On a Sacred Mission

Edmond Life & Leisure, October 24, 2013

Edmond Life & Leisure

October 24, 2013 By Sherry Howerton

About once a month, Pastor Blake Gideon leaves his post at Edmond’s First Baptist Church, hops into his pickup, and cruises the streets of Edmond.

For at least an hour, sans radio or cell phone, he takes in the city he’s called home for only a year. Contemplating the growing number of rooftops, he wonders about the lives, hearts and souls of those living beneath them. Who are they? What are their needs? Do they know Christ? And, how can his church’s ministry impact them?

Calling it his “prayer drive,” Gideon earlier this year found himself at an emotional crossroads, pondering the level of need within just one city.

“I was driving around, talking to the Lord. I began to look at the housing additions, and became overwhelmed and burdened,” Gideon says. “How can we reach this city for Jesus just sitting at 33rd and Bryant?”

It was then he concluded the church must “multiply its influence” – through small groups, new campuses, church planting and church revitalization - to beckon and serve the flock. As a starting point, Edmond’s First Baptist Church has for the past two months held a Saturday night service at Cheyenne Middle School at 1217 W. Covell Road, for a steadily growing crowd of curious neighbors, excited families and even traditional parishioners whose schedules might make it difficult to attend Sunday morning services at EFBC’s home in southeast Edmond.

“We’re addressing a need,” says Gideon from his office at the main campus at 1300 Southeast 33rd, where 1,200 people worship regularly at the Sunday 9:30 AM service. “From here, yes, we’ll reach hundreds. But if we reach thousands we’ll multiply our influence. It’s what the Lord wants us to do.”

Harvesting Souls

Like every good Baptist preacher, Gideon is impassioned by the call to evangelize. In the first sermon he delivered to the congregation one year ago, Gideon spoke fervently from Luke Chapter 10 on instruction from the Lord to send workers into a bountiful harvest of souls. The sermon was his “test run;” the church had been searching for a new leader for more than a year after the tragic and untimely loss of longtime pastor Alan Day, who died in a motorcycle accident in February 2011.

The handsome, confident, then 36-year-old Gideon, who hailed from First Baptist Church in Inola, Oklahoma, along with his wife Kelly and four young children, was exactly what the church needed, members say, and the congregation voted him in unanimously during that service.

“Pastor Gideon and his family, they were worth the wait,” says Tarra Ogee, who has attended EFBC for the last few years. “He is a great teacher; a great visionary for our church.”

It was an alignment of the stars – or rather, what the faithful refer to as God’s perfect timing - that Gideon came to Edmond at all.

After Day’s death and a lengthy search for a new senior pastor throughout 2011 and into 2012, the church had offered the leadership position to a minister from Texas. After initially accepting the post the pastor backed out, surprising but not derailing the church and putting the seven-member search committee back at square one.

But the story goes deeper, says search committee chairman and church deacon, Jim Lee.

“The fact of the matter is that Blake Gideon was the first pastor we went to listen to when we began the search process, and everybody who listened to him liked him,” Lee says. “He was young, energetic, positive, enthusiastic, and there wasn’t any compromise in his message, it was a God message right out of the Bible.”

What disqualified Gideon in the search committee’s mind, Lee says, was a theological position the committee believed Gideon held, but that nobody had actually spoken to him about. They moved on, continuing their search and eventual setback with the Texas pastor, only to be led back to Gideon.

“We believe that what we were doing was not our business, it was the Lord’s business and we were trying to find the Lord’s leadership in this,” Lee says. “So we started the process over again, and all during this time Blake Gideon’s name and resume kept coming up to me. We had already disqualified him but we had never questioned him specifically. I told the committee I was going to talk to him.”

To their delight, the committee soon learned that there had been a misunderstanding; Gideon and EFBC were actually aligned in their thinking and theology and Gideon’s candidacy shot to the number one spot. Most interesting, Lee and Gideon both say now, is that had Gideon been offered the position at EFBC initially, he would not have been ready to leave his church in Inola where he was shepherding the congregation through a difficult time. But now, the timing was right. EFBC had found its pastor. And Gideon was eager to follow God’s lead.

God’s Call

At the pulpit, Gideon shares his passion with intensity, conviction and authentic reverence for the Lord. Like Paul in the New Testament, he sees himself as a rescued soul given a second chance to crusade for Christ.

Growing up near Hugo, Oklahoma, Gideon was a star athlete and rodeo contender who went to church with his family but didn’t consider himself saved. After high school he found employment on an offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico, working hard but playing harder with a lifestyle he admits was quickly delivering him down a dangerous path.

During that time, he had two near death experiences that he says ultimately prepared him for salvation. The first came when he was thrown off an oil rig during a brutal storm in the middle of the night and struggled in the cold, murky ocean for more than two hours.

“I had already come to realize I was going to die; I’d either drown or be eaten by sharks,” Gideon says. His fate was interrupted when a crew boat picked him up.

Within a year, Gideon also walked away from a devastating car wreck involving alcohol; looking at the totaled vehicle it was a wonder he ever survived, he remembers.

“God was definitely tapping on my shoulder,” he says.

At age 23 Gideon married Kelly, a decision that changed his life for the best. He had attended church with her throughout their year courtship yet quit going after they were married. But Kelly stayed the course and one day, a male leader in the church asked her about going to visit Blake Gideon at home. Influenced by the parishioner’s interest in him, Gideon decided to begin attending church with Kelly.

A short time later, while Kelly was at work and Gideon was preparing to be called out on a job, he sat thinking.

“I was remembering those near death experiences,” he says. “If I had died any of those times, where would I have gone? And I realized that if I died today I would be separated from God forever.”

The thought was too much to bear. Gideon went straight to the pastor’s house, knelt down at the coffee table and gave his life to the Lord. It was April 14, 2000. One month later he surrendered to the call to preach.

‘The man the Lord had in mind’

Edmond’s First Baptist Church is the fourth congregation Gideon has been called to lead. If it is God’s will, he hopes it’s the final.

“I came here with every intention of this being my last church to pastor,” Gideon says.

Gideon knew Pastor Day; the two had served as trustees on the board of Oklahoma Baptist University. Gideon calls Day a bona fide theologian and Bible scholar; he jokes that he doesn’t consider himself to be at Day’s level but impressively, the young preacher has completed two masters degrees from seminary and is close to earning his doctorate of ministry with an emphasis on theology.

Gideon’s gift, he says, is his passion for evangelism and he’s driven by the belief that people have a desire to belong to something greater than themselves.

“Churches need to be relational,” he says. “Look around. People belong to civic organizations. They belong to sports teams. We live in a society where people don’t mind giving you their time - they just don’t want to waste their time. They want it to be meaningful and accomplish something. That’s what I’m leading this church to do. I can’t say the name ‘Jesus’ enough.”

Lee says that while Gideon and EFBC are still “in the honeymoon phase,” he expects the relationship to get better and grow even deeper.

“Blake Gideon is the right man for our church, he has interjected life into our church and there’s no question that he is the man the Lord had in mind for us,” Lee says. “He’s a man but he’s also tender and sensitive, treats his wife gently and kindly, loves and disciplines his kids and loves this church. He’s not a guy I go to sleep at night and say, ‘Oh my, I hope the pastor doesn’t get in any trouble.’ I think our church will in years to come flourish under his leadership.”