Burns Ave Church of God began in November 1973 -- The South Lake Wales Church of God felt there needed to be a Church of God in downtown Lake Wales so they sent a group of 35 charter members who began by holding meetings at the Woman's Club in LW. The group was led by Dr. Harold Boyer and Dr. Leslie Ratliff.
Ten acres of ground was purchased on Burns Ave very quickly and the first building was constructed in fall of 1974. Rev. Ron Holder was called to be the first Pastor and served until 1976.
In 1976 Rev. Gordon Garrett became the second pastor, the building was extended to include an enclosed foyer, offices, an education wing, and a fellowship hall. Nina Ratzliff led the establishment of a daycare that operated until the early 90's.
Lead Pastors from 1987-1996:
Rev. Craig Frank from 1987-91
Rev. Tom Walton from 92-94
Rev. Bob Highlands from 94-96
The current Lead Pastor, Jack Hilligoss and his wife Jenelle arrived in May of 1997 and have called Lake Wales home ever since. Bonnie Barker, Executive Pastor came to Burns Avenue Church of God in August of 2001, along with her husband Keith and their family.
In 2006, the church formally voted to change its name to HighPoint Church. Shortly after, in 2008 we remodeled offices and educational space while adding our current place of worship in the Sprung structure.
In 2008 Pastor Jack through the study of Scripture and prayer felt a growing conviction that the local church needed to bring the influence of the Kingdom to every part of the culture in which it was located. He prepared and presented a document outlining a strategy for accomplishing this "cultural mandate" to the elders of HPC. The document was later titled "Providence Center". A vision for a 20-acre development of that sort of ministry with the church at its heart.
At the same time, the city of Lake Wales was growing rapidly to the north and it seemed a church needed to be located there.
In fall of 2017 we voted to sell the church property on Burns Ave. The property was sold to Victory Ridge Academy in Spring of 2018. HPC leased space for worship back from Victory Ridge for four years while we prayed, raised funds, and looked for our new location. The process was long and often frustrating, but the Lord blessed us and we located a perfect piece of land-20 acres on Hwy 17, north of Lake Wales and strategically located between Lake Wales, Winter Haven, Haines City, and Dundee.
Construction began on our new facilities in the fall of 2020 and we moved into our new facility on January 23, 2022.
Since relocating we have experienced incredible growth (already holding multiple weekend worship services in our new worship center) and we have begun to implement the vision of Providence Center-a Kingdom Ministry Center with the church as its heart.
We have started and continue to develop Providence Center for Citizenship-a ministry that teaches believers government from a biblical worldview and equips them to be involved in local politics. We have planned Providence Business Incubator and launched our initial, Christian owned and Christ-centered businesses. We are preparing to launch Providence Voice, a Christ-centered media and publishing group.
In the school year of 2023-24 we are launching Providence Academy. Providence Academy is a private school that will provide excellent education from a biblical worldview to disciple future community and world leaders. It will launch with classes for Kindergarten to 5th grade but will eventually become a K-12 school with a trade school component and affiliate relationships with colleges and universities committed to education from a biblical worldview perspective.
How will you be a part?
We purchased and relocated to our current location with a vision to fully develop the 20 acres. Our current, 32,000 sq. ft. facility was only the first step to a 10-year vision to fully develop all 20 acres into Providence Center-a Kingdom Ministry Center with the church at its heart.
This compelling vision along with our rapid growth have brought us to a point where we will need to begin planning and constructing the next structure very soon. So, be on the lookout for those plans...a school, a business and government center, a trades academy...all with a growing, Bible centered and Christ honoring, church as its heartbeat.