March 2009

I wrote yesterday about my date night night with my wife over the weekend.  Today’s post is about the top-notch guest services that Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC) provided.

The experience from beginning to end was nothing short of spectacular.  Last Thursday I received an e-mail telling me about parking, area dining options, what time to arrive, etc.  At 3 PM yesterday I received an invitation to complete a guest satisfaction survey, which I did.  When we arrived on Sunday night, there were DPAC personnel everywhere, making sure we got where we needed to go.  The doors opened right on time, and we were handed off from one greeter to another until we arrived safe and sound at our seats.

We were in close proximity to a college-aged (or maybe just out of college) girl named Kim.  Or Amy.  I read her name tag, and I know it was a three-letter name.  Mia?  Anyway, Bea was part of the DPAC staff, and I started to offer her a Summit First Impressions job on the spot.  She was everywhere all at once.  High-energy.  Friendly.  Clear and direct when she answered a question.  And the greatest part of all…she anticipated each guest’s need.  When one particular guest was about to exit out the door they came in, Ann said, “If you happen to be looking for restrooms or the snack bar, you’d find it easier by heading straight up those steps.”

Friendly.  Anticipatory.  To the point.

I asked Merriem if she thought it would be weird if I got Meg’s attention and told her how impressed we were with her.  She didn’t balk at it, but Liz was doing a great job at doing her job, so I hated to interrupt.  I just sat and watched in awe as Eve confidently greeted each and every person that came through her door.

Her door.  It got to the point where I had the feeling that she had ownership in the place.  It was as if Bill Cosby’s performance would be a little less grand if she didn’t make the experience a great one for each and every one of her guests.

That’s a great example of an incredible first impression.  Thanks Dee, for a great show before the show.

The CosSorry for the misleading title.  I didn’t go on a date with Bill.  My wife and I went on a date to see Bill.

Merriem and I are children of the 80’s.  We rocked life with parachute pants, cinnamon toothpicks, and The Cosby Show.  We felt like we were part of the Huxtable family, in a bizarro Diff’rent Strokes sort of way.

That’s why – way back in November – I stalked Ticketmaster one Friday morning to snatch up a couple of seats for Mr. Cosby’s concert at the new Durham Performing Arts Center.  They were to be a Valentine’s Day gift for Merriem that she just happened to get to use at the end of March.  (Hey, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.)

Watching BC walk on stage at the beginning of the night was a bit surreal.  He’s a little older, a little grayer, and maybe the only guy I know who can get away with performing in sweats and Crocs.  For two hours and ten minutes, he just sat on a chair and told stories.  You got the feeling you were sitting in his living room just having a conversation (granted, a conversation that you just listened to and laughed at).

Cos is the consummate entertainer, a gentleman if there ever was one.  Even in dealing with the occasional mouthy audience member, he did it in such a way that even the offender couldn’t help but laugh at himself.

Date nights with my wife are always awesome, but this one is one for the books.  Thanks Bill.

(Go ahead, take a Monday morning break and watch this classic Cosby routine which was partial inspiration for this almost totally true post.  I got to see it live last night.)

Pure Passion

If you’re a praying kind of folk, you can pray for me on Saturday as I get together with seven engaged couples who are going through our Engaged Discovery Weekend.  I’ll be speaking on the topic of intimacy in marriage (translated: sex) and would love your prayers.

That’s the graphic up above for the notebook.  Anytime you have a notebook and a graphic, it automatically makes what you’re going to say about 245% better.  (Too bad I don’t have a multi-media presentation, or it would be in the 400% better range.  Perhaps I can write a song by tomorrow.)  But I digress…

Keeping yourself pure in our sex-saturated society is difficult, even when you’re an engaged couple who desires a godly marriage.

Especially when you’re an engaged couple who desires a godly marriage.

Pray that they’ll remain strong, whether their wedding date is in April or October.  Pray that they’ll sacrifice the good now for the best later.  Pray that they’ll remember that their future marriage needs their protection now.

Engaged?  Seriously dating?  Check out our next Engaged Discovery Weekend by clicking here.

Christianity was never meant to be lived alone.  God gave the church to Christians as a gift so we could grow together in community.  When we stumble, fellow Christians are there to catch us.  When life is great, our friends are there to celebrate with us.

That’s why pursuit should be a discipline of every Christian.  At one point or another, all of us will wander.  We’ll all go off the deep end in some way or another…  

…somebody’s gonna drift in their relationship with their spouse.  

…somebody’s gonna go AWOL from church attendance.  

…somebody’s gonna start stomping on baby squirrels and sending pictures of Barry Manilow to the White House (you scoff, but I’m sure there’s someone out there…).

The point is, when a fellow believer drifts, it’s our responsibility to pursue.  Galatians 6:1 reminds us that “if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”  Ecclesiastes 4:10 says that “If one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”

The purpose of pursuit is to redeem and restore.  Think about your circle of friends.  Who’s drifting?  Who’s left their first love?  Who do you need to pursue?

