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Tribute to an Extraordinary Pastor

[Editor’s Note: Pastor Aaron Menikoff wrote the following tribute to one of his co-pastors at Mount Vernon Baptist Church to recognize his over three decades of faithful service. There is much in this tribute to inspire current and future pastors to faithful ministry in the local church. We at Some Pastors and Teachers want to join in highlighting Pastor Bryan Pillsbury’s “job well done” — for the glory of God and the good of the church.]

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One of the reasons I am at Mount Vernon Baptist Church is because of Bryan Pillsbury. This week, a lot of the Christian world is abuzz because of a well-known pastor who left the faith. But I want to give thanks for a pastor who persevered, serving thirty-two years at Mount Vernon.

Bryan served alongside a total of four senior pastors, including me. He and his wife Paige raised five kids in the same church. Over the years, he did everything that was asked of him including holding down the fort during long interims without a preaching pastor. He proved to be a rock of stability during moments when the future of the church seemed uncertain. This kind of faithfulness is all-too-rare today.

When I came to MVBC in 2008, I didn’t know what lay ahead. But I knew I wasn’t alone. From day one, Bryan encouraged me. He overlooked my weaknesses (and sometimes my sin), and he fought hard to help me be well-received by a church he knew like the back of his hand.

Today is Bryan’s last day on staff. Hard to believe. I find it hugely ironic and appropriate that he’s spending the day talking about Jesus in the villages of La Florida on the outskirts of the city of San Juan on the island of the Dominican Republic. This evening he’ll be working through the Gospel of Mark, Christianity Explained, with Central Mennonite Church. That’s what Bryan loves more than anything—sharing the gospel that changed his life and equipping churches with God’s Word.

I know it sounds funny, I’m not a young man anymore, but today I feel like I’m losing my training wheels. Bryan would disagree, and he’s quick to remind me he’s not going anywhere (he and his family are staying in the ATL and at MVBC). But it’s not the same. Every young pastor should have a Bryan on staff when they begin their journey. I’ve been hugely blessed.

Bryan taught me to slow down and spend more time with people, to laugh harder, to tell more stories, to smile, to take risks on people with great potential, and to love people who leave.

The evangelical world probably won’t know Bryan isn’t going to be on staff at MVBC tomorrow. I get that. I also know most churches simply don’t have multiple members on staff. Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that the backbone of many churches isn’t always the guy standing behind the pulpit week in and week out, it’s those serving behind the scenes, opening the Word one-on-one, grieving at the hospital bed, helping a widow figure out how to get onto her computer, leading a small group through Systematic Theology, helping a daughter navigate a funeral home as she prepares to bury her mother, and making an international student feel at home.

Bryan and I have been on more than one missions trip together. I’ll never forget being in the home of a new missions partner in Central Asia. As we reflected on our time together, our partner said how much he appreciated our visit. He appreciated my questions and my counsel. But having Bryan, he said, was like having your favorite grandfather visit. That’s pretty much how everyone feels around Bryan—loved, wanted, appreciated, and cared for.

Bryan, when you get back from the jungle of La Florida today, after you wipe off the sweat from the dusty truck ride, clean up, and read this post, know you are loved, my friend. Thanks for serving side-by-side for so many years, and please keep serving in the days to come. I know you will.

Filed under: Features, Pastorate, Spotlight
Aaron Menikoff

Aaron Menikoff (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is senior pastor of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, and author of Politics and Piety (Pickwick, 2014). You can follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Menikoff.

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