Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Delivering The Gift

The other night Stephanie did something very thoughtful. Again. She brought a friend her favorite dessert from her favorite bakery.

Do you think she just left it on the front porch and ran away quickly before she was noticed? No, she carried it right into the kitchen so she could see the look on Amy's face when she opened the box! It's fun to deliver a gift!

Sharing the truth of Jesus Christ is very similar. And, as Adam and I have discussed, how you go about it largely depends on whether you believe the message is a wonderful gift or terribly bad news. Are you more focused on telling someone they are a sinner bound for hell, or that there is a God who loves them enough to offer new life and hope? Do you believe you have a wonderful gift to deliver?

My post on the million-dollar tract generated a fair number of comments from ya'll. I'm glad to have your voices on this blog! Since I left the original post a little open-ended, I thought I'd circle around and conclude some of my thoughts on tracts:

1. I applaud the urgency with which many are sharing the good news through tracts and street evangelism. These folks believe that eternity is for real and we should all be prepared to meet God. I agree!

2. There are lots of ways to communicate the truth of God's unlimited love and grace. Anything from tracts to blogs are valid tools for sharing the amazing purpose God has for our lives.

3. Our primary message and tone should be that of grace, love, and forgiveness. Maybe I'm running with different folks, but the people I'm hanging with already know they're messed up. They don't need condemnation. They need hope.

4. If you wouldn't hand the tract to a neighbor or family member, you shouldn't be leaving it for a stranger to find. On a related note, if you're not sharing what God has done in your life with those closest to you, why are you so compelled to share with strangers?

5. If you don't know anybody who is far from God, consider personally investing in your neighbors, co-workers, and family before handing tracts to strangers.

5. We should never shy away from the truths of hell, condemnation, and punishment. But how we relate these truths makes all the difference. Paul says our conversation should be "full of grace, seasoned with salt."

7. I need to check my motives every time I share my faith. Is my first concern for the individual with whom I am speaking, or is it with making a point, being right, and convincing someone they should be more like me?

8. Our theology must be careful and true in what we speak and write. It's important to paint an accurate portrait of God.

After the Starbucks incident, Adam summarized the situation best. As he watched the woman leave with her million-dollar bill, he said, "There goes someone who doesn't believe the gospel is really good news."

How about you? Do you believe it's something wonderful to share?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Great Morning with the Church

We weren't really at church today, but we were with the church, and it was awesome!

Stephanie and I love being with Access volunteers, and today was a cool day to work side-by-side with the greatest team of volunteers in the known universe. It was a workday, prepping for our future as an every-Sunday congregation. It was also a worship day, as we sang, prayed, and took communion together. (Great job, Brian!)

I love the way this group of people worships and serves. You can see that they are committed in huge ways to "making much of God" through their time, money, relationships, and prayers.

Thanks for a great day, Access volunteers!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

$1,000,000 in Cash Found at Starbucks

Our staff feels very at home at Starbucks. We spend a lot of time having meetings there. But we've never stumbled upon such untold riches!

A little while back, Adam & I arrived a little early for a meeting and were waiting for our coffee to cool and the others to arrive.

Two women who'd been seated near us headed for the door, and a few newcomers headed toward their recently-vacated seats.

"Hey!" called one man after the women, "You left some cash!"

The woman looked oddly sheepish. "Oh, it's okay. You can have it," she replied.

The man backed away from the bill on the seat as if his integrity had been called into question. "Miss! Please take your money."

The woman walked back across the store, seemingly embarrassed at the attention she was receiving, and muttered something to the man as she bent to pick up the cash.

"Oh," he exclaimed as she was leaving. "It's one of those." The disdain in his voice was evident, and Adam and I knew immediately that we was referring to a million-dollar bill. I saw one for the first time a few weeks before when a girl at Panera received one as a "tip." It looks exactly like U.S. currency (except for the ridiculous amount) and on the back it says:

The million dollar question: Will you go to Heaven? Here's a quick test. Have you ever told a lie, stolen anything, or used God's name in vain? Jesus said, "Whoever looks upon a woman to lust after her has committed adultery already with her in his heart." Have you looked with lust? Will you be guilty on Judgment Day? If you have done those things God sees you as a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart. The Bible warns that if you are guilty you will end up in Hell. That's not God's will. He sent His Son to suffer and die on the cross for you. Jesus took your punishment upon Himself – 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.' Then He rose from the dead and defeated death. Please, repent (turn from sin) today and trust in Jesus, and God will grant you everlasting life. Then read your Bible daily and obey it.

Later, as we were leaving Starbucks, I saw that she'd placed it on one of the outside tables. I picked it up. So... I've got a million bucks for anyone that wants it.

What do you think about these tracts?

Are they effective? Accurate?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Christ vs. Christians

What do you think?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

BigStuf Worship

Last summer, Adam, Kevin, and I took a little trip down to Daytona to check out BigStuf Camp.

