It’s a brand-new year, a brand-new decade and a chance for everyone to have 2020 vision.

As we were preparing to step over the line into 2020, I realized that I was now entering my fourth decade at Cornerstone.  The nineties, Y2K to 2010, 2010 to 2019 and now the Roaring Twenties.   And that caused me to stop and reflect a little bit on where we’ve been, but more important on where we are going.

25 years ago, on January 8th 1995 seven people gathered together in a living room on Basinview Drive in Bedford to discuss what a new church could look like.  It was the first official worship gathering of the group that would eventually become Cornerstone Wesleyan Church.

And that evening we sang some songs, we read some scripture and we dreamed of what God would do if we let him.

If you are interested, that night there was Angela and I, a young lady from Australia by the name of Rebecca Perry, Stan and Karen Wickwire and Ian and Sylvia Richardson.  Of that original group of seven, five are still a part of Cornerstone.

And I’m not sure that we could have envisioned where we are today. Pretty sure that we couldn’t imagine the building being here.

I remember, the first time I drove from Bedford into Kingswood, to visit a perspective contact.  As I drove down the dirt road called Kingswood Drive, past the twenty-five or thirty homes that had been built, I thought to myself, why would anyone live out here?  Indeed.

And in the twenty-five years since that first small group met, there have been a lot of changes.

We’ve worshipped in a half a dozen different places, we’ve sung a multitude of different songs, Denn has worn suits, jeans and business casual on the platform.

There have been people who have made Cornerstone their church home and are still here and others who made Cornerstone their church home and who have moved on.  There have been weddings, funerals, baptisms and baby dedications.

But through all of the years and all of the changes, there has been one thing that has remained constant, and that is we’ve been a church.

And understand that while it would be another four months before we would launch our public worship service on April 9, 1995, on that Sunday evening in January of 1995, the church that would become Cornerstone Wesleyan Church met for the first time.

And through the good times and the bad times, the scripture that I continue to come back to is a portion of what was read this morning, and those are the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:18  Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.  And more specifically, I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.

You don’t have to go very far in that scripture to get into a discussion of what the church is and what the church isn’t.

The church was not established by man, not by Peter, or Constantine, or Augustine, or Luther, or Calvin, or Wesley, or Guptill.   The church has been established by Jesus Christ.   The church is a divine institution.

The problem is that all too often we get the church confused with the church. We get mixed up. 

A building may be a church building, but it is never the church, I don’t know how many times, right after we moved into the building that I was asked by well-meaning people, “How do you feel now that you have a church?”  and my response is “We’ve had a church since 1995, now we have a place to put it.” 

This morning, the first Sunday of a new month, a new year and a new decade, I’d like to share my thoughts on our Church, Cornerstone, as we move forward after 25 years.

There Will Be Things We Did Then, That We Can’t Do Now  Every once in a while I’ll have someone mention something they miss about when Cornerstone was small. 

Although, that number is getting smaller.  There are only 19 people worshipping at Cornerstone today who were worshipping with us before we moved into the building.

And for the first ten year of our existence we were small by every measure. For most of that time we averaged under 50 in our Sunday Morning worship, we had a part time pastor, that would be me and Mike was a volunteer treasurer/administrator and he can tell you about the financial challenges of those days. 

But there will be those who remember the potlucks that we had on the second Sunday of every month after the service.   That’s not going to happen in 2020. Sorry! Logistically it would be close to impossible.   

Sometimes there will be those who wistfully remember knowing everybody at Cornerstone.  The reality is that they probably didn’t know everybody at Cornerstone, but they knew most everybody.

I’ve always prided myself in being good with names and faces, I was the person who knew everybody at Cornerstone.  But as much as I’d like to think I know all of you, there are people who consider Cornerstone their church home, and I don’t have a clue who they are.  I wish I did, but on the other hand I’m very glad that we’ve grown to a place where that is now very difficult for me.

