July 2010

I’m considering moving back to my home state of Tennessee just so I can vote for this guy.  Watch how the news anchors do their best to issue disclaimers just before ol’ Basil comes on screen.

I’m pretty sure that we’re not related.



Today we’re participating in BlogSwap2010, which is a fancy sounding event name that I totally just made up.  Today’s post is courtesy of Mike Waddey, the creator of Tennessee Rural Church blog and the former college roommate of yours truly.  (If you give him five bucks, he’ll tell you great stories.  If I give him twenty, he’ll keep his fat mouth shut.)

Mike and I live in different worlds: I’m on staff at a church of 4,000 and he’s at a church of not quite that much.  We’re in a metroplex, he’s in a town with no stoplight.  I have three kids.  He has sixteen or so.  So we thought it would be fun to swap blogs for a day and give our readers a glimpse of the “other side.”

As you might guess, BlogSwap2010 involves a little ol’ post from little ol’ me on Mike’s blog.  Go over there to check it out.  Take it away, Waddster…

Small rural churches are heavy with the concept of family.   We still call people “Brother” and “Sister”.  We love singing hymns like “The Family of God” and “We are One in the Bond of Love”.  Sunday mornings sometimes even have a family reunion feel about them.  The process of moving from visitor to family member must be intentional and easy to follow.  We want them to become part of God’s family.  The concept of family in a small rural church is either a strong draw for Jesus or something that repulses people.  There are some families that you just don’t want to be a part of or imitate.  Conversely, there are families that inspire, encourage, and produce hope.   Is your church family repulsive, or does it point people to the Father?

I have been in mega churches, medium size churches, and very small churches, and have seen the family dynamic at work in each.  Some were creepy like The Addams Family.  Some were just a little too much like The Beverly Hillbillies and some were very Brady Bunch.   I was in one situation where the family resembled the mafia.  You were scared to join for fear that you might find out where the bodies were buried.  Do you guys remember the prime time drama Dallas?  Some church families thrive on drama.  Business meetings at these churches revolve around “who shot J.R.?”.  What is the first impression people have of your family?

When the family of God functions correctly people are drawn to the Father without being repulsed by the kids.  This is true in mega churches and small rural churches.  Just because a church has grown large doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a biblical family dynamic.  We constantly have to evaluate and tweak to make sure that we are healthy.  Small churches have to work especially hard at making sure the perception of ourselves matches God’s expectation of our church family.  Here are some questions you might want to ask:

1.  Does our family have a good reputation in the community? (be honest)  Ask someone outside your church what they think of your family.  Bring in an objective third party to evaluate your family.  You must be willing to take some honest and constructive criticism in order to foster health within your church.

2.  Does our family have a clear plan to welcome newcomers? Most small churches just assume that people feel welcome.  This assumption has left many visitors to your church without a handshake, without their questions being answered, and without a second visit to your church.

3.  Does our family have a plan to help new members utilize their gifts and reach their full potential within the community of believers? Every family needs to have a plan for their members advancement.  Every member needs to be taught, encouraged, and then sent.

4.  Does our family adequately care for its members? This concept has really begun to fall through the cracks.  Today churches are so outwardly focused that we have forgotten to love, encourage, and minister to one another.

The question is this:  Does my church family inspire others to love God, or does my church family bring reproach on the Father?  Small churches and mega churches are not really all that different.  We are all trying to love God and love others.  We are all, I pray, trying to do both of those things better today than we did yesterday.   Well, go be the family of God.  I have a sudden urge to watch The Addams Family.

Last Sunday I returned from a trip overseas.  Getting onto our flight, our team got hot and sweaty unloading and reloading our baggage in 145% humidity (would you like to feel “sticky” or “extra sticky” on your crowded plane?), extra security searches (that guard should’ve bought me dinner), and a team member who was detained and almost missed the flight (a 95% retention rate ain’t too bad).  And after fifteen hours in the air, jalapeno poppers for breakfast, and the very real possibility that I could feel the blood clots forming as I was wedged into my seat, I was just ready to get home.

And then we hit U.S. customs.

