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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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

An Incredible Opportunity!

A small group of visionaries in Atlanta are so excited about what's going on at Access Church that they have offered to help us reach our destination. And they've offered this help in the form of a financial gift, where they will match, dollar-for-dollar, any visionary giving (marked "RoadMap") that we receive between now and December 31, 2007.

All they ask in return is that once we are financially independent, we help start other partnerships.

Such a deal!

That means that if you choose to support the strategies of this church, if you choose to help us create these environments, if you help us follow this RoadMap—then a group of people that live 400 miles away will join you in that mission!

Isn't that amazing? These are families just like you and I with lots of other things they could do with their money, but they are so excited about what's ahead for Access Church that they want to invest their money here. They are surrendering their finances to see what God will do!

Here's where it gets even more exciting:

On October 21, we announced that our goal is to raise $300,000 from attenders and friends of Access Church by December 31, 2007. Some of you gasped! But we have a great vision for what God can do in Jacksonville and we want to be right there on the front lines! We know what it will take to hire the right staff, rent the right facilities, and create the right environments.

And we don't want you to miss out on the opportunity to be a part of this! We want you, like us, to look back on this in five years, or twenty, and say, "God used me in that circumstance. I wasn't sure I could afford it. I wasn't sure we'd make it. But, we opened our hands to God and he did something amazing!"

Stephanie and I and the rest of our staff were the first to make financial commitments to this campaign. Why?
  • Because our middle and high school students need a youth pastor who is committed to working with their parents to help them navigate the waters of adolescence
  • Because we want to create a shared learning experience for elementary students and their parents, and we need to do that right
  • Because we really believe that life change happens when we sit around the kitchen table and look each other in the eyes and love, encourage, and challenge one another
  • Because moms & dads need to be empowered to teach their children about God
  • Because singles need to be in healthy relationships with other singles.
  • Because your neighbors, your friends at work, your mom, your son, your brother-in-law, your son's coach, your best friend, your spouse... needs to know that Jesus is real and can make a difference in their lives—now and for eternity
  • Because we believe heaven and hell are real places. We really believe that Jesus rose from the dead, and the God who made us wants to have a relationship with us that lasts forever. And we believe everyone ought to know that. We believe the church is God's only plan. And we believe a church that is loving God and loving people, with a clear, obvious strategy, will be irresistible
  • Because Jesus Christ left us with a mission, a destination. And we are the stewards of a proven RoadMap
So, how 'bout it? Are you in?

We've already received commitments of $160,635 toward our goal. Please fill out a card this week and let us know your 2007 commitment. Or, you can email, call, or give online!

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Gas Money

For the last month at Access Church, we've been talking about all the cool environments that we plan to launch in the next year or so here in Jacksonville. We've used the metaphor of a road trip—we know where we're going, we have a clear strategy for getting there, and we have some great people on board. We'd love to have you join us!

But we need you to kick in for gas money! :-)

Access Church depends on two types of giving for our ministry:
  1. Regular Giving
  2. Visionary Giving
Regular Giving
Regular giving is from that part of us that says, “Everything I have is from God, so I’m going to regularly give back to him by prioritizing a percentage of my income for my local church.” We believe this is a Biblical practice for believers to give their first-fruits to God. Regular giving is generally received by mail or Sunday offering.

Visionary Giving
When the dream for Access Church was born, we knew it would cost more to operate than we would initially receive in offerings. We knew from creating these environments in 17 other cities that it would cost about $40,000 each month to operate, and that regular offerings we receive by mail or in the worship services would not cover those expenses for the first 18-24 months.

That's when a committed group of about eight families right here in Jacksonville said, "We'll help make up the difference." Isn't that amazing? Up to now those individuals have given about $235,000 to see Access Church develop into what we are today. We call that giving visionary giving, and we are so grateful for those who are excited about our destination, and our RoadMap, who have made this investment.

Visionary giving is when you see something exciting happening and you say, "I want to be a part of that. I want to help make that happen." In a very real sense, it is venture capitalthat pays amazing dividends! Visionary giving allows us to go further, faster.

Jump In
If you're a regular attender and you've been coming to Access for a while, the time may have come for you to begin giving a regular percentage of your income to Access Church. And if you'd like to be a part of the "over-and-above" visionary giving, we're not ashamed to say that this is a great place to invest your hard-earned dollars.

