Church planter plans organic start in Tampa’s downtown community

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By Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention
November 6, 2016

As he plants a new church in Tampa’s urban Channelside community, Brian Elliott is determined to expand the resident’s “work-here, play-here mentality” to a “worship-here, pray-here” way of thinking.

One of Tampa’s fastest growing communities, Channelside is composed of a dozen mid-and high-rise apartment buildings located along the Port of Tampa. It is home to 3,000 professionals who thrive on walking to work, shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. Everything is contained along the streets of that densely populated community. In the months ahead, another six high-rises will be built to hold 4,000 more newcomers.

Church planter Elliott and his wife Marianne, pushing newborn Jude in her stroller, are becoming fixtures along Channelside’s dog-friendly, bench-covered sidewalks, making friends and blending in well with the youthful, urban culture.

The family recently moved into a Channelside apartment building and is in the process of making connections—and Christian converts–that will lead to the start of small groups and Bible studies in the apartment’s common areas.

The church, Christ Fellowship Church Downtown, is one of several church plants on the drawing board of its sending church, Christ Fellowship Church in Tampa.

“We didn’t want to come with a big crew to start the church,” said Elliott. “We want it to be organic.” Already, he said, several neighbors have expressed interest in learning more about the Christian faith and attending the small group.

Elliott left his successful career as an internationally known recording producer to follow “God’s still, small voice,” urging him toward church planting. That calling led to an internship with the North American Mission Board, SBC that assigned him to serve his sending church. A trip to meet with urban church planters in New York City “fueled our passion to plant a church in downtown.”

He is driven by Matt. 16:24—‘to find your life, you have to lose it,” he paraphrased.

“The people in this community haven’t said no to the gospel,” contends sending church pastor Bruce Moore. “They have had no access to the gospel.” Instead of taking residents out of their culture, he explained, the new church will move into the center of the culture.

The sending church is one of the first recipients of Cooperative Program funds from the Florida Baptist Convention’s new church planting strategy that enhances the role of sending churches in planting new congregations.

Moore had high praise for the Convention’s new direction, saying the “entire process has become streamlined and puts the responsibility back on the church.”

The state convention’s $20,000 investment will be used in start-up funds, marketing and direct mail.

“We are all about starting new churches,” Moore said. “It is so thrilling to see God raise up and transform individuals who are taking steps of faith to be church planters.”

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