(If any customs agents are reading this blog, let me start by saying that’s a lovely taser you’re wearing.  The blue electrical currents really bring out the sparkle in your eyes.  Please don’t put me on any lists or arrest me or make me go to the naughty traveler room the next time I fly.)

There’s nothing like the melting pot that is the U.S. customs line:  Wide-eyed immigrants alive with the possibility of a fresh start.  Military heroes returning home to an adoring spouse and family.  Smelly people who apparently are smuggling in Baby Ruths, if you get my gastrointestinal drift.

When I finally made it through the huddled masses yearning to be free, I handed my passport to Mr. Customs, who gave it a once-over and then started the following conversation:

HIM: You live in North Carolina?

ME: Yessir.

HIM: What do you do?

ME: I’m a pastor.

HIM: A pastor, huh?  Bible teacher?

ME: Uh, I guess you could say that.

HIM: What’s Psalm 23?

ME: Excuse me?

HIM: You heard me.  What’s Psalm 23?

ME: Um…wow, it’s really early…uh…”The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.  He maketh me to lie down in…”

HIM: Okay, okay.  What’s Luke 11:2?

ME: Um.  Luke 11:2?  Oh yeah.  I think it’s…I…Luke 11:2…something about a fig tree?

HIM: Come on, man, it’s the same as Matthew 6:9.  Surely you know Matthew 6:9.

ME: Yeah, Matthew 6:9.  Why didn’t you say that first? Matthew 6:9…

…I got nothin’.

HIM: “Our Father, which art in heaven…”

ME: Oh yeah!  Yeah!  “…hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done…”

HIM: (handing me back my passport) Have a good day, Rev.

And that, boys and girls, is why you should know your Bible.  I’m just glad he didn’t ask me to say Mass for him (my priest collar was in my checked bag) or debate me on the eschatological ramifications of the pretribulationism deification of surpralapsarianism.

Although I’m pretty sure I could’ve schooled him.

I’ve been participating in a conference this week where I’m wearing lots of hats: team organizer, accountant, logistical planner, transportation expert, even speaker.  But the one hat that I’ve come to despise is that of Slide Clicker.

If you go to a cutting edge church (I define that as anyone who no longer owns an “overhead projector”) you know the Slide Clicker.  He (or she) is the guy (or gal) that clicks the slides with the words for the worship songs (or choruses (or hymns)). (Insert another superfluous parenthetical statement here.)

This week I’ve been the Slide Clicker because no one else qualified for the job…I mean, was standing close by when the music started.  And now I have a whole new level of respect for the S.C.  I’ve decided that you can be a Worshiper that happens to click slides, or a Slide Clicker who happens to participate in worship, but you cannot under any circumstances be both.  Nope, two hands close to the keyboard (or if you’re lucky, a mouse) at all times: one to scroll, one to click.  There can be no hand-raising, no clapping to the beat, no audible affirmation that you listened to the message of the song and not the song itself (what the heck does that mean?).

And of course the natural enemy of the Song Clicker is easily identifiable: it’s that ne’er-do-well, incorrigible, unruly, baby-kicking personality known as the Worship Leader.  Here’s a field guide to his main sins:

The Off Roader: most Worship Leaders are Off Roaders, that’s a common fact.  Off Roaders will give you an order of worship, and then proceed to do everything but what’s on the order of worship.  They should just dispense with the formalities and call it a Suggestion of Worship That I’ll Completely Ignore.  Not that that’s happened to me.  This week.  Several times.

The Font Flyer: let’s be clear: 24 point font is a good font for putting songs on the screen.  It’s big enough that people can see it, not so big that you can only fit one word per line.  The Font Flyer comes in when a fast song has font so big that you have to jog in place just to keep up.  In the last session where I served as Slide Clicker, the song was very fast and very big, font-wise.  I was clicking every 2.3 seconds.  It’s like a pianist playing “Flight of the Bumblebee” with the sheet music written on postage stamps. Junk like that will make you have to ice down your clicking finger.

