The historic First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., plans to downsize its sprawling 10-block campus to just one beautifully designed block to cut expenses and more effectively serve the city in the name of Jesus Christ.
On Sunday (Sept. 8), the congregation approved a plan to borrow $30 million to finance the project that is expected to take between 18 and 24 months to complete. The project will center on restoring Hobson Auditorium as the church’s main worship facility.
“This block, located on Church Street across from City Hall, will become a beautiful facility, that we will use to welcome our city to worship, and out of which we will serve our city in the name of Jesus Christ,” senior pastor Heath Lambert said in a statement. “This will include the renovation of our oldest sanctuary and one of the oldest buildings in downtown Jacksonville — the historic Hobson Auditorium.”
Also approved was the sale of the remaining property downtown which covers six full blocks and portions of three other blocks. Asking price for the property and timeline for the sale haven’t yet been determined. Money from the sale will ultimately be used to pay off the loan financing the project.
Spiraling maintenance costs and years of decline in attendance prompted Lambert to urge the church to take action, according to The Florida Times-Union.
“When I became senior pastor of First Baptist I expressed a dual desire to stop our church’s years-long decline in membership, and to be a better neighbor to our city,” Lambert said in his statement. “The initiatives I announced and our church approved on Sunday, September 8 helps to accomplish both of these desires.”
Nearly 37 percent of the church’s budget is reportedly required to maintain the aging buildings and its infrastructure and still, that is not enough to take care of everything ailing the property, Lambert noted.
With current attendance numbers — between 3,000-3,500 on Sunday — the church only needs 182,000-square feet of space for Sunday morning activities and Hobson Auditorium is reportedly the only block that meets that requirement.
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Source: Baptist Press