Carpenter’s Home Church arose from First Assembly of God, a Lakeland church founded in 1921 that for decades occupied a stone building near the intersection of Lemon Street and Lake Parker Avenue. In 1964, the Pentecostal church moved to a sanctuary at Main Street and Rose Street, currently the site of Family Worship Center, and a decade later built an 1,850-seat sanctuary next to it.
By the early 1980s, the church had more than 4,000 members and was drawing overflow attendance for five Sunday services. The church leadership, including the pastor, Karl Strader, who had headed the church since 1966, sought a way to expand.
They purchased about 475 acres near Lake Gibson, stretching west to U.S. 98 and south nearly to Interstate 4, property that included a recently closed retirement home for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.
The church sold all but 125 acres to developers and began construction in late 1982 on a 155,000-square-foot sanctuary that would hold about 10,000 people, with a main floor holding about 6,000 seats and the rest in a sweeping balcony.
An attached two-story complex contained a lobby with a water fountain, a sprawling staircase, a wedding chapel, the radio station, other offices and a bookstore.
The church suffered a split in 1989, when about 800 members left in a dispute over Karl Strader’s leadership and formed Victory Church.
In 1994, Daniel Strader, one of Karl Strader’s sons, was arrested on fraud charges and was later convicted. Daniel Strader had sold false securities and defrauded investors out of $2.3 million. He was found guilty in 1995 on 238 counts of securities fraud and was sentenced to 45 years’ imprisonment. The severe sentence resulted from the application of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
The scandal received considerable media coverage; membership of Carpenter’s Home Church dwindled even further, and it became impossible for the church to maintain its large facilities.
On August 3, 2002, Without Walls International Church began to hold Saturday night services at Carpenter’s Home Church in Lakeland renting the property. Carpenter’s Home Church would later on be purchased by Without Walls International Church in 2005 for $8 million renaming the church to Without Walls Central Church.
In 2011, Without Walls International Church experienced financial problems and vacated the Lakeland building after the electricity was cut off. Without Walls co-founder Randy White pledged to hire new pastors and revive the church. That never happened though as the church owed more than $35,000 in code enforcement fines and public service fees as well as not paying the $13 million loan on the property.
Without Walls International filed for bankruptcy in March 2014 and had been embroiled since October 2012 in a foreclosure court battle with Evangelical Christian Credit Union, the California credit union that holds the mortgage on the property.
In February 2015, developers Doug Cook and George Anderson purchased the former Without Walls Central property for about $3.75 million. They made plans to demolish the massive sanctuary to replace it with independent-living units for retirees in place of the church. They also plan on renovating the former retirement home for union carpenters on the property, a 115,000-square-foot, Mediterranean-style structure built in 1929.
Demolition of the mega-church began on March 16, 2015.