Chorus Fake Out: the CFO is a common malady of the Slide Clicker.  There you are, following along on screen, with a view of all the upcoming slides in front of you.  You’re heading straight for the chorus, when suddenly the Worship Leader says (usually with a single tear), “I feel like the Lord wants us to sing that last verse again.  This time, from your heart.”  (“Oh no you di’unt, Worship Leader.  I’ve got the right-mouse-button-click-thing going at a nice pace here.  No way you’re gonna throw a verse repeat in.” ) The CFO commonly leads to…

Power Point Power Play: this is where the Slide Clicker can spot a CFO Worship Leader a mile away (those guys have their own scent).  If the Slide Clicker is really good, he can pop the chorus up well before the Worship Leader has a chance to go back and repeat the previous verse.  Usually that pop up alone is enough to throw off the Worship Leader, and he’s forced to go with what’s on screen.  (Be careful using the PPPP move…in cases where the screen is behind the Worship Leader, or you have a Worship Leader who is prone to closing his eyes as the Spirit leads, this one can backfire.)

The Bridge Burner: a close cousin of the CFO, the Bridge Burner will take a well-known song with a well-known bridge and torch it.  The way this works is that the Slide Clicker knows a bridge is coming, so he fades the words on screen to black while the guitar solo works its magic.  But no sooner has the screen gone dark than Mr. Hair Product decides to come back with the third verse and sends the Slide Clicker scrambling.

The Matt Redman Effect: I blame the famous worship leader of my generation for this one.  When you’re the Slide Clicker, it’s all about the timing.  Forward the slide too soon, and people aren’t focused on what they’re singing now. Forward it too late, and the room goes quiet and some former choir members start mouthing “Watermelon, watermelon.”  The Matt Redman Effect – or MRE – forces the uninformed slide clicker to make a quick decision with an unfamiliar song.  Does this word “Me” really mean “Me”?  Or does it mean “Meeeeeeeeee-eeeeeeeeee”? In other words, is this a normal, one-syllable, partial-second “Me,” or is this a supercharged, multiple beat, several inhale “Me?”  Not knowing this leads to the most feared flaw of the Slide Clicker: “The Flinch.”

And that, my friends, are the six sins of the Worship Leader.  What did I miss?  What would you add to the list?

You might also like:

Oh sure, I could come up with something.  But I’d rather you do it:

If you’re a Summit peep, you know that this week is ServeRDU, one of the biggest focal points of the year for community outreach.  Yesterday, I worked as a “ground roofer” at the Durham Rescue Mission, helping de-shingle one of their houses, because de-shingling happens to be one of my spiritual gifts.

About an hour into the job, one of the DRM guys moved the old shingle truck up a few feet to let the new shingle truck come in.  (Cue Brian Regan log truck routine here.)  After he got out, the truck…well, let’s just say the truck wasn’t quite ready to be stop.  Here’s how that went down…

First, it rolled through some new landscaping…

Then, across a (thankfully deserted) parking lot, taking out a six inch concrete pole…

Then, through a brand new dumpster fence, finally crashing into the dumpster itself…

So all in all, it was a big day for ServeRDU.  Next week, we’re going to host another project called FixRDU.

(Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Chris Gaynor wasn’t driving the truck. This time.)

The past few days have been a time of great sadness for the Summit Church family.  Late Sunday night, we received word that Bob & Julie Henn’s son Nate was killed in the terrorist bombing in Uganda.  Nate was in the country working with Invisible Children, an organization that helps war-affected children in East Africa.  You can read the amazing account of Nate’s life here.

If you live in the RDU area, you also saw on the news that Nate’s brother was involved in a plane crash as he was flying here to grieve with his family.  While his injuries were not life threatening, the pilot of the private plane (a co-worker) was killed and the co-pilot was critically injured.

Shortly after noon on Monday, Chai Atwood passed away. He was the infant son of Trevor and Keva Atwood, born on Sunday in the 26th week of pregnancy.  Trevor and Keva are not only part of our church family, but our staff family as well, and we weep with them.  You can find out more about Chai’s story here.

And then Monday afternoon, long-time Summit member Helen Young passed away after a battle with cancer.  Helen was a gracious lady and she and her husband Walter have been faithful leaders both in our church and community.  She had a heart for the nations and participated in many overseas mission trips with the Summit throughout the years.

