PORT ST. LUCIE—Home to mangroves, lush botanical gardens, and world-renowned golf clubs is the seventh-largest city in Florida—Port St. Lucie. Serving this growing, multigenerational community on Florida’s East Coast is a local church that is focusing on family and community.
Over the course of four years, Nick Manzie, pastor at Central Baptist Church since 2019, has cultivated an atmosphere of family-like relationships that has resulted in doubled attendance, spiritual maturity, and community outreach like never before.
“God’s continuing to work in the lives of those attending Central,” said Manzie. “We’re growing spiritually. That, in turn, is making us bolder in doing things for the community as our trust in Him grows.”
Church as family
Over the past four years, Manzie said the ringing theme at the church has been one word—family. Seeing the local church as a family has fueled how church members serve those inside and outside the congregation.
“We want the whole family to feel like they’re part of the church and the mission of the church,” said Manzie. “Because of acting and believing we’re family, we’re stronger than ever.”
In learning how to “act like family and treat others like they’re part of the family,” the church has thrived in more ways than one. The church has experienced unprecedented growth—numerically and spiritually—and it has been intentional about its mission to “become passionately devoted followers of Jesus Christ through worship, discipleship, ministry, evangelism and fellowship,” said Manzie.
“We accomplish our mission by being a family,” said the pastor. “I feel strongly that we are to be a family. Family supports each other, builds each other, helps each other, and sympathizes and empathizes with each other.”
“It’s not about the size of the church; it’s about the size of our willingness to serve God.”
Kingdom, community impact
In challenging the church to “act like family,” Manzie said Central Baptist Church is now doing more for its community than ever before. The church’s Easter “eggstravaganza,” back-to-school bash, and vacation Bible school events have drawn hundreds of locals to the church campus recently. The church has also adopted “less traditional” means to serve its community through drive-thru prayer, yard cleanup, food pantry giveaways, and a mobile dentistry unit provided by the Florida Baptist Convention.
“By acting like a family, it gives us the attitude of growing in His likeness, which gives us the desire to share Christ’s love with those in our community so they can be part of His family,” said Manzie.
The pastor shared that they have also cultivated “a culture of service in the church” that has impacted not only how they serve outside their four walls but also the various ministries within the church.
For example, the church’s annual vacation Bible School has doubled from 35 children to more than 70, the back-to-school Bash has gone from distributing 50 backpacks and supplies to more than 350 this past summer, and their weekly children’s worship has grown from 3 children to 20.
Manzie said that despite being a smaller church, the church is making a huge impact on its community. “It’s not about the size of the church; it’s about the size of our willingness to serve God,” he said. “The more I’m at Central, the more excited I am.”
“Nick Μanzie is a great friend and encourager who faithfully leads a thriving multiethnic church,” said Patrick Coats, East region catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention. “Central Baptist is a strong community church with a heart to serve and spread the gospel to its context. God is doing amazing things through this ministry and we’re grateful for their partnership.”
With Exodus 15:2 as his ministry verse, Manzie believes that this Scripture accurately depicts how the church should function—God is the church’s strength, salvation is in Jesus, God is deserving of praise, and He is available to all who call upon His name.
“I just want us to be a lighthouse in our community,” he said. “It’s not about building our church; it’s about building Christ’s kingdom.”