October 2010

I opened up my email yesterday to find…well, me, staring back at me.

Not really staring.  “Staring off into the distance, kind of squinty-like” is a better way of putting it.

So I’m doing a webinar for our state convention next Tuesday at 2 PM.  And while I hoped it had something to do with Spiderman-like superpowers, apparently I was wrong.  Apparently a webinar means that I get to wear a high-tech headset and keep shushing the loud people outside my office (I’m talkin’ to you, Jeremy Pollard.)

But if you want to be a Serious Disciple, you should know a thing or two about First Impressions.

Although I don’t think I look all that serious.  Winfield – that guy below me – he looks serious.  He has a grin and a soul patch.  Me?  I’m laughing like a hyena at something Jason Gaston is saying off-camera.

(For our photo shoot.  Which all Serious Disciples have.)

So anyway, if you’d like to join me in this free webinar (hint: I’m terribly afraid it will end up being just me and my Aunt Mary, who loves me but is also bored and may not have anything else to do), go here to register.  All the links in the ad below will not work, because I hijacked the hyperlinks.

With any luck my friend Mark Waltz, the First Impressions Guru, will not register and taunt me throughout the webinar.  Because if he does, my Spidey Sense will detect it and I’ll be forced to sling a web at him.

Brent & Lori in their brand-new state. I think.

It’s a sad day at the Summit Church offices.

Today, a four-year era comes to an end.  Today, Lori Perdue says goodbye to Durham and hello to Los Alamos, New Mexico.

Lori joined our team late in 2006.  In that time, she’s worked for several pastors and staff members, but I’ve been her favorite.  And by “favorite,” I mean “the one she can’t escape no matter how many times she asks to be transferred or mercifully thrown off a cliff.”

I’ve always hesitated to call her an “administrative assistant,” because in a lot of ways she’s the secret sauce behind the First Impressions, Starting Point, and Church Planting teams of the Summit.  She keeps calm when I’m flipping my lid.  She keeps my schedule realistic when I’m trying to overdo it.  And she’s the friendly voice on the other end of the line every time you call with a question (and she gets lots of calls with lots of questions).

Lori is the person on our staff that wins first place every time we play the “Name Something About You We Don’t Know” game.  Ready?  Here are just a few: college eloper.  Lebanese food maker.  Pretty-close-to-professional cake decorator.  Motorcycle rider.  Once-saved-a-guy’s-life-in-the-mountains-of-Nepal-by-putting-in-an-IV-line doctor imitator.

We’re going to miss Lori, because Lori kept the office stocked with antibacterial wipes and the faint smell of Lysol (she’s a fellow germ freak).  We’ll miss her because nobody else can solve our occasional math problems (she has a bona-fide degree).  But most of all, we’ll miss her because she’s a part of the family.

Lori’s not just a part of the staff team, but she and her husband Brent are part of the fabric at the Summit, as well.  Brent is one of our tech gurus serving in the sound booth.  They’ve both worked with our marriage mentoring program.  They’ve led stuff from small groups to international church planting trips.

Tomorrow morning, Brent and Lori will pack up their last few boxes and start the nearly 1,800 mile journey to New Mexico.  (Their earlier packed boxes contain all the clocks in her house, which explains why she was late to work last Friday.)  Brent recently got his Ph.D. in nuclear physics and will be working for Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory.  I’m not sure what he will be doing, but I’ll bet it will involve some Jack-Bauer-style-anti-terrorism-hand-to-hand-combat if any bad guys show up.

Editor’s Note: You’d think I was making that up.  You’d think wrong.  That dude is freakishly smart, and really strong.

So, while I’m really bummed for us, I’m really excited for the Perdues.  This is a great next chapter in their lives, and I’m asking you to pray for them.  They’ll be across the country from both their Georgia and North Carolina families.  Pray for a great church.  Pray for great friendships.  And pray that Brent never pushes the red button.

“So who is replacing Lori?” you ask. And of course you’d expect that I’d answer “She’s irreplaceable,” which is true.  But stick around, because next week you’ll meet the new person who has to put up with me.

You can keep up with the further adventures of the Perdues on Lori’s blog or by following her on Twitter.

I’m just a wee bit irritated.

If you live in the Triangle, you can confirm that there are McDonald’s billboards everywhere that shout out “$1 small hot or iced coffee.”  They’re on highway 70.  15-501.  I-40.  Taunting me and my cheapskate self…“Cooommme to the cheeeeap siiiiide.  Staaaarbucks is eeeevilll.”

