March 2010

Last night, after picking up my 14 year old from baseball practice, this actually happened.  No, I don’t know where my kids get their sick sense of humor.  After all, I’m a straight-laced, no-nonsense guy.

Jacob: I’m starving.

Me: Me too.

Jacob: Any idea what we’re having for dinner?

Me: Not a clue.

Jacob: You should know these things.  This is the sort of stuff a father should pass along to his son.  You’ll regret this when you’re on your deathbed.


We’re in the middle of a several-week series called Topical Tuesdays, where you pick the topic and I make up answers.  You can add your topic / question to the list by commenting on this post.  Today’s question was submitted by the Summit’s Student Pastor, Jason Gaston. (Yes, he also asked last week’s question.  He’s a media hog.)

What kind of books do you read to help sharpen you skills as the head guru of First Impressions? Conferences? Magazines? etc.

Ah, books.  One of my favorite topics.  Here we go, no funny banter required.  (I was going to toss these into specific categories – volunteers, connection, membership, etc. – but I decided I didn’t want to.  So there.)

Don’t forget to include what secular companies are doing in the way of customer service (Disney, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Apple, etc.).  Often times the church can learn a tremendous amount by paying attention to these corporations’ focus on people.

While there are not a ton of conferences out there designed specifically for helping churches do guest services, Granger Community Church offers a good roster throughout the year…and they do house calls.  Sort of.  If your house is close enough.  And inside whatever church that’s hosting ’em.

What have I missed?  What are your best reads on this topic?  Let me hear from you!

The question well is beginning to run dry.  Ask a question below to keep TT going.  Otherwise, next week there will be pictures of kittens.  Don’t push me.

Easter has rolled around again.  It’s going to be a crazy insane week around our church offices as we prepare.  But I’m as excited as I can be.  Here’s why:

  • Hundreds of first time guests will experience the Summit for the first time. We’ll have a chance to make a great first impression, to show them that church (and church people) doesn’t have to be as weird as they thought, and start building lifetime relationships.
  • Hundreds of people will meet Jesus. Pastor J.D. is bringing the gospel in a big way.  We’re praying that the Holy Spirit will move.  We know that the power of the resurrection can defeat the graves that we’ve dug for ourselves.
  • Hundreds of volunteers will step up. I said, hundreds of volunteers will step up.  That means you!  We want you, we need you, we can use you.  Sign up on the SummitRDU website.

If you think about it this week, pray for your church staff.  Pray for Pastor J.D.  Pray that the details will get covered, stuff will run smooth, and nothing will blow up.  See you this weekend.

Earlier this week there was a story about an armored car that somehow dropped a bag of money out of the back door (and I feel like and idiot when I leave my wallet at home).  Thousands of dollars littered the highway, and dozens of helpful people stopped to retrieve it.  Permanently.

Get in your mind what that looks like: hundreds and hundreds of green pieces of paper floating in the air, landing in the median, blowing to the shoulder of the road.  Then picture yourself in the middle of the scene: money falling all around you, but you picked that particular day to wear you pocketless pants. (What? You don’t have pocketless pants?  Shocking.)

That’s a good analogy for our lives: we tend to have a tremendous amount of information coming in, but few systems to capture it.

Consider this: over the last two days I have read well over 500 pages of books, sat through nine hours of meetings and conversations, typed up 11 single-spaced pages of notes, listened to at least five podcasts and sermons on my commute, scanned 200+ blog posts and hundreds more Twitter feeds, and attempted to catch a few minutes of the TV news.  (And you thought preachers only worked on Sunday!)

Most of that downpour of information was good.  Some of it was intriguing, insightful, and helpful.  A fraction of it was absolutely necessary.  But without the proper post-downpour capturing, it all goes to waste.

When I read a book, I’ll underline and circle and jot notes and argue with the author, but then put it on my shelf before I transfer the info to a usable next step.  When I go to a conference, I walk away with tons of ideas, sparks of creativity, and renewed passion…but then the notes get filed away before I actually do something with them.

However, there’s something about these last two days that has convinced me that I must do better.  I need to do better.  I have to create space to process.  Before I open the next book, before I book the next conference, before I confer with the next pastor, and before I pastor the next church member, I have to make room to capture and process what I’ve been given.  To do otherwise is to squander the gift of the original information.  It’s bad stewardship at best, and it’s a lost investment of time, money, and resources at worst.  I have to create space.  You have to create space.  We have to create space.

I’m interested in your system (and I’ll bet other readers will be, too).  What processes do you practice in order to capture, manage, and reuse information? What has been helpful to you? Comment below, or if you’re shy, send me a direct e-mail.

And I promise…I’ll create some space to process your response.

Compared to some of you who read this blog, I don’t fly much.  The pinnacle of my globe-hopping career was the time that I scored enough frequent flyer miles to get a subscription to Fast Company AND Conde Nast Traveller, which I read to think about all the places I’ll never fly to.

