Obituary: Jim Persson

WESTMINSTER, CO (December 21, 2015) – Jim Persson, former director of the Department of Church Growth and Evangelism, died Sunday morning while in hospice. He was 81.

persson photo 5Jim was born May 17, 1934, in Trimont, Minnesota, where his grandparents were among the founding members of Trimont Covenant Church.

He attended North Park College and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in social studies from Mankato State College, and from North Park Seminary. He earned a doctor of ministry in theology from Fuller Seminary.

Jim married Arlys Ogren on September 3, 1954.

When he was a small child, his grandmother told him he would one day be a preacher. He also early on came to believe he was called to ministry, which his church affirmed while he was still a teenager.

Jim served several congregations, including the Evangelical Covenant Church in Moose Lake, Minnesota; Evangelical Covenant Church in Albert City, Iowa; and Hillside Covenant Church in Walnut Creek, California. While at Hillside he drew up a plan to begin several churches in Contra Costa County.

He also served in three executive positions: assistant superintendent and director of development for the Pacific Southwest Conference, executive secretary of the ECC, and director of Church Growth and Evangelism (CGE).

“He was a humble, God-first leader,” president Gary Walter said. “His passion was to see people experience the grace of Christ. Bringing My World to Christ and the acceleration of church planting are central parts of his ECC legacy.”

He retired in 1999 following the first-ever “The Feast,” a multi-day national prayer gathering of the denomination, which he initiated. In a book he wrote for his family, Jim wrote about concluding his ministry and preaching at the event. “I am so glad that the room was dimly lit because I did not want my grandchildren see me fill the proverbial bucket of tears.”

After his retirement from full-time ministry, Jim served as associate pastor at Centennial Covenant Church, as interim pastor at Faith Covenant Church in Colorado Springs, and then as assistant chaplain at Covenant Village in Westminster.

He is survived by his wife; three sons, Russ (Jan), Rollie (Valerie), and Ron (Julie); 10 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

Witness to the resurrection services will be held at 11 a.m. on December 28 at Trimont Covenant Church and at 3 p.m. on January 2 at Covenant Village of Colorado. There will be a family graveside service at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Trimont.

Memorials may be sent to ECC Start and Strengthen Churches or Benevolence Fund of Covenant Village of Colorado.



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  1. Jim was a great encourager and had a true passion for missions. He was always a welcome presence and motivator for those of us who worked to develop Russia as a mission field for the ECC. He will be missed! Peace to his memory. Daniel Johnson

  2. Heaven is richer because of Jim’s presence there, but we are poorer because he has left us here. Jim was a caring friend, a visionary colleague in ministry and a true pastor. The impact of his ministry has been and will be felt for years to come in the Covenant, My heart-felt sympathy goes out to Arlys and his whole family. Peace to his memory.

  3. Jim was such an encouragement and support to us as we assisted in planting churches in Houston in the 80’s.His kind gentle spirit and sage advice was a big help. Jim encouraged me to pursue my current career in counseling as he observed and shepherded my gifts back then.

  4. Jim is one of the people who has had the most impact on my life. He was, first, my dear pastor as a child and teenager and then, in later years, a humble, godly, encouraging mentor to both my husband and me. What an amazing man who we are truly blessed to have known. We will miss him and that wonderful smile!

  5. Jim combined kindness, integrity and enthusiasm with a deep faith in Christ. A faithful pastor and leader, and a good friend.

  6. I remember when coming into the Covenant, Paul Wilson wanted Nancy and me to meet Jim. After our meeting, I thought, “If Jim is what the Covenant is all about, I want in!” God only knows how He used Jim to impact many lives.

  7. I knew Jim from Centennial Covenant, and I was deeply touched by his warm caring. Just a passing hello would leave me feeling like the most important person in the universe. I also helped with hospitality at The Feast in the mountains of Colorado, and Jim was out in the parking lot, meeting every car, warmly welcoming everyone. His wife and others were worried about how the exertion and the heat were affecting his health, but he refused to slow down.

    His passion was deeply inspiring — I also “stepped up” my welcoming, seeing him modeling it. He didn’t just talk about talk about how to live well — he modeled it deeply … but with humility. I was shocked when I heard that The Feast had been his idea … he seemed too down-to-earth and focused on caring for individuals to have been in such an important leadership position. One of the sermons that he preached at Centennial Covenant had the theme “Finishing Well.” Jim truly finished well. – Lynette Roth

  8. Jim was Becky and my first pastor when we first served in Young Life. He lovingly called me regularly to consider Covenant ministry and one day I said, “I’m ready.” He has been a wonderful friend and mentor ever since. He gave me his job as assistant chaplain at Covenant Village. We have all lost a great friend and model of a Christ lover and follower.

  9. Jim introduced me to the Covenant and invited me to serve as a church planter back in the mid 1980’s. He was a wonderful mentor, encourager, and model of faithful pastoral ministry.

  10. Jim was a lover of Jesus and one who sought to help others be loved by Jesus. A great gentle leader!
    Paul Knight

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