Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Follow this link to download the latest podcast from North Point, "Pause." Here's the description from iTunes:

Temptation isn't new. From the apple in the garden to the guy with the cute smile to the less than legitmate business deal, we all struggle with temptation. But why is it that we can't just walk away? Though we promise ourselves that next time we'll be stronger, last longer, and pass up the chance, it seems like we keep making the same choices over and over again. In this series, we realize what is behind temptation and what is at stake every time we're tempted, and in doing so we find the confidence to respond as Jesus did.

Give it a listen, and then share it with a friend. These podcasts are a great way to familiarize yourself with Andy's teaching.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Info Meeting in Review

Some of you couldn't make the info meeting, and you are dying. Calling me, emailing me, driving past my house...okay, okay!! Here's what you missed:
  • Great food
  • Starbucks coffee
  • Free t-shirts
  • Really great people
  • Video of the North Point environments (one of which you can see on the front page of our web site)
  • A challenge from me about the kind of church we want to be
  • The opportunity to sign up to volunteer
  • The opportunity to sign up for the bus trip
Fear not! Much still awaits you! You can still:
  • Sign up to volunteer—especially in Waumba (preschool) and UpStreet (elementary)
  • Commit to pray each day for Access—34 days until we launch
  • Sign up for the bus trip—drop us an email
  • Consider helping financially—we want to start with our best foot foward
  • Spread the word, and invite your friends to the launch at UNF on March 4, 6:00pm

Friday, January 26, 2007

Bill & Dianne Diffenderfer

Bill and Dianne Diffenderfer first attended North Point Community Church in Atlanta in 1995, before North Point even had a permanent location. They were quickly drawn to the church. "It was so comfortable," Dianne said. "You didn't have to know a 'secret handshake' or the words to the songs. Once we experienced that comfort level, we didn't want to leave."

Bill and Dianne were excited about North Point and continued attending. But in 1998, they moved to the community of Buckhead, 45 minutes from North Point. For a while, they drove to North Point, but soon decided that they needed to find a church closer to home. They started attending a local church, but would often take their new friends back to North Point.

During that same time, David McDaniel, a member of their local church, and two other men were talking to North Point about starting a church in Buckhead that would model North Point. Shortly thereafter, Bill and Dianne, the McDaniels, and 33 other families decided to start a new church in Buckhead.

North Point "adopted" the group of families, and the group grew to be a satellite campus of North Point, known as Buckhead Church. "Buckhead Church just exploded in attendance," Bill said. "There was a need for a North Point-type church in Buckhead."

In 2003, Bill and Dianne began considering a move to Florida for business reasons and quality of life. A year later, they started making plans for an August 2005 move to Jacksonville.

In July 2005, Bill met with David McDaniel, who had since become North Point's director of strategic partnerships, to discuss an idea for a foundation that would help churches. The conversation turned toward Michael Morales, who was also moving to Jacksonville from Atlanta and was interested in starting a North Point church in Jacksonville. "David suggested that I meet with Michael when I got to Jacksonville," Bill said.

Bill and Dianne moved to Jacksonville with no intentions of being part of a North Point church plant. They wanted to find an established, like-minded church to attend. "We visited about five churches when we first got to Jacksonville," Dianne said. "We were disappointed, though. They used some of North Point's ministry models, but watered them down."

In October, Bill and Dianne traveled back to Atlanta so that their daughter could be baptized at Buckhead Church. That Sunday, North Point's Andy Stanley preached on prayer. "Andy said that prayer was good for faith-building and that we should pray for something big so that, when it was answered, we would know that it was God," Dianne said. "We decided, as a family, that we would pray for a church in Jacksonville that we could love as much as we loved North Point and Buckhead."

The next morning, Bill got an email from Michael Morales suggesting that they meet for lunch to discuss a North Point strategic partnership church in Jacksonville. Bill was unable to attend the lunch, but forwarded the email to Dianne, asking her to attend in his absence. Dianne excitedly met with Michael, and Bill and Dianne joined the group of families that would later become Access Church. "God really answered our prayers for a church we would love," Dianne said.

Bill and Dianne are excited for what Access Church will bring to Jacksonville. "The environments are entertaining, attractive, not judgmental, and not invasive," Bill said. "You can sit in the back of the room forever, and no one will bother you. But, over time, you'll want to go deeper and get to the level of accepting Jesus."


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Video Church (Part Two)

A friend of mine is really struggling with this concept. "The preacher has to be in the room!" he has said with passion. "He has to know his flock! He has to take the truth of God's word and apply it to their lives!"

I asked him if the same thing applied to his sermons that are broadcast on the local Christian radio station.

