Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Charitable Gift Funds

It's year-end, and you might be thinking about how your family or company can make tax-efficient gifts to your favorite charities. As if the season weren't busy enough, you've got to track down your favorite charities (and maybe some new ones) and get the checks postmarked no later than December 31.

There's a better way.

If you plan to give more than $5,000 to charities (ex: $1,000 each to five different charities) you could benefit from a donor-advised fund.

Check with a certified financial advisor for the skinny, but basically:
  1. You create a donor-advised fund (see Schwab or Fidelity) and call it whatever you want (ex: "Smith Family Foundation").
  2. You gift cash or appreciated securities to this fund and get the tax deduction the day the monies transfer.
  3. You can make grants from the fund to IRS-recognized charities all through the coming year, in amounts as little as $100. You can even set up recurring grants.
It's a great way to be wise stewards of God's money and strategically empower ministry around the globe.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Nicely Wrapped Presents

This afternoon Stephanie commissioned me with overseeing the kids as they wrapped presents for Grandma & Grandpa—presents they picked out themselves at the Dollar Tree. Have you ever wrapped presents with children 10, 8, 6, and 4? I barely escaped getting wrapped myself!

At one point, I was trying to gingerly coach Carly in the art of folding the paper at the corners. In spite of my generous offering of free advice, she pretty much ignored me. In fact, I thought she hadn't heard me at all.

But then, finally done, she held up her present with great pride. "Dad," she began, "when I get a present, I don't really care how it's wrapped on the outside. I just want to get to what's inside."

I had to laugh. "I think a lot of people feel the same way, Carly."

"And Dad," she continued, "I think God feels that way, too. He doesn't care how we're wrapped on the outside, he just can't wait to get to our insides."

That was enough to make me think hard as I prepare for celebrating my saviour's birth in the next two days. Am I presenting him with what's on the outside or the inside?

Paul said, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship."

Have an incredible Christmas! Like Paul, I urge you to give the Creator your spiritual worship this season.

Not-So-Silent Night

Join Access Church for a different kind of Christmas Eve,
with a special message from Andy Stanley and some rockin' Christmas tunes!

Experience Not-So-Silent Night December 24
5:00 or 6:30pm
at the University of North Florida.

Childcare is provided for birth—age 5.
Elementary-aged children are welcome in the service.

Click here for directions.

Friday, December 21, 2007

New Music Director

Jacksonville musician Darin Peckham has been playing guitar in our worship services since last spring. You can imagine how excited we were when Darin recently joined the Access team in a part-time role as music director!

Darin's responsibilities include lining up the band and the worship selection each Sunday. He also works with Rob Lott, coordinating the creative elements of the service.

Originally from Port Orange, Darin has been in Jacksonville since his UNF days. Darin is married to Sarah and is the very proud father of Ruby. Darin can usually be found mixing it up with local musicians around town or in his home studio producing music for some of Jacksonville's finest.

Darin and Sarah are two of the nicest people you'll ever meet. Be sure to wish them a merry Christmas on Monday evening.

You will be there Monday evening, right? 5:00 & 6:30pm. Invite a friend!


Thursday, December 20, 2007

New Student Pastor

Access Church is excited to announce the newest addition to our staff! Brian Reese will be serving in the role of Student Pastor, working to lead middle- and high-school students into growing relationships with Jesus Christ. Brian will start in January.

Brian and his fiancé, Jamie, are both from Sarasota, Florida and are excited about the move to Jacksonville. Brian is an avid fisherman and outdoorsman, as well as an active musician. In fact, Brian first became aware of the North Point model of ministry through his college roommate and fellow musician, Kristian Stanfill.

Growing up in Venice, Florida (the shark tooth capital of the world), Brian has worked with students at two churches prior to joining our team at Access Church. He has led everything from programming and production to small group environments.

It will be with small group environments that Brian will initially focus his efforts at Access, in addition to building a team of volunteer adults willing to whole-heartedly invest in students. Brian and Jamie expect to be married in February.

Please welcome them warmly!


