November 2009

Robert Peary is widely credited as being the first explorer to reach the North Pole (no record exists of Santa disputing that claim, although I’m told that Peary is on the naughty list).  During his mission to the pole, the story is told that Peary was battling the never-ending white landscape, unfamiliar terrain, and the ever-present possibility of getting lost and freezing to death.

As the story goes, Peary took a large black stick and drove it into the snow.  He would walk as far as he could without losing sight of the stick so that he would know where he’d come from.  He said, “This stick is my center.  As long as I can keep it in view I shall not be lost.”

I’ll bet dollars to donuts that we don’t face blizzard-like conditions on a regular basis, but what I would bet is that, like Peary, we all have those times when our lives threaten to run off course.  For me, that’s roughly every 12 minutes.  What I’ve discovered is that my time each morning with God is that large black stick.  Scripture and prayer is my center.  It drives me back to the reality that God is God and I am not.  It exposes my idols.  It confronts me with my sin.  It challenges me to live a holier life.

If you’re not spending that time with God, chances are you’ve lost your center.  I challenge you this week to do whatever it takes to drive that stick into the ground so that like Peary, you shall not be lost.

Every Friday this fall is a shout-out to our First Impressions Team.  If you’re not on the team, you don’t have to read it.  But face it: you’re so loaded up on tryptophan you can’t even click the mouse, can you?  So read it, already.

In this week of gratitude, it’s important to note that we should always thank our guests.  Whenever I make a phone call to one of our first-time guests, I always personally thank them for visiting.  They could have attended anywhere else on Sunday.  Heck, they could have slept in.  But by walking through our front doors, they honored us with their presence.

That gratitude isn’t limited to phone calls.  We thank our guests by gifting them, by sending them notes, and by inviting them back for a second visit.  We thank them by being prepared for them, by making sure our facility is worship-ready, by making sure all distractions are removed.

But none of those actions take the place of a good, old-fashioned, out-loud, spoken “thank you.”  Thank you for coming.  Thank you for being with us today.  Thank you for picking the Summit!

This weekend, find a guest.  Get to know them.  Discover their story.  And say thank you.

This one goes out to my small group peeps.

As a guy who is 600 miles away from our closest family, I’m grateful for you.  The Franks crew didn’t travel for Thanksgiving, but just the same, we’ll be experiencing “home” today: we’ll gather with several of you other refugees from our group, eat a little turkey, watch a little football, and catch up on each other’s lives.

I couldn’t imagine life in a church the size of the Summit if I couldn’t do that life with you on a regular basis.  This place is too big not to have a small group.  Thanksgiving would likely consist of me and my family trying to figure out how not to dry out the turkey, or possibly me trolling for an invitation from a family within the church.

But with you guys, the family is built in.  Some of us have spent the last few years building that family with each other.  Some of us are recent additions, and today is the day where we go deeper in that relationship.  We’ve laughed together, cried together, studied together, prayed together, grown together, and today we feast together.

If I can’t be home with my own family, there’s nothing I’d rather do today than hang out with you.  Thanks for being a part of my life!

If you’re not in a small group…see what you’re missing?  Find one today.

It’s no secret that America is the land of entitlement.  In our brief history, we have decided that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is more than just faded words on yellowing paper – they are our God-given rights.

I would disagree.  Let me spend a few Thanksgiving Eve moments busting our collective bubble…

  • We believe we’re entitled to free healthcare.  What we have earned is a laundry list of diseases brought on by unhealthy lifestyles.
  • We think we’re entitled to a nice house and manicured yard.  What we have created is a debt-ridden society that can’t say the word “no.”
  • We assume we’re entitled to kids who are well-behaved and don’t give us any trouble.  What we have ignored are the thousands of couples who can’t conceive.
  • We say we’re entitled to a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings.  What we have forgotten is that our one table will contain more food than is seen in a month in some third-world homes.
  • We scream that we’re entitled to a life that is fair and free of pain.  What we have overlooked is that much of our pain and perceived unfairness is a result of our own poor choices and outright rebellion.

Kinda makes you all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn’t it?

Here’s reality: we deserve nothing good.  The gospel is a song with one line: we were given what we could never earn. Our forgiveness, our salvation, our peace, our justification…none of it is what we’re entitled too.  But God gave it to us freely through Jesus.

Digging further, all the good things in our lives are bonus points.  Friends, family, food, stuff…it’s all just a good gift from a God who loves us.  We should be grateful for it, but we should never assume we’re entitled to it.

So tomorrow as you sit down to the dead bird, recognize the things in your life that you’re positive you’re entitled to…and instead choose to be grateful.

Every Friday this fall, we’re talking specifically about First Impressions in the life of the local church, especially here at the Summit.

People won’t always tell you what they need.

Sometimes it’s because of pride (“I can handle it on my own.”).  Sometimes it’s because of fear (“What if they laugh or say ‘no’ to my request?”).  Sometimes it’s because not even they recognize what they need.

As a First Impressions team, it’s our job to recognize the need – even the unspoken ones – so we can respond and help.

I saw this a few years back when I met an older gentleman attending our church for the first time.  Bob was in his mid-70’s, and I knew he was a good bit older than our typical first time guest.

Bob and I had several minutes of surface-level small talk, and I finally asked him the question, “Why did you decide to come to the Summit?”  Here’s his [paraphrased] answer:

“My wife died two months ago.  Every time I walk into my old church, I’m overwhelmed with memories.  I love the people there, but it’s too hard to worship there anymore without my wife.  I need a place where I can get a fresh start and hear from God again.”

Bob went on to meet some other people, got involved in a small group, and even served on our parking team for a while.  Every time I saw him, I was grateful that our conversation didn’t stop at the surface.

