Cleveland church plant seeks to shine a light from former strip club property

By Timothy Cockes

CLEVELAND, Ohio (BP) – It may seem strange for a church plant to purchase a property which was formerly a strip club, but pastor Josh Miller said Cove City Church’s new renovation project fits right along with their mission of bringing light to a dark place.

Earlier this year, Cove City purchased a foreclosed building right next door to its current meeting space. The newly purchased property formerly operated as a strip club.

The neighborhood is MidTown, just outside downtown Cleveland. Miller said there are several strip clubs on the street the church occupies, and violence is not uncommon in the area.

“We wanted to be what we’re called, a cove. A place where people come and find that peace that’s only found in Jesus. A place where people can feel safe to come to because they know that there’s a church there who loves Jesus and loves them,” said Cove City lead pastor Josh Miller.

Miller, lead pastor and church planter of Cove City, said the church had been praying about buying this exact property, and jumped at the opportunity when it came.

“It was so fast-paced with lots of details in a short period of time in the way God provided for us,” Miller said.

“We’re in this season of just watching what the Lord does and watching Him provide, and He continues to do it. We know what we have planned for this space is going to take a lot of resources. It’s going to take a lot of time, energy and money to actually get it to the point of what we actually want it to be utilized for.

“But we know that God didn’t bring us this far to leave us hanging, so we’re just waiting on Him and watching Him provide.”

Miller said buying a property in this location was not an act of desperation or a last resort.

The congregation has already been meeting in Midtwon for some time, on a street which has garnered nicknames such as “forgotten alley” and “strip club alley.”

Yet, he said the congregation has its eyes on the future, not the present.

“What I told our congregation was, ‘Don’t see what it is now, see it for what it could be if we as a church step into what God has for us,’” Miller said.

“It’s not about seeing what it is now and going, ‘We can’t be here because there’s too much violence, there’s too much darkness around it.’ Why would we look at it that way?

Josh Miller, lead pastor at Cove City Church in Cleveland, Ohio, baptizes a new believer during a Sunday service.

“For us we looked at it differently. We said, ‘We see the darkness, but we also see that the darkness holds no candle to the power that the church has because of Jesus.’ We just saw it for what it can be and what it will be if we continue to serve down there.

“We wanted to be what we’re called: a cove. A place where people come and find that peace that’s only found in Jesus. A place where people can feel safe to come to because they know that there’s a church there who loves Jesus and loves them.”

Miller and his family planted Cove City in 2019 as a part of Send Network.

The church outgrew Miller’s home and began gathering on the campus of a local college, because most of the members were students.

The congregation grew to around 120 members, before the COVID-19 pandemic ended meeting on the college campus. Most of the students moved back home, began taking online classes, and never moved back.

The church would eventually relaunch with about 20 people, meeting in a local wedding venue closer to downtown.

Later it moved into the current location, a building which used to be a candy store.

The church, now running about 70 people, always dreamed and prayed of purchasing the building next door, which was formerly a strip club called “The Velvet Rope.”

Cove City Church in Cleveland, Ohio, recently purchased a neighboring property, which was formerly a strip club.

One day, Miller ran into a man in the neighborhood who told him the building was soon going to hit the market.

The church was ready and waiting to bid on the property just days later in an online foreclosure auction.

When offers officially opened, Miller immediately placed a bid slightly above another pre-placed bid.

He had prayed that no one who was interested in the property or had placed a pre-bid would even show up when the auction happened.

This is exactly what happened, and Miller’s first offer won the bids. The church then had to raise more than $125,000 in cash to officially finalize the purchase of the building.

Miraculously, through church members, various ministry partners and random circumstances, Cove City secured the money in two weeks.

The building was purchased in late March, and the church moved into the property on Good Friday.

Future plans for the building look like a complete renovation, which will include knocking down walls to create one shared space between the two buildings.

In the meantime, the church will continue to minister to its community in a variety of ways.

Cove City’s outreach includes giving away toys at Christmastime, hosting community worship nights and partnering with an organization that both fights human trafficking and ministers to the women who work at the nearby strip clubs.

Miller said just like the purchase of the new property, these ministries serve the ultimate vision of the church.

“We feel very strongly that we’re supposed to be there,” Miller said.

“… If we want to see change in the city of Cleveland, like real transformative Gospel change, we as Cove City have to step up. We have to do our part in serving and working alongside what God is already doing in the heart of the city … we’re going to come along and be a part of being vessels that God wants to use for Gospel change.”

Published August 31, 2023

Timothy Cockes

Timothy Cockes is a Baptist Press staff writer.