JACKSONVILLE (FBC)—After nearly five decades in ministry, Nevi Townsend is doing what he considers to be his most rewarding work. As a church planting strategist for the Florida Baptist Convention, Townsend is a catalyst encouraging churches, associations and potential church planters to start new congregations.
For the past 11 years, Townsend has played a role in planting 75 new churches across Northeast Florida, an area stretching north from Leesburg and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf Coast.
“He is one of the most effective church planter strategist in Florida Baptist life,” said Cecil Seagle, retired director of the Convention’s Missions Division.
“Nevi’s value is in his tenacity, his networking, his sensitivity to pastors and planters and his ability to work through all of this toward a successful church plant,” said Seagle. “Nevi leads the Church Planting Department in new church starts and has for several years.”
Townsend was instrumental in starting the three new churches featured in this issue of Florida Missions Today—Cross Brand Church in Williston, The Orchard Community Church in Lake City and The Church @ Lake Yale, now in its embryonic stage.
Although a retired pastor and director of missions for the Marion Baptist Association, Townsend said motivating others to start new churches is multi-faceted. He stresses it requires developing and maintaining relationships, walking alongside church planters through the process and providing training to increase the new churches’ viability. He has resources available and experience to help church planters in almost every situation they will encounter.
New churches are needed because it is the “fastest way to do evangelism,” said Townsend. As a pastor in South Florida, he led two churches to grow to nearly 1,500 members.
“We baptized between 50-75 persons each year,” he recalled. “If each of the 75 new churches I have helped start baptized 10 new believers each year—that is 750 new converts in one year. That is Kingdom increase,” said Townsend.
Townsend adds that new churches are most effective when they are reproducing themselves through the planting of other churches—exponentially adding to the Kingdom.
At age 79, the sixth generation Floridian is not yet ready to retreat or retire. Two of his sons have followed his footsteps in the gospel ministry. Gary Townsend is director of church staff benefits for the Florida Baptist Convention; and son Terry Townsend is pastor of First Baptist Church in Wellington. A third son serves as a deacon.
His sons have big shoes to fill as they, too, impact the Kingdom of God.
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