In 2000, Ed Kendrick was a student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. While there, God called Ed and his family to church planting and instilled a vision in him to start a new church in Winter Haven, Fl. Ed shared his vision with Gary Grubbs, a Worship Pastor and friend he had known for a number of years. Gary expressed an interest in joining with Ed to move forward with the vision God had provided. Ed and Gary began praying and working together in preparation of starting the new church upon Ed's graduation.
Ed graduated in May of 2002. He and Gary along with their families and a few friends started Heartland Community Church. Heartland's first service was in July of 2002 with 83 people in attendance. The following week, attendance dropped to around 30 people who formed the core group for the new church.
During the first year, Heartland met in a hotel formerly known as the Admiral's Inn Hotel. The church grew to around 100 in weekly attendance at that location. In the summer of 2003, the church moved into a new location in a local commercial center. The location was more permanent, not requiring setting up equipment and tearing it down each week. There were also a number of buildings that could be leased for future growth. During that time period the church experienced steady growth--the average weekly attendance had grown to around 450 and the church had rented 5 additional buildings to accommodate their needs. Heartland stayed in that location for about six years.
In April 2009, Heartland moved again. This move was to a local shopping Plaza situated next to what is now known as Legoland. The new facility was remodeled to seat 400 people per service and was equipped with state of the art audio/visual equipment. For the first time, Heartland's children's ministry was housed in the same building as the church itself. This location served us well for another six years.
Then on April 12, 2015, multiple changes occurred simultaneously: Heartland Community Church changed its name to Heartland Church; a new logo was revealed; and Heartland had the privilege of moving into a brand new facility in beautiful downtown Winter Haven. The new building has an auditorium that provides seating for up to 1,000 people, there is ample space for all of our children's and student programs, and it allows us to hold discipleship and small group classes throughout the week.
Although the growth God has blessed Heartland with is great, growth is not the focus of the church. The Bible is clear that "God grows the church." Heartland's focus has always been and will always be about pointing people to Jesus Christ.
In fact, over the years, Heartland has been blessed with the opportunity of having campuses in the Dundee, Auburndale and Eloise communities that ultimately resulted in individual church plant 'launches' - becoming RiverHills Fellowship, Connect Church, and Thrive Church - each continuing to grow and each doing a wonderful work in their communities for Christ.
Our mission is to help people ... Connect with God ... Connect with Others ... and Connect in Service. At Heartland, we believe if we're getting that right, our future will be bright.
As we look back over these past years, we can see God at work in so many ways. All of the changed lives, the success, and the growth are a testament to God's working in and through His faithful people. It's His church. He's just given all of us a great opportunity to partner with Him as He works in our lives and in the communities we have the privilege to serve.