Friday, November 03, 2006

Another church in Jacksonville?

We started living in our house this week. Actually, it's more like camping. We wanted to be here in time for trick-or-treating, which was a great chance to meet the neighbors, but appliances just came yesterday, and we're still trying to unpack our swimsuits and take a trip to the beach.

Anyway, I met Nick and Leah today—great people, and we have a lot in common. She home-schools their son and daughter, who are the same ages as Peyton and Carly. He manages a retail store up at Regency, and they attend what sounds like a really nice church here on the south side.

So, as I learn about them and our kids are playing kickball together in the backyard, they ask what brings us to Jacksonville. I explain that we've been invited here by a group of folks to help start a church. Which begs a question:

Does Jacksonville really need another church? C'mon, you've thought it. Maybe you're reading this blog and you attend another church in town. Maybe you pastor another church in town. And it's probably a great church. So why does North Point feel the need to start another one in Jacksonville?

I pastored at The Chapel for a decade-and-a-half. Just before I left to join North Point, I heard some friends from Kensington were planning to start a new church in Akron. I thought, "that's stupid." I mean, why duplicate our efforts? The Chapel is a great church—just invite folks here. Why compete against each other?

This post may generate some comments. Those of us who are working hard to see this new venture start in Jacksonville would love to hear from you. But we also want you to hear us clearly: we're not here to compete with you. There are a million people in Jacksonville, and most of them don't go to church anywhere. Frankly, we're not interested in filling our services with folks who already go to church. In fact, everything about North Point is designed to make it attractive to "outsiders"—folks who don't attend church anywhere and may not feel very close to God at all.

So here's what Jacksonville does need. Jacksonville needs intellectually safe environments where those who have not yet decided to put Jesus Christ in charge of their lives can ask questions. Jacksonville needs environments that are predictable and excellent, where believers can invite their not-yet-believing friends to come and hear what the Bible has to say about life in the third millennium. Jacksonville needs small groups where those new believers can be introduced to other believers and "do life" together and develop meaningful friendships that point each other to Godliness. Jacksonville needs environments where kids and parents learn together about God's love for them and His plan for their lives.

We're not looking for "church people." At least not the kind who might come just for the excellent teaching or rockin' music or great kids' programming. We're looking for people who, like us, have hearts breaking for the people in Jax who don't yet know Him and are dying for a place where they can invite these folks to know more about who God really is.

We're excited to be a part of this. We can't wait to see people who don't even think about God on a daily basis enter into a personal relationship with God and give Him all of their worship.

So, Jacksonvillians, hear us loud and clear: we're here to join your team and see God change hundreds, if not thousands, of lives in the years to come. Let's roll!



Anonymous Bob Boyd said...

Where will the church be located and when do expect do begin services?

November 13, 2006 4:49:00 PM EST  
Blogger Rich Barrett said...

Great to hear from you, Bob! We plan to launch in March on the SE side of Jax. We are exploring potential venues now and trying to nail down the dates. Hopefully we can announce those details soon!

November 15, 2006 2:02:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Michael Murray said...

Southeast Jax. around Chet's Creek area? Its a great area, of course there's already a church using North Point materials and doing a great job. somewhat north are a couple of other churches all using North Point materials and doing well or getting things going.
Argyle is another great area where they're already doing the whole thing.
I understand the idea, the purpose and the mission. At the same time, as a pastor who worked a new start in a high growth area I understand killing a market.
The unchurched became frustrated and aggravated in that 9 churches all tried starting on top of us. They asked, "Why can't you guys get together?" I say on top of us because when others discovered the area and the growth they wanted to come out too.
Ever go to Circuit City and have 9 salespeople come up to you? Most people just leave.
There are lots of growth areas. There are also some great churches who are doing things right, who are transitioning when needed. Is there any networking with those currently investing themselves in the community and who are already using North Point materials?
as one, i doubt it.
A kingdom divided ...

December 19, 2006 9:54:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We really need this Church in the Arlington Area. We have been looking for a "home" for 4 years now and have not been able to find one.

December 19, 2006 11:50:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On the 2004 census 80% of people in Jacksonville said they were Christians. Why not go to Seattle or NYC or San Fran? Why Jax? The belt buckle of the Bible belt?

