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Fla. Megachurch Turns to Horse Barn, Target, and Dillard's Stores for Worship Space

Fla. Megachurch Turns to Horse Barn, Target, and Dillard's Stores for Worship Space

A Florida megachurch, whose teaching pastor is John C. Maxwell, is struggling to strike a deal to open a new satellite church in a shopping mall due to a city economic plan.

Christ Fellowship, a Palm Beach Garden-based ministry, is attempting to purchase a closed Dillard’s store that is part of Boynton Beach Mall in nearby Boynton Beach City. But Bill Orlove, Vice Mayor for the City of Boynton Beach, told The Christian Post that Christ Fellowship’s effort to purchase the former store ran afoul of a moratorium implemented by the City Commission.

“We as a city decided early on in the summer” to develop “an economic plan,” said Orlove, who added that the city passed a 180-day moratorium on building development and land use until the plan could be finalized.

According to Orlove, the moratorium that put a halt to development was implemented in December “as the church and Dillard’s were discussing their agreement.”

Orlove explained that all parties reached a compromise in which city staff would look into the economic impact of a church being added to the mall.

“By February, early February is when we will make a decision,” said Orlove.

As part of the research, Orlove said he intends to visit the facilities of Christ Fellowship as well as talk with businesses at the mall to see what they think about a church setting up alongside them.

The church has told the city that in return for being allowed to use the store space at the mall, “they would pay what we would lose in property taxes,” which would be “the equivalent of a for-profit.”

“This is a very interesting way at looking at putting a church in a mall,” said Orlove.

According to its website, Christ Fellowship was founded in 1984 and sees it mission as “to impact the world with the love and message of Jesus Christ...everyone, everyday, everywhere.”

Before considering a closed down store as a sanctuary, Christ Fellowship’s first nondomestic worship space was a horse barn. As they grew, they acquired other buildings including a Target store, converting it into a worship space.

Barbara Alterman, executive director for Planning, Zoning and Building in Palm Beach County, said that smaller congregations in the area have been seeking space created by closed stores.

“Similar to many other parts of the country, we do see a lot of businesses going out of business and a lot of vacant stores,” said Alterman. “We have seen a few new or relocated churches moving into vacant bays in shopping centers or attempting to convert some single family residential structures into churches.”


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