Glenn Pearson taught himself to play accordion when he was six. “I don’t admit this to many people. Advertising yourself as an accordion player doesn’t exactly generate a lot of party invitations,” he jokes.
Soon after, he also picked up cello and clarinet. In college, he learned guitar. About a month before he became a Christian, he tried harmonica, an instrument that he saw as supporting the “guy walking alone in the woods” image he aspired to. Then he met Jesus.
“God seemed to have those two things—my faith and my harmonica chops—grow in tandem,” he said.
Later in his 20s, Glenn served with Cru as director of Santa Fe, an internationally traveling band of nine musicians, where he specialized in blues and bluegrass harmonica. He couldn’t help but notice the violinist who was assigned to manage the band. Her name was Annette, and within a year they married.
There was something in the air, Glenn jokes, as six of the team members became engaged to each other within two weeks.
While Glenn hailed from Syracuse University, Annette came from Wheaton College, where she was inspired to join Cru to use her teaching degree overseas. That dream morphed into joining the campus ministry’s music ministry as a violinist before her group was disbanded and she moved to her role with Santa Fe.
Annette had grown up on a Bible college campus in New Jersey before her family moved to Michigan.
“At the age of five, I distinctly remember knowing that I didn’t have Jesus in my heart and needed to invite him in,” she said.
Most of Glenn’s childhood on Long Island was spent navigating an emotionally abusive household—an account he shared in CT’s April 2023 issue. What little he learned about religion—not God—came from his family’s involvement with a Unitarian fellowship group.
“There was no appreciation for Jesus as anything other than a wonderful man and an unfortunate teacher who died,” he said.
Even after Glenn and Annette left Cru, Glenn’s music stayed an important part of his life. While the family lived in Georgia, he frequently played in church events, did some recording projects, and joined a bluegrass band that traveled to Moscow on a missions trip. Their first concert was at the Moscow Conservatory of Music. They assumed that their audience would be too “highbrow” to appreciate their genre.
“But they loved us. We had classically trained music students following us all around the city,” he said.
The mentorship component of Cru has stayed present in Glenn’s life. In recent years, he’s mentored dozens of younger men, something he calls a key part of his legacy.
“Mentoring these young men takes what God has taught me and helps them to see that whatever they’re experiencing is an understandable feeling,” he said. “I want them to know that I’m on their side—and so is God. I want to hear what they have to say, but if one of them needs to rethink something, I’m not afraid to help them adjust that thinking in light of scriptural principles. But this is only after I’ve earned that right.”
Annette taught middle-school science for 19 years, where she tried to bring her faith, as appropriate, into the classroom.
“Since I retired, through my ministry of hospitality, the Lord has brought several women across my path who were at difficult crossroads. I’ve had the privilege of walking with these women and helping them hear God’s voice,” she said.
Glenn and Annette have been CT subscribers for decades. Glenn says, “It takes me way too long to get through an issue and I still have a hard time not reading every article because they’re all so great.”
They always look forward to each issue. Annette particularly enjoyed the December 2022 Bono cover story.
“Bono’s experience was so different from mine. From my earliest days, at every turn I was surrounded by missionaries, Bible professors, and Christian instruction,” said Annette. “Bono’s experience was much more organic, and he found his faith in the context of his mother’s death and political chaos. What a man of God he is as he brings his faith into his music and his activism.”
Glenn gushed about January/February 2023 book awards issue.
“There are 15 categories of books there, and I’ve been introduced to so many really good books that relate to something either I’m learning myself or wanting to communicate to other people. CT’s Book Awards are a tremendous resource to learn about the best of new Christian material.”
Annette and Glenn have been CT Sustaining Partners for a few years now, but they recently decided to include CT in their will through The 1956 Society. Part of that decision came from the courage and integrity they see from CT and its leadership.
“Especially recently, I have seen CT willing to be bold, take a stand, and even call out the errors of its own history,” Glenn said. “That speaks volumes of the credibility and the integrity that flows through the whole ministry. We’ve appreciated this over the years, and we wanted to do our little part to support CT’s future.”
This current state of the church is something that Annette sees as troubling.
“When you look at the generation that follows our generation, we’ve lost so many of them. It’s because we haven’t been honest, we haven’t faced the truth, we haven’t given them the tools to think critically and biblically about the issues that are impacting the church and our ability to reach the world.”
The answer begins with character, Annette says, something that she has consistently admired about CT.
“I keep going back to integrity and compassion. I believe a courageously honest voice within evangelicalism can speak to this generation, and I believe that CT is that voice now and can be long into the future,” she said. “Glenn and I want to support CT through our will, because we think it is one of the most important bastions of biblical truths and perspectives for the church around the world. CT breaks through the all the various subcultures, and through CT we want to leave a lasting impact.”
In the moments when the American church feels especially discouraging, “we need to be able to rejoice with the way God is working around the world,” she said.
“There's a truthfulness and integrity—yet compassion—in how CT elevates and reports on the global church. If there’s some way we can help that happen in the generations to come, we would be proud,” Annette said. “Through all of CT’s resources, they are equipping global leaders and pointing them to God. And I can't think of anything more important than that.”
Hearing these stories and ideas of Christians around the world offer the fuel for something Glenn finds all too rare these days: optimism.
“Years ago, I read the quote, ‘The church was God’s idea,’” said Glenn. “Basically, you can look around at the doom and gloom, the sin and destruction, and all the negative trends, but God’s not going to let the church die. He created the church. He loves the church. Yes, we need to address our problems, but we also know God is still—and will always be—in control.
“That is the perspective that I’m reminded of when I read CT.”
Morgan Lee is global media manager at Christianity Today.