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Religion on the big stage

ST. CHARLES – Christ Community Church’s weekly services draw thousands of people to its sprawling St. Charles Township campus, numbers that attest to its mission of connecting people to God who don’t have a relationship with God, senior pastor Jim Nicodem said.

“We exist for the people who don’t yet come,” he said.

Started in 1984 with six families, Christ Community Church has grown to four campuses in multiple counties, the biggest of which is in St. Charles Township.

The 100,000-square-foot facility includes a 2,000-seat auditorium, bookstore, a teen area with its own auditorium, a children’s section with classrooms, a climbing wall and theater.

No question, it’s a megachurch.

According to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, Christ Community Church is one of 55 megachurches in Illinois.

By the institute’s count, there are more than 1,600 megachurches nationwide and at least one in every state except Delaware, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont.

The term megachurch usually refers to any Protestant congregation with a sustained average weekly attendance of at least 2,000 people, according to the Hartford Institute.

But size isn’t the only defining characteristic.

The Hartford Institute named other traits common among megachurches, including strong charismatic senior ministers and many associate pastors; a large staff; a robust congregational identity that empowers hundreds to thousands of weekly volunteers; an identity that draws people from a very large area; various programs and ministries organized and maintained by members; daily activities at the church; high levels of commitment and giving by members; contemporary worship; state-of-the-art sound and projection systems; auxiliary support systems, such as bookstores and coffee shops; and campuses of 30 to 100 acres.

Nicodem didn’t know Christ Community Church would expand to what it is today, but he knew it was “scratching where people itch,” he said, adding it began with a goal to be creative and contemporary.

While the church is casual, Nicodem said, that doesn’t mean it lacks reverence.

“People assume we must feed them cotton candy spirituality,” he said.

Rather, he said, the church constantly challenges its attendees to grow and is big on teaching the Bible and its relevance to daily life.

“They get hooked on the Bible,” Nicodem said.

Because Christ Community Church is so big – average weekly attendance is 3,800 to 4,000 people – Nicodem said it is more about building a community.

It offers more than 400 small groups and several service opportunities, including six international ministries, Nicodem said.

That, he said, is what’s nice about being a bigger church: It can offer many programs that smaller churches cannot.

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