Ed Gomes combines a talent for serving with passion for ministry
With accomplished records and a promising future in the FBS, Liberty’s football program draws top athletes from across the U.S. But, as the largest Christian school in the nation, Liberty’s primary goal is not to build the most dominant athletes — it is to train champions for Christ.
For the football team, one of the people who spearheads discipleship is Ed Gomes, the Director of Spiritual Development for the team.
Gomes’ selflessness is probably best shown in his shoe shine ministry, where he polishes players’ shoes while getting to know them and their backgrounds.
“I just felt like it was a way to build a bridge,” Gomes said in an interview with the Liberty Flames Sports Network.
“It is a way to ease in on a conversation, (getting to) know that person, while I’m shining (their) shoes. My prayer is that student athletes will see someone who is willing to go beyond their position and willing to meet the needs of others. And as a result of meeting the needs of others, others (will) be impacted.”
Though service comes naturally for Gomes, it was not until his time spent at Liberty — which was known as Liberty Baptist College at the time — that he realized his calling for ministry.
Gomes served as a leader in a club that is similar to the Boy Scouts, which offered Bible reading, Scripture memory and games.
Gomes said he was reciting memory verses with a friend from the club when God made it clear that he wanted him to prepare to be a youth pastor.
“From that time I began to pursue youth ministry and since then that is where my heart has been — in ministry,” Gomes said.
While finishing out the last three years of his undergraduate program, Gomes was also a starting point guard for the basketball team.
Gomes still holds the title for single-season assists (256), single-season steals (137) and all-time steals (300).
“I get teased because I have the steals and the assists, but I also have turnovers,” Gomes said.
“Someone told me ‘If you turn it over as many times as you did, you had to
make up for it.’”
Gomes graduated from Liberty Baptist College in 1976 and then traveled with Life Action Ministries Teams for two years before returning to Lynchburg and enrolling in Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.
While obtaining his seminary degree, Gomes also served as a resident director for Liberty.
It was also around this time that Gomes married his wife Ruth, who also works at Liberty as a professor in the family and consumer sciences department.
“She says she has her story and I have mine,” Gomes said.
“I was preaching a youth revival meeting at my wife’s dad’s church. And I was getting the addresses of some of the young people, and she had the look on her face like ‘Was I going to ask her for her address.’ And when I saw that look on her face, then I pursued her, and that’s how it all started.”
After graduating from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, Gomes took a position as an associate pastor in his hometown of New Bedford, Massachusetts.
During the 11 years that Gomes served there as a pastor, he also held a positions as a chaplain for the local police, a board member with the Kiwanis club, and worked with the local Y.M.C.A.
Gomes then returned to Liberty in 1996 and served as Liberty’s Dean of Commuting Students for five years before being appointed to the support staff for the Liberty
As Director of Spiritual Development, Gomes’ textbook job description consists of overseeing the spiritual atmosphere for both the players and the coaching staff.
But Gomes believes there is much more to the position than just a ‘checkup’ basis.
“People may identify (the position) a little with the phrase ‘team chaplain.’” Gomes said.
“The way I look at it is providing spiritual, pastoral support for the coaches, players and support staff. It’s like being the pastor of the football team. Being the pastor you have all kind of different hats that you sometimes have to wear.”
A normal work day for Gomes varies, but it may consist of having one-on-ones with players, leading small group meetings, setting up team chapels, discipleship programs and other various duties.
“(My workday) changes,” Gomes said.
“It varies with the offseason. Sometimes I’m involved with community life because maybe a player hasn’t made a good decision.
Sometimes I go to a funeral of one of our player’s dads who passed away. Sometimes it’s talking to a player about a career-ending injury.”
Outside of his job, Gomes also serves as a volunteer for Thomas Road Baptist Church.
“(I’m) always looking for ways to serve,” Gomes said.
“I (help with) baptizing, marriages, visits and counseling. It’s another way to stay in touch with local ministries and the local church.”
Gomes also published two books in June of 2015 — “Building a Legacy” and “Leaving a Legacy.”
The two books provide insight on discipleship. “Leaving a Legacy” is from a coach or leader’s perspective and “Building a Legacy” is for students.
Going on his 18th year on the support staff for the Liberty football team, Gomes still hopes to not only make an impact on players and coaches each day, but for the rest of their lives.
Though it sometimes can be overwhelming to serve such a large staff, Gomes enjoys every second.
“I love what I do,” Gomes said. “It’s a dream job, which is actually a dream ministry.”
Davis is the assistant editor.