Friday, March 30, 2007

Waumba Land

A few people have asked, when I've invited them to Access Church, if we have a "nursery" up and running yet.

"Do we ever!!" is usually my unbridled response. You see, I have a three-year-old, and I'm such a big fan of what our volunteers have created for pre-schoolers. You really ought to check it out this Sunday. It's so much more than a nursery!

Waumba Land is actually a small group environment for preschoolers. "Waumba" is the Swahilian word for Creator, and so the environment of Waumba Land emphasizes the Genesis story of creation. The rooms are designed to emphasize various nature themes: forests, oceans, heaven, jungles, etc.

The curriculum in Waumba is very intentional. We want pre-schoolers to know that God made them, God loves them, and Jesus wants to be their friend forever. They get to learn this in small groups while their parents are enjoying the adult worship environment.

Every pre-schooler should come and check out this environment on Sunday evening at UNF. And bring your parents!


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

John & Gail Brent

In all the rush of launching Access this month, we've taken a break from meeting some of the families that helped bring Access to Jacksonville. If you are new to reading this blog, then you might want to scroll back to January, where we met Michael & Zoie Morales. It's been about two years since Michael & Chip Abernathy met with David McDaniel, North Point's Director of Campus Expansion, about the prospect of a strategic partnership in Jacksonville. Along the way, God has brought us some fantastic people to get this church started, and we try to highlight some of those stories here. Many of you reading this will recognize John & Gail Brent who serve with host team and Waumba.

John and Gail Brent have been friends with Chip and Susan Abernathy for years, and when Chip’s job took him and Susan to Atlanta, John and Gail visited them often. Besides spending time with their friends, the highlights of their trips to Atlanta were visits to North Point Community Church. “We love the music, the teaching is fabulous, and we love the vitality,” Gail said. “It is great to see the enthusiasm of all the young people there.”

In late summer of 2005, Chip and Susan told John and Gail about Michael and Zoie Morales, who were moving from Atlanta to Jacksonville and wanted to start a North Point church there. John and Gail had their own ties with Michael and Zoie. Years before, John had worked with Michael’s dad and had been in a Bible study with Zoie’s dad.

John and Gail immediately decided that they wanted to help Michael and Zoie start the new church. “The outreach North Point has to young professionals is outstanding,” said John. “We know so many young professionals in Jacksonville who grew up in church but are no longer active in church. We really want to be involved in a ministry that reaches them.”

A group of families, including Michael and Zoie and John and Gail, soon formed and started working toward what became Access Church only a year later. John and Gail have started spreading the word about Access and have seen a lot of interest in the new church.

“The people we talk to seem really interested,” John said. “For instance, I talked to my friend’s son who is in his mid-30s. He had stopped going to church, but said he’d give Access a try. Another guy brought Access up to me in the gym last week. I also got a call from a guy who grew up with Andy Stanley and wants to try Access. We are so excited about what God is doing.”

John and Gail are still attending their home church, as well. “We may never leave our church,” John said. “But there is such a need in Jacksonville to have a North Point-type of church that will reach young professionals, and we want to support the church that answers that need. I have invited people to our home church and they say it is ‘heavy.’ Access will have a different approach that will be more comfortable.”

John and Gail hope that Access Church will reach many people in Jacksonville. “There are good churches in this city, but we are a million-plus people and only 300,000 of us are in churches,” said John. “I’m hopeful that young families who have not yet found a church will try Access and like it. I know a lot will.”


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Serve Strategically

Some of you have now had the opportunity to participate with Access in two worship services. Perhaps your children have now been in an UpStreet small group twice. And your baby has been loved and cared for in Waumba.

You might be visiting from another church, and very content to stay there, but you enjoy the Sunday evening alternative Access provides.

You could be returning to church after a really long absence, grateful to find a church that really wants to have "all the rungs of the ladder."

You may be brand-new to this church thing, and hopefully we're shattering your preconceived ideas!

At any rate, you might be wondering how we managed to find all the volunteers that are running lights, holding babies, and singing for UpStreet. Isn't it amazing how many people it takes to make a church run well? We are so grateful for each of these people.

Many of them have made a short-term commitment to help us out as we get on our feet. Can we invite those of you who have just come on board to serve alongside these "veterans" and learn their job? We need your help so that we can continue to grow and accommodate those who have yet to try Access.

When you serve strategically, you move this church closer to fulfilling its mission.

We have incredible environments, and they're a blast to serve in! I really believe that you should jump in with the environments that most need help while you are still learning our ministry model and praying about where you might serve long-term.

