Joe and Donna Leonardo attended Northland for many years back when they lived in Lake Mary. In 2010, they moved to Ponce Inlet. The couple knew they would miss Northland the most, so Joe and Donna began watching the services online. Shortly after the move, they met another couple, the Teaseleys, who also previously attended Northland and now watched online. The four decided to gather together each week to watch the services. Little by little, another couple would join, and another, and another. They now average between twenty and thirty people each weekend. Every Sunday morning at nine, the group gathers in the community center of their condo complex for worship and sometimes a meal after. Early on, Joe got some pushback from the condo complex about using the space for worship, but Joe was on the board at the time and smoothed things out by making a case for their gathering.
The pandemic was difficult on their community. There were obvious health concerns with mostly older people, but it was also difficult for the Home Church as we searched for a new lead pastor. But just like those of us in Longwood, they remained faithful to the church body and God’s timing, and now, Joe feels a “renewed excitement” for their Home Church—an excitement that many of us share. Pastor Josh’s energy is contagious, and his Biblical teaching each weekend keeps people coming back for
“It’s a family,” Joe shares. “The Teasley’s spent a year on a mission trip in the Philippines, and the Home Church supported them with prayer and more and wanting to invite others. They’re some hard-to-come-by supplies. Others serve in a variety of community charities or ministries.” The Home Church is mostly older, retired folks, so they walk through many life transitions with people. “We’ve had people battling cancer and spouses who’ve passed away. It’s humbling to see people grow so much in the Lord through these life situations.” One of their attendees is a retired Lutheran minister and a missiologist. Other congregants have participated in many of Northland’s ministries even from afar over the years, such as the Prison & Jail Ministry.
The pandemic has taught them a lot, especially about the importance of community and the gathered church. Joe shares, “I think that’s a lie of the enemy that we can do this on our own.” These people “do life together,” as most of them all live in the same condo complex. They even have two Bible studies each week, one for men and one for women.
Recently, the Ponce Inlet Home Church adopted R.J. Longstreet Elementary School in Daytona Beach to provide back-to-school backpacks. This school has the most homeless kids in Volusia County. They did some research and found out that Walmart has a program for community outreach, and together they packed 27 backpacks for the school!
Joe is a humble man, and while some would call him the “leader” of the Ponce Inlet Home Church, he merely sees himself as a participant. He doesn’t do everything, and each member pitches in—from setting up the room to bringing coffee and snacks to organizing game nights. “People are faithful to get there even before I do.”
“In the beginning, people would call us all the time asking if they could join while they were at the beach on vacation, and we would get a lot of visitors.” Their Home Church is exceptionally welcoming and hospitable. Joe would encourage anyone to stop by if you’re in the area.
Are you an online worshiper and looking to start a Home Church? “Anyone on the fence about starting one should do it. All you have to do is invite someone.” If that’s you, Joe and our team would love to help you get started. Simply email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.