Editor’s Note: I think you mean, “to which I’ll never fly.”

Shutup.  But yesterday, I traveled to a conference up north, and part of my itinerary included the death-trap puddle-jumper you see below.  The first flight was relatively normal.  You could actually stand upright while walking down the aisle.  This connecting flight, however, was a different animal.

First, you’ll notice that it has a propeller.  A propeller. I didn’t even know those existed anymore.  I half expected to see Indiana Jones crawl out of the cockpit and back a large muscular man to his imminent death.  And let’s face it: “imminent death” was a great theme for the whole flight.  When the pilot turned the crank to start the engine, I briefly thought they had a fancy shiatsu massage.  But no, it was just the bolts flying out of the fuselage and wedging into my lumbar area, wherever that is.

When we took off, I could swear I saw a tow truck barreling us down the runway so we could get up enough speed.  We never got more than about 17 feet off the ground, which was fine because I was convinced that any moment we would plunge out of the sky.  Bird strike?  Nope, butterfly strike.  One moth would have taken us down.

And small…this plane redefined small.  The overhead bins were large enough for the single deck of cards that I forgot to bring along.  The pilot doubled as the flight attendant, baggage handler, and mechanic.  Beverage service was a Sam’s Choice brand two liter that we all passed around and took a swig out of.  And the snack was peanut.  Not a bag of peanuts.  A peanut.

The good news is that I couldn’t focus on any of those things, because I was too busy obsessing over the fact that the plane hadn’t been cleaned since the Wright brothers first flew it.  The seat belt had chunks of the last passenger who was decapitated while wearing it.  There were bacteria large enough that they had to purchase their own seats.

So yeah, you might say that it was an eventful flight.  I for one hope that this nets me enough frequent flyer miles that I can subscribe to another magazine.  Any of ’em will do, but I’m especially fond of Funeral Planning Monthly.

We’re in the middle of a several-week series called Topical Tuesdays, where you pick the topic and I make up answers.  You can add your topic / question to the list by commenting on this post.  Today’s question was submitted by the Summit’s Student Pastor, Jason Gaston:

What was the thing that made you decide that being the Pastor of Connections was the THING FOR YOU? walk us through the process from your dreams in seminary, youth pastoring to now being the Connections Pastor at The Summit Church.

So you see, I lost this bet.  And then…

No, actually, this is the (relatively brief) version of the story:

January ’93: I marry my high school sweetheart.

February ’93: I take a job as “Youth Associate” at a small-ish church in West Tennessee, my very first ministry position.

1993-2000: Serve that church, plus my home church, in various student ministry roles, from The Guy Who Cuts Out Clip Art For The Youth Newsletter, to The Guy Who Still Does That But Now Has The Option To Ask OTHER People To Do That As Well.

August ’00: The Franks fam packs up life in Tennessee and heads to seminary in North Carolina.

October ’00 – Shortly After October ’00: Serve as very part time youth guy at a very small-ish church in the very northern part of North Carolina.  Low point of the ministry was when I put together my traditional camp compilation video and a kid yells, “Where are our VOICES?  Why did you replace them with a SOUNDTRACK?”  When I wanted to put a ball point pen in their skull rather than love them and serve them, I knew that my days were numbered and that maybe…just maybe…God had a different plan for me than what I’d thought.  (You should know that student ministry was my first love.  I thought I’d retire as a student pastor, being the first guy ever to pay a summer camp deposit with a Social Security check.)

January ’02: Discovered this church called Homestead Heights with a brand new pastor called J.D.

March ’02: Joined Homestead, got involved, led a group, volunteered, fell in love with the people.

November ’02: Was approached by Rick Langston, who told me that the church was creating a new position called “Assimilation Pastor.”  Wanted to know two things: (1) Would I be willing to meet with him and J.D. to talk about taking the job, and (2) Would I be willing to post flyers around Southeastern’s campus, thereby alerting my competition of the available job?  (I think that was a test of my sanctification.  For the record: I hung the flyers in well-lit, well-traveled areas…812 miles away from the campus.)

And this was where the rubber met the road.  Initial conversations & interviews with Rick and J.D. centered around the idea that this would be a one-year commitment.  I was in my last year of seminary, and I had plans of heading back to Tennessee after graduation.  As the conversations progressed, it became incredibly evident that this would not be a one-year gig.  This would be something to build, to invest in, and to commit to.

All of that led to a crisis of belief for my wife and I.  Were we really finished with student ministry?  Did I really want to venture down this road that was entirely new and largely unknown?  Were we really ready to cut ties back home?  Did we really want our kids growing up to believe that North Carolina barbecue was normal?!?

