Revitalized New York church transforms into a church-planting powerhouse

When Michael (Mike) Rubino started attending Calvary Baptist Christian School on Long Island as a fourth-grade student, he never imagined God would one day call him to pastor the church that housed the school and then share with them a vision for church multiplication.

Today, however, that’s exactly what has happened.

In 2016, Mike became the lead pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, now Cornerstone Bible Church. Since then, he’s led the church through a revitalization process that has resulted in two new church plants being sent into the city.

Not only that, but through opening a Multiplication Center complete with a large classroom that Mike calls “a church plant incubator,” Cornerstone Bible Church has now helped dozens of local pastors and lay leaders foster revitalization in their churches while also connecting them with church planters who are looking for sending churches.

But the journey hasn’t always been glamorous.

“It was a process,” shares Mike, “The first two years, it was a lot of blood, sweat and tears and trying to mend broken hearts.”

“The first thing I told the church,” Mike says, “was if I’m going to be the pastor of this church, then I believe in multiplication: we’re going to multiply disciples, leaders and churches. I also believe that other like-minded churches are not the competition – they’re collaborators — so I want to live open-handed with other churches. I want us to get back in the community and I want our church to reflect the demographic of our community.”

At its lowest point, Cornerstone ran about 40 people, but by 2020, 400 were regularly attending the church.

“Every system we had broke. Every piece of deferred maintenance that was barely holding on, fell apart. We ran out of parking, but the building was full of life,” recalls Mike. “It was beautiful chaos.”

But with 3.6 million people packed onto Long Island, however, Mike knew his church never had a chance of reaching their community alone, no matter how large they grew.

“There was literally no way of reaching our Jerusalem by becoming a megachurch. It would not have expanded the kingdom of God, and we didn’t want to grow our church at the expense of His kingdom,” Mike says. “So, we started asking, ‘What would it look like not to be a megachurch, but to be a multiplying church?’”

Cornerstone Bible Church had no idea where to start. At the time, they had no ties with other churches who were pursuing a similar vision. Mike admits, “We kind of started making it up as we were going along until I got connected to the SBC through the North American Mission Board (NAMB).”

Soon after connecting with NAMB’s Replant team, Cornerstone started offering trainings for their congregation and other pastors and lay leaders in their area whose churches needed revitalization and a vision for multiplication.

“It felt like leaders sprouted up overnight,” Mike shares.

Eventually, what became the Multiplication Center also attracted those interested in church planting, generating organic relationships between new church plants and older churches.

“We started creating this hybrid model of planting and replanting,” Mike says, “and planting new churches in old buildings.”

John Welborn, director of Send New York, says that Mike is a strategic leader in an important part of the city, and described multiplying churches like Cornerstone as crucial for the expansion of God’s kingdom.

“We don’t come in with this belief that we’re bringing the kingdom of God to our communities,” John shares, “We come in with the mindset that we want to partner with what God has already been doing in a city.”

“There are churches that are struggling, but have a heart to be a part of something new and fresh,” John adds, “So bringing in the energy and creativity of a church planter, the vigor for evangelism, and partnering that with a group of people who are struggling with finding a vision can be a monumental opportunity for kingdom growth.”

Mike’s church embraced this opportunity. “We had the revitalization piece, and we got the training piece going, and then God made it very clear that revitalization should always lead to multiplication,” says Mike.

Cornerstone Bible Church then started making God-ordained connections with individuals who were interested in church planting, and that opened the door for them to send out planting teams from their congregation. Cornerstone has now planted two churches on Long Island, Joy Church in Shirley and Retro Church in Centereach.

“We’ve been sending 20 people to this church, 10 people to that church, and now our church knows we don’t come to just gather; we come to be sent out,” Mike says.

Eventually, Mike proposed using one of Cornerstone’s large classrooms that could fit 50 people as that “church plant incubator.” New churches meet in the space in the early days of their ministry.

“One of our biggest challenges was waiting to find buildings for church planters,” says Mike. “We needed these guys to start preaching and learning what it means to find people, but they needed to do it in a safe environment.”

Planting churches inside their building sounded outside-the-box, but Cornerstone agreed that allowing new churches to use the space as an on-ramp met a pressing need.

Mike says that partnering with Send Network has been life-changing for his church.

“Send Network has provided us with the structure, the resources and the support necessary to do this work in a way that’s decently and in order,” he says, quoting 1 Corinthians 14:40.

From running what Mike calls “top-of-the-line” assessments for church planters to caring for each other like family, Send Network helps his church shine an even brighter light for Christ in their city.

“I feel really blessed to be a part of this,” says Mike.

Church Planting Emphasis Day is Sunday, March 17. Churches plant new churches, and Send Network aims to come alongside churches of all sizes and help them become a church planting church like Cornerstone. Visit to learn more.

Published March 14, 2024

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