There are those who know one of our pastors Greg Gibson very well. Steve Pulliam tells me that often, when people think of Greg they think of Central and that Greg has a servant’s heart. When I began my interviews with some who know Greg, however, I was surprised and yet not surprised at what I found. Of course his family loves him. And those who work closely with him do, too. But what people have to say goes right to the soul of a man who wants his legacy to be his deep faith and his great love of Jesus. There is no hypocrisy in him. He is a man of integrity and character. He is Reverend Greg Gibson, Missions Pastor for Central United Methodist Church, and he is more than he really knows.
Libby and Greg Gibson have been married 25 years. When Libby and I talked about Greg for this blog she suggested she might write down some comments for me to use. I am so glad she did. What follows are her words only about what a remarkable man Greg is, better than anything I could ever write:
As a Dad he is Mr. Everything and the “fun parent.” Greg coached every sport (read soccer for dummies to do so!), went to every dance recital, choir concert and sporting event and was filled with pride. He taught both John and Emma how to play guitar and shares a love for music (all kinds) with both kids. Probably one of his fondest memories is driving with Emma to Florida (just the two of them) and John to Augusta (again just the two of them) and listening to music and discussing it the entire trip. He spent many Christmas Eve nights outside ringing sleigh bells after the kids went to bed. He is truly seen as the fun and smart parent and the one they go to if they want something! Our kids aren’t dummies. They know who the softy is in this family- -Greg. That being said, his sense of humor is sarcastic and dry. It’s not uncommon for someone who hasn’t been around him much (especially the kids’ friends) to ask me, John or Emma, “was he serious or was he being funny?” He’s actually very funny!
As a husband (and Father) he is the total caregiver. He loves us unconditionally and never fails to show it. He leads by example and is truly a servant at home. We are completely SPOILED! He does EVERYTHING for us before we even want or need it done. He is extremely thoughtful (loves giving gifts). Over the last 25 years he has carried more beach umbrella’s, tents, toys and chairs down to the beach by himself at the crack of dawn than I could even count. (And he’ll continue to do it as long as he can keep getting us all together to go to the beach!) He’s for certain my best friend.
Things others might not know…. he goes nuts at the Dillard’s extra 40% off sale and has been known to say, “this is so fun I can hardly breath!” After hours of shopping (literally) he gets home, leaves the tags on just to make sure he likes it and then takes at least 1/2 of the purchases back. Cracks me up but it happens every time. Don’t get me started on his Sam’s shopping adventures.
The first thing I learned as I started my interview with Greg for this blog is that he is uncomfortable talking about himself. On more than one occasion during our conversation I had to remind myself and him I was interviewing him and not the other way around. But he is so incredibly comfortable to talk to. He wants to know you and is interested in your story. Genuinely interested. So here are some things I learned despite slipping into those conversations about me.
Greg was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas, the 3rd of 4 children. His Dad, Jim Gibson, was in food service sales. When Greg was 2 the family moved to Fayetteville where eventually Jim became the Housing Director at the University of Arkansas. Jim was a very popular man and later Razorback Hall was renamed Gibson Hall. But Greg’s Dad died when he was 19, during Greg’s formative years. It was Greg’s first confrontation with death.
The good things were that Greg grew up at Central. In his high school days he tested the boundaries as many do. But he became a part of Young Life Ministries, an important time as he came to understand the message of the gospel spoken in relatable ways in the context of relationships. He became a friend of students and others and saw how the gospel could be transmitted.
Johnny May, the Young Life leader, got with Greg when his dad died and stayed beside him. He became very important in Greg’s life. Greg soon felt the call to ministry. But it was also a crises time for the family. Greg’s Mom had to take over not only caring for the family but also learning all the business aspects that Jim had taken care of before.
