Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hell Bound (Not)

Right down the road Chris Elrod is leading Compass Point Church in Lakeland, FL.

The other day he posted this great story about the win, and I lifted it from his blog to share here:

This is Pete.

Pete has smoked since he was teenager.

Pete struggled most of his life with alcohol.

Pete used to shoot people when he’d get angry.

Pete spent 15 years behind bars.

Pete has cancer…a bunch of cancer.

Pete has been given only a few months to live.

Pete has a tattoo on his leg that says “Hell Bound”.

Pete won’t be going there.

Pete came to know Jesus two weeks ago.

Pete was baptized today.

Monday, February 25, 2008

An Unscheduled Tribute

I interrupt my regular blogging schedule to bring you some exciting news. Larry Norman, who is widely attributed with contemporizing Christian music in the late 60s and early 70s, is now worshiping his saviour face-to-face. Larry went home to heaven on yesterday morning.

Larry was a pioneer, disruptive to the Church, and we've all been influenced by his leadership.

What do you think? Who will be the Church's next Larry Norman? (Doesn't have to be music-related.) Answer below.

What's Your Name? (All-Skate)

People from Florida are called 'Floridians'. People from Georgia, 'Georgians'. People from Michigan, 'Michiganders.'

People from Canada? Well, they're just 'Cold.' (Love ya', Carey.)

Elevation Church calls their attenders Elevators. I love that. It's clever, and communicates clearly their life purpose—to elevate the name of God.

So, my dilemma. What to call the people of Access?

Your turn. Name thyselves.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Morning and I'm Not Going to Church

It's Sunday morning, and I'm not going to church.

It's not that I don't like church. I do. I love the music and relevant message, and I mostly love the people. Oh, and my kids are crazy about Waumba Land and UpStreet.

But the church community I'm a part of only meets twice a month. It's a strategic decision we made early on to not exhaust our volunteers. We won't go to weekly services until we have enough volunteers so that we can distribute the workload and operate in a healthy way. (Small groups, though, meet every week!)

But it turns out that not meeting some Sundays has a really cool side effect. It gives our family the opportunity to hang out on Sundays with friends from our neighborhood who don't even think about attending church.

You see, the people we're trying to reach at Access are not in church on Sunday morning. In fact, studies say that 800,000 in this city are not in church on any given Sunday.

On the one hand, every-week services will double my opportunity to invite others to Access. But it will also decrease my ability to invest in unchurched people.

Since that's who we started this church for, I want to challenge Access attenders: Quit hanging around church people on our "off" Sundays.

Instead, go to the beach, go to the lake, go to the mall, go to the park... with unchurched friends, neighbors, colleagues and family! This opportunity (having Sundays off) is short-lived. Make the most of it, and invest in people who don't even consider church as a Sunday option.

Just an idea.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Salt, anyone?

Paul said, "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."

I love that! Full of grace, seasoned with salt. So yes, truth (salt) and grace go together, but you don't go home after a great dinner and say, "Man, I'm so glad they prepared SALT for dinner."

Instead, prepare someone a meal of grace, and season it with salt. Love people, invite them over, show them that you really do care that they don't drive through a "road closed" sign, and introduce them to a God who loves them.

Monday, February 18, 2008


In 2006, just before we moved here from Alpharetta, we attended DRIVE. As we left, I kept thinking, "Man, I wish the whole Jacksonville team could have been here for this!"

Well, now you can. DRIVE will be held again May 5-7 at North Point, and you can be there!

There is no other event so specific to our model of leading people, and no event so inspirational. It's the how and the why of Access Church. As an Access volunteer, you can get an unbelievable price on this conference—and chill out in the coveted VIP lounge between sessions!

If you're interested in being a part of a great road trip, give any of us on staff a holler and we'll hook you up!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Three Shadows of the Passion

Andy Stanley leads us into the season of Lent with a study of three lesser-known but significant characters in the Easter story. Part of understanding the bright light of Sunday morning is learning to appreciate the dark human condition that conspired to murder Jesus Christ.

Join us at the University of North Florida this Sunday at 9:30 or 11:15am. Grammy-nominated Michael Johnston will be our lead worshipper.

Click here for directions.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Worship Leader Roundup

The corporate worship experience at Access Church just keeps getting better and better! Darin Peckham has been working hard to line up some of the best musicians available. Here are a few names to whet your appetite. Coming soon to Access:

Michael Johnston
Eddie Kirkland
Jen & Jon Carrozza
Scott Coleman
Michael Olson

We'll also have Louie Giglio bringing the heat soon alongside Andy Stanley in the Canvas series. It's gonna be a great spring!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A Generous Church

Before coming home to Jacksonville, I spent one additional day at Buckhead Church attending some meetings about developing a culture of generosity in our church. It was incredibly provoking, especially following on the heels of our decision to begin giving 2% of our Sunday offerings to our strategic partner in Merida, Mexico.

