By Nicole Kalil/Florida Baptist Witness
TALLAHASSEE, FL (BP) — There was something the landlord didn’t disclose before D3 Church launched in a newly rented space on Jan. 10.
A fellow pastor “mentioned in passing that it was really cool that God was putting a church in what used to be an adult video store,” lead pastor John Thomas said.
“I didn’t have any idea of the history.”
Thomas learned of the previous tenant at a meeting of the Tallahassee-area Florida Baptist Association when he was sharing his excitement with a fellow pastor about D3 Church’s growth during its six-month start-up time and the new worship space.
Thomas did some checking and learned that the video store had been a longtime tenant in the small strip shopping center. What had started out as a normal video store slowly devolved into something seedier. Eventually, the store not only offered adult videos, but private viewing booths as well.
Unaware of any of the background, Thomas and D3’s core group had visited the location and claimed it for the Kingdom, covering it in prayer and writing verses of Scripture and statements of faith on the floor.
Thomas said the video store had been vacant for a little while before they rented it. The space had been gutted, so there was no way that they would have known its disreputable history.
But Thomas said it wouldn’t have mattered if the landlord had told them about the video store because “we wouldn’t have changed our minds anyway.”
“We’ve been blown away by the reaction,” the church planter said. “Everyone sees it from a redemption viewpoint – churched and unchurched alike.”
Sean McMahon, executive director of the Florida Baptist Association, said when other believers hear the story, most respond in upbeat fashion.
“What more awesome statement can be made than to take a place that was the home of decadence and debauchery and turn it into a place where the Gospel is preached,” McMahon said.
If D3’s launch service was any indication – with 70 people in attendance – the plant shows “great potential,” McMahon said.
Thomas said he loves the fact that God was “doing a work and we didn’t really know about it,” but he believes it was part of God’s plan. “God will redeem people and, as He does, He will redeem the culture.”
Thomas said he’s been presented with many opportunities.
He told the story of one of D3’s ministry leaders meeting a pastor of a nondenominational church that had recently lost its meeting space. Thomas and the D3 team invited the mostly African American congregation to utilize the facility when D3 isn’t using it. Thomas said the pastor has been impressed by D3’s generosity, a bit perplexed why it would help another church in this way. Thomas is using the opportunity to spend time with the pastor and “pour into him” about D3’s journey and vision.
Pouring into others is part of D3 Church’s DNA. The three D’s stand for disciples making disciples who make disciples.
It looks like D3 will not be the only bright spot in the little strip mall. In what used to be an Internet café known for gambling activity, another church has begun to meet.
“It’s another indication of God’s intention to redeem this city through the churches that preach the Gospel here,” Thomas said.
Despite D3’s unique story, McMahon hopes its time in the renovated video store will be short-lived.
“Personally, I hope they’re not there long,” he said. “I hope they outgrow it.”
The Florida Baptist Witness is the newsjournal of the Florida Baptist State Convention.