By Amanda Boston
Tattooed with the word mercy on one wrist and grace on the other, 36-year-old Ryan Tirona is not the typical prototype for a preacher—let alone the FishHawk community. In March 2015, the six-foot-six Los Angeles native, along with his wife and three children, relocated to Florida to become the senior pastor at The Chapel At FishHawk, formerly known as Sunset Bay Chapel.
Tirona believes God placed him in the heart of FishHawk suburbia to build a bridge uniting the established church with the missional community church. Pastor Tirona explained that the Christian life is “all about living for Jesus in everyday life” and is not limited to church gatherings on Sundays. “Jesus told us to go and make disciples and that starts by being a missionary in your neighborhood,” said Tirona.
As evidenced by the surge of new families, it is fair to surmise that the congregation has embraced the more missional mindset. The increase in attendance recently precipitated a need for additional classroom space. Without hesitation, Tirona surrendered his office. While others may find this arrangement as inconvenient, it works out rather favorably for this pastor’s unusual approach to sermon writing and praying.
“I write my sermons in coffee shops and bars because those are people I am trying reach,” explained Tirona. “I like to pray in cemeteries. As I look around at the different headstones, I’ll realize that a person died at 26 years old. It helps me put into perspective the brevity of life—it is but a vapor.”
Like Pastor Tirona, The Chapel At FishHawk does not conform to the norm as its Sunday gatherings attract a wide variety of attendees hailing from diverse backgrounds. Nevertheless, at least one commonality is ever-present—those attending the services at the chapel are all about Jesus.
Sunday service is at 10 a.m. at 6026 Churchside Dr. in Lithia. This summer The Chapel will conduct a daily children’s Vacation Bible School from Monday, June 12 to Friday, June 16 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. To learn more about The Chapel At FishHawk and other upcoming events, please visit www.thechapelfh.org. Also, you can follow Pastor Tirona on Twitter @ryantirona.