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!