The road ahead is exciting. We'd love to have you along for the ride!

If you have any questions whatsoever about the finances at Access Church, please feel free to shoot me an email! I'd love to have the conversation! Online gifts can now be made at

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Measuring Success

What's the best way for a church to measure success?

Hint: It's not attendance, or offering, or buildings. It's not even community service.

It's life change.

And at Access, we really do believe that a small group is the best, most effective place for sustained life change to occur. We gauge our success by how effectively we help people move from our large environments into small groups. The most important number we track is not attendance, or giving, but the percentage of our adults in community groups.

Access Church hosted our very first GroupLink last Sunday. What an encouraging day this was for us! We saw 45% of our church plug in to community groups. Wow! We are so excited to see our church moving along the RoadMap with such a clear picture of where we're going and how we're going to get there. We are blown away by the stories we hear every week of life change and how God is allowing us to be a small part of something so big.

For those of you who came to GroupLink and took the risk: Thank You! You won't regret it.

Our next GroupLink will be in February.


Sunday, October 28, 2007


Our strategy at Access Church necessitates that we have foyer, living room, and kitchen environments for every age level. We have launched some of those environments already, but there's more to come!

Recently we announced some exciting new environments that we plan to launch in the months to come. These environments are exact replicas of exciting, successful environments already helping connect people to God in 17 other cities across North America. We can't wait to launch them here in Jacksonville!

Our RoadMap (download the PDF here):

Student Small Groups (Grades 6-12)
November 2007
Small groups are the heart of the student ministry because life change happens best in relationships. In small groups, students build deep friendships with other students and leaders, discuss what it means to have a relationship with Jesus, and have fun together.

GroupLink (Adults)
November 2007
GroupLink is a two-hour event where you will connect with others and form a community group. Community groups are small groups of six married couples or eight individuals of the same gender that meet weekly in someone's home for fellowship, Bible study, and prayer.

Kaos and Rush Hour
March 2008
Kaos (middle school) and Rush Hour (high school) are ever-changing environments designed for our core students to bring their friends. You'll see these events show up in the form of coffee houses, concerts, parties, and other formats that help students introduce their friends to our ministry.

March 2008
KidVenture is a huge party that we throw a few times a year for UpStreet's small groups and their leaders. It could be Karaoke, bowling, jump-n-slide, or other events that help connect leaders and kids in a great social environment. Watch the website for these over-the-top, hilarious, wacky, crazy, fun events kids won't want to miss.

Student Retreats
Spring, Summer, Fall 2008
Weekend retreats and summer camps are an amazing time to pull away from the routine of life and to take a look at who Jesus is in a fun and meaningful way with friends. There are retreats scheduled for the spring and fall of 2008, and we are planning to go to camp in the summer of 2008 for the first time.

September 2008
Fusion is an environment where single adults come to build authentic friendships and get connected. We'll meet on the first and third Sunday night of each month in various locations around the Jacksonville area.

Fall 2008
KidStuf is where kids bring their parents to a 45-minute show that uses music, drama, storytelling, video, lights, and sound to teach character and faith by emphasizing a monthly value. KidStuf is value-driven, user-friendly, creatively wired, family-centered, kid-focused, and volunteer-fueled.

Xtreme and InsideOut
October 2008
Xtreme (middle school) and InsideOut (high school) will be our regularly scheduled events for students. They are the places to experience great worship, to get in-depth teaching, and to get connected into small groups.

Wow, that's pretty exciting! You're probably wondering what you can do to help. Well, keep checking in here and we're going to outline some very specific ways you can jump in!

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

RoadMap Message Online

Got a few (36) minutes? We'd love for you to listen to this important message on the future of Access Church, delivered October 21 in our morning services.

The message can be found here.

After you've listened to the message, please take a short, 2-minute survey and let us know what you think. Click here to take our survey.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Access Strategy

So, if our purpose is to make disciples (or as we say, lead people into growing relationships with Jesus Christ), how do we do that? How do we pull it off?

Well, Jesus seemed to have only one plan for accomplishing this, the local church.

