October 2009

Today we continue the series First Impressions Fridays, where we focus on First Impressions.  Each Friday.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Not every Starbucks has a singing barista.  But mine most certainly does.  Some mornings, his impromptu ballad about coffee crumb cake brings a welcome smile.  He’s happy…I’m happy…the world is happy.  But some mornings, when I get the Batman theme song, I’m not so happy.  I have stuff on my mind.  I don’t want to be annoyed.

Then there are mornings where I’m happy…but he’s not.  I don’t get a song.  There’s no crumb cake tune, no masked crusader ditty.  He’s reserved, quiet, and maybe…whoa!  Is that a little bit of bad mood I detect?

I’ve also noticed that my singing barista has a similar effect on other customers.  There are some that playfully interact with him.  There are others who appear to want to push his head into the coffee grinder and hit “Turkish Blend.”

In guest services situations, every one of us has a little Singing Barista inside, needing desperately to notice and respond to social cues.  My barista is a great guy, but there are days when a song isn’t needed or desired.  It pushes me away from conversation rather than drawing me in.

The same goes for a church setting.  Every weekend we have first time guests who want us to proverbially sing over them.  They want us to go all out in including them in the party.  Others are more reserved, and an exuberant welcome is not appreciated…it’s creepy.  The key is recognizing what they need, and responding in kind.

What “singing barista moments” are you observing in your ministry?


I thought we had a policy against moonlighting.

Rick & Chris


Let’s get one thing straight: I’m not a culture-hater.  True, I don’t always understand the culture (who is this Miley Montana chick, and why is she on my TV/radio/lip gloss tube/oh-wait-I-meant-to-say-brass-knuckles?) but I don’t hate the culture.  I’m not scanning the airwaves trying to find some cartoon character to push out of the closet, I don’t picket outside of stores that sell cigarettes, and I attend Disney movies with reckless abandon.  I never have found the verse where Jesus says, “A new commandment I give unto you: Boycott one another” although I’m sure it’s in there because some Christians have raised it to an art form.  I get really ticked at Christians who believe the Devil is behind everything that comes out of Hollywood.  In fact, I’m far more prone to make fun of Christian culture than anything else.

This Is(n't) ItBut today marks a very strange moment on the world stage.  Today we’re witnessing the debut of the most-hyped movie of 2009, starring the most-hyped celebrity of my generation.  And today, I gotta tell you…I’m a little weirded out by some of the overt Christ-figurish stuff that I’m seeing applied to the King of Pop.

Last week was when I first heard Michael Jackson’s new single.  He referred to himself as the “light of the world.”  The movie trailer is full of references to his amazing presence, the hope his music gives, and the fact that he is “at the center” of everything.  The movie poster itself evokes images of the crucified Jesus.

I’ll just go ahead and say it: what you’re seeing is the truest picture of worship you may ever see this side of heaven.  It’s unheralded devotion.  People overcome with emotion.  Hordes with voices raised, hands lifted, tears streaming.

Horrible god.

Amazing worship.

MJ was an incredibly gifted musician: I won’t deny that.  But he makes for an incredibly bad savior.  His life was as remarkable and enchanted and weird as they come, but in the end, he couldn’t save himself.  He needed the true Savior to do that for him.

Do I believe that Jackson thought of himself as God or as a Christ-figure?  No, I really don’t believe that.  But I wholeheartedly believe that there are people treat him as if he was.  Or is.

Michael Jackson is certainly alive somewhere forever, just as we all will be one day.  If your hope is in Jesus, that “somewhere” is in heaven.  If it’s in the other king – the one who couldn’t save himself – my prayer is that you’ll realize you need a Savior just as he did.  Because in the end, this world and its idols just isn’t it.


Picture it: Sunday morning, 9:50 AM.  We’re roughly 45 minutes away from the first of two baptism services of the day.  Two of my First Impressions Team members walk up and say, “Ummm…did you know the portable baptistery is leaking in Suite 111?”

My calm, collected reply: “Yes.  It always leaks a little.  We’ll mop it up later.”

The look on their face said it all: this wasn’t a leak.  It was an overflow.  As in, the water was still running and half of a 2100 square foot, newly remodeled room was under water.

Multiple bad words raced through my head.

…and then it was time to get ‘er done.  Ten volunteers came to the rescue and grabbed every mop, bucket, and broom on campus.  I had to go back into the auditorium to make announcements…one of which was inviting everyone to witness a baptism in a room that may or may not still be flooded.  And then I began the quick walk back down to Suite 111…

…to find a completely dry room.

That’s right.  in under 40 minutes, ten people mopped up and swept out the great flood of our day.  These guys get it.  Whatever it takes to get the job done, they do.  First Impressions team members, small group leaders, Summit staff, and Summit elders…they were all pitching in, pants rolled up, making it happen.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love serving at this place?

Sometimes I underestimate my flock.