I have another friend whose grandfather is a well-known evangelist. He sounds a little like his grandfather when he preaches and he was literally waving his arms around the restaurant as he tried to talk me out of this kind of church plant. "The worship service is where the man of God delivers the word of God to the people of God! It must happen in the moment! It must be a two-way dialog!"

I didn't have the heart to point out to him that thousands, if not millions, have come to Christ by watching his grand-dad on television.

Another friend and mentor in ministry just shook his head and looked as if he was about to vomit when I explained Access Church. His doctorate is in rhetoric and he has some pretty strong feelings about sermon development. His dissertation has a title like, "The Audience as Co-Creator of the Sermon." He doesn't use notes when he preaches (he is an amazing communicator) and he claims to navigate through the message based on the visual cues he is receiving from the audience.

I asked him if he's ever worshipped to a Chris Tomlin CD. "Of course." But he's never met Chris (neither have I—Chris if you're reading, we'd really love to have you lead worship at Access!). Chris doesn't know him or the issues in his life. But Chris takes the universal message of God's word and combines it with an understanding of the universal human condition, and, wham! —you've got yourself some amazing worship stuff.

So, before you shake your head and dismiss "the video church," keep in mind that our generation is witnessing the most incredible communications revolution of all time. Who knows what the communications landscape will look like in ten years? There was once a time the church led the way in making use of the arts, and the printing press...let's continue to lead the way and use every method at our disposal to get the most important message in the world to as many people as possible in the most effective way available.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Video Church (Part One)

It occurred to me today that I've never blogged here about our teaching methods at Access. Funny, some things you just get so used to...you forget to explain them to others.

You see, we are so focused on the biggest difference between Access and other churches (we care more about reaching people than keeping people) that we forgot to mention this other small difference: our preacher isn't in the room during the worship service. In fact, he's not even in the state!

Access Church is a strategic partner of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia. While autonomous, Access shares the same values, strategy, and communicator with North Point.

Now let's be clear on something. This isn't an ego trip for Andy. It wasn't Andy's idea, and he even admits that he finds it kind of weird. So, why do we feel it's so important to hear from Andy? Why would we put Andy on the screen instead of hear from someone locally? Why not do the heavy lifting ourselves?

The answer is simple: we're committed to presenting the most important message in the world in the most compelling and excellent way possible. I'd rather listen to Andy than any other preacher alive. So, why wouldn't I want that for you and your friends, as well?

Andy Stanley has the unique ability to connect with believers and skeptics alike. Andy can take very simple scriptural principles and break them down so that all of us, (even those of us with a seminary background) can understand them. And he explains the application of these principles in a very effective way.

To be fair, there are others that communicate in a similar manner. Louie Giglio, Jeff Henderson, Sean Seay...and we'll use them, too. At other times, Access staff will deliver the message. But mostly, it's gonna be Andy.

Keep in mind that other aspects of the worship service, such as music and announcements, will be live at every service. Rob & Beth, Ben & Audrey, and Stephanie & I are local, committed to the Jacksonville community, and here for the long haul.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Distracted By Condiments

Recently a friend of mine told me of an evening she spent at an upscale restaurant as a guest of the manager who trains the servers there. It seems this manager wanted to show her some interesting comparisons she’d noted between how restaurant servers do their jobs and what God has called the church to do. As they dined, the manager asked my friend to look closely at the details of this busy restaurant and observe what others might not notice. “See that little sugar packet holder on the corner of the table?” she asked. “It has been filled exactly as we require: ten white sugar packets facing this way, ten pink sweetener packets facing that way, and five blue packets standing sideways. The ketchup and steak sauce bottles are filled exactly to the label on the neck of the bottles, and even the inside rim of the bottle is wiped clean. And did you notice that your soft drink glass was refilled not when it was empty, but rather, when it was half full?”

My friend admitted not really having noticed much about these details but yes, now that it was brought to her attention, she could see that the servers here were doing a pretty amazing job of managing a variety of tasks that probably wouldn’t really be noticed by the guests.

The manager went on to explain: "Our goal is that all of our guests have a phenomenal dining experience here, and the last thing we want is for them to be distracted from their meal by the condiments! We sure can't control what kind of experience our guests have with each other, but we can design the environment so that there are no distractions; everything we can control is designed to help them have a phenomenal dining experience."

Then she asked my friend this question: “How do you think that compares to what God wants of the church?”

That’s a powerful question. I’ve been thinking pretty hard on it myself.

Some people would say that it’s really not necessary to plan the details of Sunday worship before it arrives: just wait till the time comes and see how the Holy Spirit leads. Sure, that’s one way to do it -- and I would be the first to agree that we want the Spirit to lead in all of our times together. But should that preclude careful planning on our part? If the Spirit can lead us on Sunday morning, then can’t He also lead us on Tuesday morning in our service planning meeting?