Maybe when you think about a local church you imagine a steeple, pulpit, robes, ritual, and tradition. And maybe Access Church rocks that image a bit. But the Bible teaches the church is any group of Christ-followers who are pursuing intimacy with God and community with each other. Jesus thinks of a group of people that are making a difference in the world around them. Access Church is one of those local churches. We're not just a campus ministry or people blowing through town. With our whole hearts we have embraced this city and this mission.

So if making disciples is the destination, and we are the local church, then the question becomes, "How do we get there?"

Since this whole thing is about relationships, we find it helpful to talk about our strategy like you would a home. Perhaps you've read my previous post on our foyer, living room, and kitchen.

We describe the foyer as an environment intentionally created for those outside the church to come and learn how God and the Bible matter in their lives today. There are plenty of other churches that are primarily for church people on Sunday mornings, but this church, on Sunday mornings, is also for those who are still asking significant questions about God.

Why is is this important? Because our culture is asking more spiritual questions in this generation than ever before. But this generation is also attending church in the lowest numbers ever in our nation's history.

Christians, and the church, as USA Today said this week, are suffering from seriously low approval ratings.

We wanted to create a church for people that don't really like church. That's our foyer. We've seen this work in 17 other cities across North America. We know it's working because people who don't even understand or agree with our message are inviting their friends!

The foyer isn't for us. It's not for the volunteers. It's not even for you. The foyer is for your friends. For this community. And mostly for God, who deserves their worship.

The best sentence I've found to describe this foyer strategy to people is to say, "We are more concerned with reaching people than we are with keeping people."

When you understand our purpose for the foyer, becoming a part of a small group (the kitchen) becomes even more important. The fact that our Sunday morning environment is for unchurched people means that community groups become even more important for believers, and November 4—GroupLink—should be in HUGE red letters on your calendar.

Access Church has a clear strategy for getting there, because we believe that navigation is every bit as important as destination. Therefore, we must provide environments that provide clear opportunities for life change to occur. Some of these environments we've already launched. But there are so many more that we want to launch in the months to come! Later this week I'll reveal exactly what those are, and when we plan to launch them.

Stay tuned!

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Importance of Good Navigation

I heard a story recently about a couple that purchased a GPS for a trip across the country to see friends. For nearly 1,000 miles this little unit sat on their dashboard and flawlessly directed them toward their destination. The only problem came when they were literally within sight of their friends' house. The little GPS insisted they continue 500 feet to their friends house on the left.

But the GPS offered no suggestions on how to cross the creek that lay between them and their friends.

Navigation is every bit as important as destination. This is true in life, too. It's not enough to know where you want to go in life. You have to know how to get there.

There's a place in Atlanta where northbound traffic splits into Interstates 75 and 85. One year, returning from spring break, my friend Wendell pulled up in the lane next to me to signal that he needed to stop for gas. I tried to signal back that he was in the wrong lane. He looked up to see the sign too late, and in an instant was headed for Greenville instead of Chattanooga.

Yeah, navigation matters.

Perhaps this has happened to you, even in your career, or your marriage, or with your children or your business. Where you say, "Honey, if we want our kids to end up like this, we'd better start implementing some changes in our home, now."

You recognize this truth in your career, right? If your goal is to work in entertainment industry, interning for a construction company probably isn't the best path to start on.

It's even more important for an organization to know, not only where it wants to end up, but exactly how it's going to get there. We've all been a part of an organization or a movement that has lost its way. Perhaps you've been a part of something, and you've realized these are good people. They mean well. They know where they want to go. They just don't know how to get there!

Thankfully, when Jesus left this earth he made it perfectly clear what our destination is. In fact, he wrote our mission statement for us.

In the final chapter of Matthew's account of his life, he gathers his disciples together, and he has a few words left before he leaves them behind and goes to be with the father.

He said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

It's his last chance to speak to them, to summarize the last three years into one command. He boils it all down to one thing. There is one imperitive verb, and three participles which help that verb. "As you are going..." MAKE DISCIPLES.

That's it. That's our purpose as a church. That's our destination.

So the big question remains: How are we going to get there? What is our strategy? Do we have a road map?

Yes, we do. Tomorrow we'll talk about it. Join us Sunday as we explore what God has called Access Church to accomplish in this community. It's challenging and exciting!

See you there!

