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By Joy A. Kennelly

Every time you have a perception of a certain thing, it will grow and evolve as time goes on and my opinion on Andy Stanley's church and members has drastically taken a turn for the better over the course of the past few weeks.

Not that I thought everyone was bad, but I was allowing certain attendees to influence my opinion poorly. Not that you care, but for those who want to hold a negative view of the church and Christianity because it makes you feel better, this is one story where you won't be able to once you read what I am about to share with you.

I know it changed my mind and opened my heart like nothing else could.

Being new to the South everything is new to me and I love seeing how people do church and community out here. Years ago I ran across Pastor Louie Giglio's 7:22 singles service online and was so encouraged to see young people worshipping and learning about God here in Atlanta, Georgia as I sat at my computer watching them all the way across the country in Hermosa Beach, CA.

I always wondered why we didn't have a dynamic singles ministry out there in CA like this one and would send prayer requests to Louie and his church to pray for Hermosa Beach and our surrounding beach cities at the height of my politicking to change the drinking and partying culture there.

God moved in Hermosa and we did see some change. Then I moved out of the area and stopped my involvement because I was burnt out. Trying to change a beach community built on years and years and years of drinking and partying wasn't what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing.

Plus, when you're the only single person speaking out on the issue, it doesn't necessarily make you popular with other singles who happen to like drinking and partying very much.:)

I realized sometimes you have to let go and let God. God is moving there without me since I know others who have picked up the cause, or continue to fight for it.:) Just not my issue any more.

God continued to move in my life and eventually after a short stint back in Hollywood and other factors, decided it was finally time to leave CA altogether and made the trip out to GA in late July. Upon arrival, my friends invited me to attend Andy Stanley's Buckhead Church and Louie Giglio's Passion City Church which I gladly did.

I kept thinking something looked familiar and it wasn't till a few weeks of attending that I realized this was the same pastor and church environment I had watched online so many years ago which I had wanted so badly to be part of back then.

Now that I'm here it's hard to believe how much God is doing in and through this community. Buckhead Church, which is part of Northpoint Ministries and one of the five campuses, is where I've been attending most regularly. These past few weeks seeing God's love in action through the lives of those who attend has blown me away.

What I really like about Pastor Andy Stanley is he gets how people need challenges (men especially. Ever read Wild At Heart? I did and it really helped me understand men and their need for challenges. More pastors need to read it!), BIG challenges, and he and his team created the Be Rich 11 campaign to do just that.

Apparently, every year for seven weeks in November through December, the entire church is encouraged to Give and Serve to bless the community. Donations are given above and beyond our regular tithing which are not used by the church at all. Just donated straight to the charities designated as beneficiaries. Last year they raised $500,000 which all went straight to a range of charities spread throughout all of Atlanta, GA.

This year, Andy encouraged us to give more and gave us a goal of 1 million for the entire seven weeks of this Be Rich 11 campaign. Here's the video to show you what the entire Be Rich 11 Campaign is all about:

Be Rich Opener 2011 from North Point Media.

WELL! Not only did we as a Christian body raise ONE MILLION DOLLARS, but we did it in a week's time and raised a total of ONE POINT SEVEN MILLION DOLLARS! I was blown away hearing this because I know they will distribute it straight to so many charities throughout the city that are really hurting financially in this economy.

Amazing generosity out here in Georgia! What one of my friends pointed out that he appreciated and I do too, is that now that goal is achieved, we're moving onto the next one rather than continuing to raise money like other fundraisers might have been tempted to do.

Our next challenge was to commit to volunteering as a church community for a total of 8,000 service hours during that specific time frame yet again and these opportunities are explained in the following videos as recommended suggestions.

Please watch because the quality is amazing and this will explain everything much better than I can:

Be Rich 2011 Causes: Sickness from North Point Media.

Be Rich 2011 Causes: Poverty from North Point Media.

Not only did people volunteer, we now have 13,000 service hours on the books which will be done over the next few weeks! Again, amazing generosity and seeing God's love in action blows me away!

Now that it's Thanksgiving week, we're invited to help collect 25 TONS OF FOOD to fill pantries of local food banks. That's 25 NFL teams in food form and will serve 5,000 people a week. The church broke it down and that's 2 lbs per person to achieve our goal.

I know, sounds impossible, right? But as I begin to know these Southern Christians the little I do, I have no doubt it will happen. Here's the video to explain it all visually if you learn by hearing:

Be Rich 2011 Causes: Hunger from North Point Media.

Isn't this amazing? No wonder the church is busting at the seams to hold everyone. Did you know this Christian community at Northpoint is the second largest church in the country? Wouldn't you want to be part of something this dynamic? I know I do. 

I love how all these efforts are based on the Bible verse found in I Timothy 6:18 too: "Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share."

God's love in action. I love it.  

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I'll keep you posted on the results of this 25 ton food goal!



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