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Scholar Taught Scripture by Integrating Simpsons and Beatles

BATTLE GROUND, WA (October 16, 2015) — Covenanter John R. Kohlenberger III was perhaps best known for developing and editing The NIV Exhaustive Bible Concordance and writing The Interlinear NIV Hebrew-English Old Testament, but the youth group he helped lead at Cascade View Covenant Church in Clackamas, Washington, experienced his scholarship in a different way.

“He loved Lord of the Rings, The Simpsons, The Beatles, and South Park and would masterfully weave these things into the Scriptures making them relevant and fun for the youth,” said pastor Jim Sequeira.

Kohlenberger, 64, died September 29, 2015, after a long battle with prostate cancer.

kohlenberger with guitarThe youth also loved him because he was an “an incredibly gifted guitar and bass player who laughed ‘big,’” Sequeira said. He taught guitar to several of the young people and helped them learn how to lead worship.

Kohlenberger started attending Cascade View 13 years ago and was devoted to the church. He helped lead worship, preach, and teach adult Sunday school, young adult Bible study, and confirmation.

“Even when he had out-of-town meetings at conventions or speaking engagements, he would always try to return Saturday evening so he would be back in time for worship Sunday morning,” Sequeira said. He added it was not intimidating having the renowned scholar in his congregation.

“I always felt supported by John,” Sequiera said “I think it was because he respected the office of pastor.” He also confessed that Kohlenberger’s presence made him study harder.

Sequeira laughed as described meeting a visitor who introduced himself as John after a Sunday worship service at the church—who was adamant about learning the Covenant’s stance on women in ministry. “I told him we supported women in ministry. He said, ‘No, I want to know your stance!’”

When Sequeira said he felt the same way, John seemed pleased. Afterward, Sequeira’s wife, Glenna, asked him who the man was. “I said, ‘Just some kook with an agenda.”

Sequeira learned Kohlenberger’s identity several weeks later when the newcomer, who had kept returning, asked if he could put pamphlets on a table in the church. They advertised the upcoming Christian for Biblical Equality (CBE) conference at which he was the lead speaker.

Sequeira saw the name on the brochure and knew it sounded familiar but wasn’t sure why. So he turned to the Internet for answers and discovered the litany of Kohlenberger’s work. He told Glenna, “The kook is a genius!”

1016 kohlenberger bandKohlenberger also was committed to equality for women in ministry. He served on CBE’s board of directors from 2000 to 2005 and from 2007 to 2012. He received CBE’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.

In a press release, CBE’s president, Mimi Haddad, emphasized his character as well, saying, “In John Kohlenberger, we had one of the truest friends anyone could hope to know. His many talents were surpassed only by his humility and sense of responsibility in serving the church, especially those who had been unjustly marginalized.”

The Covenant has a long relationship with CBE and earlier this year became the first denomination to be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Several weeks after asking if he could place the brochures in the church, Kohlenberger told Sequeira that “the other reason he came was to see if our tagline was true, ‘A Safe Place to Seek and Serve God.’”

Kohlenberger already knew something of the Covenant from years when he had helped lead the youth group and worship at Powell Valley Covenant Church in Gresham, Oregon. Dwain Tissell, currently pastor of Eastridge Covenant Church in Clackamas, Oregon, was a junior high student at the time, and the two had remained friends.

Kohlenberger’s memorial service will be at 2 pm Sunday at Eastridge Covenant. In lieu of flowers, the Kohlenberger family suggests memorials to Providence Cancer Center, CBE, or Cascade View Covenant Church.


About the Author

  • Marianne Peters is a freelance writer, master gardener, and environmental educator. She lives in Plymouth, Indiana with her husband, two teenage daughters, and two mischievous ginger cats called Fred and George (after the Weasley twins of Harry Potter fame). From 2008-2013 she wrote the Creation Care column for Covenant Companion magazine. In 2011, her family decided to downsize by half, a decision that led to the publication of her book Declutter for Good: Share Your Life and Reclaim Your Life. She blogs about green living and gardening at www.freshwordswriting.com.

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