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Families are greeted by volunteers

Families are greeted by volunteers who make first-timers feel at home. The Christ Fellowship brand is identifiable on logoed apparel worn by church staff and assistants.
CHRIST FELLOWSHIP PHOTO

Megachurch establishes new satellite campus in old Digital Domain building

BY DEBRA MAGRANN

The former Digital Domain building is bustling with new life. Christ Fellowship, a nondenominational church based in Palm Beach Gardens, purchased the 115,000-square-foot studio building last year for $13 million from a combination of a fundraising campaign, a history of generosity and wise stewardship.

“Simply put, for many years the guiding principle of our leadership is economics: Spending less than what comes in, coupled with saving and generosity,” says Travis O’Neal, pastor of the Port St. Lucie campus.

The growing megachurch has a combined attendance of 30,000. Eight satellite locations, including a Spanish-only ministry, span its outreach. Nearly 3,000 attended the first worship service and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Village Parkway in July.

“The reception has been overwhelmingly positive,” O’Neal says. “We have been grateful to honor the people who are attending; many are first-time churchgoers.”

The heartbeat of Christ Fellowship is a traditional message of love for others, with an emphasis on relationships. Finding support in groups is foundational.

“No matter what size of church a person attends, research shows a need to build seven significant relationships in the first three months,” O’Neal says. “We are called to impact our world with the love and message of Jesus Christ to everyone, every day, everywhere.”

Christ Fellowship offers a message to a hurting world: “God never intended for you to walk through life alone. He created the church to be a family — His family — a place where you belong.”

COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS

While serving as pastor at the Stuart location, O’Neal familiarized himself with St. Lucie County. He has built bridges to other congregations — Calvary Chapel, Sonlight Community Church, the Crossings and organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs of St. Lucie County and Treasure Coast Food Bank. “We’re here to just love on the people of Port St. Lucie,” he adds.

Purposely giving back, O’Neal rallies dream teams for a monthly Fourth Saturday Serve, offering help where needed. Within weeks of opening the doors, O’Neal and 80 workers showed up at the Treasure Coast Food Bank to sort 15,000 pounds of provisions.

“One of the first businesses I personally connected with was Dixie Cream Donuts,” O’Neal says. “We did a grab-and-go breakfast at Palm Pointe across the street, and we gave participants in the Leadership St. Lucie class a facility tour. I had a great time at the Boys & Girls Club Chili Cook-Off.”

Jason Hatfield, band director at the Florida Atlantic University Palm Pointe Educational Research School at Tradition, incorporates electric guitar classes in the music schedule.

“Travis reached out immediately, asking, ‘What can we do for your school?’,” Hatfield explains. “I had wanted to go over there because my guitar students need an outlet to perform outside of class. They have a great band outreach at the church - all volunteers. The week before school started, he brought over Dixie Cream donuts for the staff and we connected.

“What I thought was really cool about that interaction was he took a pass on advertising that they were providing the donuts,” Hatfield continues. “I suggested they could put up a sign or something. He was very low-key, no publicity necessary. From a teacher standpoint, I’m super excited to have them involved in the community. They just care about people.”

CULTURAL CONTEXT

Service is casual, directed to a multicultural, 18-35 demographic that translates to a worship experience accompanied by ear plugs. “We have them on hand to give out,” O’Neal explains.

The dynamics that make up contemporary faith communities have changed dramatically in the past 30 years. Technology drives the music and messaging. Sermons from lead pastor, Todd Mullins, are live-streamed from Palm Beach Gardens onto flat screens across the network.

Like many biblically-based Protestant megachurches, Christ Fellowship falls into a framework of common characteristics: a distinctive, contemporary worship style; state-of-the-art sound and projection systems; seeker-style outreach; weekly activities; home groups or life-study emphasis; high levels of financial giving and dedicated volunteers. What sets them apart is a core value to train leaders.

With John Maxwell as the teaching pastor, it’s easy to understand. An internationally respected leadership expert and a New York Times best-selling author, Maxwell has 71 titles to his name and has sold more than 20 million books during his 35-year career. Three books individually sold more than a million copies: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Developing the Leader Within You, and The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader.

CHRIST FELLOWSHIP

Address: 10250 SW Village Parkway, Port St. Lucie
Service times: Sunday, 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m
For more information: www.gochristfellowship.com; on Facebook: Christ Fellowship Port St. Lucie or follow Pastor Travis O’Neal on Twitter and Instagram @t4oneal.