Interview with 2 Young Church Planters in Tampa

Tampa-Skyline-300x198Baptist21 is excited to highlight a new church plant in the Tampa, Florida downtown area. The name of the church is Covenant Life Church. The planters are Justin Perry and Drew Tucker. Check out their website to learn more about them and their plant.

Connect with and learn ways to support Covenant Life Church through Twitter and Facebook. Also, Stay in the Loop with what is going on at Covenant Life Church.

Here is why they chose Tampa:

As we set out on the journey of answering the question, “Where should we plant?” we prayed that God would unite our hearts as to the type of city that we would give our lives to for the sake of the gospel. God answered that prayer by uniting our hearts around four characteristics of a perspective city.

Pioneering A Church Planting Movement
While we understand the inherent need in our country’s largest cities for gospel-centered church planting efforts, we recognize that many of these cities already have existing church planting networks. We see an opportunity to, by God’s grace, be on the front end of a church planting movement in and around downtown Tampa for the glory of God.

It is our desire to plant a gospel-centered local church in urban Tampa because currently, we cannot identify a like-minded local church that exists in or close to downtown. We also have the unique opportunity of training future church planters through our partnership with the North Wake Church Planting Residency Program.

In Close Proximity to Universities
It is our desire to plant a gospel-centered local church in a city where college students dwell. We recognize that tomorrow’s fathers, mothers, teachers, coaches, business professionals, world leaders, pastors, doctors, and lawyers attend the universities today. We are confident that, if we can impact university students with the gospel and a healthy understanding of the local church, by God’s grace we will see gospel-renewal begin in Tampa, spreading across our country and our world. The University of Tampa, located in the heart of downtown, is a private institution of over 6,000 students and is considered one of the nation’s top business schools by The Princeton Review. The University of South Florida, located in north Tampa, is the nation’s 9th largest university with over 42,000 students.

Growing City
Currently, there are over 400,000 residents in the city of Tampa and over 2.5 million in the Tampa Bay metro area. Tampa’s population is estimated to increase 13% over the next few years, while Tampa/St. Pete is one of America’s fasted growing metro areas. While the larger cities tend to garner more attention in the area of church planting, we recognize that the fastest growing cities in this country have potential to be tomorrow’s cities of influence. Downtown Tampa is experiencing growth as the city is building and renovating space for residential living – an initiative aimed at bringing people back into the city. Therefore, we, carried along by the Holy Spirit, have a profound opportunity to bring the gospel to the Tampa Bay area on the cusp of rapid population growth.

Tampa is a city that is rich with diversity. Tampa is the homes of a growing and thriving arts community, several professional sports teams, several universities, and Ybor City, also known as the Latin Quarter. Not only is this diversity seen culturally, it is also evident in the ethnic makeup of the city. We believe that the Tampa area inhales the world and has the potential to exhale the gospel.

Part one of the Interview with Justin Perry and Drew Tucker:

  • What would be the most important piece of advice you would offer someone who is thinking/praying about planting?
    • Find a local church, join, serve, learn to live on mission, multiply yourself in leadership, and sit under qualified elders who will examine your character and your doctrine.  Yes, this will take a few years.  That’s the point.  You aren’t ready, we weren’t ready – and by God’s grace He kept us from jumping the gun.
  • What are some things that probably aren’t on their (future Church Planters) radar right now, but should be?
    • Do the hard work of growing in your love for and knowledge of the gospel, as this will inform how and why you do everything that you do.
    • As you are refining your gifts, don’t neglect character formation under the supervision of qualified elders/pastors.
    • Find someone who can teach you how to develop a budget and don’t forget to include self-employment tax like we did.
  • Begin to identify and pray for another elder (lay or staff) with whom you share the same convictions about the nature of the local church.  Also be in prayer for a core group of whom a like-minded philosophy of ministry is shared (so that time is not spent deconstructing various philosophies in order to build up the one for the plant).
  • What have been the greatest challenges in the process to this point?
    • Drew: Parachuting into a city where we know very few people, it quickly became obvious that as believers we are not called to walk throughout life apart from the fellowship of the local church.  The greatest challenge my wife and I have experienced has been being disconnected from regular fellowship and community with the family at North Wake Church.  In a word, loneliness.
    • Justin: Training my heart and shepherding my family to lead a missional lifestyle.  I’ve come to the sad realization that while I know much about missional living, prior to this season of life I’ve never led my family in cultivating a lifestyle of being on mission.  Thus, I’m learning how to lead this kind of lifestyle, and put to death a lifestyle that included “missional seasons,” but wasn’t consistent in living on mission.
    • As a Team: Truly valuing the power of prayer and seeing prayer as one of the best ways for us to spend our time.  What Tampa does not need is another hip church plant with relevant strategies and a compelling vision.  Tampa needs men and women who are on their faces daily for the men, women, and families of Tampa crying out to God that they would awaken to God’s glory made known in Christ Jesus.  Prayer is the most important thing we can do, and we would readily confess this.  However, in the midst of numerous administrative tasks, it has been challenging to keep prayer at the top of our list of priorities.  If it is the most important thing, and it is, then we should often be on our faces.
  • How has your experience been with NAMB? Pros? Cons? What might need to change?
    • Our experience with NAMB has been relatively positive.  A few pros would include:
      • § We have been encouraged as they are truly a group of servant-hearted believers.  Their willingness to serve us has been humbling.
      • § Their ability to provide some level of funding for planters.
      • § Provides a very loose network with other, existing SBC churches
    • A few cons (stated from grateful hearts that seek reform)
      • § Lack of doctrinal and character assessments in the interviews with NAMB representatives.
      • § Their process of distributing funds – no consideration for a guy planting in a more expensive urban area as compared to one planting in a less expensive rural setting.  The same amount across the board doesn’t help those in urban contexts.
      • § Their undeveloped plan for funding a team.  Teams are encouraged, but not supported in terms of financial commitments.
      • § Lack of intentional networking and coaching with other church planters.
      • § Lack of quality training and support beyond finances.