In processing these events, I’m reminded that the church has a responsibility to mourn well.  More than any other moment, death gives us the opportunity to love authentically and walk faithfully with those who have been directly impacted.

I was drawn back to Gary Thomas’ writings for help in expressing how the church mourns best.  Here’s what he says in Authentic Faith:

I wonder how it would be possible to be “done mourning” and still be part of a church.  While I suppose, in very rare circumstances, that it’s possible a person might not have anything personally to mourn over, if a Christian truly wants to be done mourning, she had better not read the newspaper.  She had better sit by herself at church.  She had better stop her ears when prayer requests are offered.  And she had better learn how to achieve a state of moral perfection.

Otherwise, how will she protect herself from stories of couples who love the Lord but are still slammed in the face on a monthly basis with the painful reality of their infertility?  How can she love fellow believers who have been praying for their relatives to become Christians for decades, but who watch with anguish as their loved ones pass into eternity without sumbitting to Jesus Christ?  How can she escape sadness when others with whom she is called to fellowship inevitably face the struggles, burdens, and pain of a fallen world?  And how will she repent when she does something that grieves our Lord?  To be “delivered” from mourning is to be delivered into a lonely existence, cut off from real life, and, even worse, cut off from real love…there is no real love without real mourning.

The time will come when all of us will be done mourning – but that time is not now; that time doesn’t exist on this earth.  We need to mourn.  Mourning invites us to a deeper life.  It takes us beyond the surface to give us a glimpse of the world as God sees it.  Biblically speaking, living life without some degree of mourning is worse than naive; it betrays lack of wisdom.  “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief,” Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 1:18.

…mourning isn’t seen as something to run from but something to learn from.

Summit family, how do you mourn?  Are you weeping with those who weep?  Are you praying for those who grieve?  Are you serving those who – for now – don’t have the strength to serve themselves?

Are you learning from your mourning, or avoiding it?

Sunday I had the opportunity to preach in front of my fave peeps – the folks at Summit’s Brier Creek campus.  It was a tough message out of Hosea, which absolutely wrecked me last week.

But even in the midst of being wrecked, a sermon needs a good title, right?  Ask the folks around our office, I annoyed and pestered them on Friday trying to come up with something better than what I finally chose…”Scandalous.”  (Francine Rivers already took the best title.  Wonder if I can sue her?)

So here they are, the top five rejected sermon titles for your enjoyment, and if you want to catch up, you can download “Scandalous” here.

  1. Ho Ho Hosea – The Christmas Prophet
  2. Gomer’s Pyle of Illegitimate Kids
  3. This Sermon Is Full of Words You Don’t Want Your Children To Hear
  4. Bummer. Next Time, Try E-Harmony.
  5. With a Name Like That, You’d Sin Too

I’m not ashamed to say it: I hate the beach.

Yes, yes, I know that it’s the height of vacation season and I live in a state that technically is connected to a beach and many of you own beach houses that you’ll never invite me to and what do I care because you haven’t invited me so far and some of you will take issue with my strong statement of beach hatred.  But I maintain that if God had wanted me to like the beach, he would have made sand feel more like my recliner and the sun feel more like my air conditioning.  Or at least put a few more mountain cabins on Ocracoke Island.

And don’t get me started on sharks or tar balls or heaven forbid a Tar Shark.

But I digress.  The beach has a weird factor that we should talk about, and that’s ocean drift.  I first discovered ocean drift on my first trip to the ocean when I was a teenager on a youth retreat.  I was out in the ocean, picking my way around Who Knows What (dead bodies? jellyfish? generally slimy stuff?) and trying to catch a few waves and hang a few tens.  And suddenly, I realized my entire youth group had moved about 50 feet down the beach.

That’s right, they just picked up and moved.  All their stuff, all of them, and I was back to having self-esteem issues and working on a new joke routine for the bus ride back.  It was bad, I tell you.

But then I realized they hadn’t moved.  I had moved.

Editor’s Note: Awesome illustration…almost as good as the first 142 times I heard someone else use it.  Move along.

