Friday, December 29, 2006

We're In!

I'm currently sitting in the Jacksonville airport after spending all day traveling to close on our new home. We had been traveling for the holidays, so I flew out of Grand Rapids, MI, this morning at 6:30. I arrived in Jacksonville around noon, did the walk-through, and finished the closing around 3:00pm. My flight is at 6:15pm, and I should arrive back in Grand Rapids around 11:30pm. It's been a very long day, but the Lord has been so faithful and has provided us with a great place to call home. Thanks so much to all of you who have helped us in this process. Your actions are greatly appreciated! Zoie, thanks for making numerous last-minute trips over there for us—especially the walk-through!

So, we're finally making the long-awaited move! We're thinking that we'll make the journey sometime around the 9th or 10th of January! If you would, please remember us in your prayers as we take this huge step. We are so excited to begin our life with you all here in Jacksonville, but our emotions are still high from the thought of leaving friends and what-not in Atlanta—not to mention that our home in Atlanta is STILL on the market! It's not the best time of year to sell, so please pray that the Lord will do His thing for us!

Feel free to come on over and say hello!


Friday, December 22, 2006

Who's in Church?

A recent commenter on this blog mentioned that 80 percent of Jacksonville declared themselves "Christian" in a 2004 census. I don't know if that's true or not, but it did make me pay a little more attention when my friend Derrak started quoting statistics for Akron, OH, where he wants to start a church. As I said here the other night, we didn't do a tremendous amount of research coming into this—it's been a very relational process. So, just for fun, I did a little checking.

Turns out, 81 percent of Jacksonville is completely absent from church on any given Sunday. Only 13 percent of the metropolitan statistical area is present in evangelical churches. Three percent of the people are in Catholic churches, and 3 percent are in mainline churches. What's interesting is that the only segment that is increasing in Jacksonville church attendance is the Catholic church (up 6.8 percent over 10 years), which could be attributed to the 54 percent increase in the area's Hispanic population during the same period. (All stats courtesy of The American Church.)

I don't know what all of this means; I'm not a statistician. But it certainly seems that there are literally hundreds of thousands of people in this city who wake up on Sunday morning and don't even think about attending church. I'd love to be part of a church that changes that. Wouldn't you?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Why Jacksonville?

I have been asked several times, "Why did North Point choose Jacksonville?"

The answer is simple: We didn't. Jacksonville chose North Point.

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 that 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.

These Jacksonville locals, many of whom didn't know each other, began to contact North Point nearly two years ago. The requests became more frequent and, at some point, North Point had to pay attention. It didn't hurt that some of these people had lived in Atlanta for at least a while, had attended North Point or Buckhead Church, and were known around NPCC as servants, leaders, and dedicated God-followers.

Around the same time, my wife and I had agreed to lead the next North Point strategic partnership—we just didn't know where it should be. We had no idea how clear God was going to make that. We visited Jacksonville twice in the spring of 2006 and met with the core team that God had already assembled here. We were impressed by their clear desire to start a church, not for themselves, but for their friends who wouldn't feel comfortable in most churches.

So, there you go. No room full of maps and demographics. No census statistics. Just a group of people passionate on behalf of their friends—friends whose worship God deserves.

The coolest part is that the story isn't over! About once a week I get an email that says,

"My husband and I just moved to Jacksonville from Atlanta, where we attended NPCC..."

"My brother and his wife are in Jacksonville and are very excited..."

"My son is stationed at Mayport and they have not attended church for many years. They love North Point when they come here to visit..."

"My husband is being transferred to Florida, and we've decided to live in Jacksonville to be a part of this new strategic partnership..."

God is doing something very amazing!


Three Vital Relationships

What is the goal of Access Church? Well, we exist to lead people into growing relationships with Jesus Christ. What is a growing relationship?

We believe that a person who is growing in their relationship with Jesus Christ is someone who is pursuing intimacy with God, community with insiders, and influence with outsiders.

Intimacy with God
includes regular private and corporate worship experiences as well as allowing the truth of the Bible to change how you live, specifically... you develop community with insiders. For us, that happens in community groups, but the method isn't as important as recognizing that we need other people around us in safe, authentic relationships in which we can discuss our faith, God's Word, and how it relates to our...

...influence with outsiders. We aren't called to be separate from the world, but to relate to everyone around us with such grace and love that they want to know and worship the same God we do.

These relationships are vital and interdependent. Imagine how God would be honored if everyone reading this blog committed to pursue these three relationships equally and with vigor!


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Access Informational Meeting

Are you curious about Access Church? Do you have friends with questions about what kind of church this will be? Perhaps you want to know more about the North Point model of ministry and what it will look like when it's deployed here in Jacksonville. Maybe you just want to know if our staff members are as funny-looking in person as in our web photos!

Are you ready for a different kind of church?

