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Saturday, May 26, 2018
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New Westchase church brings religion to ‘unchurched’

WESTCHASE — There’s nothing overtly spiritual about a school cafeteria and auditorium.

But since September, Core Church Tampa has managed to transform a stage, cafeteria chairs and tables into a sanctuary of preaching, prayer, worship, friendship and most of all — faith in the power of God.

Core Church is a non-denominational church that recently formed in Westchase.

It is affiliated with Wave Church of Virginia Beach, Va., and was founded by Pastor Greg Phelps, 53, who was a staff member at Wave Church in Virginia Beach, Va. In early 2012, Phelps was send by Wave to form a church in Tampa. Along with wife Lesa, 50, and their three children, they settled in north Tampa and began sowing the seeds of service.

About 200 people attended Core Church’s first service in the Westchase Elementary School cafeteria, 9517 W. Linebaugh Ave. on Sept. 22. About 50 attended the second service on Sunday.

Before the 10:30 a.m. service, Greg Phelps stood in the school’s cafeteria entrance, meeting and greeting new faces he hopes will become the foundation for a long-term spiritual commitment to the area. Along with his wife, who is a senior pastor, Phelps made an effort to greet everyone that came into the building. He said it’s been a grassroots, pavement-pounding effort getting folks interested in coming to see what the new church has to offer.

“It’s been one step at a time. We started here from scratch. We want to make a difference in the community by helping people grow in their relationships with Christ,” he said during the church’s pre-service coffee hour. “We focus on people who are ‘unchurched.’ It’s all geared to say ‘You’re welcome here and we want you to be a part.’”

The first objective, Phelps said, was to help attract folks who may have been “turned off” to church through bad experiences. One of the ways to do that was to focus on adding young people and making the church more hip through contemporary free-form sermons, youth groups, outings and music. Each service is accompanied by a four-piece, contemporary Christian band with a screen overhead, projecting lyrics.

The church will also offer a selection of weekly, life-based group classes .

Some of the classes are led by Phelps, who holds a bachelor’s degree in theology from Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Okla., and a master’s degree in divinity from Regent University, Virginia Beach, Va.

Med and Cherry Santos of Town N’ Country were drawn to the church when they saw flags lining Linebaugh Avenue.

“It all looked so contemporary and looked inviting so we’re here,” he said. “It seems like a youthful place; it’s a way to fight aging, you associate with the young.”

For information, email [email protected], call (813) 767-7198 or see www.corechurchtampa.com.

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