Here’s the point: every single week, churches face ocean drift.  There you are, minding your own business and riding the waves.  Your systems and structures get fluid, while guest’s needs and wants are relatively static.  They want to connect.  They want to belong.  They want to matter.

And we dive right in and implement new systems and start new programs and try new things and before we know it, we’re a few hundred yards down the beach while our guests are trying to figure out where and why the heck we’re drifting.

I love systems and structures and changes, but I also know that we have to keep a constant eye on the beach and a constant hand on the wheel.  (And if those metaphors aren’t enough for you, I don’t know what is.)  Know what your guests need, not just what you assume they need.  Be careful of the drift.

We’re wrapping up a week-long series.  If you missed the boat, start here.

Let’s face it: sometimes you’re right, and your critics are wrong.  (You’ve been waiting all week for me to acknowledge the obvious.)  It’s easy to get caught up in the cycle of apology, the trap of people-pleasing, and the temptation to perform flawlessly.  Those three things will sometimes lead to us bowing to what’s popular rather than what’s right.

I can’t necessarily tell you the difference between the two.  It’s often situational, and you have to determine that based on scripture, what God reveals to you through prayer, the wise counsel of godly people, and the ministry direction that’s been dictated by your mission.  I can tell you this: you’ll never lack for people who will challenge that mission and arrive with their own agenda.  So what do you do when the right thing isn’t the popular thing?  How do you risk alienating people when it’s clear that you must follow God?  How do you stick to the plan without sticking it to the man?  (Sorry.  I got carried away. But if you want to print up t-shirts with any of the above sayings, feel free. And mail me a royalty check.)

There are five ways to honor people even when they’re dead wrong…

  1. Cast the vision at every opportunity. Pastor J.D. has a favorite saying: “When you’re sick of communicating something, your people are just beginning to get it.”  If you’re proactive with the vision – the “why” behind the “what” – you’ll silence many of your critics before they open their mouths.  People tend to question what they don’t understand.  We’ve made tons of changes over the years at the Summit, and the ones that were the smoothest were the ones where people understood the win before we took the field.
  2. Honestly listen to feedback. Even the clearest vision from God is going to have flaws.  Recently I had lunch with an older mentor.  I was sharing a current project with him, and his response was about three degrees off from what I wanted it to be.  Although my first reaction was to shut him out, I realized that his perspective was exactly what I needed to hear and heed.  It didn’t change the original mission, it simply clarified it.  Your people can carry that same wisdom if you just listen for it.  Don’t assume they’re against your mission, presume they have insight to the mission that you may not.
  3. Re-cast the vision on a personal level. Not everybody hears everything in a group setting.  Some of the most committed team members I have are those that first disagreed with the direction I was headed.  My options are always to dig in my heels and fight or to sit down over coffee and explain.  You won’t always win over everyone, but by answering the very personal “How does this affect me?” question, you can often gain ground with the nay-sayers.
  4. Know when to move on. Hear me: not everyone is going to like you. Some people will think you’re full of beans.  Others will be convinced that you’re going to drive your ministry into the ground.  It doesn’t matter how much you befriend or vision-cast or explain or argue, you simply aren’t going to see eye to eye.  And that’s okay.  You do a greater disservice to those who are on board when you spend an inordinate amount of time trying to drag others onto the ship.  Help them get plugged in to a ministry they love and support, and then leave ‘em alone and get on with what God has called you to do.
  5. Stay focused on what you’re doing, not on what they’re not doing. This is similar to #4, but it’s important to note that you can stay entrenched in the battle even when you’ve declared the battle to be over.  Don’t talk about how they’re wrong and you’re right.  Be Christlike to your detractors.  Be encouraging to your team.  Recognize that a ministry will never be built on the backs of those who’ve dropped off along the way.

A final word on this week’s series: we are going to screw up.  Before this day is over, you’ll do something do disappoint someone.  Whether it’s ministry, family, your job, or a friend, you’ll eventually blow it, and so will I.  When that happens, remember that we obey God first and honor people second.  Peter reminds us to “have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.  Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.  For whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.” (1 Peter 3:8-11)

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