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Mission, Part 3

Lately I've been writing here about the three vital relationships we believe are essential for a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

Besides intimacy with God, and community with insiders, we really believe our purpose in this world is to wield influence with outsiders. We aren't called to be separate from the world, but to relate to everyone around us with such grace and love that they want to know and worship the same God we do.

It's a pretty tricky thing when you really believe that you have an amazing and true message to share with someone you love, and you want to respect their right and ability to decide for themselves.

There are a couple of things we need to keep in mind as we seek to influence those around us. First, life change happens best in the context of relationship, and we are relational beings. You are trying to make an introduction, not win an argument. Second, actions speak louder than words. Cliché, but painfully true.

Here are some chapters to read this week as you're asking the question, "What kind of influence am I having on the world around me?"

Matt. 28, "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them...and teaching them."
Matt. 5, "let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."
Col 4, "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity."

Have a great week! See you Sunday...


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mission, Part 2

I recently was asked to write a letter to my friend, Drew, who I've known for 21 years. He's going on a retreat, and the idea is that family and friends write letters that tell of his influence in their lives.

Why would this matter, I wonder? I mean, really—why would he care if he's made any difference in my life? As long as he's making a living, raising good kids, faithful to his wife... what difference does it make that his life has changed my life?

I'll tell you—because we were made in the image of God. And God needs relationships. His very existence is as a three-person Godhead (way beyond my understanding!). He created the angels and us to relate to him as Creator. So, as image-bearers, we need relationships, too. We need to know that we are impacting the people around us, and we need to be impacted by them.

This is why the second part of our mission at Access Church is to develop community with insiders. Church should be a place where we can be honest, open, and vulnerable, where we can learn from each other. We should be confident that those around us "have our backs." I need some good friends who can encourage me to make the wise choice, even when it's hard. I need a group of people who will celebrate life's joys with me, and with whom I can grieve life's sorrows. I need community. I'll bet you do, too.

At Access Church, that happens in Community Groups. Community Groups are six couples (or a dozen singles) in safe, authentic relationships where we can discuss our faith, God's Word, and how it relates to the world in which we live.

If you aren't in a Community Group, you need to get into one, soon! On November 4 we're going to host GroupLink, an opportunity for you to meet others that live near you, share your stage of life, and also desire community. It's a two-hour event, and by the time you leave you'll be in a group! There's no better way to jump into these kinds of relationships!

Drew and I became friends 21 years ago because we joined a community of like-minded individuals called a "dorm." It was then I discovered it was possible to talk about spiritual matters with other men, and it literally changed my life. GroupLink could be that kind of defining moment for you!

Think about these chapters from the Bible as you consider joining us on November 4:
  • Acts 2, "All the believers were together...with glad and sincere hearts."
  • Heb 10, "Spur one another on toward love and good deeds."
  • Phil 2, "Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose."
See you November 4, at 4:00pm!


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Mission, Part 1

What is the goal of Access Church? Well, we exist to lead people into growing relationships with Jesus Christ. But, what is a growing relationship?

We believe that a person who is growing in their relationship with Jesus Christ is someone who is pursuing intimacy with God, community with insiders, and influence with outsiders.

Intimacy with God
includes regular private and corporate worship experiences as well as allowing the truth of the Bible to change how you live.

There are other ways to talk about these vital relationships. In our family, we make it very simple for our children—"Love God. Love People." And in some of my emails I use the signature, "to know Him and to make Him known," which was emblazoned on the walls of my college chapel.

No matter how you say it, it begins with intimacy with God. We believe God designed us with an innate desire to know and worship him, and that we are not fulfilled as human beings until we're doing that.

But don't think that worshipping God is just about singing songs. It's acknowledging who God is and what he has done for us. That acknowledgment takes the form of prayer, singing, and reading the Bible that he inspired. It's also serving Him, giving back from our financial resources, and telling others about him. This is all part of what we mean when we talk about being a 24/7 worshipper. It's a mindset that involves being constantly aware of his goodness toward us, and having an ongoing dialog with his Spirit that resides in us.

Here are some chapters from the Bible you may want to read to inspire your worship this week:

Ps 100, "Worship the LORD with gladness...we are his people."
Is 26, "LORD...your name and renown are the desire of our hearts."
Ps 33, "In him our hearts rejoice."

Have a great week, and enjoy the privilege you have to approach the throne of the Almighty God!