Think of all the preparation the staff of a classy restaurant does to prepare for you: the whole place is clean, your table is set and waiting, fresh meats and vegetables were purchased in advance so as to be ready for whatever you might request, and several people stand ready to pour your beverage, cook your food, and serve your dinner as you ordered it. All of that for the sake of fine dining.

At Access Church, we’re inviting guests to a different kind of experience, but I see some similarities, too. We’re inviting them to come for the nourishment of their souls and to have some pretty important conversation. Doesn’t it just make sense that part of what we should do -- must do -- is to prepare the environment as carefully as we can in preparation for these guests? Because just when they get to the part of the “meal” that matters most, the last thing we want is for them to be distracted by our lack of preparation or service.

I often get asked what my job is at Access. What am I going to do all day or all week? Well, my main responsibility is to create unforgettable worship experiences. That‘s a challenge that both energizes and humbles me. I don’t know exactly what each day will look like but I do know this: I want to work really hard with many of you in setting a table that will invite guests to enjoy a different kind of meal. Let’s make sure the condiments don’t get in the way.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Ren & Barbara Weise

Ren and Barbara Weise had been looking for a church to call home for several years, ever since they got married and settled near downtown Jacksonville in 2001. They wanted to find a church in their neighborhood and become part of a local body of Christian friends and neighbors. “We went to about 10 churches, and we were faithful to some for several months at a time,” Ren said. “But nothing fit.”

In 2006, Ren and Barbara read Waking the Dead by John Eldridge, and it changed their lives. “The book talked about how much God cares about hearts—that He sent Jesus to mend broken hearts and that Satan constantly works to steal the things that give us passion,” Ren said. “We realized that, even though we had a great house in a great neighborhood, everything we loved and were passionate about was at the beach, so we decided to move.”

Ren and Barbara moved to the beach and started looking for a church in their new neighborhood, but still were unable to find a church that “fit.” “We were starving here,” Barbara said. “We could not find a place where we could hear biblically-based sermons and put what we heard into everyday life.”

Ren’s sister, Debra, lived in Atlanta and happily attended Buckhead Church, a satellite campus of North Point Community Church. Ren often shared with her the frustration he and Barbara were experiencing in looking for a church. “Debra was passionate about Buckhead Church and was always raving about it,” Ren said. “She would call on Mondays and talk about what a great service she had been to, and she would send us CDs of Andy Stanley’s sermons.”

Ren and Barbara listened to the CDs, and Andy’s sermons fed them spiritually as they took a break from church hopping. About two months after they moved, Ren’s sister called to tell them that a couple from Buckhead Church, Michael and Zoie Morales, were moving to Jacksonville and considering starting a North Point strategic partnership church. She gave Michael Ren’s contact information.

Ren and Michael met for lunch. “We talked about church and life,” Ren said. “Both of us were so dissatisfied with the churches available to us, and we talked about starting a church. But the idea quickly got so big and seemed so impossible, that we just decided to pray.”

As they prayed, people started hearing about the idea of a North Point church in Jacksonville, and there were soon about six families who had formed the group that would later become Access Church. “Access Church is a God thing,” Ren said. “It came together so easily and with lightning speed. No one is tired or burnt out. God brought the right people at the right time.”

Ren and Barbara are excited about the mission of Access Church: to reach the unchurched people in Jacksonville. “Everyone in our core group really has a heart for the unchurched,” Barbara said. “Yes, we are excited about Andy’s teaching and the great North Point children’s programs for our daughter, but the driving force behind Access is to reach the unchurched.”

Access Church has already impacted Ren and Barbara’s lives. “It’s amazing what God has done in us through our small group,” Barbara said. “We’ve been on such a spiritual journey, and He’s been so faithful with our lives. Access will be a daily reminder of His faithfulness.”


Sunday, January 14, 2007

Second Informational Meeting

Are you interested in Access Church but can't make the informational meeting tonight at UNF? Or perhaps you want to come back again and bring a friend who should know more about Access?

If so, we invite you to join us for a second informational meeting on January 28, 2007, at 6:00pm. The meeting will be held at the University of North Florida's Fine Arts Center. We will present the same information at both meetings.

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.

We look forward to seeing you again on January 28 at 6:00pm!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Chip & Susan Abernathy

Continuing in the "Who is Access?" series, today's post focuses on Chip and Susan Abernathy.

Chip Abernathy is too young to retire, but after seven years in Atlanta he and Susan were considering moving back home to Jacksonville. Susan’s parents were in Jacksonville, and Chip had a great job opportunity there. But their son and his wife were in Atlanta, and so was their church, North Point Community Church.

Chip and Susan loved worshipping at North Point. For starters, they were personally impacted there. “Andy Stanley’s teaching Sunday after Sunday was life-changing,” Susan said. “He really taught me how to live out my faith.”

