It was around September 2015 when Pastor Jeff Kliewer first stood behind the pulpit at what is now Cornerstone Church, nestled almost directly across the street from Harrington Middle School along Mt. Laurel Road.
Yet for the story of exactly how he came to stand there, Kliewer describes it as just “such a God thing.”
As Kliewer tells the tale, although he wasn’t affiliated with the church at the time, he had already been living about two miles away from the grounds since 2011 while he undertook the missionary service that he began in Philadelphia seven years prior.
One day, while going for a run past the church, Kliewer said he was already feeling as if maybe he was being called to take a different path with his work.
Kliewer, an evangelical, said he felt a connection with what was then called Mt. Laurel Evangelical Free Church, so he decided to touch the sign in front of the building while traveling past and began to pray for the church while on the rest of his run.
It was during that very run and during those very prayers that Kliewer recalls a text message coming to his phone asking if he would have any interest in preaching at the church that would eventually become known as Cornerstone.
“I texted back ‘I’m literally praying for that church this very second, so I better say yes,’” Kliewer said.
The church didn’t have a pastor at the time, and after a giving a few sermons or “auditions” as Kliewer describes it, he became the church’s full-time pastor in March 2016.
Now, three years since that time, Kliewer said the church has experienced a “revitalization” of sorts.
According to Kliewer, the church has grown from around 40 or so regular attendees in 2016 to now attracting about 130 or so regular worshipers on any given Sunday, with even more attending on special occasions.
“On Easter we had 175 people, which was the most we’ve had by far,” Kliewer said.
That growth caused the church to knock down a wall to expand its sanctuary in the summer of 2017, and Kliewer said the church recently received a shipment of new chairs to help keep up with the growing numbers.
As for the cause of the church’s recent growth these past three years, Kliewer said at least some of the uptick follows a trend where worshipers have been looking for a “Bible Church,” such as Cornerstone.
“A Bible Church – where the Bible is believed to be true and is held as authoritative,” Kliewer said. “Our belief in the inerrancy of scripture and the infallibility of scripture and the authority of scripture is something that many people have been looking for.”
However, Kliewer said a portion of the church’s new attendees is also made up of those who have newly come to faith as well.
To that end, Kliewer said the church is performing baptism ceremonies twice a year.
“New believers are immersed all the way under the water … so that has been real exciting,” Kliewer said. “Every six months or so, we’ll have a number of people getting baptized.”
As for the defining characteristics of Cornerstone itself, Kliewer points to four main corners of Cornerstone.
For the first corner, he said the church is “Gospel centered,” meaning the church focuses on Jesus Christ and his role as a “rock” or foundation upon which the church is to be built.
“We’re really about who Jesus is and what’s he’s done,” Kliewer said. “We don’t want to get distracted away from that main message, so we try to keep Christ central.”
According to Kliewer, that philosophy also drove the church to change its name from Mt. Laurel Evangelical Free Church to Cornerstone Church last spring, in reference to the imagery of cornerstone appearing five times in the New Testament, each in reference to Christ.
For the church’s second corner, Kliewer said church practices “expository preaching,” in which his sermons will work through actual passages of scripture, as opposed to topical messages about life or the world at large.
“We’re very much focused in the text itself,” Kliewer said. “Sermons are 50 minutes and we’ll really go deeply into the author’s intended meaning of that text and try to make it plain.”
Third, Kliewer said Cornerstone is a “congregational church,” where in all members of the congregation try to participate in the life of the church, instead of a “top down” model where the pastor is over the people in some sort of hierarchy.
“You get the sense sometimes in churches that 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work, but the way that Cornerstone functions … when the church service ends at 11:45 a.m., people will still be here talking to one another and spending time together until 1 p.m.,” Kliewer said.
Finally, Kliewer pointed to the church’s missionary work, where the church currently has missionaries or missionary families to places such as Japan, China, Brazil, India, France, Portugal and more.
“We believe that the message of Jesus Christ is what saves, and the world needs to know,” Kliewer said. “The Great Commission – Matthew 28:19 – is to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
To learn more about Cornerstone Church, visit the church’s website at www.cornerstonesj.org.
Locals are also invited to attend a worship service on Sunday mornings, starting at 10:30 a.m.
“It’s open to everybody, and we love having visitors,” Kliewer said.