Monday, July 23, 2007

Is Louie Giglio really speaking at Access Church?

A week ago I posted an announcement that Louie Giglio would be speaking at Access Church, and it got a lot of interest. Seems that my title was confusing to some. For that I heartily apologize, and I changed the title for that entry. Let me assure you that my intentions were honorable.

Perhaps video church has become so natural to me that I've lost perspective. You see, in my mind Louie Giglio really is speaking at Access Church in August, just like Andy Stanley has really been speaking at Access Church for the past five months. Honestly, I'd rather watch either one of these in a video environment than experience most any other speaker (including myself) live.

So, it's gotten me thinking (and I need your help on this one)... What does it matter? Really, how would church be different for you or me if Louie Giglio or Andy Stanley spoke in person versus on video?

I want your comments on this one. But first, before you do, read this and this to get my perspective on video preaching.

Jump in!


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Get in a Group!

We are such big believers in groups! In fact, if there is one word we would use to describe Access Church, it's "relational."

We actually believe that Sunday services are just the first step to our ultimate goal—being part of a small group with other couples or singles.

Why are we so passionate about this? Well, to quote author & psychologist Larry Crabb, "Lasting life change is the result of truth applied in the context of relationship." So, it's one thing to sit in church and listen to a message that helps us better understand the Bible, but it's a much bigger step to develop relationships with people who are challenging us to apply that message in our daily lives.

Access Church will launch a major campaign to involve everyone in the church in small groups this October. Many of us can't wait! But some of us have never been in a small group, and it sounds a bit intimidating.

So, here's a risk-free trial offer, good for a limited time!

For the next several weeks we are offering two groups for couples and one for singles. Each group will meet on our off-Sundays at 6:00pm. Each group will meet five times. Each group will cover the same material, based on Andy Stanley's series, "The Sinai Code."

Choose a group near you. Commit to it for five sessions, and attend every week that you're in town. Meet some people, study the Bible, and maybe even contribute to the discussion (not necessary).

At the end of the five sessions, you'll have a better idea of what our groups look like and hopefully you'll look forward to our fall launch of community groups as much as the rest of us!

Click here for a Google Map with directions to the group nearest you! Go ahead, click now. The first meeting is this Sunday evening (July 22) at 6:00pm! No registration is neccessary. Just show up!

Groups will meet for about 90 minutes. Childcare reimbursement is provided.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Foyer, Living Room, Kitchen.

At Access Church, we believe that environments are very important. In fact, we would presume that significant spiritual growth in your life has probably been the result of truth being introduced to you in the right environment. The right people, the right setting, the right message. We have found it useful to employ the metaphor of a home as we explain three key aspects to our church life.

The place in your home that serves as the welcome area for guests and new friends. It is the first step, and it’s often your only chance to make your guests feel comfortable enough to return. That’s exactly how we’ve designed our entry environments at Access. Our Sunday-evening worship services are foyer environments. We want our guests to come back, so we do everything with them in mind. This environment serves as the perfect place to introduce newcomers to the life of Access.

Living Room
Once your guests arrive and are welcomed into your home, you invite them into the living room. Everyone finds a comfortable place to sit, and the interaction begins. At Access, our living room environments are designed to help you connect with people like yourself. Through fellowships like GroupLife Preview (starting June 3), strategic service teams, and other events, you will begin to develop relationships with others in a smaller and more interactive environment.

Think about it. What is the most popular room in your home? Where do you end up when guests or family come over? The kitchen. This is where lasting friendships are made. And that’s the kind of environment we are striving for in our community groups. Community groups are where people meet regularly for Bible study and prayer and commit to accountability, friendship, and support. They are the safe places to open your heart, share your life, and ask the tough questions. There are small group opportunities for both adults and children. Community groups are the places where ministry happens at Access. We're launching dozens of new community groups in the fall; perhaps one in your own home!

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Are You Involved?

Here's how you can know if you are "part" of our church:
  • You pray. For wisdom as we lead, discernment as we hire, faith as we trust, humility when we fail, and influence as we connect.
  • You serve. So many have jumped in at the point of greatest need. Awesome! Now, begin to apprentice someone.
  • You give. It's our desire to be 100% locally-funded, but we're not even close, yet. We need more to commit an extra percentage to this effort as so many are still browsing.
  • You invite. Our environments for kids and adult are top-notch. Now, let's fill 'em up! Invite a friend to sit with you on May 6.
Consider connecting to the body!


