City Church Tallahassee
By Ryan Nugent
The Baptist denomination of Christianity has long been an established branch with a heavy rate of exposure in the Southern United States. Baptist churches have evolved quite a bit since their creation in 1609 by John Smyth. In Tallahassee, Baptist churches have a sizeable foothold in the church scene of the town. City Church Tallahassee has established itself as heavy weight in the over-churched community of the capital. The founding pastor and backbone of the church, Dean Inserra, started his personal ministry as a bible study out of his parent’s garage which would turn out to be the seed which would eventually blossom into the organization that is City Church today.
Pastor Inserra described Tallahassee as an “over-churched and under-reached” community. This was a main driver behind the establishment of a church that would aggressively reach out to those whom are far from God. One of the church’s main core values is “In Community, not alone”. This represents their desire to foster a community, rather than just a church to be attended for an hour every Sunday. Another one of these values is “Saved people serve people”. A value such as this fosters the idea that the use of a religious community is to better not only those within the church but also outside of the church. Pastor Inserra describes their core values as a differentiator that separates them from other churches.
Eventually, the congregation outgrew their small garage and the group had to brainstorm on where to hold services. They landed on the idea of using Godby High School as a meeting place for sermon and praise. By the end of 2007, the church had grown exponentially and was soon going to need to consider moving locations again to accommodate their growing congregation. In a seemingly “worlds colliding” moment, the church moved their services to The Moon, a nightclub. This unorthodox move was seen as a temporary solution as they sought their first single-use space to effectively nurture their explosive growth while still catering towards their core values and beliefs.
The move to a single-use domicile would come when the church purchased a warehouse space in 2010. As their congregation grew into the hundreds, the church made the move to change their official name from “The Well” to “City Church”. Pastor Inserra stated that their main core principle is “for the gospel, for the city” which has an obvious connection to this name change. Inserra also expressed his admiration for the usefulness of denominations as they have allowed City Church to partner with numerous churches around the country and world. City Church’s next big move was to hold an Easter Service at the Tallahassee Civic Center, opening their doors to the massive student population at Florida State University. The first of these services was in 2012 and they have continued the tradition ever since. In 2014, over 5,000 people attended their Easter Service at the Civic Center. In 2013, City Church moved locations once again, this time to the Tallahassee Mall where they had remodeled a space for themselves. This time was the highest point of growth for the Church. In a short span of 4 years, City Church had grown from a little over 100 members of their congregation to over 2,000 on a given Sunday.
The introduction of City Church to Florida State students would lead to an influx of students to the congregation. The church had a staff member exactly lined up for this. Zach Allen is City Church’s College and Connections Pastor. The addition of this staff member adds another fold to the dynamics of the church. By being able to embrace the large student population in Tallahassee, City Church, City Church opened their doors to an influx of congregation members and a changing dynamic throughout their membership.
As this growth continued, another need for a new campus emerged. A Tallahassee local whom attended Leon High School, Pastor Inserra reached out to his alma mater to see if the church could use their auditorium while they worked out the renovations needed for their eventual home. During this time, City Church re-evaluated logistics and decided to merge congregations with Forest Heights Baptist Church. The staff of the church has a vision and goal of achieving a congregation of 10,000 which will prove to be a remarkable feat if accomplished. This step in the timeline of City Church will take them one step closer towards realizing this goal. At the time of this merger, City Church was still operating out of Leon High School and was seeking a permanent home for the future of the church. They found what they were looking for when they were presented with an opportunity to build a campus that could incorporate all facets of the church. The need for a campus such as this proved to be a necessity for their vision of the church community.
This vision would reach a pinnacle when City Church completed their final campus on Tharpe Street. The introduction of a completely independent campus for the Church to settle in to was a new dynamic for both staff and congregation. At this campus, City Church has the ability to nurture each part of their ministry in their own creative space. This allows the church to segment their different activities without having to worry about overrun or multi used spaces causing friction and preventing growth. The journey of City Church from its creation to the formidable organization that is has become today is a dynamic and impressive one. From a congregation of less than 20 in a garage to a set goal of having 10,000 members in their outreach is a complete transformation that Inserra nor any of the early staff could have possibly imagined. Overall, the timeline of this institution lends itself to the enormous impact that world religions can have on the communities in which they operate. The single characteristic that influenced the growth and success of City Church is in fact the religion in which it revolves.