There's no doubt that God is calling us as Christ-followers to share what we have. Sometimes that means giving to the local church, sometimes that means giving to the world's poor through incredible organizations like Compassion, Samaritan's Purse or World Vision, and sometimes that means giving as a church toward strategic church initiatives around the country and around the world.

Before we even launched Access, one of the written goals for the church was "a culture of generosity." I want to be surrounded with people that see the world as bigger than themselves.

The highlight for me? Listening to Andy Stanley share some very personal stories of what stewardship looks like for Sandra and him. They are his stories to share, so I won't repeat them here, but suffice it to say that time and time again I am so glad to be aligned with him, both personally and organizationally. If you haven't met him, let me assure you—he's the real deal. If you stripped him of his gift for making the Bible understandable and applicable, if you stripped him of his communication ability, if you stripped him of his quick wit and likeability, you'd be left with what I really love about this guy—he takes his own medicine! When our lives match our message, it's called integrity. Andy & Sandra wrestle with stewarding their influence and their resources in very personal ways. It was awesome!

Here's the big takeaway for church leaders reading this blog... Do you have the moral authority to lead your church in this area of generosity? Is there anything about how you steward your money that you wouldn't want your church to emulate?

Stephanie and I decided from the beginning that Access Church would be the number one financial priority for our family. I can't ask anyone else to be generous if we don't lead the way. And you know what? Sometimes it hurts. But God has been faithful and we have been blessed more than ever this past year by others being generous to us. It's amazing what happens when you recognize that all you have came from God in the first place and trust him to take care of your financial future!

It was also a nice surprise to see five other partnerships represented here and connect with what God's doing in their churches.

Bonus: Running into Steven Furtick in the hall and telling him how much I enjoy his blog. He was running with his boys Chunks Corbett and Eric Phillips. Their team is rocking Charlotte!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Clarify the Win

It's been an exciting weekend!

Adam, Kevin, Darin, Brian, and I set out for Atlanta this weekend to reconnect with the team at North Point Ministries. It's a priority for us to regularly clarify the win, and there is no better way to achieve such clarity than visiting North Point and Buckhead. It's fantastic to be part of an organization that understands the importance of this exercise. Thanks to everyone at Access Church who makes this possible!

It was a good time to get to know each other better, especially our newest teammate, Brian. It was an awesome opportunity to witness irresistible environments. It was even pretty cool to race go-karts at Andretti's. But mostly, it was great to hang with North Point & Buckhead staff and hear story after story of what God is doing in the lives of people coming to know God for the first time. That's the win!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Gone Fishin'

Fishin' for old friends and new ideas, that is.

The Access staff is making a quick trip to Alpharetta to attend MarriedLife LIVE, worship at North Point, Watermarke, and Buckhead, and attend the Monday morning staff meeting. I'll bet we squeeze in some BBQ along the way!

See you back in Jacksonville next week, as we begin our new series on Sunday, February 17—Three Shadows of the Passion. It's a great series designed to turn our hearts toward Easter.

Have a great weekend!

(posted from the Starbucks at Exit 62!)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Makin' it Local (All-Skate)

FAIR WARNING: This post is an "all-skate" post. I really want everyone—especially everyone in Jacksonville—to jump in on the comments!

When other church leaders see your organization as the third most innovative and fourth most influential church in America, it stands to reason you'll take some criticism. And really, that's only fair, because we learned from watching Spiderman that "with much power comes much responsibility."

So, we shouldn't be afraid to engage our critics, and although we shouldn't let them sap our energy or blur our focus, we should be open to learning from them.

This past week we've gotten a few knocks in the blogosphere, and I wanted to allow you, the readers, to respond to one concern in particular. It's an important issue, but I can't answer it all by myself.

You see, some (who've never visited Access Church or any other North Point Partner) are concerned that we are not "local" enough. They contend that in order for us to be relevant in Jacksonville, Andy Stanley would have to live in Jacksonville and attend Access Church. These critics maintain that since Andy doesn't know the "needs of our congregation" he can't effectively be our teaching pastor.

I understand that the video-preacher thing takes a little getting used to, but I think the negative rationale is inconsistent at best.

If Andy did live here, could he live anywhere in town or would he have to live on my side of the city? How long would he have to live here before we considered him local?

What about other aspects of the church? Do they not have to be "local?" Should we write our own children's curriculum and groups materials? Should we not read books by authors from outside Jacksonville? What about our worship songs? Tomlin, Crowder, Hillsong...(Australia?!)—scratch them all. Not from our city.

Okay, I've tipped my hand a bit. You might have figured out which way I'm leaning. Nevertheless, it is an issue we talk about in staff meetings and something we constantly work at. How do we insure that we are a locally functioning body of Christ and not just the latest outpost of a national franchise?

I have some thoughts of my own...many of which revolve around the importance we place on groups and strategic service. But this is where I want to hear your thoughts. Jacksonvillians, please—tell us what makes Access "local" to you, and not just a TV church.

