Life Fellowship planning $1.4 million move
by Staff Writer
CORNELIUS – When Pastor Bobby Conway Jr. founded Life Fellowship Church in Davidson in 2004, he wasn’t concerned with the size of his flock as much as he was focused on enriching the lives of the 140 people that showed up at the church’s first service.
Seven years later, the church now boasts over 700 parishioners and has outgrown its Davidson home. Life Fellowship leaders are looking to build a $1.4 million facility in Cornelius and could break ground as early as next year.
Cornelius commissioners will see plans for the new facility in January and the planning board will hear a rezoning request in February for the nearly 18-acre facility along Chartwell Center Drive – an Interstate 77 service road – located on south of Catawba Ave., according to documents on the town’s website.
The church currently meets at the Community School of Davidson, 565 Griffith St., where Pastor Conway holds one 9 a.m. service and fills two gymnasiums for the 10:45 service.
Conway hosts a worship service with a band in one of the gyms, while another gym is lead by a different live band and only Conway’s voice.
“We just want to reach out to the community and focus on being leaders and being healthy,” Conway said about his church’s non-denominational, Bible-teaching mission. “People want to be a part of things that are healthy.”
The tract of land the church is looking to purchase is currently owned by the Blakely family, and in 2008 was zoned as an office park business campus in 2008 by the board. However, no businesses bought into the park and landowners had the tract rezoned for rural preservation in order to avoid paying the high-cost of property taxes on the undeveloped land, according to Town Planner Jason Prescott.
Life Fellowship Church is committed to staying with the original business park model previously approved by the board, Conway said. In doing so, Conway said the church could attract neighbors and strengthen bonds in the community.
“The interesting thing is that we are trying to work with the plans that are already in place,” said Conway. “We don’t want to interfere with that plan.”
The benefits of constructing their church in a business-park style and format include being able to attract other business in the area that could further strengthen the church, Conway said. The pastor also imagines the style would enable the businesses to share parking on the weekends in order to accommodate the church’s growing congregation.
If the board approves rezoning the land, construction on phase one could begin next year.
According to church officials, phase one will include a 25,000-square-foot structure for worship and childcare, and will cost nearly $6 million, including the $1.4 million for land costs.
However, before any ground is broken, Conway says their number one priority is making sure the land is paid in full.
“We do not want to crush the church with debt,” Conway said. The church has a financially conservative stance and they want to pay for the land before they begin phase one of construction, he said.
Despite what others may think about the church’s vision of a modern, business-like structure, Conway said it has no effect on the mission of the church.
“Our philosophy is that the church is not a building, it is a body of collective believers,” Conway said. “The people are the church and the building is only a container from which we do our ministry.”