If you’re not a Summit attendee, you may not know that I’m the Campus Pastor of our Brier Creek AM Campus.  If you are a Summit attendee, you should know that I have never ever referred to you as “my flock” before…this was the first time.  I’m sorry.  It just happened.  I feel sheepish about it.  I wooly do.

Editor’s Note: Move on, please.

But sometimes I underestimate my fl…um…my peeps.  It happened yesterday.  Yesterday, we did something a little different to start off our worship services.  We began five minutes early with some scripture, worship music, etc. to get peoples’ heads and hearts screwed on straight.  And as part of that, we did the unthinkable…

We shut down the coffee bar.

Now for you non-coffee drinkers, that doesn’t sound like such a bad thing.  Oh sure, you can sip your sissy bottled water and hold your pinky aloft whilst you sip your Diet Dr. Pepper and look disparagingly at the world, but for many of us, not having coffee at church is anathema.  I had mentally prepared myself for the onslaught of snide commentary, walk-outs, and perhaps even the occasional full-body tackle.

I had steeled myself to the morning.  I even committed that I would be present at the official closing-down ceremony so that I could keep the caffeinated crazies from verbally abusing my volunteer team.

But it never happened.

People were gracious.  They said nary a word.  I got a couple of smiles, winks, and “attaboys” as folks passed by, even the ones who were too late to consume their precious beverage.  And in the middle of it all, I made the realization:

We’re cultivating worshippers.

We are seeing a group of people raised up that care more about their relationship with their Savior than Starbucks.  They’re more worried about devotion than Dunkin’.  They’re more committed to getting in the pew than fixing up their brew.

Editor’s Note: Seriously?  Enough with the word plays.

It’s stuff like yesterday that makes me even more thankful to be a part of a church like this.  I’m glad that stuff that would normally be a big deal…isn’t.  I’m thrilled to see people who will sacrifice their creature comforts if it means we get to meet with God.  And yes, I know that should be a no-brainer, but in some churches…sadly…it’s not.

So Summit peeps…my flock…awesome job yesterday.  I love ewe.

Editor’s Note: That’s it.  You’re done.  Take your puns and go home.

It’s time, dear readers, for the semi-every-other-little-while list of weird search terms…those odd descriptors that people typed into Google and ended up right here on ye olde blogge. (No extra charge for today’s British flair!)

Here are the actual search terms, followed by bonus commentary…

  • What to say on Fridays (How about, “Hey!  This ain’t Wednesday!”)
  • Difference between stuff and staff (Hint: just one letter, Einstein.)
  • Fellow believers who “get on your last nerve” (I sense a church split brewing here.)
  • Sick and twisted (Thank you.  I do my best.)
  • Electric razor for a St. Bernard  (Ummmm…I got nothin’.)

Want to see the other list?  Check it.

Yeah, the facility ain't this nice.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had the way cool opportunity to volunteer at the ballpark where my kids play.  The concession stand lady has been on vaca, so I’ve subbed a few nights as the short order cook.  Before you can scream, “Botulism,” let it be known that the food I was cooking had pretty much already been cooked and left over from 2-3 nights before, so there.

…but I digress.  I’m the guy who is normally leading teams of volunteers, so being a volunteer was a great learning experience.  Some of the good things we do with our teams were clarified during my nights as a burger flipper.  There were other “ouch” moments where I realized that the things that frustrate me are the things that most certainly frustrate my team.  Here are the high points:

  1. Define the win. My first night on the job, I got a cursory tour of the condiment stand, the freezer, and that’s about it.  I had to do the legwork of poking around the grill and utensils bucket to figure out where everything was.  And because I didn’t know the win, I cooked too many fries (nobody told me you should stop dropping them after 7:00).  I wrapped the burgers in the wrong paper (turns out the buns don’t stick to the aluminum foil).  //  Takeaway: our team members feel that same frustration when we don’t clearly explain the expectations before they start the job.
  2. Allow creative freedom. The french fry timer is set for four minutes, four seconds.  The problem?  At 4:04, the fries aren’t crispy…they’re soggy.  But by golly, when that timer went off I was expected to pull the fries.  As a grown man, I had assessed the problem (soggy fries) and recognized the solution (leave ’em in longer).  And yet, I had to stick to the 4:04 rule. // Takeaway: what old, outdated rules are you forcing your intelligent, free-thinking volunteers to follow?
  3. Encourage people to whistle while they work. I walked in to the first night to work alongside two complete strangers.  I finished the evening with two new friends.  We laughed together, yelled at the nacho cheese warmer together, and figured it out together.  //  Takeaway: do your teams have time to build community, or is it all about the task?
  4. Say thank you. The folks in charge spared no expense in making sure their gratitude showed through.  I got a thank you when I showed up, several thank you’s throughout the evening, and a big thank you and a fist bump before I left.  // Takeaway: whose service did we take for granted this week?

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