Outgrown Ill. Church to Buy Former Walmart Building

A church in southern Illinois is buying a 120,000-square-foot building, formerly a Walmart store, to make room for the increasing number of congregants.

Cornerstone Church in Marion, Ill., will purchase the former Walmart building for $2.5 million and move its flagship campus from its old building on Old Bainbridge Trail into the facility near the intersection of Illinois 13 and Halfway Road in the Williamson County, The Southern Illinoisan reported.

"We originally planned on building here on Bainbridge," Lead Pastor Michael Nave was quoted as saying. "But with the economy and building costs as they are, it is simply less expensive to find an existing building. The Walmart building is a great shell, and we'll be able to renovate."

Renovation alone could cost about $1 million. "We are taking a grassroots approach ... doing most of the labor with volunteers," Nave said, hoping that would bring down the cost. "We're going to drop that cost number significantly by using our people, who are willing to help. All of the trades are represented in our church. We are excited about working and sweating side-by-side to provide the place we think God has asked us to."

Nave described his church, which has 700-plus members as of now, as a simple church that reaches out to the city and region. "We've never been about having a glamorous facility," he explained. "In that sense, we are very utilitarian."

The pastor added that the purchase of the new building will just be the beginning of the church's expansion.

"From the very beginning, Cornerstone has had a great passion to be a church that makes an impact on the region," he said. "The way that we've been looking to do that is through new campuses. We're discovering that even establishing a new church hasn't alleviated our need for space. We were averaging about 725 people when we 'gave away' more than 100 for the Carterville church not long ago. Now we're back over 700 again. We're excited."

Cornerstone, founded 13 years ago, has a vision to ensure that there is a church in every high school district in the region, "whether it is a Cornerstone campus or a strategic partner church."

The church plans to build an auditorium with capacity for about 1,000 attendees at the new location. Cornerstone also plans to continue offering two services every weekend as well as add space for elementary, junior high and high school ministries.