Now, if you've ever had any experience with the creative minds behind these camps, you know we were expecting a lot. We knew there'd be great speakers (anybody ever heard of Andy Stanley?), crazy fun stuff, and incredibly energetic and engaging worship.

But we weren't quite prepared for this:

The great news is that Steve Fee and his band are going to be back this year! But you'd better contact Brian and register soon. BigStuf is already 91% full!

BigStuf Camp is July 28-August 1 in Daytona Beach and open for those finishing grades 5-12.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Canvas, Pt. 2

This week Andy Stanley will deliver part 2 of Canvas.

We live in a world created by God and designed to reflect His glory. Everything, including our lives, are tapestries created by him. He is working on the canvas of our lives so we can bring glory to Him. That is our sole purpose here on earth.

I've included a little teaser video below. Don't miss it! See you Sunday at 9:30 or 11:15am!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

DRIVE Registration Closes April 21

Whoa! May sure snuck up on us, didn't it? I can't believe that in just a little more than two weeks the Access team will be heading to Atlanta for DRIVE '08.

You are so gonna want to be there. You can meet this guy and this guy and this girl and this guy and this girl is the one in charge. And then there's him, and him, and him, and these folks!

I'm telling you—you don't want to miss this! Sign up now, here. Or if you're an Access volunteer, just shoot us an email and we'll hook you up with a special price, special parking, and VIP privileges!

Tick, tick, tick...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Middle Schoolers Wanted

This Sunday, Access launches a new environment. We're so excited about this! We don't launch new environments very often, and not without careful planning. This environment is super-cool not because of what we're doing, but because of who is coming.

Xtreme is for middle- and high-school students (together for large-group teaching but divided for small groups). These students have been serving alongside adults for the last year, successfully creating environments like Waumba Land and UpStreet. Now, it's their turn!

Trying to remember middle school and having a hard time getting in the right mindset? Perhaps this video will help:

Get ready! Xtreme is launching this Sunday with time for worship, large-group teaching, and small-group discussion.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Doing Life Together

Sometimes folks ask me what we do on the Sundays we don't "have church" at Access. My short answer is that we are busy "being the church." More on that in some posts next week, about some great things we've got planned for our "off" Sundays this summer.

But tonight I wanted to show you an example of that. To the right is a picture of five couples who didn't even know each other six months ago. Here we are, this weekend, on a community group getaway with our kids, sharing lots of laughs and doing life together.

Along the way, there are conversations about parenting, passages of the Bible, marriage, and about...well, life. Not scripted or rehearsed—just happening.

This is just one way that we are the church all week long, and not just on Sundays.

What are some ways that you are being the church and not just going to church? Comments welcome!

Friday, April 11, 2008

So Grateful

I've spent the better part of the day studying the financials for Access Church, and I am so grateful!

When Access began, there were just a few families in Jacksonville that were supporting Access with their God-given dollars. We were largely dependent on visionary giving from those in Atlanta with a passion for creating environments for those far from God.

As the months have gone by, more and more couples, singles, and even children have come on board with their giving. In fact, 12 new couples and singles have started giving to Access on a regular basis since January of this year. That is significant!

It's not just about the money... it's about buy-in. It signifies more and more of you who get the vision and want to see this church impact our city!

This month our regular giving (money received by mail and Sunday giving) reached a new high! I can't say strongly enough just how excited we are about this!

It's not just about the money... it's about you making very personal sacrifices to support the future of Access Church. I could tell you story after story of families who have chosen to forfeit their family vacation or delay the remodeling of their kitchen because they are willing to give generously back to God and see if he might, just maybe, do something amazing with it!

Stephanie and I are giving, too. I don't say that to boast, but I think it's important you know that we're not asking anyone to go where we're not willing to lead. We've made some financial choices this year that have been difficult... but we don't regret it one bit! We can't wait to see how God invests our finances in the lives of those you're inviting!

Have I told you lately how much I love pastoring this body of believers?!!?

Keep going, Access! Financial independence in 2008 is just around the corner!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

9:00am & 10:30am

The warm summer weather is here, and with that, lots of outdoor Sunday activities. Access recognizes the need to adjust service times accordingly, and beginning June 1, our services will be held at 9:00 & 10:30am. Waumba Land (birth—age 5) will be open at both hours. UpStreet (grades K-5) will be at 10:30am and Xtreme (grades 6-12) will be at 9:00am.

Just so we're clear, I'm gonna say it again:

Begins June 1
  • 9:00am—Adult Worship, Waumba Land, and Xtreme
  • 10:30am—Adult Worship, Waumba Land, and UpStreet
And that all starts on... June 1. Very good.

Now, go tell a friend!

Xtreme - it really is!

We wanted to communicate how excited we are about launching Xtreme in just 10 days. This spot comes close. Turn up the volume on your computer...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

DRIVE '08 - Still have Questions?

Some of you still haven't registered for DRIVE!

