Brian Tillman has had a vision for ministry, but he first wanted to be someone who could help improve a person’s physical vision. However, God had different plans.
“I am a son, grandson, great-grandson, and great-great-grandson of optometrists,” Tillman, the senior pastor of Riverbend Church in Hernando said. “I went to Millsaps College in Jackson, trying to go and be an optometrist or opthamologist. Two years into that, I finally surrendered to what God wanted me to do. I said it was organic chemistry and God that got me into the ministry. I couldn’t pass organic chemistry and decided I would do what God wanted me to do.”
Tillman followed that with seminary in North Carolina and 12 years ago started Riverbend Church, a church plant that celebrates its anniversary this Sunday.
“Longview Point, another church here in Hernando, supported us, sent us out,” he said. “We were actually planted out in Lake Cormorant before the downturn in the economy. There was supposed to be a huge development out there and because of the economy and the recession that took place, about two years after we planted, we moved back into town, so to speak.”
Today, Riverbend Church is located at 173 Kapik Road, Suite D, off Highway 51, in Hernando.
The Southern Baptist-affiliated congregation has a simple mission, Tillman said.
“Our vision for Riverbend is simply this; we desire to glorify God, make disciples, restoring community through loving, serving, and going,” he said. “One of the things that we do is seek to restore marriages, restore lives, help restore the community.”
Riverbend is also active in reaching out to the community, shown in a recent Sunday activity that encompassed several areas.
“A couple of Sundays ago we spent Sunday not inside our building but out in the community helping a Hernando primary school, helping mulch and cleaning inside their school,” Tillman said. “We sent care baskets to multiple schools in the city, helped Parks and Rec at Conger Park and Lee Summit Park to clean up and painted some for them. We’re just trying to help out in the community that God’s planted us in.”
Tillman said visitors can expect to worship in a welcoming atmosphere on Sunday morning, adding about 150-180 worshippers come to Sunday services on average.
“If you walked into Riverbend Church on a Sunday morning, you would see a welcoming church with a lot of smiles,” he explained. “You would see relaxed individuals and families come in for a time of celebration with contemporary worship. We have a praise band and we love to sing. Our folks are big on singing and then you’ll be challenged and encouraged in God’s word.”
Those who attend Riverbend have many ministry opportunities to take advantage in growing in their spiritual walk.
We have a ton of kids here on Sundays and we also do things for them on Wednesday nights,” Tillman noted. “Our kids ministry, which is kindergarten-through-fifth-grade, and then our youth take over the building on Wednesday night with their time of Refuge, as they call it, from 6-8 p.m.”
The church supports men’s and women’s ministries and also backs mission efforts, both locally and internationally.
“We’ve sent out three couples in our time for international missions and we have partners in multiple countries, we do trips and help with supplies, taking things to them, but basically loving on them and being a part of the work they are doing every single day when we’re over there and have the opportunity to be a part of what they’re doing,” Tillman said.
Most of those who call Riverbend their church home come from what Tillman called, “the outskirts.”
“We’ve got folks all around Riverbend and I think part of that was because of where we were planted first out in the western part of the county,” he said. “We do have a number of folks that come from Hernando, but most are on the outskirts of the town itself. I think our youth ministry hits like nine high schools.”
Back to the vision story. Tillman explained the knocking on his heart to ministry from God came long before he couldn’t get past organic chemistry in college.
“I was actually running from Him since I was age 15,” Tillman said. “I knew that was what He wanted me to do. It was as if He was sitting right here having a conversation with you and me, not an audible voice, but I just knew that was what He wanted. For about four-five years I wanted to do something else but I couldn’t get away from it and couldn’t get away from Him.”
Today, Tillman, with his wife Paige and their two teenage children, will be celebrating with their church family 12 years of leading the vision of Riverbend Church for Hernando and DeSoto County.
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.