Our Story

How it all started...

In 1985, Joe Yoshihara moved from Seattle to Los Angeles to work in public accounting.  During this time, he started attending Cerritos Baptist Church where he served as the director of college ministries until 1990.  His experience at Cerritos planted the seeds of a vision of a new church in the Seattle area that could reach and minister to the Asian-American population.  Joe moved back to the Seattle area in 1990 to marry his high school sweetheart, Rita Locke. Rita had also attended Cerritos Baptist church from 1987-1989.  

In 1990, three long-time friends (Joey Locke, Amy Chin and Diana Sum) got together to share about their church experiences and how God was impacting their lives. They had each been part of a traditional church but had experienced a different type of church and worship service in California where the pastor preached to their hearts and not just to their heads. As they began sharing with one another about their amazing experience, they began to wonder if there could be a church like that right here in Seattle. 

A joined vision to reach Asian-Americans in Seattle...

That moment birthed a dream to reach Asian-Americans like themselves in a setting and atmosphere that would be more contemporary. They embarked on studying about Asian-American ministry and how their culture of being both Asian and American impacted their lives, the way they thought, and more importantly, how they responded to Christianity. For the next few months they studied, prayed, and dreamed.  Then one day, they heard that Joe had moved back from California and was engaged to Rita, who had been their high school youth leader.  In addition, Brandt Luke (Joe’s long-time friend) had recently left his physical therapy profession to enroll in seminary.  Brandt had also been their youth leader.  To say the least, the three of them were so excited. They thought that maybe their dream could really come true!

After some time had passed, the five of them (Joe, Rita, Joey, Amy, and Diana) met and found out that their goals were one and the same. They decided to partner with one another and see where God would take them. Joe contacted Brandt and he joined the team as he completed seminary in Oregon.  Together they learned more about Asian-American ministries in the greater Seattle area. They decided that the most impactful place would be on the Eastside. Many Asian-Americans were moving to the Eastside, so they set their hopes to one day start their ministry there.

Church planting challenges...

In 1992, Joe enrolled in seminary and in 1993, Joe and Joey began to form their core team and ministry values. While Brandt was taking a church planting course in seminary, he began to have second thoughts about being involved in the church plant.  He expressed his concerns to his adjunct professor, Pastor Matt Hannan.  A devastating blow was struck when Brandt decided to remain in the Portland area and dropped out of the leadership team.  Joe did not feel the fledgling core team could plant without Brandt and decided to pull the plug on the new church.  Soon after, Joe received a call from Pastor Gary Shiohama, who had recently planted an Asian-American church called South Bay Community Church in Torrance CA.  Pastor Gary was a friend of Pastor Matt and Matt asked Gary to contact Brandt to encourage him.  Brandt redirected Gary to call Joe and they arranged to meet as Gary was coming to the Seattle area to attend a workshop.  Pastor Gary and Joe met for lunch and Gary encouraged Joe to consider going forward with the new church.

In February 1994, Joe and Rita attended a church planting conference and it was there when they felt called to reignite the vision to plant the new church.  They also met Pastor Matt Hannan who was one of the presenters at the conference and he began to mentor Joe through the church planting process.  Joe would make monthly trips to Vancouver WA where Matt would provide church planting training to several potential planters. 

Growing a team…

Joe and Joey continued to build a launch team which eventually grew to 23 people whose hearts God had touched, calling them to what eventually became Cornerstone Christian Fellowship. This team of 23 people began meeting on Saturday mornings at Joe and Rita’s home. Together they prayed, shared their lives, were sharpened by God's Word and prayed some more!

God provided for this new work through the generous hearts of several ministries.  Cerritos Baptist Church adopted us as their first church plant and provided much needed financial resources.  The mission committee of the Japanese Presbyterian Church hosted a baby shower for this new ‘baby’ church.  Other ministries that supported us included the Baptist General Conference, Northshore Baptist Church, Jovita Baptist Church, and South Bay Community Church. 

Cornerstone Church officially launches!

On March 24, 1996, Cornerstone launched its first service in the chapel of Eastside Christian School! Approximately 140 came to the first service - a true testament that God always does immeasurably more than we can imagine! Cornerstone quickly outgrew the chapel and moved the service to the gymnasium.  In 2008, Cornerstone moved to Lake Hills Elementary school in Bellevue, WA.

Cornerstone planted its first church in June 2010, New Freedom Christian Community which meets in the home of Pastor Larry & Chris Mark in South Bellevue and also started an extension ministry in Japan, Cornerstone Tokyo, in August 2011. In 2016 we acquired an office building that we remodeled into a ministry center to house our mid-week ministries and administrative offices.  In 2017 we opened the doors to our new ministry center.  A lot has changed over the years, but what has stayed the same is our desire to extend God's Kingdom, to grow passionate followers of Christ, and to have a love that is contagious!

Be a part of our story...

Join us every Sunday as we gather to worship together at 10:30am.