Lifepoint Church in Longview is making its permanent home at what has been Parke Way Family Fitness Center for decades, with plans to continue to offer the facility’s services to the public, spaces for community use and shared work spaces.
Lifepoint finalized the purchase of the building effective Oct. 1, 2020, and already has been meeting at the Parke Way facility at 2628 Bill Owens Parkway. The Rev. Brian Shobert, who leads the church, said the building has been there since the 1980s, with brothers Mike and Larry Alston operating the fitness center since 1985.
When the purchase closed, though, Parke Way temporarily leased back portions of the building to continue operating the fitness center. It made sense, Shobert said, to maintain the relationships with people already using the fitness center.
“To us, it was a no-brainer,” to keep those relationships and to keep people in the building, he said.
That agreement with Parke Way fitness operators is coming to an end, with Lifepoint and Parke Way unable to agree on a contract extension, Shobert said.
When contract negotiations ended, “Lifepoint considered all options,” according to information the church distributed. “One option was to look for a new fitness partner/tenant. Another option we prayed over and ultimately decided on as the best way to utilize the facilities, that we have been blessed with, was to manage all building functions internally.”
“VIEWpoint Community & Fitness Center was developed out of a love for our community and a desire to serve them well. .... We are planning to offer all current fitness programs in the building. We are working diligently to make sure that it is all in place starting October 1.”
Lifepoint was created as a mission of Oakland Heights Baptist Church in 2003 and designed to serve people who were “unchurched,” who weren’t interested in the traditional church model or perhaps who had experienced hurt through church.
“We’ve never had a traditional church model,” Shobert said.
That meant, for instance, that for 10 years starting in about 2007, the church leased what was once a movie theater in the North Loop Plaza shopping center at Judson Road and Loop 281.
“It was in horrific shape,” Shobert said, recalling the significant investments the church made in the property.
When the shopping center was acquired by The Retail Connection from local owners, continuing to lease there no longer made sense to the church for a variety of reasons. Lifepoint began to maintain an office on Loop 281 while church services were held at The Summit Club on Judson Road until moving to the Parke Way building.
Now, Lifepoint has a “church plan and a community plan” for the building, with the church desiring to recognize the importance of that building to the community, Shobert said.
The church searched extensively for its new home, with the central question of “how do you recreate Solomon’s Porch,” Shobert said, and not create a temple model of worship. That model extended into Jesus’ time, but the early Christian church didn’t really have buildings to meet in. Jesus and his disciples, for instance, gathered in the upper room.
Solomon’s Porch or portico, was attached to the Temple, but the Temple is not where Jesus’ ministry was centered, Shobert said. Instead, it started from Solomon’s Porch and extended out. Solomon’s Porch, he said, was a place where the community gathered, with people of different faiths and races mingling together.
It’s with that in mind that the church says it will continue offering current fitness programs and activities such as basketball, racquetball and pickleball and the swimming pool. Membership prices are being reduced, and the church plans to have party for rooms and co-work spaces available for rent.
The facility, Shobert said, will be a place for the community to gather — for family and friends to come together. Associate Pastor Casey Delay said plans are in the works for a community trick or treat event this year at VIEWpoint Community & Fitness Center. They also expect to hold community pool parties with food trucks at the center.
The church recently hosted a swim party for Buckner foster care services, with Shobert saying organizations such as that won’t be charged for using the center’s facilities.
Renovations have begun at the facility already, with more changes planned, including changing the entrance so that it’s at almost ground level instead of up two flights of outdoor stairs.
“We humbly ask you to give us the opportunity to discuss any questions, concerns or plans being offered,” information from the church says. “We desire to honor all fitness plans — personal, family corporate, insurance pay, etc. We will do so with affordable plans and new options on how to utilize the spaces best. Again, we are here to serve.”