December 19, 2006 11:59:00 AM EST  
Blogger Rich Barrett said...

Thanks for the feedback, everyone! It's exciting to dialogue with men & women who are passionate about seeing more people come to know and worship the one true God. I hope you will pray for us as we learn from you and others in this community. We sure don't have it figured out—we just know we have a model that connects with at least a certain segment of not-yet-God-followers.

"Why Jacksonville?" is a fantastic question, and one I should write a post about. It's a really cool story of how God is working. The short version is that there is an awesome group of people here in Jacksonville who have a real heart for their friends who don't have a growing relationship with God. They want so badly to invite their friends to church, but haven't been able to find the right kind of environment that they feel their friends will connect with. That's not to say there aren't good churches here. It's to say that these folks, who know their friends best, aren't satisfied when they think about the available environments.

Is there a smaller percentage of the population calling themselves Christians in Seattle? Probably. But it would be really hard for folks here to invite their friends to a church in Seattle. It's just a really long drive.

To be honest, we never researched the differences between Seattle and Jacksonville. North Point didn't pick Jacksonville so much as Jacksonville picked North Point.

Let me ask a question back. How many churches should a city have? One? One per thousand residents? What is the right ratio? I'm certainly not smart enough to figure that out. All I know is that when a certain method of drawing people to Christ happens to connect with a certain segment of the population, it's a beautiful thing.

There is not one model of church, right? There are many—and there are many types of attenders and potential attenders. Is one church going to connect with all segments of the population? Not likely.

Would you have the same hesitations if we were starting a Spanish-speaking church (there aren't many on this side of town). To do so would not be an indictment of all churches in the area, but rather to identify a segment of the population not otherwise being reached. I think our model of church speaks a different language than many of the churches already in the area. Not a better language, but a different one.

So, here's another 80% of Jacksonville really Christian? And what does that mean, to be "Christian?" At North Point, we talk about spiritual health in the context of three vital relationships—intimacy with God, community with insiders, and influence with outsiders. So, if 80% of Jacksonville is doing that—pursuing God in personal and corporate worship, engaged in authentic community through life-changing small groups, and sharing the compelling message of grace and forgiveness with the community around them, then that's awesome! That means there is only 20% left for us to engage with, or 200,000 people. I think that will keep our fifteen families busy for a long time to come!

Are Christians "flooding the market" on this side of town? I'm not sure what that would look like. We don't have any plans for mass-marketing or advertising. Our primary method for spreading the word about Access is through relationships. By definition, an unchurched person wouldn't know (or care) if there were 2 new churches in town or 20. I guess if they had 20 different friends all inviting them to 20 different churches that might be overwhelming. But they might also consider that a sign from God!

How many churches in Jacksonville are using North Point curriculum? I don't know. How many are following the North Point model of ministry? None, yet. We think there's room for at least one.

Oh, and as for reason we chose to start at UNF was because of its proximity to Arlington and the population density that exists there. Folks in the launch team live from PV Beach over to Orange Park and up to South Georgia!

I'm not very good at metaphors, but let me try one: Let's say you sell Chevys and I sell Fords. If you open a dealership right next door to me on Southside Blvd, are we in competition? Well, it depends upon our passions. If I'm passionate about Ford, we may have a problem. But, if we are more passionate about more people driving newer, safer cars, then we're on the same team.

I'm not here to sell North Point, or Andy Stanley. I'm passionate about leading people into a growing relationship with God. I think we can all be a team with the same goal, and yet play different positions on the field.

Guys, I'm not a professional church-planter. I don't know the answers to all your questions, or even if there ARE right answers. But, I appreciate the dialogue. I hope we can do it in a healthy way that's encouraging for both sides. Keep the questions coming!

December 20, 2006 3:44:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think anyone wanting to spread the grace of God is welcome anywhere. I am looking forward to Access Church. I hope that those of us questioning whether another church is needed will find the strength to question themselves about their spiritual journey and come together to support a common cause- to enrich our relationship with God.
I would like to put in a vote for Riverside/Avondale area!!

December 22, 2006 4:19:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having recently eaten at Biscotti's, I'd love to spend more time on that side of the river! While we feel that the area around UNF is a strong place to start, we can also envision multiple campuses around Jacksonville in the future.

December 22, 2006 10:56:00 PM EST  

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