of God congregation is leading the way to the revitalization
of downtown Fresno, Calif. Cornerstone Church has bought
property taking up two blocks of a 16-block area being transformed
into an arts and entertainment district.
Jim Franklin describes how an old building will be renovated
for church use.
purchased a theater building three years ago, a baseball
stadium has been built nearby, a metropolitan museum across
the road has been renovated, and the city, which has a population
of 750,000, has spent $1.5 million on downtown street improvements.
For the 15-year-old
Cornerstone, the changes began with the move from a 600-seat
auditorium that had become too crowded for the growing congregation.
In the seven years that senior pastor Jim Franklin has been
there, the church has grown to a weekly average attendance
of 2,500 from 300. Rather than flee to the suburbs, as many
evangelical churches have done in recent years, Cornerstone
moved eight blocks away.
committed to the downtown area," Franklin says. "This
is where we were planted and this is where our ministry
is. We believe God has anchored us here."
the church meets in what had been the historic Wilson Theatre,
built in 1927 as the first building west of Chicago with
air conditioning. It has been refurbished with state-of-the-art
sound and video systems. Franklin preaches from the same
stage where the Marx Brothers performed comedy routines
and Alice Cooper sang rock songs.
been buying adjacent property to facilitate its various
ministries. A former technical college now houses the churchs
administrative offices and educational classrooms. A 23,000-square-foot
youth center is located in what used to be an auto parts
store. A former warehouse has been converted into a repository
to stock food distributed in a Convoy of Hope-type ministry.
Feeding Fresno distributed food to more than 400,000 people
this year. A 30,000-square-foot conference center should
be completed in May. Down the line, there will be a childrens
center, bookstore and more parking lots. In all, the projects
will cost $6 million.
is saving money because of its location. "There are
great bargains in the inner city where there are a lot of
folks that need ministering to," Franklin says. "Property
costs a third of what it does in the suburbs."
church members have been attracted from outlying areas because
of Cornerstones television ministry, most attendees
live downtown. The congregation mirrors Fresnos diversity,
with about 45 percent being Hispanic, 25 percent African-American
and the rest Asian and white.
the most racially diverse church in our city," says
Franklin, originally from rural Oklahoma. The church has
thrived during his tenure, even though he came with no understanding
of gangs, poverty, violence or other problems that often
plague urban areas. One reason, he believes, is that skin
color is not an issue at Cornerstone. "People want
to be accepted for who they are."
from a wide range of racial, educational and economic backgrounds.
Some come in a Mercedes Benz; some come pushing a shopping
"I was a
man who needed help and there were people who reached out
to me," says Danny Grijalva, who started attending
Cornerstone seven years ago as a welfare recipient who had
abused drugs and been in jail. Today he owns his own electrical
and plumbing contracting business.
As church members
discipled Grijalva, he in turn reached out to newcomers.
Now he and his wife Betty lead the prayer and visitation
programs and he heads the mens ministry at the church.
Members are attracted
because they feel useful in serving the Lord. Most of the
programs are run by volunteers; in addition to Franklin,
Cornerstone only has three associate pastors on the full-time
people who have a mind to work," Grijalva says.
a drug store manager who started attending earlier this
year, says the power of God attracted him and his family
hooked the first service we visited," Robinson says.
"The Holy Spirit was so powerful." The pastors
can-do attitude of transforming the area inspires church
members to follow suit, he says.
pastor Franklin is a man of big vision," Robinson says.
"He doesnt limit himself to what can be accomplished."
Franklin is quick
to eschew plaudits.
resource is people who have a mind to work," he says.
"These are people who love God and are willing to work
for God. The inner city is where the great revivals of the
that they are doing something to bring their city back to
God, Franklin says, whether it be through a feeding program,
Sunday school class or youth outreach. If visitors are merely
attracted because of the renovated facilities, they wont
"If we pick
our churches like our health club by the amenities that
they offer, pretty soon well find one that offers
more amenities and move over there," Franklin says.
Theres not much church switching at Cornerstone; no
one has an opportunity to be bored.