by Joey Garrison, The Tennessean
Cornerstone Church, the Madison mega-church with a congregation of 4,000 that has many more worshippers who watch on television, is getting even bigger.
The Rev. Maury Davis, flanked by a trio of conservative elected officials, led the groundbreaking Sunday of a $17 million, 95,000-square-foot expansion to Cornerstone’s Old Hickory Boulevard building that will include an area for child and youth ministries, a coffee shop and a deli. The project also calls for renovation of one-third of the existing 135,000-square-foot facility, including its sanctuary foyer.
The endeavor marks the latest chapter for a church founded in 1983 in a church leader’s basement before it relocated to a church gymnasium soon after. Followers kept coming, and Cornerstone built its current building more than a decade ago.
Thanks to the recent purchase of 25 acres of nearby land, the church also is planning a future retirement center, with its construction beginning in November.
“The journey has taken us from building to building, challenge to challenge and victory to victory,” said Davis, with Republicans U.S. Rep. Diane Black, state Rep. Courtney Rogers and Madison-area Councilwoman Karen Bennett sitting behind him.
“It’s going to be absolutely incredible,” he said of the newest additions, which the church already has raised $1.3 million to help cover.
Plans also include a multilevel common space that will connect all the church’s facilities. That space, featuring a baptismal pool, also will be used for activities during the week.
For the past 22 years, Cornerstone’s leader has been Davis, whose well-documented rise has been even more improbable than the church’s.
Convicted of first-degree murder when he was 18, he spent he eight and a half years in a Texas prison.
There, preachers came and visited him, and after his release — “when God saw fit to supernaturally set me free,” he said — Davis started working in a church as a janitor. He arrived at Cornerstone at age 35 and has led the church as it expands missions around the world, and has opened orphanages in Thailand and elsewhere.
“Being allowed to reach out around the world and do those things, it’s just been a dream come true,” he said.
Cornerstone is an Assemblies of God church, a denomination that has seen its number of adherents increase in America. Its theology is decidedly conservative. At Cornerstone, services include lots of music with special lighting and even a mock game of Family Feud.
The church was at the center of controversy two years ago when it opened its doors for an anti-Shariah law conference. Davis often preaches on culture and lifestyle, condemning things ranging from baggy pants to homosexuality.
“I believe the Bible says certain people don’t go to heaven and homosexuality is one of the things that God says disqualifies you,” he said in an interview.
The social conservative message has an audience. Proof is Cornerstone’s expansion.
“You do not hide within your walls,” Rogers, a newly elected state representative from Sumner County, told a crowd of worshippers at Sunday’s ground-breaking. “You’re blowing the heck out of your walls and you’re expanding them out even further. You’re going to reach thousands of people who you haven’t reached yet.”