it all started in a parking lot.
Sitting in a car, over conversation with a good friend, Paul Wirth knew everything was about to change. It was 2004, and they began talking about a new kind of church. A church that felt like the camaraderie and lively environment of a piano bar they frequented. This is how Paul was inspired to establish a church where people could come together to celebrate Jesus in true community and fellowship. This led to further exploration of what a new church would be and what it would be called. “Whatever it is, it needs to be relevant.”
Preview services at the Hyatt Regency started in late 2004 with one hundred fifty people in attendance. Musician Carl von dem Bussche, who was living in Nashville working for EMI Music, led worship for those previews. Before the service Paul’s request was: “We just can’t suck.” That was the first step in Carl moving to Tampa to join the Relevant team. The deciding statement from Paul to Carl was: “Do you want to make records or change the world?”
Relevant continued to grow into 2005 and shortly before Relevant launched weekly services, God provided The Italian Club in Ybor City as it’s first home. On August 28 of that year, Relevant celebrated its first beach baptism at Ft. Desoto Park. This was also the weekend Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. Armed with chainsaws and experience from helping locals following the 2004 Florida hurricanes, teams from Relevant traveled to New Orleans and Gulfport, Mississippi to assist with recovery efforts. It was Relevant’s first service project and set the tone for who we would become.
In 2008 Relevant took a team to a conference in Granger, Indiana. It was there that church elder, and eventual staff member Tim Mann, was moved by the experience, and decided to begin praying in Tampa Park every Sunday for six months. This led to the Tampa Park Field Day in 2009 which saw 75 volunteers show up to serve the community, and laid the foundation for our public school partnerships focused on transforming at-risk communities from the inside out for generations to come.
As God provided new opportunities for the church, Relevant found itself in search of a new space for its continued growth and expansion. Averaging 300 attendees per week at the Italian Club, Relevant expanded to two services and then to three services for a brief period of time. Needing additional room for its children’s ministries, Relevant moved to 1704 N 16th St in 2010 after first raising the $200,000 needed to make the renovations possible. After the move, Relevant’s weekly attendance more than doubled. Five years later, God provided the opportunity the buy our building, further cementing our place in the Ybor community.
Through Relevant’s first decade, we have witnessed spiritual growth in and through the lives of hundreds of people. As we continue to grow, we invite you to be a part of what God is doing here. The best is yet to come.
Director of Outreach and Admin