The Story So Far

The story of Covenant Life Church is genuinely a story that says more about God than it does about anyone else. In 2005, Justin Perry & Drew Tucker met through the small group ministry of North Wake Church in Wake Forest, NC. Both moved to the Wake Forest area to study at the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, hoping to be equipped to plant and shepherd a local church. As their two families grew together in ministry in Wake Forest, Justin and Drew entered the pastoral internship and church planting residency programs under the leadership of the North Wake Church elders. Through prayerful reliance on the Spirit and the counsel of church leaders and friends, they decided to partner together in the pursuit of planting Covenant Life Church.

Why Tampa?

We asked God to give our hearts a desire for a city with the following characteristics:

Growing In Population

Justin and Drew moved to Tampa, hoping that they would serve Tampa for the rest of their lives. With that in mind, they desired to start a church in Tampa – a city on the cusp of rapid population growth. Tampa had all the marks of being one of the nation’s most influential cities in the years to come. So, it needed healthy local churches to ensure a gospel-proclaiming presence within it.

Lacking an Urban Church Planting Movement

Little-to-no church planting work was underway in urban Tampa. Therefore, they saw an opportunity to, by God’s grace, be on the front end of a church planting movement in and around downtown Tampa – all for God’s glory.

Diverse

Tampa is rich with diversity – ethnically, socio-economically, and generationally. They desired that Covenant Life would accurately reflect the diversity in the city. Tampa inhales the world; Justin and Drew believed it had the potential to exhale the gospel.

Home To University Students

The university acts as a missionary sending agency for students who love the gospel and local church. They desired to disciple students and to send them on mission as young professionals across the world.

God’s Call to Go to Tampa

Not only did this profile capture the desire of Justin’s and Drew’s heart, but it also characterizes Tampa! In May of 2009, the Perry and Tucker families relocated from North Carolina to Tampa to plant Covenant Life Church (CLC). During the first few months, they began the lifelong process of getting to know the culture and people of Tampa. God allowed them to meet a vast array of people – people who had prayed for years for a church like CLC; people who would prove to be persons of peace for CLC in the city; people who would hear the gospel for the first time, and everyone in between. It was evident that He was working here, and by God’s grace, they were privileged to join Him in His mission in Tampa.

In September of 2009, the initial core group of families began worshiping together with other families on Sunday evenings. Initially, the church studied the book of Ephesians and was taught the mission and values of CLC. These gatherings were not a “public launch,” per se. Rather, they served as the venue for a core group to learn and build unity until they were ready for the next phase of seeing Jesus plant and build His church.

During this time, they also began gathering weekly in small groups. They sought to apply God’s word to their lives through study, accountability, and mission. Over the next few months, the core group of seven turned into a group of people who were outgrowing the living room.

The FBC Culbreath Chapel and Gym Years

In March of 2010, God answered the prayers of many by providing a regular gathering space. The saints of First Baptist Church (FBC) Tampa agreed to give our people access to the Culbreath Chapel. On April 18, 2010, CLC covenanted together as a church with thirteen members. In our five years at FBC, the grace of God continued to be evident as Jesus built His church through CLC faithfully. We also experienced growth in our understanding of and love for God and His word. The results of such change helped create the culture of growing deeper in understanding God’s word and obedience to His mission.

Joining God’s Mission in the Palma Ceia Area

At the beginning of 2015, it was clear that CLC was outgrowing the space at FBC, and that God was growing FBC, too. Considering this, the church underwent a six-month search for a more permanent location. After much prayer and searching, the Lord provided a wonderful relationship with Palma Ceia Baptist Church (PCBC), located in South Tampa. In June 2015, CLC began renting space from PCBC, which strengthened the relationship between the two churches. On March 20, 2016, both churches joined together during CLC’s Sunday gathering for the first time. Through months of prayer and wonderful fellowship, the two churches agreed to merge into one unified local church under the name of Covenant Life Church. Through the faithfulness of PCBC its leadership, the Lord provided CLC with both a larger family and a permanent home. Throughout 2016, this integration process proved to be one of the more prominent examples of God’s grace and kindness to both churches.

The First Plant

One of the values of CLC is to be a church that “displays God’s glory through church planting and church reformation.” Since our beginnings, our central purpose has been to work toward this end, knowing that the gospel spreads when sent. That conviction led us to plant our first church in September of 2016, sending out twenty-three members. This new church, named “The Heights Church,” was sent into the Tampa Heights area under the leadership of Drew Tucker, Brandon Whedbee, and Doug Hess. God continues to give CLC a passion for further church planting as we explore other regions, states, and countries in need of gospel-centered renewal.

A Permanent Home

Near the end of 2016, CLC reached one last milestone. The final transferal of property from PCBC to CLC was complete on December 30, and we were able to enjoy the fruit of the Lord’s work. God had brought together two unlikely fellowships into one glorious union, and we greatly rejoiced! The saints of CLC and PCBC covenanted together officially for the first time as Covenant Life Church on January 8, 2017.

Although brief, our story has been rich with God’s grace. We are confident that more incredible things are to come for Tampa. We are humbled that God would work through us in our city. We invite you to pray with and for us, and join us as we join God on His mission to redeem a people through the gospel of His son, Jesus Christ.