The tipping point came during a Wednesday night prayer meeting.  J.D. told the story of a girl who had attended the Summit (as the church was now known) once or twice.  Because of some incredibly difficult circumstances in her life, she ended up taking her life.  When J.D. asked us to group up and pray for her, Merriem and I both verbalized the same thought: That didn’t have to happen. She should have gotten connected.  She should have been known.  She should have been loved.  That’s not the way that church is supposed to work.

It was then that I knew that God was nudging me towards this idea of connecting people…to relationships, to ministry, to purpose, to hope.  What I had been doing as a student pastor, he was now calling me to do for the church at large.  I said yes to the church, the church thankfully said yes to me, and now you know the rest of the story!

My Yankee friends won’t understand this post.  Y’all go back to eating your bagels and shoveling snow and saying “eh?” and check back in tomorrow, y’hear?

But for us Southerners, let’s talk:

All of us are familiar with the term “Bless your heart.”  Most of you have already filled in the blanks on this one, but in case you’re uninitiated, it means “What an idiot.”  As in, “Jim Bob has done flipped his four wheeler again.  Bless his heart.”  Or, “My goodness, Sally Mae is still trying to fit into them size 12 jeans.  Bless her heart.”

I believe that church people are the primary offenders when it comes to bless-your-heart hospitality.  We tend to be heavy on pretense and light on sincerity.  You’ll notice it in churches of all sizes and applied to first time guests and long term members alike.  Here are some of the dead giveaways:

  • People gather up in clustered cliques, having hushed conversations.  When a new person comes on the scene, we’re sunshine and roses, but make no further attempt to include them in the group.  As they walk away, we’re back to business as usual.
  • A sinner comes into our presence and has the audacity to…well, to act like a sinner.  They talk like one, dress like one, and respond like one.  We tolerate them, but rarely do we fully accept them.
  • We let relational discord fester.  Rather than sitting with a brother or sister and hashing out our differences, we continue to nurse a grudge or foster bitterness or feed a bad attitude.
  • We stick to what we know.  We know our friends.  We know our preferences.  We know our small group.  And if anyone tries to infiltrate those circles, we’re immediately suspicious.  Will they disrupt the harmony?  Will they interfere with our established position?  Will they become friends with our friends?

And yet, in all of these things we rarely break a smile.  We ooze charm like molasses.  But on the inside we’re crooked and perverse.  All of these indicators reveal the true nature of our heart: prideful, judgmental, hateful, spiteful.  We idolize self and devalue those on whom God has placed value.  Where he seeks to bless, we proclaim a curse.  What he has called “very good,” we think to ourselves “What an idiot.”

I’ve got some bless-your-heart hospitality to weed out this week.  How about you?

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

-James 2:8-9

I have a dog.  You know that if you’ve read the blog-that-is-not-a-dog-blog for any length of time.  But more specifically, I have a dog that I don’t understand, and I’m convinced that no one else does either.  If the dog whisperer showed up at my house, he’d spend six minutes with her and say, “I got nothin’.”  But I’d have to ask him to repeat it, because he whispers, and I’m hard of hearing.

Editor’s Note: It’s about to get potentially offensive up in here.  In roughly 14 seconds you’ll be reading about dog wee wee.  If you want theology, click here.  If you’re looking for something more on the cute side, click here.  If you want to ignore the warnings, keep rolling…

I don’t understand my dog’s…um…bathroom habits.  When normal humans go to the bathroom, they just go.  There’s not a lot of prep time, not a lot of drama.  But with my dog Sipsy, it’s like a Broadway-style production.  There are rehearsals, costuming, venue selections, you name it, she does it.  This is how it breaks down:

SIPSY: [She doesn’t talk, so allow me to translate.] Sleep sleep sleep sleep AWAKE walk around walk around sniff sniff sniff head on knee.

ME: What is it girl?  You need to go potty?

[“Potty” is the magic word.  She understands potty.  She doesn’t know her own name, but you say “potty” in German (die toilette) at 3 AM from two states away, she comes running.]

SIPSY: Wag wag wag wag dance prance wag wag bark

ME: Okay, let’s go.

[I begin the process of putting on my shoes and getting her leash, lest I become Crazy Insane Man Wandering the Neighborhood at 11 PM Chasing the Dog and Muttering Yosemite Sam Style Cuss Words.  We head out onto the back porch, down the steps, and into her pee spot in the yard.  The same place she’s peed 14 times a day for the last year.]

ME: Go potty.

SIPSY: Sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff turn around sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff hey what’s that over there?

ME: Sipsy, it’s a tree.  You’ve seen that tree a thousand times.  It’s the same tree.

SIPSY: [Stands completely still, mesmerized by the tree.  Eventually wanders over and stands beside me, staring at me.]

ME: Don’t you need to go potty?

SIPSY: POTTY!  Sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff lick lick sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff.


