Johnson was born in Minnesota in 1951 and became a Christian as a young child. Soon after, Johnson read seven books on prayer, which significantly affected his perspective and subsequent ministry.
Johnson's father, Melvin Earl Johnson (1929-2004) was the senior pastor at Bethel Church in Redding from 1968-1982 and subsequently became Executive Officer of the Northern California/Nevada District Council of the Assemblies of God. Earl Johnson had four children, all of whom are in full-time ministry.
Bill Johnson and his wife have three children: Eric, Brian and Leah.