Last year I discovered Relevant Church in Tampa.  Led by a great group of loving, genuine and unpretentious folks, the church meets in the Italian Club in Ybor City.  It is a very casual atmosphere, with really great music and visuals.  Although they seem to be more oriented to the 20-something crowd, even a decidedly unhip middle-ager like me felt very welcome there.

One of things about Relevant that greatly impresses me is their outreach to the local community.  When the church started up a few years ago, they went out into the surrounding neighborhood and did yardwork and handyman tasks, for free, for the community.  A lot of poor and disadvantaged people live in that area, and it was great way to say hello to them.  One of the neighbors who received their help was an old black woman who hadn’t been to church for many years.  Now she is on the front row at Relevant every Sunday.

Recently Relevant launched one of the coolest things I’ve ever known a church to do.  They have partnered with Booker T. Washington Elementary, the local public elementary school, to mentor and tutor the poor and underprivileged children there.

At first there was some resistance from some of the administrators, who feared they might be planning to evangelize the kids.  But now they’re embraced.  This is a school that the county prefers to forget, and many of the children there have zero support from home.  The people of Relevant are giving up their time to work one on one with these kids and it has made a big impact already.

In fact, three of the teachers and an assistant principal are now attending Relevant as a result.

A friend of mine attends Relevant regularly, and he is one of the B.T. Washington volunteers.  He is mentoring a dirt poor boy, whose single mom has made it clear to the boy that she couldn’t care less what he does or where he goes.  My friend told me that he used some coins from his pocket to illustrate a math problem, and when he was finished he gave them to the boy.  It was about 60 cents.  The boy was very excited, as he’d never had that much money before.  Later the boy’s teacher told my friend that the boy contributed all the money to a collection the class was taking for a luekemia victim.  The little boy lives in the projects on the edge of downtown.  He can see the tall buildings  (Tampa’s version of skyscrapers) but they are a world away from his life.   My friend said the little boy lit up with joy when he said he’d take him up to his office on the 38th floor.  This little boy, and many other kids in that school, are having the life-changing experience of being helped and loved by total strangers, who genuinely care about them.

Over 50 Relevant church members are serving these kids, who otherwise would have no adult mentoring at all.   That is doing what the church is supposed to do.  They are making a difference in lives of neglected children and they are walking examples of God’s love.

As Francis of Assisi is reported to have said, “Spread the gospel.  Use words if necessary.”

If you can’t make it down to Ybor City on Sunday mornings, Relevant streams live on the net:

Love Wins