LAWTON—God can overcome the hardest resistance for His purpose of advancing the Gospel. Mike Keahbone did not have any intention of serving as pastor of Lawton, First, but God intervened and made a way for Keahbone to return to his roots in a position to make an impact on southwest Oklahoma.
“When this opportunity first came up, I was like ‘no way,’ I had no desire to come back home,” Keahbone said in a recent Lawton Constitution article. “But man, the Lord really didn’t care what I thought.”
For the past six years, Keahbone served as senior pastor of Oklahoma City, Cherokee Hills, helping that church become more involved in its community. He encouraged church members to invest their lives in high school football players who needed to experience the love of Christ, as well as in the lives of others in the church’s community.
As he met with Lawton, First’s pastor search committee, Keahbone resisted their appeals. There were deep discussions, but Keahbone was not convinced—until after the initial conversations were over. He then realized God wanted him to go back to his hometown area.
“I know after I talked to (the search committee) that God wanted me to go to Lawton,” he said.
On Aug. 9, Keahbone preached his first sermon at Lawton, First. He shared with the Constitution that he talked about “the church’s present, his personal past and their united future.”
“Coming home—there are some places where nothing has changed and some places where everything has changed,” Keahbone said to the Constitution. “This is the most familiar/unfamiliar place I’ve ever been. I’m excited to rediscover Lawton.”
Keahbone grew up in Elgin as the son of a Cherokee father and a Comanche/Kiowa mother. His father was not involved in Keahbone’s life, and his mother battled drugs and alcohol addiction. Needless to say, it can be understandable why Keahbone did not want to return to his home area.
He shared how his mom became homeless, and he went to live with other family members. Being Native American, he also struggled with racial issues. Lawton is at the center of his early life struggles.
Life moved on, and Keahbone made a profession of faith in Christ when he was a student at Cameron University. Then he committed his life to full-time ministry. He served in youth ministry for 12 years and became a well-known evangelist and speaker before returning to local church ministry. His first senior pastorate came in 2014 at Cherokee Hills.
Two months on the job at Lawton, First, Keahbone sees how God is working in his life and is using him in a significant way.
“My family told me I am different since I’ve been at Lawton, First,” he said. “God is doing a great work in my life, and it’s way beyond anything I could have expected.”
Keahbone shared about a lady who came to visit Lawton, First one Sunday. She told him that she knew his mother. She said she remembered his mom as a little girl in school who was happy and carefree. This was the first time anybody shared with Keahbone a pleasant memory of his mother, and it both encouraged and challenged him.
“People need to know they are loved,” he said. “That’s what I want to share with everybody. It doesn’t matter what their background is. God can use us to share His love and His Gospel message to everybody.”
Keahbone is aware his Native American heritage helps cross barriers. Since he has been at Lawton, First several Native American families have been attending. He knows Lawton is a “hot bed for Native American communities,” especially since the city is the headquarters for the Comanche Tribe.
Lawton, First has a long-standing heritage of advancing the Gospel. For more than 118 years, Lawton, First has a history of being a banner church for baptisms, leading the state in annual baptisms in past years. Keahbone knows with Fort Sill Army base being located in the Lawton area, opportunities for sharing the Gospel can be plenteous.
“Many soldiers have served at Fort Sill for years,” he said. “Many of them don’t have family nearby. Lawton, First has a history of connecting with these military men and women, which resulted in eternal rewards. I want to see this continue and grow.”
Just as Keahbone recognized community ministry opportunities in Oklahoma City, he intends to do the same in Lawton. And not only Lawton, among the military and Native Americans, but Keahbone also wants to support other Oklahoma Baptist churches.
“I want Lawton, First to be an ‘outpost’ for Oklahoma Baptist churches in the southwest part of the state,” he said. “If we can provide meeting places for pastors and church leaders, opportunities for workshops and conferences, Lawton, First wants to do it and encourage other Oklahoma Baptists serving in this area.”
Keahbone has returned home, back where he experienced hardships. However, just as God has redeemed all those difficult memories, He is using Keahbone as an example and leader to embrace brokenness for the purpose of advancing the Gospel.