a vision I could not turn aside no matter how much I tried.” (This story is told in John’s book, Your Church is To Small, Zondervan, 2010). Eventually John called this developing vision missional-ecumenism, a term which refers to Christians and churches partnering together in Christ’s mission through the kind of relationships that can lead us into a new obedience to our Lord’s command in John 13:34-35: “You must love each other, just as I have loved you. If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples.”
Around 2002, the mission begun in 1991, was significantly re-calibrated around this vision of unity. This is when the new name for this mission became ACT3, which is an acronym for Advancing the Christian Tradition in the Third Millennium. (This name was formally adopted in 2006.) The ACT3 Network empowered leaders and churches to engage in missional partnerships within the whole body of Christ. In an age where a new generation of Christians, and non-Christians, is desperately seeking for vital expressions of unity John and his board became persuaded that their experience of relational unity could be be lived and shared with others more widely. The desire of the ACT3 board became clear: “How can we pass this treasure on to others in a way that allows real oneness to become light to the world?”
In the fall of 2018 ACTS3 Network became The Initiative, an intentional missional and ecumenical community designed for assisting in the healing of the North American church. The Initiative is made up of pastors and lay members from all three major Christian traditions: Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox.
John is the author/editor of fourteen books, including his newest, Costly Love: The Way to True Unity for All the Followers of Jesus (New City Press, Hyde Park, NY: 2017). He has helped to produce several documentaries on church history and renewal. He is currently producing a four-part film series on the power of shared relational faith in the mission of Jesus. John is married to his wife Anita (1970) and has lived in suburban Chicago since 1969. He is the father of two adult married children and the grandfather of two girls and two boys. On June 30, 2019, he will retire as the president of The Initiative. He will then serve as the founder and Ambassador-at-Large for The Initiative.
In his time away from work responsibilities John is a life-long baseball fan who has spent a lot of time around the sport. (He aspired to be a sports journalist until he was sure he was called to the ministry.) He is also a devoted, though recently disappointed, die-hard fan of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team. He loves to walk, somewhere between 15-20 miles a week, and enjoys reading, especially American and Christian history, biblical theology, missions, ecumenism and various types of poetry and fiction.