If my home were on fire, there would be no time for you to stand around evaluating where your particular gifts and talents could be best utilized. I'd ask you to jump in at the point of greatest need! Likewise, in this church, we'd like to ask you to consider immediately jumping in to help at our places of greatest need, and later on consider where you might best be used in the long term.

Currently, there are three key environments we are working to make excellent: Adult Worship, Waumba (for preschoolers), and UpStreet (K-Grade 5). Of those, we need the most help in Waumba. Please consider jumping in so that no families have to be turned away!

Please don't wait. If you are ready to consider Access a church worth investing in, we'd love to have you! Sign up here.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Don't Be That Monk

As you get to know the Barretts, you should know right up front that Stephanie is the deep thinker in our family. Recently she was sharing what I thought were some profound thoughts, and I asked her to write them down so I could share them here. She writes...

The kids and I were reading about monks and their ways not too long ago. The kids were unfazed. For them, times of silence and contemplation are associated with crimes committed against Mom’s sanity. I, on the other hand, was giddy.

Quiet. Study. Contemplation. Quiet. Study. Writing. Quiet. All by candlelight.

When I actually began to chant, the kids asked if we were done here, and they exited to play XBOX. Loudly. I kept reading.

It seems that the first of the monkish breed decided to live away from everyone and everything else in places like deserts and even up in trees. This way, they were fully accessible to the things of God. They couldn't be distracted. This, they believed, was the way to be good God-followers. Of course, this made them inaccessible to anyone or anything else.

I am that monk.

Different times, different trappings, but a similar belief. I feel sheepish admitting it, but sheepish is a good place for me to be for awhile.

Not long ago, I believed that I had discovered the inside track on being a good God-follower, too. It was really very simple. Knowledge of the things of God is good. So all the studies and all the classes taken and taught and all the time logged at church and my familiarity with all topics spiritual translated into my being good—a good God-follower. Nobody ever said this was the standard by which you should measure yourself or that one even existed. I picked it up all by myself. And if I were honest, I would have said that this made me deep.

Now, I would say, this belief made me dangerous.

Could “too much of a good thing” apply here? It’s Bible knowledge I’m talking about, after all. No. More likely, it's just not enough of the greatest thing that is the problem—love. God Himself says that I could know everything there is for me to know and still miss the point of it all. Knowledge without love...

The perk of the whole knowledge thing was that it came easily to me. Loving God—I can do that. But loving people would be easier if it weren't for the people. The neighbor across the street who’s a lot like me—investing in her isn’t hard, it just the time factor. The neighbor down the street who really pushes my buttons—that invokes the "I don’t want to invest there" factor.

This is where knowledge and love need to mesh together to move things into the realm of the extraordinary.

Look at what happened with those monks up in the trees. Somewhere along the way, their idea of being good God-followers was transformed. They came down and got together in communities. They still did all their monkish things because they loved God and wanted to know Him. But they started doing them in a way that said they were accessible. The idea must’ve been communicated that, even if you hadn’t been up in a tree or weren’t anything like a monk, you could still be around a monk. You could feel invited in and helped, maybe in ways beyond your original intention—maybe in ways that led to your own transformation. The history books say that these former tree-dwellers changed history and rescued many in a very dark time. Extraordinary.

I need to be part of a community of God-followers where love, the greatest thing, is the driving thing. Where knowledge is turned into action. Where God’s sweeping search and rescue mission is taken up and owned. Where everybody is invited, included, and important. Where love for God and people moves things into the realm of the extraordinary.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Excerpts from the Mail Bag