Click on the comments tag and go for it!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Better When We're Together

Many of our groups that began in November are now nearing the end of their "trial period," and moving to the next stage of group life. Here's a report from Adam Flynt, as he reported on Orange Families:

Jack Johnson got it right when he sang, “It’s always better when we’re together.”

It may not be easier. It may not be quieter. It may not be simpler. It may not be calmer. But it’s always better when we’re together. That’s the growing feeling each time we’re with our community group.

One of the hardest things about leaving our last church to come to help launch Access was leaving a group of friends that we had prayed with, vacationed with, suffered with, asked questions with, laughed with, mourned with, ate and ate and ate with. It was painful to leave them and we felt like we were loners for a few months without them.

But in the last two months we have connected with a group of other couples. Each time we’ve gotten together a couple has shared their stories. It has been amazing. I’m blown away each time by how unique one story is from the next, and how all our lives have so many themes in common. Last week the guys grabbed lunch together. We’ve already gotten to take one couple a meal after their having a baby. One couple is struggling through a job layoff. One couple still has a house for sale in Atlanta. And we’re still getting to know each other. But I can’t help feel like “it’s always better when we’re together.”

Our two month “dating period” as a group is coming to an end next week and we’re meeting to talk about how to go forward. I’m excited about continuing together. I need these kind of friends. Our marriage needs these kind of friends. Our kids need us to have these kinds of friends. I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t think I can do life alone anymore- one thing is for sure, though, is that I know I don’t want to do it alone any more.

Thoughts on being connected to others? Is it better together for you?


Monday, February 04, 2008

CNN: UNchristian

I love this interview... can't believe it was on CNN. Totally worth four minutes of your time.

Gabe introduced this book at Catalyst back in the fall and it's having a great impact on the way church leaders are thinking.

What do you think?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Rob Lott

Since this blog began, we've been telling the stories of people God has brought to Access Church. For many of you, these stories have become the number one reason to read this blog.

Today's story has taken a little longer to craft. There is a lot of emotion behind this one, for Rob & Beth and for all of us who love them. He has carefully chosen to share his story with us, because it truly is a testimony of how God's grace and this baby church have helped him through a difficult time.

In February 2006 Rob Lott was in Tokyo, working for Disney Entertainment, when he received a phone call out of the blue from Rich Barrett, his former youth pastor in his hometown of Akron, OH. Rob was surprised by the call. He and Rich had kept in touch since Rob graduated high school and moved to Orlando to work for Disney in 2000, but it was a big deal for Rich to call Rob on the phone in Tokyo. “I knew something was up,” Rob said.

Rich told Rob that he was starting a church in Florida in partnership with North Point Ministries of Atlanta. He asked if Rob was interested in the service programming position for the new church, which would put Rob in charge of creating the adult worship environment.

Rob questioned his interest in church work. “People have always told me that I would be a good children’s or youth pastor, but I had never wanted to do that,” he said. “I wanted to work with the best of the best production-wise, and that’s why I chose Disney.”

Despite Rob’s reservations, Rich sent some North Point materials to Rob in Tokyo. As soon as Rob saw the materials, he knew that North Point was going above and beyond any church or secular production company he’d ever seen. “I really did want to use my gifts and talents for a higher purpose,” he said. “It was very exciting to think that I could be part of something like a North Point partnership church on the ground floor. I was definitely interested.”

Rob discussed the possible job change with his wife, Beth, and they agreed to move forward with the new church. Rob returned from Tokyo in May 2006, began the North Point internship in September, and moved to Jacksonville in November. He immediately jumped on board and helped plan the beginnings of Access Church.

But before long, Rob and Beth began to discover that there were some serious problems in their marriage. The two worked at their differences, but in early February, Beth left Jacksonville and soon after requested a divorce. “We both had made a lot of mistakes,” Rob said. “I resigned from my position at Access because I was in no place mentally or spiritually to be doing my job.”

Rob returned to work in Orlando, but strongly believed in Access Church and wanted to continue to have a part. Rich narrowed Rob’s position down to a volunteer creative director. “I am responsible for the overall flow of the service and the look and feel of the environment—putting on the final touches,” Rob said. “I love it because that kind of work comes naturally to me.”

Although he spends most of his time in Orlando, Rob makes the two-hour drive to Jacksonville twice a month to volunteer and take part in the services. “I get very energized about what we’re doing at Access,” he said. “There is a phenomenal team of volunteers there. Their mindset is to go for excellence and nothing less, and it shows.”

Rob continues to wait on God’s timing for him and for Access. “I’m still in strong prayer that my marriage will come back together,” he said. “Beth and I have a lot to forgive each other for. I regret how our marriage ended and how that also affected Access in its infancy stages. But I believe all that happened in my life needed to happen. Access Church is all about life change. Life change is happening for me, and I’m thankful that God had already connected me to Access Church when the crisis came along.”

I am personally so grateful for Rob's contributions over the past two years as we have imagined together how this church could bring glory to God. I'm grateful that he's willing to share his story with us and that we can all continue to love on him and Beth. Thanks, Rob!