Monday, December 17, 2007

Our Values

At Access Church, we have defined certain values which guide us as we pursue our mission to lead people into growing relationships with Jesus Christ.

Biblical Authority—God has spoken to us through the Bible and we recognize it as the final authority for our lives. So first we ask, "Are our priorities consistent with scripture?"

Intimacy with God—God desires an intimate relationship with each of us. So we ask, "Are our relationships with God growing?"

Relevant Environments—Every environment should be designed to effectively connect with its target audience. So we ask, "Are our environments appealing, engaging, and helpful?"

Relational Evangelism—God's message of forgiveness through Christ is most effectively conveyed within the context of personal relationships. So we ask, "In whom am I investing?"

Authentic Community—Accountability, belonging, care and spiritual growth happen best with relationally-connected believers. So we ask, "Am I in a small group?"

Strategic Service—Our spiritual gifts have maximum impact when exercised in support of our strategy. So we ask, "Where am I serving?"

Intentional Apprenticing—We are responsible to pass along to others the knowledge, skills and opportunities that have been entrusted to us. So we ask, "Who am I apprenticing?"

How are we doing?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Updated photos

Mom, I updated the photos on Knew you'd want to know.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Your RoadMap Pledge

I feel like we've talked about money a lot over the past couple of months. I don't want to be the church that always talks about money.

But at the same time, we have invested too much in Access to start coasting now. We want to face the new year strong. We're committed to great things in 2008! So, we have to be honest about the fact that what we do is expensive.

You can join us in creating relevant environments for children, students and adults, and help Access achieve our mission of leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

Please pray about this as a family. Ask God to be intimately involved in this decision about making a strong year-end gift to the church. Then, fill out your pledge card (you can download one here) and drop it in the bucket this Sunday. You can also give online.

We are still a long way from reaching our goal of $300,000 by December 31, and your gift will help!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

New Worship CD

Still looking for the perfect Christmas gift?

Pick up a dozen of these bad boys on Sunday and make friends & family smile!

Or, just be selfish and buy one for yourself. Either way, you're gonna love this new worship CD from Access worship leaders Steve Fee, Todd Fields, Chrystina Fincher, and Eddie Kirkland.

Recorded live this fall, it's got a bunch of original stuff that we're either already singing at Access or will be singing soon.

Grab one at the Resource Center!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Jingle Jam

UpStreet is throwing a Christmas party and you're invited! This party will be like no other. It's so huge and over-the-top it's taken two Sundays to jam it all in! So, invite a bunch of grade K-5 friends to UpStreet with you on December 16.

We'll get started at 11:15am, and have an awesome show with great games, zany skits, music and videos—all telling the Christmas story.

See you there!

Monday, December 10, 2007

"I helped change the world."

One summer not too long ago my family visited a friend of my mother. This man, in his seventies, had been a bomber pilot in WWII. As we talked, he took me into his office and began to show me pictures of his war buddies, of the airplanes they flew, and the missions they had accomplished. He was proud, and very humble at the same time. He had tears in his eyes as he talked about the friends he'd lost in combat.

His generation faced the opportunity, and historic responsibility, of a lifetime. All I could say was, "Thank You!"

He pointed to a picture and said, "I was a part of that. I helped change the world."

Wow! How amazing is that—to look at the world around you and know you've made a difference?

You see, there will be a day when someone will look back on the lives that have been changed at Access Church and ask you, "Did you help make that happen?" And you can either say, "Yes, it was crazy. It was a risk. But we trusted God and we gave time and money we weren't sure we had, and we watched God do amazing things." Or, you can say, "Well, we were right there... it happened right in front of us... but we just weren't sure, so we let others lead the way."

We believe that someday we will say, "We allowed God to use us, to literally change the world around us."

I'd love you to be a part of that. I would love for as many of you reading this as possible to make a strong pledge to the RoadMap campaign on December 16, and to fulfill that pledge by the end of the month. There's still room for another 30 families to jump in at all pledge levels. Don't miss your chance!