Mondays are the best days to check email! Here are a few select bits from the inbox this week:
  • Some friend we had invited on March 4 not only came back, but brought friends with them! When God works in the hearts of first time attenders to get them to invite even more friends, then we are really on to something.
  • One couple said "We are still talking about the sermon and that hasn't happened in a long time."
  • My best friend for nearly twenty years, who I have never been able to get to church with me, came last night with his family. God has been ahead of me on this because when I asked him if they would come visit Access a couple of months ago he immediately answered "Yes." When I saw him after the service he couldn’t stop asking questions. They were blown away by every part of Access!! Their children were taken great care of in Waumba. Way to go Waumba! He told me they will be back and he will call me. Can't wait for that phone call today!
  • On Saturday morning at breakfast we were discussing going back to Access Church. Our first-grader spoke up and started talking about the Bible story from the launch week and how funny the storyteller was and how much fun he had in UpStreet. Of course, we were surprised that he was recalling all these details about the story because it had been almost two weeks. When he finished, we explained again why we felt God so strongly wanted our family to be involved with Access. On the way home last night I asked if he liked Access this week and he said “I didn’t like it—I loved it!" He did not even want to leave last night after it was all over because he was having too much fun with the other kids.
  • Bradford and I had a visitor in our UpStreet small group. When her dad came to pick her up we were able to have a great conversation. He was not familiar with North Point and knew no one at our church. He found us last week on the Internet. The music was the drawing card for them to come and he said we didn’t let them down. Go production crew and band!
  • We invited a young couple that have been attending our small group and searching for a church home since they moved to Jax about a year ago. She is pregnant and yesterday was her due date. We saw them after the service and they loved it. After seeing Waumba they said after the baby came and they got settled they would be back to serve!!
  • I met a sales rep a couple of weeks ago. He is a believer but had not been attending anywhere so I invited him to Access the night of our launch. He showed up early, got a seat, loved the message, and returned yesterday with his girlfriend. They sat on the first row and loved it all.
  • Some friends of ours came the first week just because they knew one of the guys in the band. I talked to her last week and didn't even have to bring up the second service because she immediately asked me if we were having it Sunday and what time she should get there to ensure a seat. So they came, and she emailed me today to say she "really, really enjoyed it." She wants to come back on April 1st and through engaging in dialogue with her since the first service, I can see God moving in her life and just maybe pulling her towards a relationship with Him.
Those are just a few of the things God is doing these days. It would be so exciting to hear what God is doing in your life! Comment here or drop us an email...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Let's Do It Again!

It's been quite a journey, hasn't it? Two years of disparate stories coming together to form a cohesive vision and strategy for Jacksonville, Florida—for our friends, neighbors, family, and co-workers. God is good!

I can't thank our volunteers enough for pulling this off. We could not have done this without each person using their gifts, inviting friends, praying, and giving financially. March 4 was awesome. We'll always remember it.

We're looking forward to tonight, inviting a ton of people, and have great expectations for what God is going to do!

Wait, did he just say, "inviting a ton of people"? I heard the room was overflowing on Sunday night. Inviting a ton of people to sit where?

We have a vision for this church to grow very rapidly—not so we can pat ourselves on the back, but because there are so many people in Jacksonville who could benefit from these environments! And I really have a burden for people to hear this next sermon on the church. It's where the name "Access" came from, and it's such a great summary of what the church should be. If you know someone who has been hurt by the church, this sermon is for them. Bring them!

But, where will we sit?

Well, recognize that we had a lot of "well-wishers" on March 4. Many were from out of town, and many are in leadership at other churches in Jacksonville. Most of those folks will not return, and that will free up some seats. We also have several clear goals for improving our environments tonight. One is to provide more and better overflow seating.

Please, don't shy away from inviting folks. In fact, it is the presence of your friends that will help us determine the right time to go to two services. Right now, our plan is to go to two services in the fall, but if you keep packing it out like you did on March 4, we'll go to two services even sooner. You bring the people, and we'll make the seats!

Just a few hours! Aren't you excited?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Louie & The Boys

I hope you've already got your tickets to see Louie, Chris, and Matt tonight. We'll see you all at Veteran's Memorial at 7:00pm!

Comment here and let us know what you thought of the event!

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Music

Someone stopped me at the playground yesterday and asked me about the music we played Sunday night. "That was great music. So easy to learn and so worshipful. Can I buy it to listen to at home or in the car?"

Well, you can buy it at our Information Table before and after services, or you can buy it from North Point's online store. Stephanie and I have bought a bunch of CDs and have been giving them as gifts...there is a lot of great stuff on this CD. Get a copy today!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Success Stories

Here's a peek into this week's "Inbox:"
  • I invited a couple and their 3 kids. I have known him for some time and they moved to Jax a couple of years ago and have been struggling to find a church home. Because of their struggles in finding a church, they have not been attending consistently that I know of. Well, when I saw him driving out after the service, he rolled down his window and yelled, "See you March 18th!"
  • We invited a non-churched engaged couple to the service. I've known both of them for five years and never really expected to see them in church. They had big smiles on their face afterwards and told me that they would love to come back next time.
  • And, overheard from kids meeting their parents after UpStreet,
    • “This is the best church! Can we start coming here?”
    • “I loved my small group leader. They were really cool!”
  • From Scott Tanksley, part of the North Point team, "Fantastic job Sunday night! One of the most enjoyable launches I’ve been to. You and Stephanie did a great job with the welcome. Very warm and approachable. The look and feel were great. Sound will get figured out. Great that it was packed and seating was limited. Creates buzz that it’s a happening place. Very cool to see so many of the core team waving flags in the parking lot. Testament to their hearts and the caliber of people they are."
What's your story? Share it here!