They also found the environment exciting. “It was fun to see all the creative talent we’re used to seeing in the working world turned loose in the church,” Chip said. “The videos, drama, and graphics were excellent.”

And the focus of the services made it easy for them to invite their friends and neighbors. “The whole service is purposefully designed to appeal to folks who don’t go to church,” Chip said. “I had never encountered a church that was intentional about being a place for folks who had been away from church, had been hurt by church, or had never been to church. Andy has a way of making people feel welcome even if they don’t agree with what he’s teaching.”

Susan felt like North Point wanted to partner with her and Chip to bring people to Christ. “We lived in a really young neighborhood, and I never thought twice about asking our neighbors to go to North Point,” Susan said. “It was great when we saw our neighbors getting involved and bringing their friends. North Point did the hard part, and that made it easy to bring people.”

Chip and Susan knew they’d be giving up a lot if they left North Point, and they wrestled with the decision to move back to Jacksonville.

In the spring of 2005, Michael Morales, a good friend of theirs who knew that Chip and Susan were considering a move back to Jacksonville, asked Chip if he would be interested in starting a North Point strategic partnership church in Jacksonville. Michael and his wife, Zoie, planned to move from Atlanta to Jacksonville later that summer. Chip thought it was a good idea, but still wasn’t sure he and Susan would be moving.

By October 2005, Michael had moved to Jacksonville and assembled a group of families who were also interested in starting a North Point church in Jacksonville. The group began meeting regularly and included Chip and Susan “in absentia,” knowing that Chip and Susan were still considering a move.

In July 2006, Chip and Susan made the move to Jacksonville and joined the group that became Access Church only two months later. “The group had a life of its own before we got here,” Susan said. “I couldn’t believe how quickly it gathered momentum.”

Chip and Susan have many hopes for Access Church. “Our best hope is that, not too far down the road, thousands of people will be attending Access,” Chip said. “We would love to see that kind of response and enthusiasm. I hope that when we invite friends, we’ll have to tell them to get there early so they can get a seat.”

Susan said, “There are great churches in Jacksonville, but North Point has a particular mission and a particular way of reaching those who don’t go to church. It’s exciting to see this happening in Jacksonville, and it’s a privilege to be a part of Access Church."


Monday, January 08, 2007

What's the Music Like?

The two most frequently asked questions about Access Church are both about the music.

1. What's the music like?

2. Will it be loud?

The first answer is, "Excellent." Now, that doesn't mean that it will suit your personal tastes, or even mine. But we are committed to offering our very, very best to God and to our guests.

The second answer is, simply, "Yes."

The best way to prepare is to buy a copy of this CD today. Play it really loud. And let that be just one way that you offer your worship to God.

It's a great CD, it's brand-new, and you're gonna love it.

T-Minus Six Days

Wow, it really feels like things are moving now! Ben & Audrey are coming to town, the web site is up and going, and our launch is ever-closer!

The most exciting part is that we are going to get to meet so many of you that we've only emailed with or spoken with on the phone! And a great chance to do that will be this Sunday at our informational meeting.

This meeting will be an opportunity to meet and encourage one another, as well as explain our vision for what God might do here in Jacksonville. If you are wondering who we are, why we're in Jacksonville, and what our "next steps" are, this meeting is for you! Better yet, if you're ready to roll up your sleeves and help us accomplish the tasks at hand, then this meeting is really for you! Ben and Rob and I will be there with our wives and the core team that has been praying and working for this for years! We'd love to answer your questions.

Please join us on January 14, 2007, at 6:00pm. The meeting will be held at the University of North Florida's Fine Arts Center.

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!

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 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.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

New Web Site

Our first web site is up and ready to go! We hope it's a good resource for you to pass on to friends and help them understand Access Church a little better. We're committed to adding new features in the months to come, so please let us know what would be helpful for you as invest in friends and neighbors and invite them to Access environments.

For now, you'll be able to view some key video clips, get a better understanding of our foyer-living room-kitchen strategy, and link to the blog and North Point Resources. We hope it helps!

Truck Unloading Party

You're all invited to a truck unloading party!

Audrey and I spent all day today packing and loading our HUGE Penske truck! It's been a long day, but it's been pretty fun! SO, needless to say, you are all welcome to help us unload this bad boy. We should be pulling in around 5:00pm on Tuesday. (This truck seems to max at 60 mph while towing a vehicle... It's going to take us awhile to get there on Tues!) We'll order some pizzas or burgers, unload the truck and just hang out. I would give you directions to our home, however, I don't know how to get there! HA! If you're interested in helping, give me a call and I'll give you directions! 404.906.4975

Seriously, don't feel obligated... Just come hang out! You don't have to help unload the truck if you don't want. We're just anxious to meet you all and hang out.


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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