Pledge cards are available at the information desk on Sunday, or you can email or call.

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Real Customer

Spending this weekend hanging with the family, so instead of leaving the blog totally post-less, I wanna send you over to Steve Furtick's blog for some goodness.

Check out this post.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Six Myths

Since I've had more conversations lately about the finances of Access Church, I've discovered there are some common misconceptions worth "busting:"

1. Myth: North Point covers all expenses for the first couple of years.
Fact: There are a few visionary families at North Point who will partner with communities serious enough to leverage their own relationships, time, and resources. They are generous, to be sure, but there is a limit to their resources.

2. Myth: North Point would never allow a partnership to close.
Fact: Two months ago we closed our Birmingham, Michigan partnership. We use the word partnership because both North Point and the local community have to be ready to make huge sacrifices to make it work.

3. Myth: Staff salaries at Access are paid by NPM.
Fact: Each staff member at Access depends on the generous giving of this local church to provide for their family.

4. Myth: A handful of generous benefactors are all that are needed to sustain the church.
Fact: That would not be healthy for the church or for the benefactor.

5. Myth: My tithe doesn't make that much of a difference.
Fact: It makes a huge difference in your spiritual life and in the financial health of our church. If we had 75 families at Access tithing 10%, we would not need any additional funding!

6. Myth: Now that we're up and running, our environments are relatively inexpensive to maintain.
Fact: Much of our equipment is rented, or leased-to-own. Our ongoing expenses for equipment, facilities, and personnel run about $40,000 per month. Holding services every Sunday will increase that number.

We would love to have you join us on this journey! It's been exciting to see more than 20 families make commitments to the RoadMap campaign, and we're looking forward to a strong start for 2008. Please consider what you might be able to give before December 31.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Golden Compass

I'm not into boycotts. Maybe just because our family enjoys the Disney experience too much.

So, I got a little wary when I heard Christians are talking about boycotting this new movie. Some friends of mine even started a group on Facebook called, "Don't Boycott The Golden Compass" because of their frustration with believers who seem to run scared every time someone uses the word "athiest."

However, I'm also the parent of children to whom this movie seems to be targeted, and I get a little protective when someone intends to tell my children that God isn't real.

So, where's the balance?

How do we live "in the world, but not of it?" How do we engage culture rather than separate ourselves from it? How do we teach our children and remind ourselves that there is only one enemy and he doesn't live in Hollywood?

I do think extra caution is in order with children regarding film & music because the medium is so powerful and stirs both cognitive and emotional responses. At the same time, I strongly believe that we're here to influence the culture, not hide from it—and I want to teach my children to do the same. From an early age they need to learn the skill of discernment, and that means that sometimes I might allow them to be exposed to something so we have the opportunity to dialogue about it.

I want to create an environment in my home where my kids realize that it's okay to ask questions about God and faith. I want my kids to know that God isn't threatened by those questions, and neither am I.

You don't have to spend $8.50 to have that conversation—we have so many other opportunities to engage our kids—maybe we can talk about the atheist that lives next door and how best to love him instead of the atheist that lives 2000 miles away and made a movie.

As for the Golden Compass, I don't know. I do want them to learn to exercise their discernment muscles early. Probably, if anything, I'll watch and discuss it with Stephanie before allowing the kids to see it. What will you do? Comments welcome!

Monday, December 03, 2007

UpStreet Jingle Jam

Yesterday was one of the best Sundays yet at Access Church! Thanks to all of you who are continuing to build energy around this church by inviting friends, volunteering at the points of greatest need, praying for our ministries, and giving your finances. God is doing great things through you!

UpStreet was over the top yesterday with their Christmas party. The 22-foot-tall inflatable slide was a big hit for the kids and the adults! Thanks to Adam and the UpStreet team for making this environment one my kids look forward to every time we meet!

This video is of the kids—wish we'd taken one of the band & production team going down the slide earlier in the morning!

Sunday, December 02, 2007


Are you on Facebook?

Join the Access Church group and become a fan and let us know!