Currently, he serves as pastor of Cleveland Cornerstone Church, which he said was “an open door from the Lord.” He recently celebrated his first year at the church. Cornerstone was established 30 years ago in 1982.
The theme for Cornerstone is “Discovering Hope at the Foot of the Cross.” He explained, “Be hopeful, no matter what circumstances.”
Harwell came to Cleveland in fall 2007, starting pastoral ministries. He is still part time with the CAPS Program which is designed in active ministry.
Originally from San Diego, the third-generation minister comes from a background in ministry. His mother was the daughter of the Church of God overseer in the Philippines. “I am a product of church missions,” Harwell observed.
His parents served in the pastoral ministry 17 years in California and, as an only child, he grew up in church, which helped him to be attached to church people. For four years, he traveled in full-time evangelistic ministry, and also served with his parents in pastoral ministry. “I was blessed to be able to speak [from] the East Coast to the West Coast,” he said. This, he added, gave him an enjoyment of preaching.
He enjoyed many aunts and uncles who were pastors in California, and modeled his ministry after them, he said. An uncle in Cleveland, Randall Bailey, served as a pastor 20 years. “These heroes,” Harwell said, “developed my desire to be a pastor.”
It was surprising to him, Harwell said, that a single 21-year-old not yet finished with education would be asked to serve as a pastor. He said he prayed, “Lord, give these people who they deserve.”
And God gave him a vision of what a Cleveland downtown church could accomplish. He said the Lord has assembled a wonderful team for outreach in the community, including Emeritus Pastor Herb Connelly, who served 20 years, and Barry Fowler. But, Harwell added, “Jesus Christ is senior pastor of the church.”
Although Harwell comes from a Church of God background, Cornerstone is interdenominational, with the congregation consisting of various denominations, such as Methodist, Baptist, Church of God and so forth. There is a strong sense of unity, however, said Harwell. They do have a membership, but he said they want people to find a welcoming atmosphere, regardless of affiliations or past.
“The church offers an opportunity to be part of a spirit-filled family,” he explained.
The church is involved in visitation ministry — going into homes, talking and ministering at hospitals and nursing homes. Some are unable to come to the church, so “we bring church into the home, to lift them up, encourage and support them,” he said.
“We’ve taken ministry beyond the four walls of the church,” Harwell said. He said he watched the pastoral duties all his life and he respects the pastoral ministry. In the “urban mission church,” he said, they seek to find the best way to be a blessing. He quoted a former president: “The church is a hospital for the community.”
He doesn’t consider his pastorate to be a temporary position — “My prayer is this is a lifelong position.” He said it’s a matter of attitude calling for tomorrow and for future generations. “I look at it as lifelong ... does better ministry,” he said. “A time limit hinders.”
Harwell said every single thing you do — ministry is for life. “You never retire from pastoring. You have to look at the lifelong picture — to serve God.”
He said that’s what the church is all about. “We’re there to glorify Him.”
Harwell considers the ministry an investment in people. “... maybe the next Billy Graham or the next president,” will come from such a background. At age 23, he said he’s glad God is no respecter of people. “Jesus is the uniter of all of us — everyone is the same.”
So many come to Lee from a church background, Harwell began, that it’s difficult for someone new to find a church to plug into — a community of young people — and it almost feels suffocating.” He said the church offers an open opportunity for any student to be welcome and have a chance to minister in their calling. He said his heart’s desire is that it will be a place where people who want to serve the Lord will have a place for gifted ministry.
His goal, he said, is for the church to be a lighthouse for the community.