John & Gail Brent
In all the rush of launching Access this month, we’ve taken a break from meeting some of the families that helped bring Access to Jacksonville. If you are new to reading this blog, then you might want to scroll back to January, where we met Michael & Zoie Morales. It’s been about two years since Michael & Chip Abernathy met with David McDaniel, North Point’s Director of Campus Expansion, about the prospect of a strategic partnership in Jacksonville. Along the way, God has brought us some fantastic people to get this church started, and we try to highlight some of those stories here. Many of you reading this will recognize John & Gail Brent who serve with host team and Waumba.
John and Gail Brent have been friends with Chip and Susan Abernathy for years, and when Chip’s job took him and Susan to Atlanta, John and Gail visited them often. Besides spending time with their friends, the highlights of their trips to Atlanta were visits to North Point Community Church. “We love the music, the teaching is fabulous, and we love the vitality,” Gail said. “It is great to see the enthusiasm of all the young people there.”
In late summer of 2005, Chip and Susan told John and Gail about Michael and Zoie Morales, who were moving from Atlanta to Jacksonville and wanted to start a North Point church there. John and Gail had their own ties with Michael and Zoie. Years before, John had worked with Michael’s dad and had been in a Bible study with Zoie’s dad.
John and Gail immediately decided that they wanted to help Michael and Zoie start the new church. “The outreach North Point has to young professionals is outstanding,” said John. “We know so many young professionals in Jacksonville who grew up in church but are no longer active in church. We really want to be involved in a ministry that reaches them.”
A group of families, including Michael and Zoie and John and Gail, soon formed and started working toward what became Access Church only a year later. John and Gail have started spreading the word about Access and have seen a lot of interest in the new church.
“The people we talk to seem really interested,” John said. “For instance, I talked to my friend’s son who is in his mid-30s. He had stopped going to church, but said he’d give Access a try. Another guy brought Access up to me in the gym last week. I also got a call from a guy who grew up with Andy Stanley and wants to try Access. We are so excited about what God is doing.”
John and Gail are still attending their home church, as well. “We may never leave our church,” John said. “But there is such a need in Jacksonville to have a North Point-type of church that will reach young professionals, and we want to support the church that answers that need. I have invited people to our home church and they say it is ‘heavy.’ Access will have a different approach that will be more comfortable.”
John and Gail hope that Access Church will reach many people in Jacksonville. “There are good churches in this city, but we are a million-plus people and only 300,000 of us are in churches,” said John. “I’m hopeful that young families who have not yet found a church will try Access and like it. I know a lot will.”