Chip & Susan Abernathy

Continuing in the “Who is Access?” series, today’s post focuses on Chip and Susan Abernathy.

Chip Abernathy is too young to retire, but after seven years in Atlanta he and Susan were considering moving back home to Jacksonville. Susan’s parents were in Jacksonville, and Chip had a great job opportunity there. But their son and his wife were in Atlanta, and so was their church, North Point Community Church.

Chip and Susan loved worshipping at North Point. For starters, they were personally impacted there. “Andy Stanley’s teaching Sunday after Sunday was life-changing,” Susan said. “He really taught me how to live out my faith.”

They also found the environment exciting. “It was fun to see all the creative talent we’re used to seeing in the working world turned loose in the church,” Chip said. “The videos, drama, and graphics were excellent.”

And the focus of the services made it easy for them to invite their friends and neighbors. “The whole service is purposefully designed to appeal to folks who don’t go to church,” Chip said. “I had never encountered a church that was intentional about being a place for folks who had been away from church, had been hurt by church, or had never been to church. Andy has a way of making people feel welcome even if they don’t agree with what he’s teaching.”

Susan felt like North Point wanted to partner with her and Chip to bring people to Christ. “We lived in a really young neighborhood, and I never thought twice about asking our neighbors to go to North Point,” Susan said. “It was great when we saw our neighbors getting involved and bringing their friends. North Point did the hard part, and that made it easy to bring people.”

Chip and Susan knew they’d be giving up a lot if they left North Point, and they wrestled with the decision to move back to Jacksonville.

In the spring of 2005, Michael Morales, a good friend of theirs who knew that Chip and Susan were considering a move back to Jacksonville, asked Chip if he would be interested in starting a North Point strategic partnership church in Jacksonville. Michael and his wife, Zoie, planned to move from Atlanta to Jacksonville later that summer. Chip thought it was a good idea, but still wasn’t sure he and Susan would be moving.

By October 2005, Michael had moved to Jacksonville and assembled a group of families who were also interested in starting a North Point church in Jacksonville. The group began meeting regularly and included Chip and Susan “in absentia,” knowing that Chip and Susan were still considering a move.

In July 2006, Chip and Susan made the move to Jacksonville and joined the group that became Access Church only two months later. “The group had a life of its own before we got here,” Susan said. “I couldn’t believe how quickly it gathered momentum.”

Chip and Susan have many hopes for Access Church. “Our best hope is that, not too far down the road, thousands of people will be attending Access,” Chip said. “We would love to see that kind of response and enthusiasm. I hope that when we invite friends, we’ll have to tell them to get there early so they can get a seat.”

Susan said, “There are great churches in Jacksonville, but North Point has a particular mission and a particular way of reaching those who don’t go to church. It’s exciting to see this happening in Jacksonville, and it’s a privilege to be a part of Access Church.”