Makin’ it Local (All-Skate)

FAIR WARNING: This post is an “all-skate” post. I really want everyone—especially everyone in Jacksonville—to jump in on the comments!

When other church leaders see your organization as the third most innovative and fourth most influential church in America, it stands to reason you’ll take some criticism. And really, that’s only fair, because we learned from watching Spiderman that “with much power comes much responsibility.”

So, we shouldn’t be afraid to engage our critics, and although we shouldn’t let them sap our energy or blur our focus, we should be open to learning from them.

This past week we’ve gotten a few knocks in the blogosphere, and I wanted to allow you, the readers, to respond to one concern in particular. It’s an important issue, but I can’t answer it all by myself.

You see, some (who’ve never visited Access Church or any other North Point Partner) are concerned that we are not “local” enough. They contend that in order for us to be relevant in Jacksonville, Andy Stanley would have to live in Jacksonville and attend Access Church. These critics maintain that since Andy doesn’t know the “needs of our congregation” he can’t effectively be our teaching pastor.

I understand that the video-preacher thing takes a little getting used to, but I think the negative rationale is inconsistent at best.

If Andy did live here, could he live anywhere in town or would he have to live on my side of the city? How long would he have to live here before we considered him local?

What about other aspects of the church? Do they not have to be “local?” Should we write our own children’s curriculum and groups materials? Should we not read books by authors from outside Jacksonville? What about our worship songs? Tomlin, Crowder, Hillsong…(Australia?!)—scratch them all. Not from our city.

Okay, I’ve tipped my hand a bit. You might have figured out which way I’m leaning. Nevertheless, it is an issue we talk about in staff meetings and something we constantly work at. How do we insure that we are a locally functioning body of Christ and not just the latest outpost of a national franchise?

I have some thoughts of my own…many of which revolve around the importance we place on groups and strategic service. But this is where I want to hear your thoughts. Jacksonvillians, please—tell us what makes Access “local” to you, and not just a TV church.

Click on the comments tag and go for it!

Posted February 8, 2008

4 responses to “Makin’ it Local (All-Skate)”

  1. For our family, our small group and our our kids’ small groups are what really make Access more than “local”. Those things make Access “church” for us.

    I guess there’s also local worship leaders, local staff, local environments, local friendships, local hospital visits, local weddings, local events, a local college campus, local middle and high school student ministries, local mission partnerships…

    But I can see how it’s easy to say a church isn’t local enough because an hour a month of preaching comes from someone who doesn’t live in town (can you sense the sarcasm?)

  2. BREESE says:

    Let’s not forget that there is a local staff who is deciding which messages will be played each week. There is no “message of the week” or “series of the month” that shows up on the doorstep each week for the sound guy to pop in the DVD player. Theres also 12 years of material for the local staff to sift through, pray over, and carefully choose to show.

    Would it be more acceptable for the Access staff to write their own messages, send them off to Andy, and THEN have him record the message?

  3. Zach says:

    Prior to getting involved with Access/Northpoint I certainly had my skepticisms about a national video megachurch. I participated because my fiance/wife was involved and starting this church was important to her. The past year though has served to remind me that the church is not the messages we here on Sunday mornings, the educational materials or programming that we use, or the building where we gather for corporate worship. The church is found where people are sharing life together and having honest conversations about experiences, joys, pains, and faith. These are the conversations starting to be had at Access within the community and small groups. Though we may watch Andy Stanley piped in from another state on a screen, our dialogue, growth and relationships are local. I passionately believe God designed us to grow and learn from one another. Through the local church of people at Access, Katherine and I are having an opportunity to do just that.

  4. First off, video sermons are such a fraction of what Access is that it is a reach to knock it for not being “local” just based on that. The music, the kids’ programs, the community, the small groups– all of it makes a church what it is. But because there are undoubtedly critics due to the video preaching, I’ll go there… For me, Access is completely local, regardless of if the pastor is 400 miles away or at a pulpit in front of my face… Besides, when we were in Atlanta and attended NPCC, we more often than not sat on the non-live side anyway due to tardiness. Does that mean Andy wasn’t local? Plus, a good message is a good message is a good message. How many times have you heard something great and thought, I wish my (husband, boss, neighbor) was there? Proximity doesn’t make it any less great. Third, let’s be honest, I never knew Andy when I was local. Yes, I ran next to him at the Peachtree Road Race a few years back but I didn’t strike up a conversation and go over my prayer requests (granted that might have made him run faster. Ha!). I guess my point is that it impossible for him to truly know the needs of his congregation. To the critics, that might be a problem of size but again not proximity. For us, small groups and community experienced in serving make our church extremely local.

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