Those in the know tell us that on an average, most people will never know more than 60 people in their church family.  So, it doesn’t matter if we average 61 in our services or 6,100 in our services.  On an average, you won’t know everyone.

But there is certainly a greater level of intimacy for those who are looking for that, in a smaller church that we won’t have at Cornerstone in 2020.  And there is certainly a greater level of control for those who are looking for that, in a smaller church that we won’t have at Cornerstone in 2020.

But I would say, if you are looking for more intimacy then you really should be a part of one of our life groups. 

And if you are looking for more control, sorry.

But along with the things we did then, that we can’t do now,  There Will Be Things That We Do Now, That We Did Then 

25 years ago, we gathered together, and we sang, often brand-new songs, introducing new music has always been a part of who we are.   The night we gathered for the first time, we introduced the group to Hill Songs and music that had never heard before.  We read scriptures and we prayed, and we dreamed of what could be.

And we still do those things. 

Twenty-five years ago, we spoke about reaching pre-Christians. 

Those who were de-churched, pre-churched and unchurched.  Today we talk about providing a home for the spiritually homeless.  It’s the same thing.  For twenty five years we been talking about helping to de-populate hell.  And we still believe that today.

Because we still believe that there is a heaven to be gained and a hell to be shunned, we want there to be more people in heaven and fewer people in hell because Cornerstone is here.

And so, we will continue to seek to provide a church that appeals.  Not to attract believers from other churches, but to reach the spiritually homeless. 

In an environment where they feel comfortable and loved and understand what’s happening and can be introduced to Jesus.

And there are folks who will find a long-term spiritual home at Cornerstone and others are only here long enough to heal and find a church home that fits them.

And that’s fine, because we understand that Cornerstone isn’t for everyone. 

And yet it’s not enough to provide them a home, our mission statement says in full: Cornerstone exists to provide a home for the spiritually homeless.  Guiding them into a dynamic growing relationship with God and His Family.

And we try to do that at all age levels. Kid’s ministry has always been a priority at Cornerstone, for the first half of our existence Angela led that ministry.  Often times after leading the worship for the adults, she would take the kids out to their program.  More times than not, if there was a closing song it was accompanied with a cassette for the first few years and then we went high tech and started using CDs.

And now, Pastor Marilyn, Pastor Deborah and Pastor Stefan are making a difference in the lives of your kids.

We don’t just believe that our kids are the church of the future, we believe that our kids are the church of today.  And we remain committed to introducing them to Jesus, to seeing them baptised and to seeing them learn more about what it means to be a committed Christ follower.  And we need your help with that. 

There are times that you might feel that we ask a lot of our volunteers, and we do, because we believe that our children deserve the best, and we believe that there is a heaven to be gained and a hell to be shunned. 

And I know that I will come across as scolding, but as someone said years ago, “If Denn hasn’t offended you yet, you just haven’t been coming long enough.”  We can’t do this for your children without your help.

There are a lot of things that you can have your kids involved in that keep them away from church.  There are sleep overs, and birthday parties, and sports, but hear me very carefully. . . even if they are good enough to become the next Sydney Crosby, that isn’t worth an eternity without God. To paraphrase Jesus, “What profiteth a child if they are good enough to join the NHL but lose their soul?”

And as a part of that process, we will continue to have children serve in all areas of ministry, because we are committed to using the youngest capable ministry partners. 

If you are one to read the thank you slide at the end of the service you will discover that there are teens and pre-teens serving in all areas of ministry. The teach and greet. Make coffee and read scripture.  They control technology and take part in the worship teams.

And that is because Pastor Marilyn, Pastor Deborah and Pastor Stefan and their teams are  making a difference in the lives of your children.

Author and researcher George Barna writes, “In the race to a child’s heart, the first one there wins.”  He goes on to state, “Children are the most important population segment to minister to because of their spiritual teachability.”

And that’s nothing new, three thousand Years ago Solomon told parents, Proverbs 22:6 NIV Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

And Frederick Douglas wrote “It’s easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

But it’s not just our children, we provide opportunities across the adult spectrum for opportunities to engage.  

