Madsen, founding pastor of Cornerstone Fellowship in Livermore (with remote campus in four other East Bay communities plus online), retired from his pastor role Aug. 31. September marked 30 years since he and his wife, Brenda, founded what became the valley’s largest protestant church with a Bible study in their home. It also marked his 43rd year in ministry. He served as the youth pastor at Valley Christian Center (now Brave Church) for 13 years before starting Cornerstone.
We saw each other and caught up a bit at a Christmas open house and then spoke on the phone this week. He’s relaxed with his decision to leave, which he said was well planned. That’s good news because departures of founding pastors after many years is, by definition, challenging.
Madsen now is pouring his time into other pastors. During the Covid lockdowns, he started reaching out to discouraged pastors and offered to get together for coffee, a meal or golf. The lockdown became so politicized that pastors found themselves caught between those who wanted masks and sanitation or online worship and others who wanted the church open and worship as normal. It was no-win for pastors.
His ministry to pastors, who, as senior pastors, can be isolated and spend their time ministering to others, has been gratifying to him.
“It turned out I was able to help restore some folks,” he said. Part of his retirement decision was prompted by his growing ministry. “I was doing so much of this and really, really enjoying it and was ready to turn (the church) over to the staff.” He’s linked up with a non-profit so people who want to support the ministry can do so and receive a tax deduction
Covid and the lockdowns have changed attendance patterns at many churches. To Madsen, there’s no substitute for worshiping and praying in person. Cornerstone had shifted its approach, eliminating the rows and putting people around tables for discussion before and after messages. He observed that for the last 150 years or so, pastors have been preaching sermons as the sole teachers. He thinks the discussion approach is similar to the early church as well as the Jewish services in the historic synagogues.
Looking at what’s ahead for the evangelical church, he observed that the Trump campaigns and administration have resulted in deep divisions that he is concerned will never be mended. He thinks evangelical-minded pastors and congregations will find each and band together to build the Kingdom of God. Madsen noted that he fellowships with everyone and avoids taking sides. He thinks online worship is here to stay and that people who have gotten out of the habit of attending church are unlikely to return.
For now, he’s focused on serving pastors and genuinely excited to attend Saturday’s service as a worshipper.