Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Michael & Zoie Morales

This is the first in a series of posts intended to answer the question, "Who is Access Church?"

The stories you're about to read are from brave folks who have stepped out in faith to see what God might do in Jacksonville should they make themselves available. Allow me to introduce Michael and Zoie Morales.

Michael and Zoie went to high school together in Jacksonville and cultivated a friendship that led to two years of long-distance dating during college. After college, they decided to move to the same city to see if their relationship was “the real thing.” In 2000, they both got jobs with banks and moved to Atlanta.

Michael and Zoie were ready to take their relationship to the next level, but they kept tripping over religion. Michael was raised Catholic, and Zoie grew up in a non-denominational Bible church. Their ideas about what a relationship with God should look like were very different. “It came to the point that we needed to find a church that made us both happy, or we were going to have to stop dating,” Michael said.

The two were visiting churches together in December 2000, when a friend at Zoie’s office invited her to North Point Community Church. Zoie loved North Point right away and couldn't wait to hear Michael’s reaction. “I was immediately attracted to the music, Andy Stanley’s teaching, and the idea of a personal relationship with Christ,” Michael said. “I had never seen so much effort put into a church service to make people feel comfortable and want to come back. Everything was excellent.”

Each week, Michael and Zoie grew more and more excited about North Point and about growing in their personal relationships with Christ. They found it easy to invite friends. “The service is very welcoming to the unchurched,” Michael said. “North Point's attitude every Sunday is that they have people coming for the first time. I knew that when I brought friends in the door, the music would be good, Andy would say something relevant to my visitor, and the environment would be comfortable.”

In 2002, Michael and Zoie married and, a year later, Michael started graduate school, knowing that, when he finished, he would return to Jacksonville to work for his father. He had heard that North Point had started several churches in other parts of the country called strategic partnerships. As graduate school drew to a close in April 2005, Michael and Chip Abernathy, a friend who was also considering a move to Jacksonville, met with David McDaniel, North Point’s director of strategic partnerships.

David suggested that Michael to go to Jacksonville and see what other churches were doing there. He gave Michael a list of churches that used some of North Point’s ministry models. In late summer 2005, Michael and Zoie moved and started looking for a Jacksonville church to call home. “I didn't want to be part of a group starting a church,” Michael said. “We were under a lot of stress from moving, starting a new job, and having a baby on the way. We really just wanted to find a church like North Point.”

After visiting 12 churches, they stopped trying to find a church to call home. “We have so many friends in Jacksonville who don't know that a relationship with Christ can be intimate, and we didn't feel like we could have invited them to the churches we tried,” Zoie said. “We probably knew 50 people we wanted to reach, and we really needed a comfortable, non-threatening place like North Point where we can invite them.”

In September 2005, Michael started making contact with others in Jacksonville who were also interested in starting a North Point strategic partnership. Only one month later, 12 people had joined the effort, and the project steadily gained momentum to become Access Church in September 2006. “It was amazing how God brought people together to make this happen,” Michael said. “Now it’s about to explode.”

“I have been wowed so much in the past year,” Zoie said. “We are excited about what’s coming and what Access Church is going to be.”

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