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.


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?


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Invest & Invite

We've all been waiting a long time for this week. Some of us have been praying, planning, and working for two years to see this come about!

Without doubt, the question I have gotten most in the last month is, "How many people do you expect on March 4?"

And my answer is, "It depends...on you."

We have been working hard to create irresistible environments for children and adults on March 4. We've been creating an infrastructure that will allow us to be both excellent and portable. We've been building the right team of staff and volunteers. Now we're ready to fill the room. And that is something that only you can do.

Please don't think, "Let's wait and see how the first one goes." We need to fill the room this first Sunday to give us good momentum moving forward. In fact, we'd love to fill the room to beyond overflowing!

We need to create energy, buzz, and dialogue in the community. And that will happen because you make strategic and repeated invitations this week.

Here's a suggestion. I'm going to call it "3x3x3." You can call it "3 Cubed." I don't care. Just remember the idea.

Invite three people that you really care about and have invested in. Invite them three times. People rarely respond to the first invitation. Invite them today. Again on Wednesday. And again on Saturday. Finally, invite them to try it three times. They need to give this church thing a chance. They need to get used to our music, Andy's humor, and the kids environments. So, ask them to give it three shots.

There you go. 3x3x3. Let's see how it works.


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 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.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Why Jacksonville?

I have been asked several times, "Why did North Point choose Jacksonville?"

The answer is simple: We didn't. Jacksonville chose North Point.

It's a really cool story of how God is working. The short version is that there is an awesome group of people here in Jacksonville who have a real heart for their friends who don't have a growing relationship with God. They want so badly to invite their friends to church, but haven't been able to find the right kind of environment that they feel their friends will connect with. That's not to say that there aren't good churches here. It's to say that these folks, who know their friends best, aren't satisfied when they think about the available environments.

These Jacksonville locals, many of whom didn't know each other, began to contact North Point nearly two years ago. The requests became more frequent and, at some point, North Point had to pay attention. It didn't hurt that some of these people had lived in Atlanta for at least a while, had attended North Point or Buckhead Church, and were known around NPCC as servants, leaders, and dedicated God-followers.

Around the same time, my wife and I had agreed to lead the next North Point strategic partnership—we just didn't know where it should be. We had no idea how clear God was going to make that. We visited Jacksonville twice in the spring of 2006 and met with the core team that God had already assembled here. We were impressed by their clear desire to start a church, not for themselves, but for their friends who wouldn't feel comfortable in most churches.

So, there you go. No room full of maps and demographics. No census statistics. Just a group of people passionate on behalf of their friends—friends whose worship God deserves.

The coolest part is that the story isn't over! About once a week I get an email that says,

"My husband and I just moved to Jacksonville from Atlanta, where we attended NPCC..."

"My brother and his wife are in Jacksonville and are very excited..."

"My son is stationed at Mayport and they have not attended church for many years. They love North Point when they come here to visit..."

"My husband is being transferred to Florida, and we've decided to live in Jacksonville to be a part of this new strategic partnership..."

God is doing something very amazing!


Three Vital Relationships

What is the goal of Access Church? Well, we exist to lead people into growing relationships with Jesus Christ. What is a growing relationship?

We believe that a person who is growing in their relationship with Jesus Christ is someone who is pursuing intimacy with God, community with insiders, and influence with outsiders.

Intimacy with God
includes regular private and corporate worship experiences as well as allowing the truth of the Bible to change how you live, specifically... you develop community with insiders. For us, that happens in community groups, but the method isn't as important as recognizing that we need other people around us in safe, authentic relationships in which we can discuss our faith, God's Word, and how it relates to our...

...influence with outsiders. We aren't called to be separate from the world, but to relate to everyone around us with such grace and love that they want to know and worship the same God we do.

These relationships are vital and interdependent. Imagine how God would be honored if everyone reading this blog committed to pursue these three relationships equally and with vigor!


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

What is "discipleship"?

On my first (ever) visit to Jacksonville, I met a woman who was very excited about the prospect of North Point launching a strategic partnership in Jacksonville. She said that her church and ours could be great partners. She said, exactly, "ya'll could lead them to Christ and then they could come to our church to be discipled."

