NAPLES — The past is irrelevant at Livewire, a progressive new church in Naples. It’s where you’re going that matters here. And at its grand opening on Sunday, the good word was broadcast loud and clear by pastors, singers and dancers in a theatrical setting.
Sunday’s service was the first public introduction to the community at large. Several parishioners went home with gift cards in celebration of the grand opening. Each guest received a ticket that provided an opportunity to win one of several gift cards from places like Home Depot, Sweetbay Supermarket and Visa.
The gift cards were tied directly to a sermon passionately delivered by Pastor Josh Perez with the assistance of his wife, church co-founder Kristine Perez. The two drew a comparison between gift cards and salvation, pointing out that a gift card must be activated in order to work.
It’s just this type of unconventional communication that has Livewire attracting people of all races, ages and faith denominations to its doors.
“Josh and I were on staff at a church in Naples which we dearly loved, but sometimes God speaks to you in a way you can’t deny,” said Kristine Perez. “He spoke to our hearts that we needed to start a church that would be relevant to the culture we live in.”
At Livewire, background, race, age, and even religious beliefs is of no consequence. And neither Perez prefers preaching. Rather, they extend an invitation at each service for people to simply join them on a journey towards Jesus Christ, something to which attendees — including a large number of teenagers — were unabashedly responsive to throughout the service.
“We focus on the Bible, but we want to make God more accessible to people of all cultures, especially in a way that young people can relate to,” said Kristine Perez. “The scripture says, ‘I am the wine, and you are the branches.’ We have to plug into that vine which is Jesus, but we want to stay relevant with the times. Through Livewire, we’re plugging into the heart of God.”
Livewire is located in the Lakeview Elementary School and the service begins at 10:12 a.m. each Sunday. The pastors say the unconventional commencement time piques people’s curiosity and opens the door for conversation.
In addition to the sermon, Livewire’s service included dance productions, vocal performances, original video and clips from popular films that illustrated key points related to salvation. A hip-hop dance troupe dressed alike in camouflage pants and black T-shirts performed a choreographed dance.
Though their goals including being able to relate to young people, Josh Perez is quick to point out that Livewire is not against or trying to compete with traditional church services.
“People have different personalities and so do churches — this is just how God has called us to do it and just another way to do church,” he said. “We’re all going through stuff in life and are real people in real situations, so we include technology that young people are familiar with and which are also relevant to our culture like Twitter, Facebook and even texting.”
During a sermon, Josh Perez has been known to pose questions to parishioners and allow them to text him their answers which he relays to the crowd during the service.
Christine Tirado, her son and daughter attended the service as a family after hearing about the church on the radio.
“I’m Catholic, but I was looking for something different,” said Tirado.
“This church looked like something for a new generation which is why I wanted to come,” said Tirado’s 13-year-old son Brandon.
Livewire is casual and people are free to get up and grab more coffee and doughnuts throughout the service. People can wear jeans and T-shirts, and even shorts are permissible. Livewire also provides child care services.
The church can boast a fun atmosphere, but that doesn’t diminish the weight of Livewire’s message. The church staff members are staunch Christians who were quick to point out their belief in Jesus Christ, the offer of salvation and purpose on this earth.
“We are all broken people, but God is putting us back together,” said Josh Perez. “Church, Christianity, the Bible, and Jesus Christ are as relevant to our lives today as ever before. We just happen to use pictures, videos and things today’s culture is familiar with to communicate the message.”
For more information on Livewire, click to WiredAlive.com.