A Minneapolis building that had served as headquarters for a vast pornography empire has been converted into a church. Jesus in the City, a five-year-old congregation pastored by Michael Pilla, moved into the former U.S. Video store after forming a partnership with Bethany Urban Development, an arm of the Bethany College of Missions in Bloomington, Minnesota, which had leased space in the building.

Former porn storeowner Ferris Alexander once controlled most of the pornography industry in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul region. The property was confiscated after Alexander's conviction under racketeering laws of peddling obscenity. A Saint Paul entrepreneur divided the edifice into four retail spaces.

"We do relish the fact that right in the very offices where they handled this business, we're now having prayer meetings," says Bethany Urban Development director Steve Harrison.

Bethany Urban Development works with various churches in the neighborhood. Its ministry includes programs for kids throughout the week along with Friday and Saturday night outreaches. A coffeehouse called "Urban Jungle" is planned.

"Different people who prayed for this building expressed the incredible spiritual opposition we felt initially," Harrison says. "The Devil thought he had this in his back pocket. Our hope is to undo the damage that Satan has done through the business that used to be here."

Pilla says Jesus in the City wants to reach the unchurched. "My passion is to see people commit to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and discover the hope God has for them," he says.

Pilla says the new location is a blessing—at least for a congregation interested in urban ministry. "This corner is highly visible," he ex plains. "It's a drug-dealing corner; there's a lot of crime and prostitution."

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