We have LIFE groups for men, women as well as mixed groups.  They study specific books of the bible, as well as engage in topical studies. 

If you need more info, ask a staff member or visit, www.cornerstonehfx.ca/life-groups.  

This year we introduced both GriefShare and DivorceCare into our offerings.  They are 13-week groups that meet on Monday and Thursday evenings and provide support for people going through significant seasons of loss, either through death or divorce and separation. 

Again, the website will provide the information you need, at www.cornerstonehfx.ca/divorcecare or www.cornerstonehfx.ca/griefshare

We heard people when they said that they wanted to engage, but with kids and work found it difficult to get out to a group.  So, this year we introduced our first online group.  It is a Facebook group that is looking at phrase by phrase study of the book of James.  And there are two great facilitators.  Twice a week a 5-minute video is posted.  These have been recorded by Wesleyan Pastor Rick Kavanaugh and they concise and interesting.  And then Rev Dan McGuire facilitates the group with questions and comments about the video.  Dan is a member of Cornerstone, who lives in Saint John.  His daughter Maggie attends the Gatehouse site, that’s this one.  And Dan is here today, if you have questions, he’d love to answer them.

The great thing about this group, is that you engage on your schedule.  The videos are posted twice a week, but you can go to them when you have time.  To sign up for that group, you just need to go to www.cornerstonehfx.ca/online-life-group.

And you are thinking, that a lot of pages to remember.  True enough or you can just remember www.cornerstone.ca/hub

There Are Things We Can Do Now, That We Couldn’t Do Then

The things we can do now, that we couldn’t do then are primarily based on scale.  I’m not here to bash small churches.  The majority of churches in North America average fewer than 100 people on Sunday morning.  And for years Cornerstone fit in that category. 

And people are introduced to Jesus, and they grow spiritually, and children are ministered to in small churches across our city and around the world.

And there are many people, that will only be reached by smaller, relational churches.   

But there are things that we can do and are doing and will do now that we couldn’t do when we were smaller and that small churches can’t do.

We are offering GriefShare at Cornerstone, the first time I heard about it was twenty years ago and then I thought it would be valuable, but financially it was out of reach for us.  Was the cost astronomical?  No, not really.  But for us, at the time it was.

Cornerstone has been one church in two locations for years.  19 years ago, this week we launched a service at the Berkeley in Bedford, and every Sunday we meet and worship together as Cornerstone Berkeley.  We sing, we pray, and I preach.  We are a home for people who would be spiritually homeless if we weren’t there, because they can’t get out to worship at their home church.

And you thought I napped on Sunday afternoon.

We are in a different location, and the music is different, but it is Cornerstone.  And that wouldn’t be possible without the musicians who partner with us to provide the music.    

This year, we are launching a third location that will be in Sackville/Beaver Bank.  And that will be Cornerstone Windgate. 

But we couldn’t have done that before.  We didn’t have the financial resources or the ministry partners.   And because we’ve done what we’ve done here, the Atlantic District has entrusted us with a building and property worth over $600,000.00 to make a difference there.

And because we’ve been faithful with our mortgage here, the denomination will trust us with a mortgage there for the renovations.

Why are we doing it? Because Cornerstone exists to provide a home for the spiritually homeless.  Guiding them into a dynamic growing relationship with God and His Family.

And there are people in that area that we can’t reach from Gatehouse Run. 

And God has opened this door for Cornerstone.   And surprisingly enough, you can get more information on our website.  www.cornerstonehfx.ca/windgate and you’ll find that link on our home page.

If you want more information about what Cornerstone Windgate is going to look like and how you can help make it a reality Pastor Rob McDowell, who will be our site pastor, will be available to chat after service.  He will be upstairs in our office area. 

And CIA, Cornerstone in Action will continue to provide milk and soup for Feed Nova Scotia, and we will continue to partner with Ronald McDonald house, and we will continue to support Open Doors ministry as they work with young women in the city to help stop human trafficking.