…even better, is someone trying to pursue you?  Are you letting them?

Pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.

Here’s the dealio: the Summit’s own J.D. Greear has found his way to the Southern Baptist Convention version of March Madness.  Right now he’s the #2 guy in the East Division, and all the Summit bloggers are banding together to try to stage an upset over some guy named Internet Monk (and let’s face it, unless he’s a Monk of the OCD detective variety, he shouldn’t win).

Before I go further, I should mention that if any of you are so inclined to say that the author the Connective Tissue blog has too much time on his hands, you should think long and hard about someone who has time to make up an entire March Madness craze based on church-related blogs.

But I digress.  Go check it out, and then vote by clicking on J.D.’s poll or – if you share an IP address with someone who has already voted – you’re gonna have to e-mail your vote to tony[at]  

Come on, team!  Let’s take J.D. all the way to state.

…or the national championships.  Because really, I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to this stuff.  

*Believe me, the original title was much funnier and creative, but I was overruled by some co-workers.  But for a dollar I’ll tell you about it.  

Regular blog readers know (as opposed to the irregular ones) that I occasionally like to mix it up with a few personal stories.  Okay, a lot of personal stories.

But life has been a bit busy for the personal stories to erupt lately.  I thought I was onto something Sunday when the highly-quotable middle child started a discussion on what I would replace my ’93 Honda Accord with whenever it went kaput, but sadly he didn’t deliver as expected.  (Come on, kid…think unicycle!  That’s a funny story!)

That’s why I was so happy on Monday afternoon to hear a real keeper of a personal story – not from me, but from the illustrious Bonnie Shrum, Support Ministries Administrator extraordinaire here at the Summit offices.  I share the following story – and my added commentary – with Bonnie’s permission.

It seems that Bonnie has bats.

Bonnie has been preparing to sell her house for approximately 26 years now.  Seriously.  Eight minutes after she bought it, she decided she would sell it.  And every spare moment has gone into preparing that sucker.  If you want a great house which by now simply has to be ready to go on the market, see Bonnie.  It’s a real deal, and now is totally bat-free.

Bonnie’s bat had taken up residence in the louvers outside her house.  It was a good-sized bat as far as bats go…not big enough to attack your children and carry them back to the louvers, but big enough that you could look at it and say, “Now there’s a bat.”  (Of course, I’m taking Bonnie’s word for it.  I never had the privilege of meeting said bat.)

Bonnie had to call the bat patrol to take away the bat.  No word yet on whether she used the bat signal.  (ba-dum-bum)  They came, they spoke soothing words to the bat, and they will supposedly release him peacefully in the wild.  Or club him to death with a flip flop while they’re driving down the road.  I can’t be sure.

Here are the really interesting facts, in case you’re still around and haven’t ditched this supposed-to-be-ministry blog for somebody who actually talks about important matters:

  • Bats attract bats.  And if Bonnie’s bat’s hooligan friends had gotten word he was in the louvers, it would have been a bat party going on.  Think of it as a literal bat day…first 100 fans get a free bat.  (ba-dum-bum, again)
  • It’s bat breeding season.  Seriously.  And no, I don’t even want to know how that works.  But if the bat had given birth to little batlings, they were completely off limits.  Animal control people couldn’t have done a dang thing until they could fly (the babies, not animal control).
  • When bats do what bats doo-doo (if you know what I mean), it will erode the screen behind the louvers and allowing them full access to Bonnie’s attic, where they would have undoubtedly played all of her old Bee Gees LP’s.  So if you ever need to get through a screen, better arm yourself with a spray bottle of bat poo.

~Sigh.~  It really is a low moment for this blog, but thanks for playing.

Today’s topic is radar. Not the Gary Burghoff character from M.A.S.H., or the fact that it’s a cool palindrome, or even the equipment that my friend* Greg Fishel uses.

Nope, the radar that we’re discussing is the relational radar that you need to have fired up as we head into Easter.  Who are you inviting?  Who’s in your circle?  Who are the people that need the hope of the resurrection?

If you don’t have people on your radar, then may I respectfully say that you have the attention span of an ADD over-caffeinated squirrel.  Everybody should have relational radar.  Even if you’re a recluse who mumbles to himself a lot and eats crickets in the backyard, you know that there are neighbors that occasionally peer over their fence to see what the heck you’re doing.  Those are the people that could be on your radar.

Want a suggestion?  Pray.  Ask God to give you the names or faces of three people who need to be on your radar.  Maybe it’s your Starbucks barista.  Maybe its the guy four cubicles over.  Maybe its the mom who is always pushing the baby stroller at the same time you’re pushing yours, but you never get too close because her kid’s got something green oozing out of one nostril.  Whoever it is, God will show you, and you can begin praying that you’ll have an opportunity to invite them to one of our approximately 148 Easter services.

Don’t forget that we’ve provided you with a tool that you can use to invite green snot kid’s mom.  This Sunday, make sure you pick up a stack of Easter inviter cards that you can personalize with your name and contact info.  We have a different set for each campus, so feel free to mix and match and trade and collect all four if you’re into that kind of thing.