SIPSY: [ignoring the dog] Sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff.

OTHER NEIGHBORHOOD DOG: HeyWhatAreYouBarkingAtOverThereOhLookIt’sATreeBarkBarkBarkBarkBarkBarkBarkBark

SIPSY: sniff sniff sniff oh look it’s my master again hello master. (stands still, staring at me)

ME: Sipsy!  Go potty!

SIPSY: POTTY!  Sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff TREE sniff sniff sniff sniff sniff circle rotate pivot crouch rotate rotate rotate crouch sniff sniff sniff rotate crouch scoot…

[At this point, she finally pees.  Then she takes off like a rocket back towards the house, yanking my arm out of joint in the process, because after all, she shouldn’t have to wait on me.]

STILL ANOTHER NEIGHBORHOOD DOG: Hey who’s that guy I’ve never seen him around here before even though he goes through this routine every night at exactly this time BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK BARK…

We’re in the middle of a several-week series called Topical Tuesdays, where you pick the topic and I make up answers.  You can add your topic / question to the list by commenting on this post.  Today’s question was submitted by a reader known as “That Guy.”  Or maybe that’s really his name, in which case his parents were probably hippies.

What is the church’s or your view on equipping the saints in the areas of doctrine, apologetic, opposing worldviews, etc. outside of the Saturday/Sunday worship service?

I have two areas in mind: 1 Peter 3:15 along with the contextualization Paul uses to talk philosophically & apologetically with the Athenians in Acts 17.

I love the fact that you brought up both of these passages in the context of this question, because both passages speak to the healthiest view of engaging culture.  There are three good things to remember as you are sharing the gospel with unbelievers:

  1. Watch for God-ordained opportunities.  Peter’s mandate in 1 Peter 3 is that we make the most of every opportunity.  That means the random encounters on aisle 12 at Food Lion and across the table at Starbucks, but it also means listening actively for how God is working in the lives of friends and family members.  I’m a firm believer that God is always at work in people’s lives whether they realize it or not.  Part of our role is to help people bring context to what God is doing and that he has a grand plan for them.
  2. Be a Christian without being a jerk.  I cringe when listening to most gospel presentations, because that’s what most are: a presentation.  They allow for little dialogue and focus almost exclusively on “you listen as I present all the answers.”  I think the best way of sharing the gospel is by sharing life with others.  Listen for their objections, listen for their pain, listen for their questions.  If we go in with gospel guns blazing, we are not fulfilling the role of salt and light to which we’ve been called.
  3. Focus less on your argument and more on scripture. Sure, there are plenty of flags that our friends will throw that can be blasted theologically, but at what cost?  I find that it’s better to continue to drive back to the truth of scripture.  That doesn’t mean that we avoid their questions (see #2) but that we don’t get bogged down in who Adam and Eve’s kids married (my theory: it probably has something to do with some character from Lost).

I went into more detail on this subject over on the Brier Creek Campus blog when we talked about Randy Newman’s great book Questioning Evangelism. I commend both that book and that series of posts to your further study.

Next week: How did you decide you wanted to be a Connections Pastor when you grew up?

This one goes out to my Summit peeps.

This weekend, many of us experienced what could be a game-changer for our marriages.  Whether Dr. Tripp’s teaching was brand new information for you or simply a good reminder of what you know to be true, I believe that Summit marriages have the opportunity to move to the next level.  I think that we’re better equipped to understand the role the gospel should play in our relationships.  I know that what we heard can certainly inform what we do.

But much of that depends on what you do with today.

On Friday and Saturday, you’d be hard-pressed to find a couple that wasn’t actively practicing what they were hearing.  Men were on their best behavior; wives were the picture of patience and grace.  Everywhere you looked you saw couples giggling, arms around shoulders, pecks on the cheek, hey-we-do-that glances during the sessions.

But that was Friday and Saturday.  Nearly anyone can practice what they’re hearing preached while it’s being preached.  This is today.  And what you do with today will make the difference.

Today is the day that the kids have to be back on the school bus.  Today’s the day that the toast will burn.  Today is the day that your boss will be unreasonable and the grocery budget will be blown and the doctor will keep you waiting and dinner will be late.

So what will you do with today?

Will you fall back to old habits and patterns, taking an “I knew it wouldn’t last” approach?  Will you forget about grace and instead seek justice for how you’ve been wronged?  Will you shelve your conference notes beside dozens of others, and file what you’ve learned in the recesses of your brain?

What will you do with today?

If the weekend’s workshop becomes Monday’s memory, then you wasted your weekend.  But if the conference’s takeaways become tangible action steps, you’re on the road to a great marriage.

So pull out those notes.  Recapture those moments.  And determine that this so-called game-changer really will change the game.

Your marriage can be centered on the gospel, but it depends on what you do with today.

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