So what is it that people are not saying?  And what are the questions we ask ourselves to make sure that we’re giving appropriate help?

  • Why is this mom with three toddlers attending church all by herself?  Where does her husband fit into the picture?
  • Why is this man visibly sad?
  • Why is this college girl sitting by herself? (College girls always travel in packs.)

When we ask the questions that they’re not asking, we get to hear what they’re not saying.

Hey Gaston, I thought we were friends.

Last week on my blog, I put up a post with this title: Don’t Point…Take!

And then yesterday, in what appeared to be a cyberslap in the face, you posted this one: Point!

And I refuse to mention that you called me out on the fact that duck-hunting dogs don’t point.  Like I could even know that, you metrorednexual gun-slinger.

So what gives?  I mean sure, you’re just two steps across the hallway from my office and I could just walk over there and challenge you to a duel.  But first: you have the aforementioned guns.  And B: public fake-fights are so much more saucy.

So can you explain?

And while you’re explaining that, tell me what this is all about:

The guys on our Parking Team continue to go over and above the call of duty.  The following is an e-mail I received from one of our members, detailing last Sunday’s “Wow!” moment…

I just wanted to sing the praises of the 12:30 pm parking team.  Yesterday after I got done with Starting Point 2, I was leaving church to meet some friends for lunch.  I pulled out of my parking spot and my car was not driving normally.  So I pulled over in the parking lot and saw that my right front tire was completely flat.  One of the guys on the parking team (he has a brace on his arm from surgery) was actually running after me in the parking lot because he saw the flat tire.  When he got to where I was parked, he had already called on his radio asking if someone could help me.  So Curt, his son Jordan, Mario, and Casey changed my tire for me.  I am so appreciative of their help and kindness!

This morning Curt even called me to make sure that I got my tire checked today because he was worried about the lugnuts not being tightened enough and the wheel coming off.

As a single girl at church, it is so nice to know that there are people there to help in cases such as these!  Now I need a bumper sticker that says I heart the 12:30pm parking team!:)

-Ainsley Stephens

I’ve said it a hundred times: it’s guys like this that are the face of the Summit Church, not Pastor J.D., not me, not any other staff member.  They get it, and they go above and beyond to make sure folks receive five-star treatment.

…but not on this blog.  Because I’m cheap.

But over on the Brier Creek AM Campus Blog, you can leave a comment each day this week and register to win a copy of A Praying Life by Paul Miller.  Seriously the best book on prayer I’ve ever read, and we’re giving away five copies.

Go.  Now.  Seriously.  Stop reading.  Click here.


Every Friday this Fall & Winter, we’re running a little series called First Impressions Fridays, meant to give a swift kick in the britches to all of us who work with guests on Sundays.  Enjoy.

It’s not polite to point.

That’s what your mama always told you, and she was right.  Pointing is for duck-hunting dogs, not for people who are trying to get a guest where they’re going.

When you point, you’re communicating your disinterest.  “I care just enough about you to give you a general idea of where you’re going, but not enough to take you there.”

Pointing breeds confusion.  It might be crystal clear in your mind that the guest needs to go down the hall through the double doors hang a left then the first right then turn around three times at the water fountain and look for a guy with an argyle sweater…but to them, you lost them after “down the hall.”

So never, ever point.  Care enough about your guests to take ’em where they’re going.  Strike up a conversation along the way.  Build a relationship by authentically serving…that’s the real point.

So if you follow me on Twitter –

Editor’s Note: Whoa there.  Is there a shameless plug coming up?

– absolutely not.  If you follow me on tell all your friends and neighbors and shout it from the rooftops and do one of those cool follow Friday things and oh wow I think that was indeed a shameless plug but let’s hope it works.

If you do the Twitter thing, you know that Wednesday afternoon I became a human pin cushion for some very nice ladies named Atilla and Adolf who work in a dark cramped dungeon filled with torture devices otherwise known as a medical clinic.  The long and short of it is, my wife told me that it was time for a flu shot.  AND an H1N1 shot (hereinafter referred to as the Piggy Flu because I’m not scared of the pork industry.  At least not much.  Keep your hands off my bacon cheeseburger.).

So I made it into the chamber, was strapped down to the stretching device while they poured hot acid into my right eyeball, and given a flu shot.  And then the torture twins, apparently having missed my wife’s very clear instructions that they puncture me as much as possible, told me that I was ineligible for a Piggy Flu vaccine.

And then the unthinkable happened.

I actually talked them into giving me another shot.

I casually mentioned that I was a pastor and was in the hospital a lot (not for my own stress-related illnesses, but thanks for asking), and maybe I should get one.  And even as the words were coming out of my mouth my brain was screaming, “Stop!  You fool!  You were out clean!  No more shots!  Stop the talky!”

But I continued, until executioner #1 got a wicked gleam in her eye and said, “Well, it looks like you qualify as a healthcare professional.  Roll ’em up.” And she bludgeoned me again.

So, as a healthcare professional, I feel like it is my duty to tell you all about the Piggy Flu vaccine.  For all of my protests, it actually didn’t hurt that much, and I’ve got just about all the feeling back in that arm and can almost type normally agaiopfhnv%^…932.

Oh sure, maybe you can’t pass yourself off as a healthcare professional (I’m wearing a stethoscope as we speak), but you should get that thing.  Some people say that it gives you a low-level version of the flu, but I say that’s hogwash.  I mean ridiculous.  The vaccine works, and I feel totally fine today, and that’s the poink I’m trying to make.

Point.  That’s the point I’m trying to make.  The arguments for getting the shot are much more compelling than those against the shot.  The rationale is as clear as the snout on my face.  I mean nose.  I mean…

Next Page »