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Herbert Brisbane, trailblazing Black evangelism leader, dies at 68

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) – Herbert Brisbane, remembered as one of the earliest African American Southern Baptist denominational workers in church planting and evangelism, died March 2 in Fort Worth, Texas, after a lengthy illness. He was 68.

A two-time cancer survivor, Brisbane led African American evangelism beginning in the early 1990s at the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board (TBMB) before continuing his work at what is now the North American Mission Board (NAMB).

Robert Wilson, historian for the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention, described Brisbane’s work as trailblazing.

“He opened up the doors (for other African Americans). Evangelism was not one of the entry points for African Americans into our national agencies or our state agencies,” Wilson told Baptist Press. “He was the first Black to have a directorship in evangelism for any state convention.

“We didn’t have any evangelism directors at the state level that were African American” before Brisbane’s post as associate director of Black church extension and director of Black church evangelism at the TBMB.

Brisbane was the second African American Southern Baptist to hold the post of director of Black church evangelism on the national level, following J.D. Ellis.

Brisbane served as manager of multicultural evangelism at NAMB, beginning when the body was known as the Home Mission Board, and continuing his work there from 1992-2004. In his 2017 book, “The Journey of Brokenness,” Brisbane noted he traveled more than 100 days a year in his NAMB post, encouraging African American Southern Baptist pastors nationally.

Chris McNairy, senior pastor of Decision Point Ministries in Atlanta and a former NAMB executive, remembers Brisbane as a prayer partner and an encourager in addition to his trailblazing denominational work.

“I think to know our history and to know whose shoulders we stand on (is important),” McNairy said. “There’s so much to learn from his example. He was relational. He lived his faith and that is what is passed on.”

Brisbane was elected to two terms as an International Mission Board trustee, beginning in 2010.

He began fulltime Southern Baptist work in 1981 as associate Baptist Student Union director at Sam Houston University, and followed his lengthy denominational service with ministry at Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Va., where he served as director of pastoral care and evangelism. He continued his work on the ministerial staff of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Fort Worth.

He held a Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Brisbane is survived by his wife of 45 years, Wanda Brisbane, sons Marlin and Marcus, and daughter Tennille Gavin.

His funeral will be at 11 a.m. March 11 at Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church and will be livestreamed.