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?

Preach the gospel at all times.  When necessary, use words.

But don’t use your words obnoxiously, or shout them while you’re 30,000 feet in the air.

And definitely DO NOT pause from using your shouting words in order to bite fellow humans on the leg.

º   º   º   º   º

Bible Quoting Passenger Causes Delta Plane Diversion
Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Delta airliner en route from Seattle to Atlanta made an unscheduled stop in Nashville after a passenger reportedly began quoting Bible passages. No one was hurt.

According to a police arrest warrant, “The suspect would not allow the person sitting next to him to leave her seat to use the restroom. The suspect kept telling her that his blood would be on her and he was not going to let her leave no matter what happened. Several passengers restrained the suspect and the suspect attempted to bite one of the passengers in the leg.

[Read the full article on Fox News.]

(This is the last in a five-part series.  If you haven’t read the first four, you probably oughta.  Oh, and we’re also tying this in to our weekly “FI Fridays” series.  Win win.)

What’s the best way to get criticism?  Ask for it.

We ask for it every single week here at the Summit through our guest response cards.  Whenever a first time guest fills out a card, they receive a “thanks for coming” note along with a postage paid postcard that has four blanks:

  1. This is what I noticed first…
  2. This is what I liked best…
  3. This is what I liked least…
  4. This is what I’m most looking for in a church…

Now before you say, “You buncha pagan consumer creators!” go back and read this post.  Read it?  Okay, let’s move on.

Asking our guests for feedback is the number one way that we know whether or not we’re reaching them.  We’ve learned that if guests have a great experience, they’ll tell someone.  We’ve also learned if guests have a bad experience…they’ll tell someone.

What we want is for our guests to tell us. It’s important to us that we know how things went on their Sunday visit.  If a Summit Kids worker was rude, we want to know it.  If a parking team member didn’t seem to care, we want to be informed.  On the flip side, if the coffee was hot and the First Time Guest tent was a wow and the worship was amazing, we want to know that too.

Every time a stack of those cards are mailed in, I read them.  Every one of them.  Every.  Last.  One.  We post them on the bulletin board in the office kitchen.  We make sure they go out to Campus Pastors and ministry heads when appropriate.  The good, the bad, and the ugly…we want to make sure that it filters to the right place.

If you’re a pastor, let me ask: Do you ask? Have you asked your people for criticism lately?  Do you assume things are going well?  Or do you simply keep your head in the sand and hope that there are no problems?

Ask for criticism.  It may be the best way possible to fix a problem before it becomes unfixable.


Other posts in this series:

(Dude, we’re 4/5 through this series.  Catch up here.  And here.  And oh yeah…here.)

Everyone’s a critic.  Even you.  Especially you.  And yes, there are times when criticism is well-grounded, edifying, and helpful.  However, there are guidelines to follow.  Here are three questions to ask yourself to get the most bang for your criticism buck:

  1. “Am I approaching in humility?” Can you trace your criticism to pride?  If so, you might want to back up and pray a little more.  Humility is the WD-40 that de-squeaks the rusty hinge of criticism (That’s right, I made that up just now, just for you.  No, no need to thank me…it’s what I do.).  Seriously, a humble approach that doesn’t smack of false humility will go a long way in winning the heart and ear of those you’re talking to.
  2. “Is this a legitimate problem or a personal preference?” You may think your boss is an idiot because he requires a weekly update meeting.  But is a weekly meeting an actual issue?  Does it harm productivity?  Is anyone being hurt by it?  If not…you may be traveling down Criticism Road with a sack full of your preferences.  In that case, you might want to shut it down before your selfish, me-centered heart is exposed.
  3. “Do I have a relationship with this person?” Dave Ramsey says that if you’re going to thump someone on the ear, you’d better have your arm around their neck.  In other words, your criticism will carry more weight with a friend that you’ve demonstrated care for, rather than a stranger you couldn’t care less about.  My personal scientific survey that I just conducted said that I’m 459% more likely to listen to you if we have a previous relationship based on trust, humility, and mutual grace.


Other posts in this series:

Next Page »