Its sanctuary only seats 500, so on any given Sunday the Augusta church holds four services to accommodate 1,900 people. To celebrate its 25th anniversary in November, the church rented Bell Auditorium, marking the first time in more than a decade that the entire church worshiped together.
By this time next year, the church hopes to have broken ground on a $5 million expansion that will double its seating capacity. The expanded facility will include new parking, nursery and preschool space, offices and a new entrance and atrium.
“We’ve always had the same focus and vision, and it’s always been about reaching the unchurched,” said Todd Sturgell, the church’s creative worship pastor. “We always have room for one more. It’s why we have four services. It’s why we’re expanding,”
With just shy of 2,000 in attendance, Stevens Creek isn’t quite a megachurch yet. Lead Pastor Marty Baker, however, has big plans for the future.
“The first 25 years have been great, but God has a plan that is bigger than those 25 years,” Baker said.
Stevens Creek got its start in a living room in Edgefield County on Nov. 29, 1987. It was known for its first decade as the Church of the Harvest.
The small, traditional congregation relocated to a hotel ballroom, performing baptisms in a Quality Inn hot tub, before buying a building on Old Petersburg Road.
Attendance averaged less than 100 after four years. Baker realized he wasn’t fulfilling his mission: to reach the lost.
After visiting the Willow Creek megachurch outside Chicago, Baker decided to switch to contemporary worship. He did away with choir robes, updated the music, changed the church name and worked to make his preaching more accessible.
“It was there for the very first time in my life that I understood how we could build a church for the unchurched people, and it revolutionized our church,” Baker said in a video recounting the church’s history, which was played at the anniversary celebration.
Not everyone loved the new format.
“People thought we were going down a path that we should not be going down,” Baker said in the video. “People looked at us like we were watering down the gospel or were trying to bring entertainment to the church.”
Half his church left. Baker ended the year with 150 members after average attendance had grown to nearly 300.
In 1996, the congregation sold the Old Petersburg Road building and moved to Stevens Creek Elementary School with plans of building a sanctuary on Stevens Creek Road. The new campus would be modern and inviting, with a stage suited for music and drama.
It opened in 1998, and by 2000 Stevens Creek had begun a season of exponential growth. The church pushed the envelope with live art, drama and dance in worship and helped start two other churches: Journey Community Church and Genesis Church, both in Evans.
“We really pioneered a contemporary model in Augusta,” Baker said. “It took several years for us to blaze a trail. We’re thankful we had an opportunity to be part of this process.”
In 2006, Baker developed a giving kiosk that his company, SecureGive, now replicates in churches across the United States. Giving kiosks allow people to make credit and debit card donations to their churches.
In 2011, the church grew to four services and launched an “online campus,” where Internet users log in to chat during services or pray with a pastor in real time.
“What we saw was the lost coming in through our doors,” Baker said. “That’s why we’re here. We’re here to reach out to people who may have never darkened the door of a church, but for some reason they felt comfortable enough to walk through the doors of Stevens Creek Community Church.
“And they sat here and listened to the message, and then they responded to the call of faith, and they turned and they followed Jesus, and they went public with their faith through baptism. And I say, ‘Yea, God, there’s another one for the kingdom,’ and that,” he said, “is why we’re here.”