I just smiled. The obvious indictment was that, while Access might do a good job at creating environments that lead people to "accept" Jesus Christ, we'll probably drop the ball soon after.

Our mission statement is "to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ." Everything we do and will do is about that—seeing people increase their faith in God. How does a church accomplish "discipleship"?

Some churches have a great teaching ministry—layers upon layers of classes and electives. In those churches, you hear phrases like "biblical literacy" a lot. Some of those people ask, "when does North Point get to the deeper stuff? However, in my years of ministry, some of the smartest Christians I knew were also the worst at following Jesus' purpose—"to seek and save the lost."

Other churches talk about obedience. And it's true that, if you love Jesus, you'll obey him. But obedience absent the relationship is just pharisaical.

Obedience alone will make you judgmental.

Knowledge alone will make you proud.

A spiritually mature person is one who lives as if God is who He says He is and will do all He has promised to do.

Knowledge? That's a class.

Faith? Maturity? That's a product of time. That's what happens when God works through relationships and circumstances and when we exercise our ministry gifts. It's what happens as we practice the private spiritual disciplines and tune our heart to the heart of God. And yes, it's when practical Bible teaching shows us where we are and where we need to go.

Do we want to see people in a growing relationship with God? Absolutely? Will that happen as a result of classes, seminars, and electives? Not likely. And can it be measured by obedience? Only partly.

Okay, folks, don't be shy about your comments. I'm sure not everyone agrees. In fact, my best friend in ministry for the last decade and I will go to the mat about this issue of "spiritual maturity." But that's okay. He's also an Eagles fan. What's that tell you?


Friday, November 03, 2006

Another church in Jacksonville?

We started living in our house this week. Actually, it's more like camping. We wanted to be here in time for trick-or-treating, which was a great chance to meet the neighbors, but appliances just came yesterday, and we're still trying to unpack our swimsuits and take a trip to the beach.

Anyway, I met Nick and Leah today—great people, and we have a lot in common. She home-schools their son and daughter, who are the same ages as Peyton and Carly. He manages a retail store up at Regency, and they attend what sounds like a really nice church here on the south side.

So, as I learn about them and our kids are playing kickball together in the backyard, they ask what brings us to Jacksonville. I explain that we've been invited here by a group of folks to help start a church. Which begs a question:

Does Jacksonville really need another church? C'mon, you've thought it. Maybe you're reading this blog and you attend another church in town. Maybe you pastor another church in town. And it's probably a great church. So why does North Point feel the need to start another one in Jacksonville?

I pastored at The Chapel for a decade-and-a-half. Just before I left to join North Point, I heard some friends from Kensington were planning to start a new church in Akron. I thought, "that's stupid." I mean, why duplicate our efforts? The Chapel is a great church—just invite folks here. Why compete against each other?

This post may generate some comments. Those of us who are working hard to see this new venture start in Jacksonville would love to hear from you. But we also want you to hear us clearly: we're not here to compete with you. There are a million people in Jacksonville, and most of them don't go to church anywhere. Frankly, we're not interested in filling our services with folks who already go to church. In fact, everything about North Point is designed to make it attractive to "outsiders"—folks who don't attend church anywhere and may not feel very close to God at all.

So here's what Jacksonville does need. Jacksonville needs intellectually safe environments where those who have not yet decided to put Jesus Christ in charge of their lives can ask questions. Jacksonville needs environments that are predictable and excellent, where believers can invite their not-yet-believing friends to come and hear what the Bible has to say about life in the third millennium. Jacksonville needs small groups where those new believers can be introduced to other believers and "do life" together and develop meaningful friendships that point each other to Godliness. Jacksonville needs environments where kids and parents learn together about God's love for them and His plan for their lives.

We're not looking for "church people." At least not the kind who might come just for the excellent teaching or rockin' music or great kids' programming. We're looking for people who, like us, have hearts breaking for the people in Jax who don't yet know Him and are dying for a place where they can invite these folks to know more about who God really is.

We're excited to be a part of this. We can't wait to see people who don't even think about God on a daily basis enter into a personal relationship with God and give Him all of their worship.

So, Jacksonvillians, hear us loud and clear: we're here to join your team and see God change hundreds, if not thousands, of lives in the years to come. Let's roll!