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Verve church preaches nontraditional appeal

A crowd of churchgoers sporting their Sunday best — jeans, football jerseys, leather jackets and hats — slowly file into Verve, 7850 S. Dean Martin Drive, Suite 503, and take a seat as the church’s rock band performs “Come a Little Closer” by Cage the Elephant.

Verve is a church for people who don’t like going to church, according to lead pastor Vince Antonucci.

“If you took church, ‘Saturday Night Live,’ ‘the Jimmy Fallon Show’ and MTV and put it in a blender, we would come out,” Antonucci said. “It’s kind of church, but there’s a lot of other stuff mixed in there.”

A typical Verve service starts off with its rock band performing high-energy worship songs followed by improvised comedy skits relatable to the theme of the service. The last half-hour of the service is spent analyzing a passage from the Bible and relating it to everyday life.

Antonucci said the Christian church strives to reach people who are not the type to go to church.

“We have atheists, girls from strip clubs, gang members, drug dealers, pimps,” he said. “They just hear these radical stories of people finding new and better life, and that’s kind of the appeal.”

Verve has changed the opinions of many, including a self-proclaimed atheist who attempted to “kill the church,” according to Antonucci.

“He showed up to one of our first services with the intention of just letting loose a torrent of profanity and making it a miserable experience so that no one would want to come back,” Antonucci said. “He was just so surprised and engaged by the people and the service that he forgot his plan.

“He confessed months later about his original plan, but he kept coming back, and his life has totally changed.”

Antonucci started Verve in March 2009 with six people in his living room. In about five years, the church has grown to about 300 people.

“I didn’t grow up in church at all,” Antonucci said. “When I did start going to church, it was so foreign to me, and that led me to a place where I wanted to do a church for people like me who had never gone or had decided they would never go back.”

Antonucci founded a church in Virginia Beach, Va. before moving to Las Vegas to start Verve.

“The statistic I’ve read is that between 5 and 9 percent of people in Las Vegas go to church, which means there’s about 1.8 million people who don’t,” Antonucci said. “If you’re going to start a church, what better place than Las Vegas, I think? I mean, does Alabama really need another church?”

Jim Greco, 50, started attending Verve about three years ago when his wife wanted to get back into her faith. Greco said he wasn’t part of any religion at the time.

“I was raised Roman Catholic, but I decided at about 8 that if there was a god, he didn’t want anything to with a guy like me,” Greco said. “Verve changed my opinion drastically, and I was baptized two years ago.

“A lot of times (my wife and I) would walk into churches, and people would give us a look like, ‘You don’t belong here,’ ” Greco said. “But at Verve, no matter how you dress, how you look, how many piercings or spikes you have, no matter what, you’re accepted.”

Antonucci said he would rather have the church be known for what it’s for than what it’s against.

“I think there are a lot of people who are open to God and open to spirituality,” Antonucci said, “but they feel church is too negative, too holier-than-thou, too boring and irrelevant.

“What we’ve said is, ‘Hey, we understand that, but we’re a church for people who don’t like church. If you don’t like church the way it’s typically done, we may be a really good fit for you.’ ”

Verve’s services are scheduled at 10:05 a.m. and 11:35 a.m. Sundays and 7:05 p.m. Mondays. Additional classes and online services are also available.

For more information, visit vivalaverve.org or call 702-425-3948.

Contact Southwest/Spring Valley View reporter Caitlyn Belcher at cbelcher@viewnews.com or 702-383-0403.

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