Are you crazy? Don't you know it's right around the corner on May 5?!?!

Maybe it's because you still have some unanswered questions. Tripp and Tyler got a hold of a microphone at a recent staff meeting and asked Andy the same questions that are probably on your mind:

Go here for a great series of funny videos.

Email one of us and we'll hook you up with the special price for strategic partner volunteers!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Win Stories

Everyone is congratulating Kansas today. That's great. They put a round ball through a metal hoop a bunch of times last night.

But have you seen what the volunteers at Access Church have been doing?? Truly amazing stuff!

Part of our staff meeting each Monday involves sharing "win" stories—How we are seeing God at work in the body of Access Church. It's my favorite part of the week, celebrating what we see God doing through our volunteers!

Here are a few you might enjoy knowing about:
  • Rose, a beautiful woman in her 90s, continues to join us each Sunday to celebrate and sing, "Jesus is Alive!"
  • A local schoolteacher invited a student, unfamiliar with church, who in turn has invited his entire family!
  • A couple whose marriage is in trouble has come back to Access for the practical teaching. Can you imagine how Louie's message might have impacted them?
  • A self-described atheist who has been coming to Access emailed me to say, "I hope to strengthen my faith, shed my preconceptions, and relieve my tensions with God some day."
  • An Easter attender sent an email to say, "The music touched me and I have continued to think about it every day since. Thanks for the environment that you created that day. It was truly authentic worship and I don't think you could have been in that room and not have been affected by it."
  • One of our visionary givers called me to say that giving isn't enough, he wants to "get his hands dirty" as well!
  • One of our load-in team members rebuilt our table that holds all our A/V gear in the back of the room. No one asked him. He just did it. Thank you, James!
  • Abner Ramirez called and asked if he and Amanda could start leading worship every Sunday at Access. They love it that much!
  • Jeff, on the production team, recently ran the audio mix for the first time by himself. It sounded great!
  • Three new guys have joined us to help tear-down after the 11:15am service. What a huge help!
  • One couple was invited by an Access attender while at the park. In the past couple of months they've started attending, their daughter runs down the hall toward Waumba, they've joined a small group, and now they want to volunteer. Hurrah!
You can't possibly know how encouraging this is for us to hear! We are so proud of you! There is no other place we would want to serve. Access Volunteers Rock!

Thanks to all of you who PRAY for the people and environments at Access Church, for those who GIVE to make it all possible, and for those who are SERVING and INVITING their friends.

I love doing church with you!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Access on the Radio?

What are Adam and Rich doing in the studio right now with this guy?

Come Sunday and find out!

Don't be a minute late!

What's Your Story?

My neighbor Randy always has a great story to tell, and he knows it. He doesn't hesitate to tell you what happened last weekend or last decade... because it's good stuff! The other day we saw each other at the gas station, and he'd just come back from hunting wild boar. He told us about a 300 lb. beast charging straight for them when he & his brother had only one shot left between them. He had our attention!

As a political strategist, Randy was right in the middle of the 2000 Presidential recount here in Florida. One night we had some neighbors over and Randy was giving us the "inside scoop" as to what was going on in the Bush/Gore camps during that whole fiasco. We were listening!

You've got a great story to tell, also!

It's actually God's story, and he's using your life to tell it. Isn't that wild? Your life is an opportunity for God to tell of his amazing love and forgiveness.

Right now, God is painting a beautiful picture, and your life is the canvas! Each day he picks up a different brush, uses a different hue, but it's all part of one big, amazing, and beautiful picture—His incredible love.

We should be just as confident as Randy in telling others what God is doing in our lives. What's happening on your canvas?

This Sunday at Access you'll have the opportunity to share what God is doing in your life. Come prepared to share and celebrate his amazing artistry.

Andy Stanley Gets a Little Help

This past Sunday at North Point Andy got a little help from the middle-school area with his message.

It seems they had the hazer cranked up a little high over there, and it triggered the fire alarms right in the middle of Andy's message. A full evacuation was necessary.

The timing of the fire alarms is crazy—this is the passage Andy was handling when the alarm sounded:

James 3:5-6
Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

Is that wild timing, or what? Evidently the host team had a video in the 10B4 earlier in the morning reminding everyone not to park in the fire lanes, as well!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Catalyst 2008

Well, it's April and officially summertime in Florida. That means Catalyst 2008 is only six months away.

Have you registered yet?

The 2008 speaker lineup hasn't been announced just yet, but previous years have included such heavy-hitters as:

Andy Stanley (I really like that guy)
Francis Chan
Dave Ramsey
John Maxwell
Rick Warren
Erwin McManus
Craig Groeschel
Marcus Buckingham
Donald Miller
Bill Hybels
John Eldredge
Chuck Colson
Louie Giglio
Ed Young, Jr.
Rob Bell
Ken Blanchard
Truett Cathy

Wow! Now you can understand why the Access staff didn't hesitate to pre-register! See you there!