Torrey Maynard Johnson was born on the north side of Chicago, the third of six children of Norwegian immigrants. Named after R. A. Torrey, who worked closely with D. L. Moody. Torrey Johnson's view of the world was shaped by family values, by the pulpit ministry of Pastor C. T. Dyrness, and by his Sunday School teacher, Oscar Larson, a concrete contractor. Larson led the class of from ten to twenty-five young people who met on a week night at his home. Calling themselves the Christian Crusaders Class, the group focused on Bible study and prayer and were serious about their relationship with God. After completing his education at Wheaton College, and pastoring in the Chicago area, Johnson led in the founding of Youth For Christ International in 1945, to which he was named president. Three years later he turned the office over to his brother-in-law, Bob Cook. From 1967 until 1982 he directed a work at Bibletown, Florida, and then continued with evangelistic work.