Rich & Stephanie Barrett
We’ve been telling stories on this blog about the families who helped Access Church get off the ground. For many of these families, it has been a two-year journey of praying, giving, inviting, and serving—all the time wondering what God might do if they submitted their plans to His.
For Stephanie and I, the road to Access Church began when we visited North Point Community Church in the summer of 2003. Our church in Ohio had just launched a second campus, and we were interested in comparing notes with the staff at North Point about the recent launch of Buckhead Church. I had the opportunity to meet with David McDaniel, and those hours proved fateful.
As we learned more about North Point, we fell in love with this simple, focused model of ministry. We had pastored at some great (but cluttered) churches, and the clear strategy of reaching people, rather than keeping people, was invigorating! David and I stayed in touch and, over the next couple of years, we met with David and other NPCC staffers whenever we passed through Atlanta.
In December 2004, David explained that North Point had just launched strategic partnerships in Dothan, Alabama, and Athens, Georgia. These churches operated much like a North Point campus, showing Andy Stanley’s messages, except that they were farther from Alpharetta and were independent churches. David asked if I would be interested in leading a strategic partnership. I laughed! I had never been a senior pastor and considered myself unprepared for such a venture. But the idea began to germinate.
Over the next year, Stephanie and I met with many of the NPM staff members and discussed several possibilities of what it might look like for us to join in what God was doing through North Point. We immersed ourselves in the culture and learned all we could about this fascinating church. Finding the right fit proved to be a challenge until finally David and I found ourselves at Starbucks (again) shortly before Christmas of 2005. We discussed the strategic partnership model again, and Stephanie and I agreed that we would lead the next North Point partnership. But where?
Stephanie and I are both originally from south Florida, and immediately began to think about how exciting it would be to return to Florida and take the North Point ministry model with us. West Palm Beach was home, had all the right demographics, and seemed like a perfect opportunity. But David kept calling us and telling us about this amazing story God was writing in Jacksonville. Every time I would call David to discuss West Palm Beach or some other location, he would tell me about all the people you’ve previously read about on our blog. “Go meet them,” he said. “They’re amazing people.”
David was right. By the time we’d made two trips to Jacksonville in the spring of 2006, God was convincing us that Jacksonville was the right place to move our family and begin a new ministry. The launch team here was everything you’d want from a group of people starting a church, because they understood that this wasn’t about them! In fact, these people—the ones you’ve read about—made it clear to us that they believed the last thing Jacksonville needed was another church. Instead, they wanted to create environments where people of all backgrounds and beliefs would be encouraged to pursue a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
Soon, we were packing our boxes in Ohio and saying goodbye to friends of 15 years. It was surreal. For years, we had prayed that God would return us to the South. For years, we had studied and admired the North Point model of ministry. Now we would have the opportunity to launch a North Point partnership in our home state!
In July of 2006 we moved to Alpharetta and began a four-month internship at North Point, which allowed us to meet some of the greatest people you’d ever want to know and ask a lot of questions about the philosophies and strategies of ministry at North Point, Buckhead, and Brown’s Bridge. We’ve lived here in Jacksonville since November and are enjoying it more every day. It’s home!
We are so blessed to have been given this opportunity. We’re operating way beyond our level of knowledge or expertise and completely relying on God to build his church. We repeatedly say, “This was His idea, not ours, so we’ll trust Him to work out all the details!”
The road to Access has proven to be an amazing ride. God’s given us a great launch team, great staff, and an unbelievably exciting response in the community. Thanks to all who read this and pray, give, invite, and serve! Thanks for partnering with us to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ!