A Journey to Leadership
by Becky Hobbs
Cron Gibson was devastated. A possible career in professional golf looked impossible now. In fact, since the accident, his whole life had been turned upside down.
It all started with his prayer, upon entering the University of Cincinnati in 1983, as he sought a deeper relationship with God. Cron had prayed that God would break him and do with his life whatever He wanted. God answered his prayer, but not in the way Cron expected. A month after entering the university, he was running across the campus when his right leg sank into a deep hole. The tremendous jolt dislocated his right knee joint and his tibia -- the major bone in the shin -- tore four centimeters out of his knee socket. The accident landed him in a cast for three months, on crutches for six, and it was a year and a half before he could run.
An engineering student with good grades before the accident, Cron was unable to study now because of the pain and pain killers. In addition, his excellent golf game --a one handicap -- fell apart over the months of inactivity and he wasnt able to regain it.
Instead of alienating him from God, however, the accident served as a unique turning point in his relationship with the Lord. "It forced me to let go of things that I had counted on to cope with life, for example, my ability to perform well athletically," says Cron.
A SEARCH FOR LOVE
Coping with life had been one of Crons major goals his entire life.. Raised in a suburb of Cincinnati, Cron grew up in an emotionally sterile atmosphere. His family life was significantly dysfunctional, and by the time he reached high school, he was incredibly lonely and desperate.
"I was a very unhappy young man," remembers Cron. "I would not have liked someone as soon as I met them just to be sure I beat him to the punch because I was sure he would not like me."
When some of the young people in his high school began to get involved in Young Life, Cron was interested. In June, 1981, after his sophomore year, he attended a Young Life summer camp in Colorado, where he came to know the Lord.
At the camp, Young Life leaders took some 250 young people up Mount Princeton, the fourth highest peak in the Rockies. After climbing for four or five hours, the kids were divided into groups of ten or fifteen and were instructed to close their eyes and follow the leaders voices. When the groups stopped and opened their eyes, they were about ten feet from a huge drop-off of thousands and thousands of feet. A thunderstorm was heading their way through the mountains and when it hit, the temperature dropped from seventy-five to thrity-five degrees in thirty seconds. Cron could see the rain bend as the wind pushed it. Lightning flashed all around. Through Gods general revelation, Cron knew for the first time that God truly existed.
"I also knew for the first time that, even though I was a sinner, God loved me and His love was not based on my ability to perform well," says Cron. "It was a powerful experience; I felt free because someone loved me. That night I prayed to receive Christ into my heart."
This newfound relationship with Christ helped him deal with his home situation and gave him courage to begin talking about his life with others in order to be healed. Although he doesnt remember any external fruits of his faith at that time, he began to grow as a Christian and store knowledge away.
Although he was a good student in high school, Crons main passion was golf. He played varsity golf and worked in a pro shop at a local golf course. The facility was connected with five other courses, on which Cron could play at no cost. He estimates he was on the links about 300 times a year.
After his injury, golf was not an option. In fact, Cron was at a loss to know what avenues of endeavor were open to him. He told the Lord he just didnt know what to do. As he prayed and thought about his life, he found himself turning more toward the Lord and walking closely with him.
Subsequently, he became involved with Campus Crusade, a move that God would use greatly in Crons life. Another student, Mark Wannamaker, became his good friend and began to disciple him. As Mark invested his life in Cron, Cron began to see significant change in his own life -- how he viewed himself, how he viewed life, and how he viewed other people.
Realizing he was a people person instead of technically minded, Cron changed his degree from engineering to communications. He also began serving on missions trips with Campus Crusade. Beginning in 1985, he spent two summers in Ocean City, New Jersey, on a beach project, where God used him tremendously. For the first time, Cron saw himself as a leader with something to give other people. A month and a half into the project the full-time staff left the students to run the program and Cron was asked to be the outreach director, which included coordinating six major outreach projects for eighty other students ranging from beach programs to inner city work.
The summer of 1986 he worked in the Soviet Union with Crusade, participating in projects in Leningrad, Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia. That was the summer he decided definitely that the Lord was leading him into the ministry. After coming back from the Soviet Union, he met Elizabeth, his wife, and after dating for three years, they married in 1990. In the summer of 1987, Cron was back in Ocean City coordinating outreach again. This time he was asked to fill the top job of project director when the staff left.
Many other opportunities for leadership arose while he was a student, and God used them to change Crons life dramatically. During the last two years of college he was Student Director of the University of Cincinnatis Campus Crusade Ministry. Under his leadership, the chapter increased from fifty to one hundred students.
After their marriage in 1990, he and Elizabeth both left good white collar jobs to begin raising support for what would turn out to be seven years of full-time work with Crusade. Their first assignment was the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. There they were involved in evangelism and discipleship.
"During those years, we ministered to a more serious student," recalls Cron. "The questions were very apologetic -- prove to me that God exists or that Jesus is who He says he is."
Ironically Cron discipled Brian Gault, RTS/Jacksons Admissions Director, as an undergraduate there. Brian, in turn, several years later persuaded Cron and Elizabeth to take a look at RTS.
The last four years of their ministry with Crusade Cron was Campus Director at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He oversaw twelve staff members who ministered to some 250 students. When they came in 1993, the chapter had only eighty-five students. Since the group had not been doing large scale outreaches, Cron used major outreaches and small group development to grow the ministry.
The first year Cron developed a debate between a Christian philosopher and the head of the evolutionary biology department. Some 800 students came! Almost half of them wanted more information about Christianity. One Halloween Cron and his staff brought in an investigative journalist whose specialty was the occult. The program, entitled "Fraud and the Supernatural," brought out 200 students. Nearly half of them asked for additional information and 200 asked for Bibles. Some thirty-five small group leaders had fasted and paryed together for twenty-four hours before the outreach to see what God could do through them.
PREPARING TO HELP BROKEN STUDENTS
In June, 1997, Cron and Elizabeth left the staff of Campus Crusade and entered RTS. The pull to seminary had been gradual. Cron realized that if he wanted to be in ministry full-time he needed more tools than he had. He saw the brokenness in students lives and knew he was not equipped to deal with it.
Cron reveals, "Some say as many as two-thirds of the women in our culture today have been sexually abused. At Cornell forty per cent of the women in sororities--thats probably a fourth of the women students -- struggle with eating disorders. We had eighteen-year-olds in major depressions. We saw over and over again that the questions in the culture have really changed. From "Prove it to me," the question has become "Im so desperate, Im willing to believe. But will it make any difference if I do?" The questions are much more existential, in believers as well as non-believers. The Body of Christ, as far as the number of wounds that they are carrying, is not very far different from the non-Christian."
Cron and Elizabeth want to help people deal with the burdens they are carrying, to effectively apply the Gospel to peoples lives beyond the point of salvation. He wants not only to comfort with the same love Christ has shown him, but also to move past comfort to significant help and life change. To do that Cron became convinced he needed a counseling degree. A junior at RTS, he is getting a double degree, a Master of Divinity and an M.A. in Marriage and Family Therapy. Meanwhile, Elizabeth is taking part-time classes in Marriage and Family Therapy.
"I see us ministering either in the context of a church in a college town or a campus-based ministry, says Cron. "We both want to continue to have discipleship ministries and do evangelism. I also want to teach."
While at RTS Cron has also been helping students develop their own financial support for seminary. With Campus Crusade, he was responsible for raising 300,000 dollars a year, which included his own support and overseeing the fund raising of his twelve staff members, plus the overall budget of the campus ministry at Cornell.
He has also been working at Highlands Presbyterian Church in Jackson, putting together small group development strategy and helping the church think through outreach ideas for the groups. The task also includes helping small group leaders design evangelistic strategies which will ultimately assimilate people into the Body of Christ. He has also been working in the areas of mentoring and discipleship.
A tragic injury took from Cron the one thing he thought could give him satisfaction in life - golf. But because he turned toward, not away from God, the Lord brought tremendous healing into his life and showed him great leadership ability for the Kingdom of God. That seems more than a fair trade.
Reformed Quarterly, Volume 17, Issue 1
© Reformed Theological Seminary
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Last updated 4-2-2002.