The Celebration Church Orlando is moving its Lake Howell campus to Edgewater High in College Park in April. The new location’s opening service will be performed on Easter Sunday.
“When most churches plant, the (planting organizations) tell you to go to the suburbs, but that’s just not (us),” said Josh Turner, lead pastor for Celebration Church Orlando. “We knew from Day One we wanted to reach people in an area where it’s harder to reach people with the teachings of Jesus Christ.”
The church originated in Jacksonville in the late 1990s and now has campuses across Florida and the country. In 2014, Turner spearheaded the construction of a new branch in downtown Orlando, which now has about 300 volunteers. The church has seen steady growth, with morning services garnering as many as 2,000 attendees. An expansion to accommodate more people was in order, Turner said.
“We got to a point where we needed to offload,” he said. “We were running so many people at our morning services that we were running out of space and parking.”
Celebration Church Orlando established a new campus at Lake Howell High School last August, after its internal research showed a large number of the congregation were driving to downtown from the area.
It would prove to be short-lived. In December, Turner left the new campus feeling like something was off.
“Everything was really good — the worship is incredible, the team members are incredible, it’s a great environment, but it just didn’t feel like what Celebration Church is,” Turner said. “I couldn’t put my finger on it or figure out what it was, it kept messing with me. But I’ve been walking with God for quite a few years.
“What I know in me is when I have this uncertainty, it’s the Holy Spirit starting to stir me,” he said. “It’s God messing with me about something.”
The lead pastor came to the conclusion that God was telling him to move the church to Edgewater High, a location more in line with his organization’s goals.
“It’s more urban; it’s more of who (God) has called us to,” Turner said. “I honestly feel God’s called us to reach like non-churched, unchurched and de-churched people.”
That said, it wasn’t an easy decision. Turner talked it over with the Lake Howell pastor, the executive team and the staff, who all agreed a change was necessary. Turner broke the news to the Lake Howell congregation itself in January.
“We asked them to come to College Park with us and help us reach people,” he said. “I was expecting frustration or angry emails.”
The team is preparing for the new venue by advertising with mailers and on social media, although Turner believes word of mouth will always be the best way to attract new attendees. Some of the Lake Howell congregation have returned to the downtown services, though he hopes many will make their way to the new campus.
“I’m just trying to be obedient to what God’s telling me to do,” Turner said. “I’m not trying to grow some big church. I’m just trying to reach people who need the love of Jesus.”
For more information about Celebration, visit celebrationorl.org.