By Chris Moon
Antioch Christian Church in Marion, Iowa, is taking steps to launch its third campus by purchasing a struggling YMCA facility on the west side of Cedar Rapids. Renovations to the pool area of the building will convert it into a sanctuary that can seat 300 people. The facility is expected to open by Easter 2022.
“We feel very committed to this because we feel this is very much God opening doors,” pastor Greg Johnson told Christian Standard.
The 25,000-square-foot Stoney Point YMCA facility comes with 17.5 acres, which includes a large parking lot.
Johnson said the building is under contract for $1.9 million, and renovations are expected to cost from $1.2 to $1.5 million. The church plans to finance the project with the hope of having all debt paid off within two years, Johnson said.
For Antioch Christian Church, the new campus on the opposite side of Cedar Rapids will pair nicely with the church’s Marion campus, which is on the far east side of the metro. Already, 66 families in the church live in the vicinity of the new campus, Johnson said.
“Our reach goes all the way across the city anyway,” he said. “What we don’t have is a presence there. This is just a perfect location.”
Antioch also has a campus in Oelwein, Iowa, about 55 miles north of Cedar Rapids.
‘KICKING US ON THROUGH’
The new campus comes as Antioch Christian Church emerges from a sad chapter in its history. Its longtime pastor, John Seitz, passed away in June 2019.
Johnson was a close friend of Seitz and was called upon to preach the funeral. He later was convinced to serve as the church’s interim pastor, starting in October 2019.
When Johnson left Generations, he had hoped to get back into international ministry. But God had other plans.
While Johnson was serving as interim pastor for Antioch Christian Church in the time leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, the congregation grew from 1,400 to 1,900 in a matter of months. People kept encouraging Johnson to remain with the church full time.
“That wasn’t our plan,” he said. However, “God just kept kind of opening doors and kicking us on through.”
Johnson started at the church full-time in May 2020.
The church now has about 1,000 people attending in person as it continues to reengage people as the pandemic wanes. About 1,300 people attend online, Johnson said.
“That’s getting us back,” he said.
And things keep progressing. The church has had a baptism nearly every week for the past year, Johnson said. Some of those have been people who have been attending online.
“It’s amazing that instead of dropping, it’s actually continued to grow,” Johnson said. “God is working in spite of COVID. I don’t know how to describe it in any other way. He’s blessing us in a big way.”
POTENTIAL TO GROW
As the church eyes its new campus location, it sees a lot of promise.
The local school district recently bought land in the same area. A major road project nearby has increased traffic. And Cedar Rapids has been growing in that direction, with 190,000 people living within a 10-mile radius, Johnson said.
The average age in the area is 38, and the average annual income is more than $84,000, he said.
The Stoney Point YMCA facility had been hit hard financially by the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnson said. When the property became available, the church took its staff to the building to pray and consider the purchase.
The staff came away from that experience thinking, “This is it,” Johnson said.
“This has the potential to grow to the size of the Marion campus,” he said. “It’s got that many things going in its favor.”
Chris Moon is a pastor and writer living in Redstone, Colorado.