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City Church tells ‘What Really Matters’

By Barbara Denman

December 10, 2012

It was Sunday morning after one of the biggest home games in Florida State’s football season. While many in Seminole Country were nursing hangovers and celebratory party fatigue after the night game, several hundred college students and young adults arrived at City Church to hear Pastor Dean Inserra proclaim what really matters in life.

Danielle Gouletas has discovered what really matters. On that Sunday, the junior marketing student from Tampa was baptized in the church’s portable baptistery. Although she was raised in a church and considered herself a Christian, Gouletas said when she arrived on the FSU campus, she “was living my life the way I wanted,” enjoying her sorority, an “unhealthy” dating relationship and “the night life.”

“It is not all it’s cracked up to be,” she said of that former lifestyle.

Filled with anxiety, she sought spiritual solace in the Scripture and the devotional book “Jesus Calling.” The soul searching “completely changing my perspective.” She began searching for a church that “gave focus to my new life in Christ and in my personal relationship with Him” and found that in City Church, she said.

Inserra founded City Church, formerly known as The Well, in Tallahassee five years ago and has grown to a thousand in attendance in three services every Sunday. Each year the church baptizes nearly 100 new Christians.

The lead pastor is a Tallahassee native who played football and served as a student body president at Leon High School. From an early age, Inserra felt God calling him to start a church in his hometown that would connect with the needs of students and those who are “very skeptical of any type of organized religion,” he said.

“We believe the Gospel is as true today as it was 2,000 years ago. Culture changes, but we want to take God’s everlasting truth to a lost world.”

The church which began with 24 in attendance originally met at Godby High School, but now meets in a renovated warehouse on Capital Circle, east of downtown, behind a row of storefronts.

Eschewing many traditional church features, the facility with exposed piping and vents, painted black ceilings, dramatic lighting and multiple video screens throughout has an edgier feeling that appeals to the younger generation with a “come as you are” flavor.

While initially designed to reach students, City Church also draws young and middle-age adults evidenced by a growing children’s and youth ministry.

In his sermons, the 30-year-old pastor dressed in jeans heavily uses Scripture displayed on the video screens. He preaches with informality, confidence and brutal honesty. A contemporary Christian music format and upbeat worship services conclude with a question and answer time between the pastor and other ministers. One Sunday members were asked to text in questions. Inserra never seems to lack an answer.

What really matters, Inserra said, is the clarity of the gospel.

“Many people are raised in church but are not living for Christ” he said. “We are not ashamed to talk about sin. We are provoked but not offended by sin. Lost people act like lost people.”

What really matters, he added is discipleship and sharpening skills; and the message and missions.

The church majors on community groups to help members spiritually grow in the gospel and build relationships with others. Nearly 20 community groups meet throughout the week, reaching unique segments within the church—women, men, coeds and undergrads. Other groups are topical focused.

Noting the sphere of influence the church has drawing from two colleges, a State Capital city and existing in a significant state and nation, Inserra contends, “We have a global presence here and we believe we can reach the world from Tallahassee.”

The goal of City Church, he added, is to demonstrate a passion for the gospel and the 183,000 residents of city of Tallahassee. “We want to be fully immersed in the Tallahassee culture, and not a separate sub-culture.”

That includes getting members to embrace serving others, saying “saved people serve people.” Church members regularly minister at Godby High School where they tutor, work concessions during sporting events to enable parents to watch their children compete and contribute to backpack drives and Thanksgiving food drives. Others find places of service within the church, volunteering in roles that range from cleaning and carrying out trash, outreach, production and leading groups.

Inserra asserts that following Jesus must be part of a believer’s everyday walk in life whether it is inviting others to dinner or coaching a Little League team, with the ultimate goal of building relationships and winning souls.

“Our goal is to follow Jesus into the world. We want to put legs and feet to the gospel.”

And that is what really matters.

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