Getting to know: Pastor seeks to change perception of church

Pastor seeks to change perception of church

Brian Townsend, 40, moved to Portales eight years ago to become the pastor at the Baptist Student Union, located just across the street from Eastern New Mexico University.

Townsend is married to Cherie and the couple has four children: Christian, 17, Brennan, 12, Cara, 10, and Bryce, 6.

Townsend said the Baptist Student Union (BSU) typically has around 70-80 students attend services.

Do you have ambitions of being a pastor in a regular church setting?

Been there, done that. I pastored outside of San Francisco (Dublin) for about six years. When you pastor in those, by and large, you’re working with those who have already made their major life decisions — who they’re going to marry, what kind of job they’re going to do. I really wanted to work with students who haven’t made the big decisions yet and maybe help them make those decisions around the bigger decision — which is Christ.

Who gave you the call to come out here?

Well, I hope God gave me the call, but the director of the BSU at New Mexico State — he was there when I was there — he was the one that told me about the position. I sent in a resume and, basically, there was a search committee formed of pastors throughout the state.

So this isn’t under the purview of one local baptist church?

No, my salary comes from the Baptist Convention of New Mexico.

Do you have some unusual start times for your services?

Nine o’clock on Thursday night. We just played around with it; I don’t think we’ve kept the same starting time or day since I’ve been here. I don’t know that the start time really matters to college students, but we did want to find one that was late enough to where there weren’t any classes being offered and I think we got pretty close.

Is there a Sunday service?

No, we have a Thursday night which is kind of our group worship service. Then we have small groups that meet throughout the week. We don’t want to replace what’s happening on Sunday morning, but there’s a lot of students with a negative perception of the word church. They think of it as an organization that meets in a building on Sunday morning. We want to redefine it as community— a group of people that get together who have a desire to love Jesus and a desire to love each other.

Do you have to think differently than most pastors, given your audience?

I really think I do. To some degree, a pastor has to keep enough people, the old guard, happy because they continue to pay the salary. I do have to deal with some convention and politics, stuff like that, but my salary doesn’t come from offerings taken here. I really want to reach the students the local churches aren’t going to reach.