Reclaiming and Rebuilding Florida Street

Written by Kailynn Nelson

As many of you know, this coming Sunday will be our last service in our current building. And this Sunday, after church, we’ll be moving over to the old Florida Street Elementary school building. The Florida Street building will now be where we meet for our Sunday gatherings. I’m excited to see how God will continue to shape us as part of the body of Christ through this transition.
The Florida Street Elementary School building is a historical building in Clinton. Recently, however, it has been sitting deserted. But, we believe it has the potential to be reclaimed and used as a tool to proclaim the gospel in Clinton. Of course, the building is simply a tool God has given us. The building itself will simply serve as a tool we can use to point others to Jesus. Of course, that will happen on Sunday mornings in our church gatherings, but God has also given the elders at Heritage another vision for this building. Along with using it for our church services, one of our primary goals is to turn Florida Street into a community center.
In this post, I’d like to share with you a little bit about that vision and the hope for the Florida Street Community Center. Ultimately, we believe God will use this community center as a way for us to point people to Jesus, so they can find their hope in Him. The Florida Street building will be an opportunity for us to live the gospel out in Clinton and see God transform the lives of the people who live here.
Isaiah 58: The Gospel Intertwined
Isaiah 58 is one part of the Bible that is driving the Florida Street Community Center. Isaiah 58 paints a beautiful picture of what happens when the gospel intertwines with the fabric of a community and then produces fruit. As we live out the gospel because of the spiritual freedom we have received from the cross, the physical needs of a city are met. The beginning of Isaiah 58 actually presents us with what it looks like when people practice religion for their own glory, while the end shows us God’s purpose for His people. The people say “Why have we fasted, and You see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and You take no knowledge of it?” (Isaiah 58:3a). God answers, “Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure and oppress all your workers” (Isaiah 58:3b). The people fast but only for their own glory. And through their fasting they oppress other people. Their self-centered religion does not care about the needs of those around them. In verses 6-12, God describes what true fasting looks like and what it truly looks like to be His people. He says, “Is this not the fast I that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” (58:6). God tells His people to “pour themselves out for the hungry.” He says that He will guide His people as they pour themselves out in their communities, as they shine His light in the darkness of the world. Verse 12 says this: “And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundation of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in” (ESV). The NLT Bible translates verse 12 like this: “Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.”
Rebuilding and Restoring
Rebuilding and restoring is what the gospel is about, it’s what being a Christian is about. The gospel is not something meant to be lived on Sunday mornings only. Christians are not meant to shut ourselves up in our churches once a week without ever stepping into the community around us. Yes, the gathering of believers is absolutely important. But if all we do is gather and never bring others to Jesus and never take Him to others, our gatherings are pointless. Our gatherings should serve to fuel us as we go out into the rest of the world. As crazy as it is, God’s plan to redeem the world is by working through the people He saves. He wants to work in and through His people in the communities they live and work in. He wants to rebuild people and cities by using other people.
Florida Street: Making the Gospel Tangible
We believe that the Florida Street building is one way we can bring the gospel into our community here in Clinton. We believe God has gifted us with this building for the purpose of reaching the people in our community with the gospel in practical ways. The hope and mission of the Florida Street Community Center is to make the gospel tangible through building relationships, providing opportunities for community members to develop life skills needed to break the cycle of poverty, and bringing our community together through the arts and recreational activities.
Throughout history the arts have been the lifeblood of all communities and societies. There are numerous studies that show exposure to the arts not only improves personal development but improves also the entire fabric of a community. We hope to use the Florida Street building to give people an opportunity to be exposed to the arts. This includes having after school programs, art galleries, concerts, as well as summer camps and day camps to give the children in our communities the opportunity to be creative. Through these events and other recreational activities, the Florida Street Community Center will give people in our community the opportunity to come together, to gather together and engage each other. As we gather, relationships will be built, and our city will be stronger.
The Florida Street Community Center will also provide opportunities for community members to build life skills and break the cycle of poverty. This includes mentoring students in our community, hosting speakers and classes to provide an education on topics such as money management, time management, parenting, etc. This is part of what God calls us to as Christians. We are called to pour ourselves out for the hungry, for those in poverty. But many times, when we try to help we end up enabling or making the problem worse. We provide short term solutions, but the cycle of poverty continues. Through the classes and programs, we will provide at the Florida Street Community Center, we will help people in our community break the chains of poverty in a way that will help them be successful in the long term. And as we mentor students and help people in Clinton, we will also be building those relationships. We will show them that we care about them, as whole people, and demonstrate how much Jesus cares for them as well.
The church is more than just a building. But God can certainly give us buildings that we can use to serve Him. The Florida Street building will be more than just a place for us to meet once a week. God has a bigger plan for Florida Street, Heritage, and Clinton than that. Our whole point as a church and the whole point of this Florida Street building is to bring God glory by sharing the gospel with the people in our city. All of the practical things we do with this building will ultimately serve as a way to point people back to God. He is ultimately the light the people of Clinton and of the whole world need. I am excited to see how much God is going to here.

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