November 22, 2022 : By Christian Shields - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
Liberty University co-founder Elmer Towns received several awards from the Global Church Network during his 90thbirthday celebration earlier this month, adding to his already impressive list of awards he has received throughout his life of service as an ambassador for the Lord.
Towns traveled to Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 3, where the Global Church Network (GCN), hosted a 90th birthday party and presented him with Lifetime Publishing, Lifetime Media, and Lifetime Achievement awards.
Towns turned 90 on Oct. 21.
The GCN is an evangelistic organization founded by Dr. James O. Davis that has joined more than 700,000 churches to become the largest pastor’s network in the world. Its goal is to help plant 5 million new churches.
Towns has traveled around the globe with GCN to share the Gospel and train pastors. Through GCN, he has visited Russia, Japan, Australia, and other countries on six continents to tell people about Christ. His latest trip was to Manila, Philippines, in April.
“We are trying to complete the Great Commission,” Towns said. “It’s about local church evangelism — to complete the Great Commission with the idea of training people, motivating them to go out and reach their people, start new churches, and do evangelistic work by planting churches.”
He has also worked with the Global Church Learning Center to create materials that help educate spiritual leaders on biblical principles.
“The most amazing thing to me was not so much the award but the people who came from all over the world,” Towns said about his birthday celebration. Guests included his friend, author John Maxwell, Liberty’s 2022 Commencement speaker, as well as the heads of various mission boards.
Davis, who serves as President of GCN, showed his appreciation for the work that Towns has done for the GCN and ultimately for the advancement of the Kingdom.
“Dr. Towns has single handedly, over the last 70 years, equipped more for full-time ministry than anyone else throughout the Body of Christ,” he said. “He has brought style and substance to every book he has written, vision and value to every leader he has taught, and faith and fortitude to every challenge he has faced in life. His Kingdom-minded leadership has created a spiritual atmosphere where Christian leaders from different streams of theological thought can synergize their efforts toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission.”
“There are 8 billion people on earth, but there is only one Dr. Elmer Towns,” Davis added.
Towns was recognized at Liberty’s Convocation on his birthday. Students sang “Happy Birthday” and Campus Pastor Jonathan Falwell and Liberty Interim President Jerry Prevo presented him with a cookie birthday cake.
Towns has spent his life teaching the Gospel and training many for the ministry, whether domestically or abroad. One of the main countries Towns has visited is Korea, which he has traveled to 27 times.
On some of those trips, Towns would stay in South Korea for a week, teaching Korean students for eight hours every day. As a result of that ministry, presidents of several Korean seminaries were trained in evangelism. His teaching in Korea was part of Liberty’s efforts to grow its online program.
“God has used that country in a great way,” Towns said.
Through his service to Liberty, Towns has been afforded additional opportunities to reach unbelievers as well as disciple Christians. In his positions as a both a professor and dean of religion at Liberty, Towns has impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands.
Towns can recall many of the lives he has impacted and said he has seen God use Liberty students in a mighty way. He remembers a student from Nigeria in one of Liberty’s earliest classes who returned home to start a church.
“I’ve been in that church,” Towns said. “He planted a church of about 14,000 people. He got something here from Liberty — the idea that if it’s God’s work, it ought to be bigger and better.”
Towns is also an accomplished author. He has written 219 books, the last 10 of which came from his Sunday School curriculum. He continues to teach Sunday School for Thomas Road Baptist Church.
Sunday School has played a large role in Towns’ life and even played a significant role in the founding of Liberty University. Towns first met Dr. Falwell while writing his bestselling book “The Ten Largest Sunday Schools” because TRBC finished ninth on his list.
Of all the awards he’s received in his life, including the most recent, Towns said an award he received as a child is among his biggest achievements: his Sunday School attendance award.
In 14 years attending Eastern Heights Presbyterian Church, Towns said that he never missed a Sunday and received pins for each year of perfect attendance . In fact, he recalled one Sunday in which he attended church while sick.
“I remember walking into this room,” he said. “Miss Pittman was her name. I opened the door and there was a chair right by the room, so I sat at the chair and all the children were on the other side of the room. They (church workers) said, ‘Don’t breathe on them. Don’t cough. Just sit there.’ And they said ‘As soon as I say amen, come out.’ He said “amen,” I jumped out and went home.”
One statement sums up Towns’ mindset as he lives a life of sacrifice for Christ.
“I just want to be active for God. That’s all,” Towns said.