If so, we invite you to join us for an informational meeting on January 14, 2007, at 6:00pm. The meeting will be held at the University of North Florida's Fine Arts Center.

Ben, Rob, and I will be there with our families and the core team that has been praying and working for this for years! We're eager to meet you and hear your hearts for ministry in this area. We're also anxious to paint a picture of our vision for introducing thousands of people in Jacksonville to their heavenly Father. We really believe Access Church will be unlike other churches we've been a part of and, at this meeting, we'll have a chance to look at the evidence!

This is not a worship service, but rather an informal opportunity for us to share our excitement for how God has already had a hand in Access and our hopes for what He will do in the years to come! We'd love to meet you and hear what God is doing in your life as well.

To get to the Fine Arts Center from I-95 or the West, take J. Turner Butler Blvd. east to the St. Johns Bluff Road exit (9A), and turn left. The University of North Florida Drive exit is approximately 1 mile. Turn right to enter the campus. The Fine Arts Center parking garage will be on the right. There is no need for a parking pass on the weekend.

To get to the Fine Arts Center from the beaches, take J. Turner Butler Blvd. west to the Kernan Boulevard exit, and turn right. The entrance to the university campus is approximately 1/2 mile on the left. Upon entering the campus, turn left at the first light. At the next light, turn right, and the Fine Arts Center parking garage is on the right. There is no need for a parking pass on the weekend.

Child care: Child care will not be provided for this event. However, we will be happy to reimburse any family who attends the event for the expenses of an in-home babysitter. Reimbursement forms will be available at the event.

Seating for this event is limited. Register now so we can save you a seat.

We look forward to meeting you on January 14 at 6:00pm!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Podcast—Choosing Christmas

If you're looking for a great way to sample Andy Stanley's teaching style, check out this timely podcast on the iTunes Music Store. It's free to subscribe and easy to share with a friend!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The 21st Law

So, I’m very close to finishing reading The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. I’m on the 21st law, actually—and for those of you who know how much I don’t really care for reading, you understand how much of a feat it is that I am so close to finishing a book.

Now, stick with me on this.

Every law, so far, has been very encouraging and thought-provoking. They've been quite helpful in the start of building the Access brand. But then I get to this 21st law—The Law of Mortality. This chapter has a bit of a different ring to it—a different timbre, if you will. In the authors’ words, “No brand will live forever." Unfortunately, this law seems to contradict our plans for Access Church.

Authors Al and Laura Ries go on to say,

“It’s like life itself. A new generation appears on the scene and goes off in exciting new directions. Careers are born and blossom. Meanwhile, the old generation withers and dies.

"Don’t fight it. For brands, like people, there is a time to live and a time to die. There is a time to invest in a brand and there is a time to harvest a brand. And, unfortunately, there is a time to put the brand to sleep.”

This was quite the pick-me-up. Nothing gets me in a better mood than some good conversation on euthanasia.

But don’t worry; I quickly reached the same conclusion that you probably already have. We are at the front end of that 21st law. We are the new generation that appears on the scene and goes off in exciting new directions.

During my years of performing at the theme parks in Orlando, I sometimes wished I’d been there for the grand opening—the fun of seeing the scaffolding come down from around the completed castle or the day the very first parade came down Main Street. I simply wasn’t there when it all started. It wasn’t “my time.” But I did get to experience the fun of opening a brand new show in the park and the excitement of participating in a first-time parade. And now that I’ve moved on, I somehow bet they are still working on new stuff that the current cast is pretty excited about.

None of us can say we were there when God started The Church; only the people from the book of Acts get to say that. But a couple thousand years later, God is giving you and me an opportunity to be on the edge of something big. We’ll watch this thing take off from the beginning! And we can all say we were there on opening day of “our time” in the long history of what God is doing in this world.

This brand we are building is designed for the long haul. It is part of Access’s DNA to continue looking for new ways to spark the attention of outsiders and bring them into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. With this value as part of our brand, I feel rather strongly that we’ll be able to rip this 21st law out of the book. See, there’s another book that says we really can make something last—forever.

We’re gonna shake things up a bit on March 4. Make sure you’ve got a good seat for the action.

New Digs

We have contracted with an executive suite to handle our incoming mail and phone calls and to use their office space on an as-needed basis. Give us a call, and let us know how the new system works for you, or send us a note at the following address:

Access Church
10151 Deerwood Park Blvd
Bldg 200, Suite 250
Jacksonville, FL 32256

Phone: 904.647.1220

Update on the van

It's been a crazy couple of weeks, but we replaced the van and added a puppy to the mix while we were at it! Cooper is a six-week-old Golden Retriever who is now the center of our home. Despite David McDaniel's concern about the Gator being a suitable replacement for the van, I want to assure everyone that we'll be wearing helmets on the highway!

Actually, we found a good deal on a used suburban, which will give us some extra room for the growing kids and the additional family member. Thanks for your prayers!