Editor’s note: Trying to sound like the creepy old lady on Poltergeist doesn’t play well in print.  Move along.

And so finally, I broke down and dropped by the golden arches to have myself a dollar iced coffee.  The lady behind the counter looked at me like I’d lost my fool mind.  “We don’t have coffee for a dollar.”

“But there are billboards everywhere that say you do.”

“We. Do not. Have coffee. For a dollar.”

No explanation, no apology, no let-me-find-out.  Just no coffee.  No dollar.  No deal.

Usually I don’t name names when I’m giving negative reviews.  But I figure Ronald is a big boy, and he can handle it.  The reason this irritates me is because that’s happened at not one, but two McDonald’s here in the Triangle.  It’s a weird phenomenon, that you wouldn’t sell what you’ve advertised.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d blame it on the Hamburglar.  Or the plastic Burger King guy.  He seems shifty.

But the reality is, we do the same thing in our churches every weekend.  The printed worship guide or the Eye Candy on stage (hey, can I help it what people call me when I make announcements?) will mention an upcoming event or a product at the resource table, and when people seek out a volunteer to ask more questions, the volunteer knows nothing about it.

Macro publicity without micro execution is mega dumb.

When we announce globally (from the stage or church bulletin) but don’t communicate locally (to our volunteers), we rip off both the people we’re communicating to and the people on the front lines.  In the end, it frustrates everybody and makes it seem that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.  I should know…I’ve been responsible for doing it once or twice or 591 times.

One of the steps we’ve taken recently is an (i)F.A.Q. Notebook that resides at our First Time Guest tent as well as our Information Table.  It’s an ever-evolving document where we have the infrequently asked questions that people are prone to ask: “Does the church offer rides to worship services?”  “How can I get a copy of a sermon from two years ago?”  “How can I sign my kid up for fall retreat?”

And each week, we have a “This Weekend’s Events” page, which breaks down the service for the volunteers: who is speaking, what the message is about, what will be announced from the stage, and how those announcements affect the volunteer’s role.  (You can download a sample of that sheet here.)

It’s a new process, and we’re learning.  But so far, it’s getting great reviews from our volunteers.  They’re able to help guests.  Guests are able to get more info.  It’s a win win.

So it’s audience participation time: what does your church do to facilitate macro publicity and micro execution?  How do you let your volunteers know the stuff they need to know?  And which freakin’ McDonald’s serves iced coffee for a buck?

Comment below.

There are artists, and then there are Artists. My friend Jonathan Edwards is one of the latter.
Jonathan is freakishly talented at wearing lots of hats:  Writer.  Speaker.  Graphic designer.
But it’s his latest project that I can’t get out of my head.
Next month Jonathan is releasing his CD titled The Aftertaste of Abandonment. It’s a raw, gritty depiction of a kid who grew up in a fatherless home.  I’d heard parts of Jonathan’s story before, but this album made me feel like I’ve lived it alongside him.  Brutal without being bitter, painful without needing pity, Jonathan gives us all a glimpse into his own brokenness.
The day after he handed me an advance copy, I decided to listen to it on my ride home (my commute can handle the album’s eight tracks an then some).  Every song – every. single. song. – was surprisingly powerful.  And while I hate to use the word “haunting,” there it is.  It was haunting.
Here’s what I know about Jonathan: he’s spent years letting the gospel get to the broken places in his life.  Here’s what I know about you: this CD will hit you where you live.
Because even though these songs are about a dad abandoning his son, these songs are also for anyone who’s experienced abandonment.  From a spouse, from a child, from a boyfriend, from a best friend…these songs will speak to your pain.
As a pastor, I dig this album.  I grew up in a squeaky-clean mom-and-dad home where no one walked out, no one ditched me, and the fact that I was loved was never in question.  Jonathan has helped me understand just a little bit more how blessed I am.  He’s also helped me have a great deal more empathy for those who didn’t have an experience like mine.
Get this CD.  You won’t regret it.
Here’s how you can keep up and be ready for the release:
  • November 9th is the date the CD goes live.  You can download it on iTunes and Amazon.
  • The CD Release Show happens November 19th at the Summit’s Brier Creek Campus.  Jonathan will be performing live along with Jess Ray & The Rag Tag Army, Jordan Sasser, and Daniel Renstrom.
  • Bookmark Jonathan’s website, where he’s releasing goodies every few days.

