From an early age, Kody Gibson knew about Christianity. He grew up in the Bible Belt in Edmond, Oklahoma, and attended church regularly where he heard the gospel and learned the basic tenets of Scripture. He professed faith in Christ in elementary school, and never experienced a time of outright rebellion against his faith.
Gibson is the new vice president for communications at Southern Seminary after working in the admissions office for five years, including as its director since 2014. But he hadn’t always planned on working in academic administration at a seminary. In fact, there was a time when, despite his upbringing in the faith, he wasn’t even sure he was saved.
At 13, he began to realize his previous conversion experience, while marked by genuine desire to understand doctrines of the Christian faith, did not include a full understanding of the gospel. Something was missing.
When he was a child, Gibson’s parents took him to church, but his grandfather, Jerry Campbell, stood as a spiritual father and mentor. Campbell loved Charles Spurgeon, and often left pamphlets or books of Spurgeon’s writings around his home and in the hands of his grandchildren. Gibson came across a particular Spurgeon pamphlet that left a special mark on Gibson’s heart and life.
“I remember reading it and being confident and confirmed in my faith,” he said. “It said ‘Our salvation is not based on our feeling of him [God], but our need of him.”
God used this Spurgeon quote to quiet Gibson’s mind, and gave him confidence in his salvation. This confidence led to a boldness in evangelism, a pursuit of personal holiness, and a resolve to challenge those around him to seek a personal relationship with Christ. During his time at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, Gibson’s baseball team often traveled to away games on Sundays, and he would lead devotions with his teammates, and enjoyed the camaraderie and conversations that followed these devotions. With salvation, he said, came what he thought was a call to pastoral ministry.
“I think it was a desire from the Holy Spirit to serve,” rather than a direct call to vocational ministry.
But while working for Ouachita’s admissions office, Gibson also grew to love aspects of Christian higher education. He loved the job and enjoyed what he believed was a valuable contribution to “the mission of a Christian higher education institution,” which included educating and training future pastors, professors, missionaries, and laymen for faithful service in the church.
After college, where he studied Christian studies, Gibson planned to attend seminary in order to become a pastor or professor. What he thought was a call to vocational ministry eventually became a calling he didn’t expect.
He made plans to attend Southern Seminary. While in the admissions office at Ouachita, a university consultant began asking Gibson about his future plans. At the time, Gibson still wanted to pastor or become a professor. But he enjoyed working in admissions, which several people noticed. One of these was a consultant who worked with the school. He noted Gibson’s gifting, and said he believed Gibson’s ministry included working in admissions and higher education. Gibson thought nothing about this statement, and continued his plans for attending seminary for ministry preparation.
Gibson and his wife, Juli, moved to Louisville, Kentucky, to study at Southern a year later. While taking courses, Gibson’s love for higher education, the classroom, and ministry all continued to grow. He served in student ministry at his church, and while not completely convinced of his pastoral calling, continued to pursue theological education. He still to wondered, though, if the pastorate was where God wanted him.
As he studied under at Southern, he realized scholarship was inherently rigorous and often lonely. When applied to and was accepted into the Ph.D. program, Gibson realized his interest in things like church history and biblical spirituality were just that: interests, not necessarily a vocational calling. This realization paved another step in his journey to academic administration.
When Southern’s admissions department hired him, Gibson said he began to realize his gifts and calling coincided with where God placed him in that season.
“I discovered I can do this and be faithful to the Lord,” he said. “I found something I was passionate about, that I cared about deeply: Christian higher education and fulfilling that mission. And it was something I was good at. As I started working in admissions and saw how I could live this out as a calling in ministry, was when the burden was lifted. It was like the Lord was showing me that I can do good work, can build something beautiful, and could be faithful doing it as ministry. That fit better for me than trying to go preach or be a professor.”
He served the seminary’s admissions department for almost five years before his recent transition to vice president for communications. Gibson and his wife are members of Sojourn Community Church’s East campus, and have two children: a daughter, Liv (5 years old), and a son, Campbell (2).
He sees God’s providence in the various seasons of his life, and believes God used his first job as an admissions counselor to clarify his calling. He feels at home at Southern, and believes he is where he needs to be.
“My ministry is to serve in Christian higher education, serve at a school whose mission and vision I believe in, and help support the work that’s being done here by serving in an administrative capacity.”