But it’s not just what Cornerstone does corporately, it’s what the people of Cornerstone do in the name of Jesus to help the least the lost and the lonely of our community. 

I know that If I start naming names I will get in trouble for missing people, but I still will. 

Kim, Kate and Marley Hawker and friends made a difference at Adsum House by volunteering and providing hundreds of sets of pajamas, for women and children in Crisis.  And Ken Snook provided hundreds and hundreds of pairs of wool socks for the homeless in Halifax.  And Jo-Anne DeLong baked trays of Christmas baking and raffled them off to friends to provide over 400 Christmas Dinners at Soul’s Harbour.  And those were just things that happened in December and things that I know about.

But it’s not just about what we are doing in Halifax and Hammonds Plains and Sackville Beaver Bank.

Cornerstone has always been committed to missions, part of our core values is to earmark at least 10% of our total income toward missions both locally and around the world.  One of the first things we did, even before we moved to Bedford, while this church only existed in my dreams, was to make a financial commitment to Cora Gorman as she began her ministry in Zambia.

And in those early years our commitment could be measured in hundreds then thousands of dollars.

Now it is measured in tens of thousands of dollars.

In the past 8 years, we’ve partnered with World Hope International to drill wells in West Africa to provide clean safe drinking water to villages.  Providing hope for thousands of people who we will never meet.  Providing opportunities for little girls and women, who could receive an education instead of spending hours carrying water for their families. 

Last Christmas, you gave over $18,000.00 to drill two wells in Sierra Leone, and we were overwhelmed at your generosity.

And it was shortly after that, that I was challenged by World Hope and dare I say, challenged by God for Cornerstone to take a leap of faith and join with World Hope to partner with a village in Sierra Leone for three to five years to lift them to a level of  self-sustainability.

And the project was going to cost a minimum of $27,000.00 a year. And the dream was to work in consultation with the World Hope Sierra Leone and representatives from the Village.  We’re not just dumping money in and hoping something happens.

So, a village was chosen by World Hope Sierra Leone, it is the village of Kenenday.   Located in the Northern part of the country the residents are engaged in subsistence farming, including rice, peanuts, cassava and yams and the rearing of animals such as goats and sheep.  

Over the next three years, and possibly as long as five years, Cornerstone will partner with World Hope as they work with the people of Kenenday.   First to provide clean safe drinking water then expand the hygiene facilities which means new and improved latrines, to help prevent diseases such as cholera.

Quality seed and animals will be distributed to village farmers as a loan. Since the quality of the seed helps increase the yield, farmers can “pay back” the seed loan and still have a good harvest. When the animals produce offspring, farmers “pay back” the animal loan and can keep the original number of animals and the future offspring.  As the loans are paid back, even more farmers and families can be assisted.

Presently there is a small Wesleyan Church that meets in homes.  You may have noticed each week, when I pray in the service, I included Pastor Abdul and his family.   Part of the dream is to provide them with a permanent church home, where they can worship together. 

I could go on and on about what the dreams are, and the difference that Cornerstone will be able to make in Kenenday.  But the easiest thing would be for you to visit our website, www.cornerstonehfx.ca/village

Why are we doing this?  Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:34-40  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.  I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’  “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?  When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

I truly believe that our partnership will not only save lives now, it will raise the standards in this small village, that doesn’t just exist in poverty, but in extreme poverty and will save lives and impact people’s eternities long after the partnership is done.

And when I cast that vision a year ago, there were some who asked “What if we can’t raise the $81,000.00 over three years?  What if we can’t even raise the $27,000.00 the first year? 

And those were good questions?  But I truly believed that was the direction that God was leading us.  So, at the end of 2019 how much have you sacrificially given to improve the lives and eternal lives of people most of you will never meet?  This is the time for a pregnant pause. 

As of last Sunday, the total amount raised in the first year for our village partnership was. $45,761.

The bottom line is that 2020 will be a year that we continue to impact lives and introduce people to Jesus.  Here, near and far away.

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