Redemption Point, a 1,200-member Church of God congregation with locations in Ooltewah and East Lake, is purchasing the former Highland Park Baptist Church auditorium on Bailey Avenue and three other buildings for $3.1 million.
The sale, which is expected to close at the end of April, also includes the Chauncey-Goode Auditorium, Phillips Chapel and Hancock Education Building.
"Our desire is to provide a spiritual lighthouse for the community," said lead pastor Kevin Wallace, "We want to offer social opportunities of connection. We want to ... meet the needs of those in the community" and continue and expand them "in broader, more extensive ways."
Highland Park Baptist, once the largest congregation in Chattanooga with about 57,000 members, relocated to property near Harrison Bay in January and changed its name to Church of the Highlands.
Wallace said a family "vicariously related to our church" provided the money for the purchase, allowing the congregation to be debt-free when it takes possession of the buildings.
"They believe in our ministry and ... vision for Chattanooga," he said.
However, Wallace said it will be up to the congregation and those it can interest in its mission to support it.
"Historically, we've been a very giving church, very sacrificial," he said.
The sale also will allow Church of the Highlands to be debt-free, according to pastor Dr. Jeremy Roberts.
"The church is ecstatic," he said. "They're on cloud nine. Instead of people giving [to support] a bloated bureaucracy of buildings, they'll be giving straight to the ministry of the Lord."
Whatever money the church clears from the sale of its three remaining buildings also will be applied directly to the ministry, Roberts said.
Wallace grew up in East Lake and has been pastor of Redemption Point for 10 years. He led the founding of a second location at the former Fourth Avenue Church of God. When it quickly outgrew that site, it moved its worship site to the former East Lake Church of God, keeping its benevolence and outreach center at the Fourth Avenue location.
As growth continued, the donating family, which wished to remain anonymous, brought Highland Park Baptist in as a part of the conversation.
"I said it was probably too much, too big," Wallace said, "but nothing is too big for God."
He said going into the move debt-free is important because the church supports orphanages in Guatemala and churches in Uruguay and did not want to dial back its support there.
Locally, Wallace said, "We want to see racial walls come down. We believe [a church with people of many races] is a picture of heaven on earth. A church ought to be welcoming to anybody."
The church will continue to operate its Ooltewah campus, where it is building a 15,000-square-foot children's center, and use the Highland Park buildings for what it calls its Metro campus.
One of the buildings, according to Wallace, will be an outreach center, "where kids can come off the street" into after-school programs and other ministry for the community.
Janice White, a member and secretary at Redemption Point's Metro congregation, said the church stepped out in faith to make the move but believes it is the right thing to do for a church that shows "love and care" for everybody.
"Moving into the new facility," she said, "will help us reach out and help more people and affect more lives."
The former Fourth Street and East Lake churches, over which Redemption Point has oversight, will continue to be used for some type of ministry, he said.
Contact Clint Cooper at email@example.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.