Easter’s coming.  Fire up that radar.

*Hey, he could conceivably be my friend.  He’s a very personable guy.  Greg, if you’re out there, let’s do coffee.  Preferably on a day where it’s sunny, 73 degrees, with a barometric pressure of around 32″.

It’s hyperlink Friday. Click ’em if you got ’em!

  • When a guy has to ditch lunch plans at your favorite Chinese joint because he has a stomach bug, it’s best to take his word for it.  (Hope you’re feeling better, BG.)
  • There is never a way to make a 75 cent lunch taste like anything other than a 75 cent lunch.
  • It may actually be possible to buy happiness.  (Or at least it’s possible if your wife collaborates with both sides of the family at Christmas and you get a stack of gift cards and then can outwait your Verizon contract until mid-March.)
  • You can definitely buy happiness for a lot cheaper.  (I did it Tuesday night to celebrate my own official kickoff to spring.)
  • That thing that started yesterday at 12:15 is a pretty big deal, and if you don’t fill out a bracket then you’ve resigned yourself to uncool office status.

Yesterday I was sitting in a meeting with friends and fellow staffers; guys who have been doing this Campus Pastor gig a lot longer than I have (okay, so some of them have only been doing it since September or October, but let’s face it – they could have been on the job since last week and that’s longer than me).

During the meeting, one of them said something that caused me to have a moment.  Not an “Aha” moment or a “Eureka!” moment or even a “Geez Louise” moment…no, this was definitely of the “Say what!?!” moment category.  I’ll tell you what was said in…just a moment.

When I first started out in ministry, I was a student pastor.  I was also a newly married, full time college student.  Three new jobs.  All at once.  In a world of bi-vocational pastors, I think I counted as tri-vocational.

Upon graduation, I was a student pastor and worked full time in the family business.  And lest any of my family call me out on the blog, I use that term “worked” very loosely.  Bi-vocational, again.

Then came seminary.  And a part time security guard job (long live polyester uniforms!).  And a part time student pastor job.  Tri-vocational, indeed.

Then the Summit called, and I answered.  But for the first year, I was still in seminary.  Sort of bi-vocational.

Then came the glorious day on January 2, 2004.  I showed up for my first full day on my first full time ministry job.  Ever.  Eleven years after I started down the ministry road, I was finally able to give singular focus to one ministry passion.

…which brings me to yesterday, when one of my fellow Campus Pastors said, “None of us have the luxury of focusing on the ministry we were originally hired to do.  We have to keep a balanced mindset in order to maintain and grow the original ministry, yet develop the new role of Campus Pastor.  It’s as if we’re [and this is where I took a deep breath, anticipating what was coming…] bivocational.

Zoiks.  How could I not have seen that coming?  It makes me itchy.  

Kind of like when I wore the polyester uniform.

I had a great conversation with a friend and fellow staff member earlier this week.  She reminded me that part of the job of a pastor is to reject the idea of promoting one ministry over another.  You’ve seen that happen, haven’t you?  This is what it looks like in a typical church…

“Hey, you really should consider working in the nursery.  I hear that the college ministry is rolling in volunteers, and they’re having to beat them off with a stick.  God will love you more if you work with the least of these…the little babies.  All that stuff you hear about smelly diapers is overrated.”

“Psst!  Did you know that singing in the choir has been proven to reduce your life span by 12.5 years?  It’s true!  That’s why I’m pretty sure you need to work with teenagers.  They’re much easier than practicing for a cantata.”

“If you join the parking team, the leader will taze you on a regular basis, and you’ll be flopping like a beached carp out there in the parking lot.  We want you at the coffee bar.”

Rick Langston kicks puppies for sport.”  (Usually said by Charlie Dunn, rival Campus Pastor.)

I’ve been a part of plenty of churches where staff members would steal people from someone else’s ministry.  I’m ashamed to say that I’ve done it myself a time or two (or 168…not that I’m keeping track).  However, in a healthy church, pastors promote ministries that aren’t necessarily their own.  They understand that people should serve from passion, not from pushing.  They know that servants serve best when their wiring and their hiring are in alignment.  They get the fact that people would rather serve because they get to, not because they’re guilted to.

I digress.

In our church, that might mean that we don’t steal from other campuses, we send to other campuses.  We want to view each of our ministries as a training ground to eventually give someone else a really good volunteer.  For example, if someone is incredibly effective at working the First Impressions team, why not tap them to replicate the First Impressions DNA within the student ministry?  Or why not take a gifted musician from the main worship service and bless the children’s worship with them?

The point: the body of Christ is much too important to build fences and hoard volunteers.  We’ve got to be about the business of helping all ministries grow, all the time.  We need to constantly play the field and get people plugged in all over the place.

(And just in case you’re wondering about the conversation that sparked this post…no, I hadn’t stolen anybody from this person’s ministry.  But there’s still two days left in the work week…)

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