Gary Ellis serves as Associate Pastor: Administration & Program. In that role and under the direction of the Pastor, he leads the Education Staff and handles day-to-day administrative responsibilities having to do with finances, property maintenance and management; personnel; etc. He says, “My goal is to help EFBC fulfill its God-given responsibility, ‘to love God and others through Jesus Christ.’”
As a child he dreamed that he’d become a lawyer, but reports that he became aware of God's call to ministry when he was 14 years old. As he recalls that time in his life he says, “In rural Missouri, where I grew up, that meant that I was called to missions or the pastorate. I preached my first sermon a month after announcing my call publicly. The chairman of a very small rural church located nearby happened to be present that night and asked me if I would consider becoming their pastor. I initially declined due to my inexperience, but when they approached me a second time with the support of my pastor, I prayed seriously and God seemed to say "Anybody is better than nobody" very clearly.” Gary continued as pastor of that church until he left to attend Hannibal-LaGrange Junior College.
Gary humbly admits to being a mediocre student until high school. But as a high school student he was profoundly influenced by a Literature teacher who saw potential that no one else, including himself, had seen. “She challenged me held me accountable to her throughout the remainder of my high school years. Her influence and perseverance allowed me to graduate near the top of my class.”
He attended Hannibal-LaGrange Junior College and completed his undergraduate degree in secondary education at Oklahoma Baptist University, receiving the Robinette Award in Secondary Education. At Hannibal-LaGrange, he joined a dorm Bible study the day he moved in and it proved to be the dominant influence in his spiritual growth for many years.
Ultimately he completed his Masters in Religious Education at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, where he received the J.M. Price Award, which honors one outstanding student in the School of Religious Education.
God has blessed Gary with a wonderful family. His wife, Linda, retired from teaching elementary school this year. They have two sons, Mark, an EFBC member who works for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, and Stephen, who works for Mid First Bank. Gary and Linda are also blessed with four incredibly beautiful and gifted granddaughters. As he puts it, that’s “no brag, just fact.” He easily confesses that having all his family close at hand is one of the best parts of his life right now.
When asked what five words describe him best, he chose blessed, learner, thoughtful, resourceful, and organized. All who know him would agree. Others might add that he is an encourager, a teacher, and a faithful friend. He has a wonderful sense of humor and reports that the things that make him laugh are watching The Three Stooges, and Son of Paleface. He also laughs with joy while spending time with his granddaughters. He confesses that the Sunday comics can still make him laugh.
Some of his favorite books include The Red Badge of Courage, “which had tremendous influence in my life. I am a ‘mystery buff’ and especially like Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes mysteries. I continue to be challenged spiritually by Watchman Nee's books, and I depend heavily upon Robertson's Harmony of the Gospels and Shepherd's The Christ of the Gospels in my search to know Jesus better.”
As Gary seeks to know God more fully, he says that lately God is sharing with him some incredible insights into the interaction of His will, our volitional freedom, and providence.
As he looks ahead at what God is doing to prepare him for future works he says, “Well, my ministry is likely in its latter years. I hope that the Lord gives me strength and extends the opportunity for me to serve Him here at EFBC until I retire. In retirement, I'd like to pastor a much smaller church or serve as a part-time religious educator. I also have a book or two that I have never found the time to write and I'd like to do that at some point.” But he adds that he is most thankful for “the opportunity to serve the Lord in the places He has provided and to have my entire family close at hand, for the present at least.”
When asked what one sentence he could share that had the potential to change someone’s life he replied, “The secret of everything spiritual - salvation, growth, service, direction, victory, etc. - is the Lordship of Jesus Christ in the life of the believer and the church.” His entire ministry has been about knowing Jesus more and sharing with others the need for a personal relationship with Christ. He is always willing to share his favorite verse...his life verse, with others. It reads, “28 We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me. Colossians 1:28-29 (HCSB)