Recently, I spent a weekend at the incredible Journey Church located in Fernandina Beach, Florida just outside of Jacksonville on Amelia Island.  Led by the incredible Senior Pastor Darryl Bellar, this 5-year-old church which started with 13 people in a living room now runs 1300+ in weekend attendance!

While there, a member of their staff asked me this question – “You see a lot of churches.  What do you think we could improve on?”  I responded, “You know, I only have two days experience at your church.  That is not a large sample size to effectively answer that question because I could be wrong or at best quite presumptive.  However, I have noticed some incredibly unique things about your church.”

I mentioned a couple of these to him but as I really pondered the uniqueness of their ministry, I feel their distinctives could provide valuable assistance to anyone in church leadership.

  1. Only A Leader Can Connect To Other Leaders – Pastor Darryl is a former successful businessman. His background and experience allow him to effectively relate to and serve business leaders.
  2. Highly Competent Pastor’s Wife – Pastor Darryl’s wife, Kara, is truly a partner in ministry and a gifted, gifted leader.  Other than Willow Creek, I have never seen a church that better understands how to identify, enlist, and release women who possess the gift of leadership like this church.
  3. I Thought The Staff Were Volunteers – I have never met a more joyful staff than the team at Journey Church.  The never leveraged their position or introduced themselves as being on staff.  They were so kind and nice, I literally thought they were volunteers.  I was well into the 2nd day before I connected the dots that many of the people I was interacting with were paid staff.
  4. Uniting Generations For Kingdom Purpose – Part of what we were doing is helping lauch a 6-week study called I Was Broke. Now I’m Not.  While the adults were going through this financial series, the youth were going through a parallel age-appropriate study on personal finance as well.
  5. Use Of Space – This church has some logistical items working against it.  They are located on an island so there is little to no new construction taking place.  Also, they occupy an old K-Mart facility which houses their offices, pre-school and youth space, and sanctuary.  The way their building is laid out and its functionality is the best I have seen.
  6. Grace To Heal Broken People – This church shows the level of grace that they wish to be shown.  As a result, God has used this ministry to restore thousands of lives.  On the Sunday I was there, 30 people went into the waters of baptism!
  7. Leadership Buy-In – You can feel how much the staff loves Pastor Darryl and Kara and how bought in they are to the minsitry.  There are deep friendships on this staff.
  8. Managing The Constant – Kara provided me one of my favorite leadership quotes.  “Leading a church is like giving birth on Sunday and then waking up pregnant on Monday!”  I don’t think anything needs to be added to that statement.
  9. Digital Giving – The leadership of this church leverages technology.  In addition to online giving being available through the church’s website, you immediately notice two giving kiosks in the church lobby.
  10. Vibe – This is an energetic church.  I was very surprised at how responsive the 8:30 AM crowd was.  In many churches, those in this service are still waking up.
  11. Generous Leadership – I never take this trait for granted.  The leadership provided my t-shirts and bags as a momento of my stay there.  They were always making sure I had something to drink and that no need went unmet.  Finally, they went over the top, when their very nice female Youth Pastor said, “Would you like to take a t-shirt home for your daughter?”  They won my heart right there!
  12. No Limitations – After spending two days at Journey Church, I truly feel there is nothing God cannot do through this leadership and ministry.  They are not limited by the populaton of the island.  They are not limited by being in a shopping center.  They are not limited by space.  They are not limited by lack of opportunity.  They are not limited in the area of financial resources or leadership buy-in.  I walked away believing this ministry can literally do anything in the area of human life change.

As pastors and church leaders, we are always gleaning from other ministries.  If you feel you are limited in any area of your ministry, learn from what God is doing through Pastor Darryl Bellar, his wife Kara, and the wonderful staff of Journey Church!

They will not only overwhelm you with kindness but also show you what is necessary to deliver limitless ministry.

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