I am the lead/planting pastor at Church at the Bay in Tampa, FL. I am married to Sandy and we have 2 married children (Hal 4 to Chrissy and Ashley to Sam Updike). Church at the Bay launched in September 2005 and it has been an incredible ride—highs and lows—as we’ve chased God. I believe there are two passions that best define me: evangelism and leadership.
Evangelism- I first trusted Christ when I was 16 and attending a small Bible study in a friend’s home (the Ellis’). I was immediately encouraged and challenged to share my new faith. We had a group, nicknamed Charlie’s Raiders, from that study that would go to Underground Atlanta and share our faith every Saturday night. It was in that environment that God began to grow my passion for evangelism. During my college years, I was a summer missionary on St Pete Beach, FL. We would spend 8 hours a day sharing our faith on the beach! That was a great leaning time for me.
At Church at the Bay, we try to make these phrases live: “We want to kick a dent in Hell in Tampa” and “We want to make Tampa a hard place to get to Hell from”. This verse has marked my life-
Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” Mark 1:17
Leadership- I have always been inspired by people who are effective leaders, especially in the church. It seems to me that churches often lose their health and effectiveness, not because they stop preaching the Gospel, but, because they develop systems that hamstring their ability to reach and grow people. Too often, all of the leadership is vested in the paid staff. I firmly believe that God’s call for me (and all of our pastors) is to equip the people of Church at the Bay to DO the ministry. A verse that underscores this principle is:
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Ephesians 4:11-13
I am so blessed because I get to do a job (and get paid for it) that I love. Church at the Bay is forming into the community we dreamed about when we launched. I also have the opportunity to coach church planters. Hanging out with men and women who are passionately pursuing God and His purpose has multiplied my desire for God and the local church.