Rev. Tony Holifield
After graduation from the University of Arkansas Greg went to Asbury Seminary right away. He became involved in youth camps and, in one of them, he met his wife Libby, who was working as a camp counselor. After seminary he went to work at Camp Aldersgate and then eventually became the Student Minister at First United Methodist Church in Little Rock. He stayed there for five years. One day Tony Holifield, then Senior Pastor at Central, asked Greg to come interview for the Youth Director’s position. He says he had been praying about it for some time and Greg’s name kept coming to him. He felt God was telling him Greg was the one. Greg came to the interview but, as Greg tells it, the interview went terribly. He felt awful as he sat in a room surrounded by a bunch of people asking him questions he just couldn’t seem to answer to his satisfaction. Greg went home and decided this was not the job for him. But two days later Tony called and offered Greg the job. He turned it down. A few days later, Tony called again, sure Greg was the right person for the job. Tony and Sarah, Greg and Libby, met in Clarksville for dinner and talked it over. God and Tony are two persuasive people because Greg changed his mind and said “ok.” It was a big transition for him. The youth group in Little Rock was small; the group at Central was almost overwhelming.
Eighteen years later Greg felt God leading him to a new place- Missions. Greg felt he could become more involved in the life of the people and more involved in relationships with others. He could counsel more and assume a pastoral role. Greg says that some people love to be “preachers,” but that just never appealed to him. What does appeal to him is drawing people into relationships with Jesus Christ. He wants to help break down walls, invite Jesus into their lives, and be invited into their lives himself.
When the church began to consider taking Wiggins under its wing, Greg went to John Robbins and Steve Pulliam and asked that if he got his license would they consider him as a pastor for Missions. The answer- an emphatic “yes.” As it turns out, Missions is very challenging. Greg manages a big budget. There are a lot of people who need money. Central’s mission programs are actually more local than international, but broad and intensive. Greg says he is still growing in this role because of Central’s belief in outreach and meeting the needs of those beyond our walls. Greg says it is so great to have the support of the church and its leaders.
Although Dr. Jan Davis has known Greg only a few months, she says that Greg has a strong influence in missions, and that his influence has been life changing to many. Like Tony Holifield, she says that Greg is steady, solid as a rock. His word is his bond and is so consistent in doing things well. She says Greg has a genuine heart and a truly humble spirit. He works hard, is resilient, has a heart for Christ and is a true Christian. Something she has particularly noticed is that Greg is respectful of her time but also wants her to see the missions happenings, introducing her to things and how they are going.
Frances Ross is Greg’s mother. I talked with her not only because of who she is but also because of what she has to say about who Greg is. Frances has that first hand knowledge of the forces that affected his character. I began talking with her about Greg and his relationship with his father. Not surprisingly Frances says they shared much the same character. So when I talk about Greg it is safe to say I am also talking about his Dad. Greg strives for excellence in all that he does. He does it even when no one is watching because he really cares. He performed a wedding recently that he prepared so carefully for and which later made the bride proclaim she did not know it would take so long—not as a criticism, but as a comment upon Greg’s obvious understanding of the importance of the moment and the everlasting meaning to the young couple’s life ahead.
In a group Frances says, Greg is never one to jump in ahead of the others. He takes a back seat as if asked. He, as his father was, is more interested in others than himself. Similarly his father never introduced himself by his title at the University of Arkansas (head of housing at the time) but felt as if he was no more or no less important than the people who worked there, no matter the job. Greg never calls attention to himself, Frances says, and doesn’t realize all he has to offer people. He is humble, a man of principle, character, and of his word. He is always faithful and always does what he says he will do.
Along with Johnny May another man became important in Greg’s life. Rev. Harold Eggensperger, Greg’s step-grandfather, took him to look at seminaries when he decided that’s where he needed to be. Rev. Eggensperger was a long time pastor of churches in North Arkansas, including Central United Methodist in Fayetteville. Those who stepped up for Greg were profoundly influential in his life and provided blessings to him that are still evident today. It is safe to say Greg Gibson has been important in the life of others, a true disciple, and always faithful to Christ. Thank you Greg, for talking to me. I, along with others, have been truly blessed.