On Saturday my bride and I attended the Dave Ramsey Live event at the RBC Center.  It was a full day of debt-free discussions, What About Bob clips, and four dollar popcorn, which I purchased for 90 days, same as cash.

But maybe the biggest event of the day was crossing #27 off of my bucket list:  I side-hugged Jon Acuff.

If you don’t know Jon, he’s the creator of a struggling little blog called Stuff Christians Like. He has a current readership of trillions of people.  That’s right: there are more readers of his blog than there are people on the planet.  (No, I don’t know how he does it.  Mirrors would be my guess.)

So Jon works for Dave Ramsey now.  I’m not sure what he does.  Maybe he takes Dave’s money out for a walk a couple of times a day, or something like that.  And Jon had a table set up at the event, faux-hawking his books, signing autographs, and giving side hugs.

And I told Merriem that since Jon was in the same zip code, I needed an autograph and a picture, in that order.

Photo on 2010-10-16 at 18:41.jpg

This is what a picture of Jon, Malise (aka Carolina Mama), and me looks like. (Thanks to Malise for sharing the photo, since my camera had a dust particle on the lens that made Jon look like he had a massive glowing head wound.)

I’m happy to report that Jon is a genuinely nice guy.  Sometimes when you meet celebrity Christians, you walk away with a sense of smug disappointment: “Wow, he didn’t even say ‘All the time,’ when I said, ‘God is good.’  I knew he was a big ol’ faker.”

But Jon’s the kind of guy I’d like to have coffee with.  Maybe this December. When I’m driving past Financial Peace Plaza.  Where he works.  And that would mark #81 off my bucket list.

You know, in theory.

So fast forward two hours.  The event is over, we’re walking to the car, and Merriem looks at me and says, “So who was that guy?”  I went on to explain his story about how he ripped off a blog concept and it blew up big time and now he receives verbal threats embedded in sermons from megapastors like Matt Chandler (true story…look it up).

Fast forward two more hours.  By this point we’re back home and I hear giggles coming from Merriem’s spot on the couch.  I glance over and she’s got her nose stuck in the familiar yellow book version of Jon’s blog.

“What are you doing?”  I ask.

“This guy…” she giggles, “this guy is really funny. You should read what he says about the smell of old hymnals!”

“Um, I’ve actually read that.”  I said.  “I’ve known about him since before this afternoon, remember?”

“Yeah but, ‘Disguising gossip as prayer’? That’s hilarious!”

“Yes, yes.  It’s somewhat humorous.”  I said.  “Hey, did you know that I write a blog, too?  One that has tens of dozens of readers?  You know, me…your funny husband?”

“Mm-hmm.” She mumbled. “HA! ‘Putting God on your business card’!”

And just like that, my wife quoted Jon Acuff more in one conversation than she’s quoted me in our nearly 18 years of marriage.  And it’s not like I ask for multiple quotes.  Just one “Well it’s like my witty husband Danny once hilariously said…” tossed into an occasional conversation would be good enough for me.

All I know is that before Saturday, Merriem thought a “Jon Acuff” was some type of fashion term (“Did you check out how that dude had his shirt sleeve rolled up in a jonacuff? That was off the chizzain.”)  Now, she won’t give me my book back.  My book that was signed to me by a guy whose blog I read that used to have a blank checkbox next to his name on my bucket list.  She’s contacting friends who do needlework, asking them to cross stitch entire chapters of the book to hang around our house.  Soon we’ll have guest towels in the bathroom that say “You’re in my thoughts and prayers.”

So Jenny Acuff, if you ever find this post, I need to ask a favor: one day I’m going to publish a book, and I’ll send the first copy to you.  It would make me very happy if you’d giggle conspicuously on your couch and yell random quotes to Jon as he’s giving Dave’s money a bath.  Especially the part where I say “faux-hawking his books” because dang it, that’s a good line.

Most of the time, we try to measure change in massive increments.  We don’t just want to lose “a little weight.”  We want to lose a Backstreet Boy.  We don’t want to save “a little money.”  We want to set aside 3/4 of our income into a mutual fund with a 518% yield and eventually buy our own island with built in shiatsu massage.

But what I’ve learned is that the best change comes in very small steps.  And when we wait until we’re ready for the “big change,” we never really get ready and we keep putting off the positive growth that’s possible with the 1%.

