In 1965, a handful of people began meeting in a small house at 1031 Dolores Street, Bakersfield, California. After three months, feeling prompted by the Holy Spirit, this faith-filled group purchased a church at 1100 Height Street and named it Iglesia El Buen Pastor, meaning The Good Shepherd Church. After 35 years, they again trusted God and endeavored to build a new facility. Difficult circumstances arose that left the church construction unfinished and the few remaining congregants, discouraged with little hope of revival. In response, in the year 2000, Pastor Saul Gonzalez was temporarily assigned to fill the pulpit of the struggling church with the intention and belief that another pastor would soon be commissioned.
With no electricity and only a gas generator to power a single light bulb, microphone, and guitar amplifier, the first service had approximately 15 people in attendance. At the time, the church struggled with the burden of being hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt with little hope of finishing a partially completed construction project which ran aground as funds dried up. A couple of months later, on an early Sunday morning, Pastor Saul knelt before the altar praying, and he heard the Lord clearly speak, “I brought you to this house of worship to stay and shepherd my people,” and after an initial moment of shock and awe, he immediately petitioned God for wisdom and direction.
We Serve the God of Providence and Provision
Within two to three years, we had grown exponentially and clearly saw God’s hand bless and prosper His church, which in effect, made it possible to cancel and pay off all debt. By 2005, we had enough savings to use toward the purchase of a new building. We were now celebrating two overflowing Sunday morning services, a 6 pm service, looking to add a fourth, and desperately needing classroom space to accommodate a robust children and youth ministry. We began to ask God to open the door for a new and larger facility. During this season, to accommodate the overflowing congregation, we occasionally celebrated joint services at a much larger Assemblies of God church.
As Pastor Saul and the church waited for God to move, we felt a clear calling to enhance our vision to intentionally reach both the Spanish-speaking and English-speaking communities. We felt God wanted us to be a church that intentionally seeks to bridge the gap between languages, cultures and generations. To complement this shift, we became a bilingual ministry and changed our name to Cornerstone Christian Community.
One Tuesday evening, while searching for a new potential church location, Pastor Saul and his wife, Linda, felt led to drive to 3311 Manor Street and parked right in front of the sanctuary for a few minutes. They were stirred in their hearts and moved to pray for the pastor of this larger AG church and for God to bless and prosper the congregation, believing that one day, in the not too distant future, God would make it possible for Cornerstone to purchase a similar facility. As Providence would have it, the very next morning, Pastor Saul received a 9 am call to his office where he served as principal of Cesar E Chavez High School from this same pastor informing him that the church was planning to move to another facility. The pastor shared that he and his board felt impressed by God to give Cornerstone an exclusive opportunity to make the first offer on his church.
Thanks to the Lord’s orchestration, Cornerstone was able to purchase our new home for a quarter of the appraised value. This 25 acre facility enjoys a beautiful sanctuary that accommodates 1,000 worshipers with multiple complementary buildings, including more than 50 classrooms, a children’s chapel, a youth chapel and a K-12 Christian Academy. Today, our thriving church continues to expand rapidly and meet numerous needs in the community, including partnering with Hope Center, an on-site ministry, which in 2016, provided 54,000 families with food, clothing and other necessities.
The God of New Beginnings
In 2016, we began to feel the burden to become a church for the unchurched and to challenge believers to proactively pursue and fulfill God’s purpose and calling in their lives. During this transition, we felt that God was asking us to find a name that would truly represent our Identity, Mission and Destiny as a church. After much prayer, we felt that God was calling and leading us to become LifeHouse, a house in which the life and power of Christ would move His church to carry out its mission to transform lives and impact our community.
LifeHouse is now on a mission to lead people to Know God, Grow Together and Go Serve and to make a difference where it matters most – right in the heart of every community where God plants a LifeHouse campus. In addition to our Bakersfield/Oildale campus, we have recently planted churches in Delano, Wasco and enjoy ministering to a growing online community. We are prayerfully anticipating purchasing a new property and launching a brand new all-English congregation, a fifth campus to be announced. LifeHouse is honored to serve and minister to over approximately 1,500 worshipers on a weekly basis who call LifeHouse their home. We are confident that LifeHouse's best days are yet to come and looking forward to impacting our communities with increased focus and intentionality.