About John P. Bowen

For nearly 50 years, John Bowen has worked with students and young leaders—and he has loved it. His most fundamental motivation has been his desire to be a follower of Jesus—although he still feels like a very slow learner—and to help others to understand Christian faith and discipleship.

I think my primary gift is as a teacher. What I learned in seminary really shaped what I teach. I have an eclectic mind that takes stuff from all these teachers and puts it together in a way that reflects my own theology and passions.
John p. bowen

Author, Professor Emeritus, Follower of Jesus


John’s books

  • Evangelism for ‘Normal’ People: Good News for those Looking for a Better Way (Augsburg Fortress 2002)
  • The Spirituality of Narnia; The Deeper Magic of C.S.Lewis (Regent College,2007)
  • Growing up Christian: Why Young People Stay in Church, Leave Church, and (Sometimes) Come Back to Church (Regent College, 2010)
  • The Missionary Letters of Vincent Donovan, 1957-1973 (editor) (Wipf and Stock 2011)
  • Green Shoots out of Dry Ground: Growing a New Future for the Church in Canada (editor) (Wipf and Stock 2013)
  • Good News Church: Celebrating the Legacy of Harold Percy (editor, with Michael Knowles) (Castle Quay 2018)
  • God is Always Bigger: Reflections of a Hopeful Critic (Wipf and Stock 2021)
  • The Unfolding Gospel: How the Good news Makes Sense of  Discipleship, Church, Mission, and  Everything Else (Fortress 2021)

And some shorter booklets

For church leaders:

  • Preaching the Church’s Mission: Sermons towards Self-Understanding
  • From Visitor to Disciple: Eight Ways Your Church Can Help
  • What is a Fresh Expression of Church? A Beginner’s Guide to a Movement that is Changing the Church
  • Making Disciples Today: What, Why, and How . . . on Earth?

For those exploring faith:

  • Tolkien and Faith: The Spiritual Worldview of “The Lord of the Rings”
  • The Gospel according to Robin Williams: Jesus’ Answers to Robin’s Questions
  • Finding a Story to Live by: Christianity Rediscovered
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Years of ministry
Shorter booklets

Working with Students

For 25 years, he worked with Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship in universities and camps, first in Britain and (since 1977) in Canada, helping students figure out what they believed and how to spend their lives.

Almost twenty summers were spent at Ontario Pioneer Camps, working with 16- and 17-year-old Leaders in Training. John’s particular role in the program was to teach the basics of a Christian worldview, under the title of Building Blocks. Videos of the last time he taught the course in 1987 are available on this website.

In the 1990s, John spoke on many university campuses across Canada, debating philosophy professors about the existence of God and the rationality of faith, and speaking on Christianity and contemporary culture with topics like The Gospel according to Calvin and Hobbes and Trapped in A Free World: The Message of Groundhog Day.


Training Leaders

Then, for almost 20 years, he taught at Wycliffe College, an evangelical Anglican seminary at the University of Toronto, helping deepen students’ faith for service in the church and the world. His courses included such things as evangelism, culture, church planting, and C. S. Lewis. While at Wycliffe, he also headed up the college’s Institute of Evangelism. That meant editing and writing for the Institute’s quarterly publication, Good Idea,producing different resources to help churches share their faith, and speaking to conferences and churches of several denominations from coast to coast to coast. He retired from Wycliffe at the end of 2016, on his 70th birthday.

What Now?

In retirement, John is doing more of the things he loves—teaching, preaching, writing, and mentoring young leaders—and fewer of the things he loves less (but which come inevitably with paid employment!). He has a particular passion for encouraging a new generation of Christian leaders, not least to plant new churches and fresh expressions of church.


John has been married to Deborah, a retired English professor from Redeemer University, for over fifty years. They live in Hamilton, Ontario, where St John the Evangelist Anglican Church (known locally as “the Rock on Locke”) has been their church family for over 25 years. They have two adult children and four grandchildren, of whom they are ridiculously proud.

John is also a lover of classical music, photography, and good coffee.


John’s formal education includes a BA and MA from Oxford University, where he studied English, and met Deborah. (He will tell you, with attempted modesty, that his literature tutor was the last student to be tutored by C.S.Lewis, and his language tutor worked with J.R.R.Tolkien.) He also has a Doctor of Ministry degree from McMaster University. Those things were the easy part. His informal education is a daily challenge.

The Alphege Award for Evangelism and Witness

In 2021 John P. Bowen was awarded the Alphege Award for Evangelism and Witness is named after St Alphege (Archbishop of Canterbury in the 11th century). It is awarded for evangelism and witness by the Archbishop of Canterbury.