Comments 0

  1. I have a question regarding NAMB funding of church planting in the USA. It is true that the NAMB funding for church planting is for a limited time — such as five years? If so, is this realistic any more given that many of the congregations that need to be planted are in demographic areas — such as urban areas — in the USA where is it not likely that the churches will become self supporting.

    You mention several universities in your area. The problem with this type of population is that not only do students tend to have low income (maybe negative income since they are going into debt with college loans) but also they will be gone in a few years.

    Many urban areas in the USA have significant population centers where English is not the “native” language. What are the pros and cons of establishing a multicultural (and multi-language work) compared to focusing on one target population? I think most of the action is going to have to be centered on Latino and Asian church plants in large cities in the USA because demographically that is where the action is.

  2. Yes, NAMB funding (via Nehemiah project) lasts for two years. Again, I would answer this question from a grateful heart that seeks reform. We are grateful for NAMB and their support. However, I would agree, it doesn’t make sense that:

    1) there is no consideration for more expensive contexts (downtown/urban etc) and;
    2) over the last few years NAMB has poured a disproportionate (too much) money into “flagship” church plants

    Studies suggest that those planting in downtown/urban settings should plan to raise funds for approximately five years. Therefore, a two year commitment from NAMB is certainly more than we deserve and is evidence of God’s grace. But, a two year commitment is not sufficient – especially if it is a two year commitment to fund a single planter (since NAMB doesn’t fund teams).

    We’ve identified no less than seven cultural hubs within a three-mile radius of our neighborhood. Within this radius we see two major business districts, a major university, urban poor, two night life districts, a large residential area, and an Air Force base. That said, the cultural, ethnic, socio-economic, and generational diversity within three miles of our homes (not a large area when talking about a target area for planting) is wildly diverse. This is the community we find ourselves in, and by God’s grace our congregation will mirror the community in which we find ourselves. People ask us, “Who is your target group?” We answer, “Who is the gospel for?” To target only the college student, or only the urban poor is to say something about the gospel that we are not comfortable saying.

    Thanks for your input. I think these are questions that need to be asked. If you would like to discuss further feel free to contact us at

  3. Hey guys,

    I think there are a couple of misconceptions about the NAMB funding process for planters. NAMB does provide funding for Nehemiah planters for two years with full NAMB insurance. Part of the funding for the Nehemiah planter also comes from the state convention. Most plants though are funded jointly through their state convention, local partners, and NAMB. In Illinois NAMB doesn’t fund planters directly and I would assume it is the same with other state conventions. Also the years that a planter is funded is determined by each state convention and not NAMB. We typically fund a guy for 3 years but sometimes that gets stretched into years 4 and 5.


  4. Post


    The guy above who I am assuming you are directing your thoughts about having misconceptions to is a church planter through NAMB and I believe they are being funded by the Nehemiah project. So I am assuming that his information is correct for his situation. But I could easily be wrong, just wanted to let you know that it is a guy who is in the system and not on the outside critiquing.


  5. Nathan,

    Thanks and I assumed that but wanted to let you guys know that even with the Nehemiah guys the state convention matches what NAMB sends. The state convention also can extend the funding for the planter if that is how their system is set up. Thanks for what you guys are doing and I enjoy the interviews and info on the site.


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