On Sunday, December 31, 2017, Herbert Gilbert of Beacon Baptist Church retired after serving the church as senior pastor for fifty-one years. Despite winter weather, the church auditorium was filled to hear Gilbert’s last sermon as pastor, to show appreciation and express well wishes to him and his wife, Glenda. Congratulations and tributes were presented in person and via video from BBFI President Eddie Lyons, BBFI Communication Director Randy Harp, BBC President Mark Milioni and Boston Baptist College President David Melton. Pastor John Reilly also gave tribute to Gilbert and spoke about Beacon’s future ministry. A prayer service was conducted around Reilly and his wife, Rhonda for God’s blessings on the new senior leadership at the church. At the close of the service, the congregation individually greeted the outgoing and incoming pastoral couples.
Gilbert accepted Christ at age 17 on November 13, 1955 through the witness of his grandfather W. J. Riley. After a time of courtship, he married Glenda Holley on December 1, 1956. He taught a Sunday School class at Detroit’s Temple Baptist Church and surrendered to preach in 1958. In 1960, he, his wife and infant daughter, Sherry moved to Springfield, Missouri so he could attend Baptist Bible College. (Later, a daughter, Debbie and a son, Steve were born.) He graduated from the pastoral studies course in 1963. In 1964, he planted the Fellowship Baptist Church of Battle Creek, Michigan. He accepted the call to pastor Beacon Baptist Church of Taylor in 1966. At that time, the church was five years old, owned six acres of land and averaged 80 people in attendance.
During his fifty-one year ministry at Beacon, he has led his congregation to be evangelistic and missionary. It has grown steadily to an average attendance of over 900 during much of the past decade. With area population now declining, Beacon still averaged over 700 per Sunday for 2017. Close to forty Beacon members have entered full-time ministry during Gilbert’s tenure. He has led in three major building programs, four major funding programs, seen church property increase to twenty acres, expanded church facility space to 95,000 square feet, remodeled older facilities, built a new 1,600 seat auditorium, offices, and classrooms, etc., expanded paved parking to 465 spaces and purchased three parsonages for staff. Church giving was nearly $2 million during 2017 ($400,000 for missions). The church’s entire outstanding debt was paid off in February 2017 and celebrated with the burning of the $4 million note. Beacon supports 216 missionary families, along with other projects and has been one of the most generous and reliable supporters of Baptist Bible College, Boston Baptist College, the Baptist Bible Tribune and the BBFI Mission Office. Gilbert has been honored with the Doctor of Divinity degree and served as a BBC trustee. In retirement, Gilbert will continue to teach his large Sunday Bible Class, visit the sick at home and in hospitals and be available for pulpit supply.
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