For example, yesterday I realized that there’s a task that I need to do just on an occasional Sunday.  The problem is that because it’s so infrequent, I often forget until it’s too late.  This morning my 1% fix was to set a weekly calendar reminder.  If I need to accomplish the task, it’s there.  If not, I delete it.

I constantly struggle with remembering to thank and encourage my volunteers.  My 1% could be to send 2-3 thank you notes each week.  Within a year, I can work my way through a massive chunk of our volunteer team.

And just a few moments ago, I asked our IT guy about a persistent problem I’ve been having with my ethernet cable here at the office.  It’s a problem that’s plagued me.  Kept me up at nights.  Made me want to go postal on the ethernet cable.  What was his 1%?  Pointing out that my IP address for the cable was wrong.  A problem that’s bugged me for seven months was fixed in 17 seconds.

We’re in the middle of year-end evaluations around ye olde Summit offices, and I’ve identified plenty of 1% changes I need to make.  None of them are drastic.  None will take lots of time.  But all will improve my overall performance.

What’s your 1%?

I dig Dave Ramsey, and I think you should, too.  That’s not a broadly-painted statement like “I think you should try the new $1 chocolate turnover from Arby’s because it tastes like it’s made of chopped up baby angels.”  I understand that not everybody likes the taste of chopped up baby angels, and just because I could sit down and eat an Arby’s chocolate turnover the size of my car (hint: that’s quite large), I don’t necessarily think that you should feel the same way.  (Although you should.  You really should.)

But I digress.  As I was saying…I dig Dave Ramsey, and I think you should, too.  Because Dave Ramsey is a common-sense guy who has helped millions of people get out of debt.  Merriem and I are two of those people.  We never had a ton of consumer debt…a car payment here, a credit card there.  But a couple of years ago we decided to get serious, and in March of this year we plunked down the last payment on our last debt.  (We’re still paying for a house, because although we’re gazelle intense, our ability to pay off our house has been greatly slowed down by the aforementioned $1 Arby’s chocolate turnovers.  Which you should try.  Like right now.)

I digress again.  Dave is a good guy who says good stuff, and he’s coming to Raleigh on October 16th for the Total Money Makeover LIVE event.  Merriem and I will be there, and I want you to join us.  The Summit has purchased some tickets, and regardless of whether you call the Summit “home,” I want to cut you in on this deal.  You can pick up $43 tickets for $25.  The event will likely be a sellout, so pick ’em up from us.  You can order them online and I’ll drop them in the mail to you.

So let’s review: $25 will buy you 25 morsels of delectable angel baby goodness from Arby’s, or it will help you get out of debt…and stay out.  Yes, that’s a toss up, but as Dave says, “Live like no one else so later you can eat chopped up baby angels like no one else.”

Or something like that.  Order now.

Merriem and I attended the wedding of our friends Nathan & Cheryl this weekend, much to my kids’ chagrin and my delight.

My kids hate weddings.  My second-born, Austin, also hates funerals.  He said on Saturday, “I’m not even going to my own funeral.  I won’t be there.”  That’s good theology.  When I asked if he would go to his wedding, he said, “Not if I can help it.”  That’s bad marriageology.

But I dig weddings.  Mostly I dig ’em because I get to critique whatever pastor is doing the ceremony.  Except for this time, because the officiating pastor is a friend of mine who is much bigger than me and could simultaneously crush me and pronounce ’em man and wife.  So I think he did a brilliant job.

But here’s what I loved about their wedding vows: Nathan & Cheryl wrote their own, and at the end, each of them said, “No matter what, I’m all in.”

That’ll preach.

I’ve counseled with far too many couples who aren’t all in.  She wants to remake man in her image, and is committed to nagging until she gets her way.  He wants to hang out with the boys and pretend he’s still single.

She doesn’t like his income.  He doesn’t like her spending.

He doesn’t like her lack of lovin’.  She doesn’t like his never-ending sex drive.

She gripes.  He shuts down.

He bellows.  She withers.

They fight. They argue. They refuse to compromise. They won’t seek help, won’t pray for wisdom, won’t be the other’s greatest cheerleader.

They’re not all in, and perhaps they never have been.

And maybe, neither have you.

What area of your marriage do you need to go “all in”?  What area have you been holding back?  Communication?  Respect?  Affection?  Adoration?  Protection?  Encouragement?  Humility?

If you’re not all in in your marriage, it won’t be long until one of you wants out.