First Lady Lavette Gibson is the wife of Bishop Ron Gibson, one of the six preachers featured in the docu-series, Preachers of L.A. In an interview with PositivelyGospel.com, First Lady Lavette discusses their decision to do the show, the church’s outreach to gang members, the state of her sister-in-law’s recovery and much more.
What made you decide to do the Preachers of L.A?
“It was just in line with some things that the Lord had been putting on my heart and that was just not being narrow in our perspective in our reach of the gospel message. He had just been dealing with me about broadening our reach, broadening our perspective and he just let me know that what we are doing within the four walls of our church it’s good, but it’s not the full extent and I didn’t quite know all what he was giving me, but when this opportunity came, I’m like, ‘oh this is part of what he’s saying.’ So we look at it as an opportunity to reach beyond people that would probably never come to church and reach beyond the four walls of our church to them with a positive message and the message of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Your husband has a heart for those still caught up in gang life, how comfortable are you with him traveling into those areas.
“He has done that all of our married life. In December we will have been married 32 years. When we moved out of the L.A. Area into a suburb called Riverside which is about 50 miles east of L.A., He would still go down to the neighborhood and get his haircut, shoes shined. A lot of those guys are guys he grew up with and whom he loved and he wanted them to experience the same freedom that he had come to find in Jesus. I would always say, ‘could you take somebody with you?’ But after a while I just came to understand his way is to just go by himself, knowing that the Lord was with him and take of what he does, his haircut, his shoe shine. He’s going to go through the neighborhood and he’ll stop if he would see anybody that was maybe laying in the middle of the street or just on the block that look like kinda lost. He’s going to stop and minister to them and the Lord just gave me a peace about it. It took a little while but I realized he’s going to do it his way.”
On episode 3, you attended a First Ladies Tea. There was some discussions about being able to find genuine friends in the church. Is that one of the hard parts of being a first lady?
“I came to understand and actually I’ll tell you the truth, I understand it more and more as we go along that as the Pastor’s wife and the first lady, you can not really run with and hang with the people that you’re ministering to. I do bridal showers, baby showers, weddings of course, that type of thing, but to just run with as that’s my girl I have to be really, really careful with that because I kind of have to be free. If the Lord gives me something to say to you, I’m not worried about this is my friend and I can’t say that. So while there is a loving relationship, there’s just not that girlfriend relationship. I have found that other pastors wives who have like vision and like interests, I have found more friendship on that level but not so much with the beautiful women of our church.”
A lot of times, you seem to be a voice of reason, both for your husband and for the other ladies, have you always played that role in life.
“When I was about 18 or 19 one of my dear friends and she’s a dear friend today she said to me she said ‘you know that you have a gift of counselor.’ It wasn’t intended, it just kinda rolled out that way and you know what? I embrace that. They’re calling me mother. I’m known in our church as Sister Lavette, but they say Mother Gibson and I’m like ‘oh mother, I’m like wait a minute and I’m like okay, Lavette you’re over 50 now so just embrace that.’ It’s seemingly a new role but it is something that’s been a part of my life. For most of my life.” But I don’t want to come off as is a busy body like Loretta said ‘she must live a boring life'(laughs) and you know it’s like I’ll just take that, but I definitely have a full life. It’s not my desire at all to be intrusive, but when there is an opportunity to be clear about what the word of God says, I’m not going to compromise and I’m not going to back down.”
What do you have to say about the criticism that the show has received, that it’s not a good look for church?
“The first thing I’d like to say I’d like to answer that more in the positive. As I said to you when we first started the Lord was dealing with my heart about broadening our reach beyond the four walls of the church and just our little community that we fellowship with and we’re always interfacing with. It’s like, ‘it’s more, I have more for you, don’t put me in a box.’ That type of burden in my heart had been there for about three years so when this opportunity came I knew it was the Lord, my husband knew it was the Lord and because I knew it was the Lord I really have basically muted the voices of the critics once I’m clear about what God is saying.
I don’t want to go back and forth conferring with all theses other voices because our relationship with God and our ministry in His name is very personal and you have to know that for yourself. I find comfort in the fact that the religious people were very critical of Jesus Christ. Sometimes someone will come to me and said ‘but are you winning souls?’ and I say ‘you must not have watched the show. because that’s one of the first things that the Lord uses my husband to do is win people over to the lord.’ So I just wish one thing; I just wish that the church would mature to the point that before they judge a matter they consider it or they see it or hear it and not go by hearsay.
We waste so much precious time making opinions on things we don’t know about and I have felt that about the church of which I am a part of, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. I felt that about us for a long time. We’re just too judgmental and a lot of times we’re pre-judging. Now if you watch it and you don’t like it, that is perfectly your right because we’re individuals, we’re not monolithic,we have our own individual opinions. But at least I would say watch it and for me I’m settled I’m okay with taking the hits.
I’ll speak for myself when they say that I’m being nosy or a busy body or judgmental. Actually, I’m okay with that, because I know why we’re doing what we’re doing and we have gotten so many positive responses of how we have positively impacted people in so many ways of. A pastor from north Carolina said that he was ready to give up the church. He’d become disenchanted of the effectiveness of his ministry and he said ‘watching you brother Ron you’ve changed my perspective and I’m going to go back and I’m going to do this with new fervor and passion.’ See that’s why we’re doing it. To reach people that otherwise we wouldn’t be reaching.
A lot of the discussions seems focused around the wealth that has been achieved, how to respond to that. Do you think there’s an imbalance between what pastors accumulate and the status of the congregation?
We started our church with 9 members in may 1987 so our ministry is celebrating 26 years. And the lord has blessed our ministry. I’m very, very thankful. He’s blessed us from day one. We bought our first church in the first year of our pastoring. We bought another building that same year. We purchased approximately 30 acres of land we built a new temporary church that holds about 600, we have four services on Sunday we built two schools, we have renovated a house and made it our boys home for juvenile boys and we were on television for 10 years living in fullness everyday.
The people of our congregation, the way we’ve done everything that we’ve done is because the people believe in the pastor, they believe in the vision and they see things come to pass over those years and yet there’s still more to come. We do what we do because of people working with us. As a part of what we’ve done my husband and I live from a part of that. He has been on a salary and we’re not the kind that do the pastors anniversary every year and we don’t do it because the church gives us a salary and we’ve been able to handle what the church blessed us with very well and we made good investments and we’re thankful for that and we believe that if you have been a faithful shepherd over that which the Lord has given that you should be first partaker of that fruit.
There’s going to be cheerers and they’re going to be haters but you got to know for yourself before your god that you’ve done right by the church he has put you to be an under-shepherd of and so my husband and I are real comfortable with our lifestyle.”
The “Preachers of L.A.” season finale airs Wednesday, Nov. 26 at 10 p.m. EST on Oxygen.