Some photos of Sunday are available here. If you have others to send, please email them to me!


Was it a Success?

Our out-of-town friends and family have been faithfully praying for a "successful" launch of Access Church. So, now they are all asking, "Was it a success?"

Great question. And that makes us really define "success" for the launch of this baby church. To see lives changed for Jesus Christ is success for us. To see our friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers follow in a growing relationship with God is our mission and our goal as a church.

For our first service, we had one clear goal: to encourage everyone who attended to come back! That meant the music and speaking had to be dead-on, the environments had to be welcoming, the signage clear, the technical aspects complimentary, the children safe and loved. While we have room to improve, I think those goals were accomplished. Eddie Kirkland and the band were naturals at leading worship, the kids environments were top-notch, and in spite of having to share the building (that will not happen every week), I think everyone was able to find their way around and enjoy the experience.

Andy's message was one of the best presentations I have ever heard about how God pursues us and desires to re-connect with rebellious people. On March 18, he'll continue with "Everybody is Included"—an incredible message about what the church is really supposed to be...a place more concerned with reaching people than keeping people. It is a great message that defines the goals of our church, and is the message that inspired our church name. See you then!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

So Grateful

We are so grateful today. Grateful for each of you who pitched in to help and make Sunday a success. Grateful for each person that went outside their comfort zone to invite a friend or family member. Grateful to those of you who decided to try Access, even though you haven't been to church in a long, long time. Grateful to those who came from other churches to cheer us on. Grateful to those who gave financially to help this fledgling church get off the ground. Grateful to you who prayed and prayed and prayed, and most of all, so very grateful to God, whose mercy and grace truly is sufficient and to whom this all belongs!

We're thrilled with all that God has done. We have just been spectators as God has worked many miracles, small and large. If you've been standing on the sidelines, wondering if you should jump in with Access Church, let me encourage you that there is no better time to be a part of what God is doing here! Come to our next service March 18. Invite a friend. Pray for all that might be accomplished in our hearts. Use our strategic service form to volunteer (especially in Waumba), and support Access financially. It's a great time to be a part of this from the very beginning!

(Thanks to Jeff Taylor for the photo!)

Thursday, March 01, 2007



It sounds so passive, doesn't it? Like, you have no idea what else to say to someone in pain, so you say, "I'll pray for you." I mean, how many of us really think of "pray" as an action verb? I've talked with so many of you who say, "I really want to do something this week. What can I do to help you get ready?" And the answer is, PRAY.

The truth is, prayer is passive. It's the very discipline of recognizing that we are not in control, and God is. I think that's why it's so hard—because it forces our brain to recognize what our heart already knows...that this is God's thing, not ours.

Tonight at the leader training for Waumba and UpStreet I met so many of you who are excited about making this happen. So many who are jumping in with both feet. But, like I said to a few of you, we are just spectators in this whole miracle called Access Church. God started to work on something amazing here a long time ago...and we get to come along and witness this miracle up close and personally!

Some of you have witnessed the birth of a child. I have often said that there is no greater miracle, no more worshipful moment, than when a child is born. But witnessing the birth of a church has been equally mind-boggling. Just as God brings the right molecules together to create the tiny fingers and toes of a newborn, he is bringing together different members of His Body to create the body of Access Church. It is fascinating to watch.

It's late, so I'm in danger of allowing this thought to unravel. Here's where I am headed:

We need to all be praying like never before. We need to be actively passive, fervently praying, excitedly watching as the Creator of the Universe does something amazing.

We need to pray about the technical issues. Monday night was a bit rougher than we would have liked. We're going to do it again on Saturday. Our standard for Sunday is excellence.

We need to pray about the kids environments. Parents need to feel safe. The kids need to have fun. The simple truth of God's love needs to come across loud & clear.

We need to pray for the volunteers. They're giving it their all and we're so grateful for all fifty-one of you. Pray for each other and all the jobs that need to be done.

We need to pray for the staff & their families. It's a crazy time, and that impacts the home, too.

We need to pray for the details, that the service runs smoothly, that the band leads worship with authenticity, and that Andy's message really connects with everyone.

And we need to pray for the people. Each seat needs to be filled with someone whose relationship with God is ready to be challenged to the next level. Your friend, your co-worker, your family member. We need to pray that the right people are in those seats on Sunday night, and that they will come with open ears and hearts.

Pray! Call upon the Creator! Submit our will and our plans to His.

It doesn't sound so passive, now, does it?