January 2011


I serve on the staff of a rapidly growing multi-site church. While that means that there are a lot of great things happening, it also means that we’re always trying to shuffle the decks to accommodate new guests. Last weekend, for example, one of our campuses added a service and one of our campuses moved to a larger location. In the next few weeks, the Brier Creek campus (where I serve) will open a new 400 seat venue.

And again this week, we’re making an all-out push to get people to switch from more-crowded to less-crowded services or more-crowded to less-crowded campuses. So in the spirit of Jon Acuff’s point accumulation games, I offer you the following Summit Church Guide to Building Cool Points With Your Pastor:

  • If you attend the Brier Creek 11 AM service, but are willing to switch to the 9 AM, award yourself 5 points.
  • Attend the 9 AM but willing to go to the Bay? +7 points.
  • Attend the Bay but will move to BC South and therefore walk an extra half mile (but do so with a joyful heart) +9 points.
  • Continue to swagger into the 11 AM with the look of a grizzled war veteran, proudly boasting to all who can hear you “They ain’t broke me in the last four purges, they won’t break me in this one either!” -22 points.
  • Attend Brier Creek Sunday but will switch to Saturday? +12 points.
  • I meant the 4:15 on Saturday. +19 points.
  • When UNC is playing. +27 points.
  • But you’re a Duke fan. -6 points.
  • You commit to make the switch for six weeks. +15 points.
  • But only stick it out for two. -20 points.
  • You live around the corner from Brier Creek but are willing to drive across town to go to church. +31 points.
  • It’s not our church. -2 points.
  • It’s not even a church. It’s Texas Roadhouse. -13 points.
  • You leave your waitress a fake dollar bill tract. -16 points.
  • Show up to serve on Sunday morning as a volunteer, but attend on Saturday night so there’s room for guests. +46 points.
  • You invite your small group friends to make the switch with you. +29 points.
  • They actually do it. +68 points.
  • They don’t do it, because you’ve never shown up at small group and just use the email distribution list to send stupid forwards. -72 points.
  • Of your cat. -122 points.
  • Wearing sunglasses. -256 points.

TOTALS:

  • Zero or less: You need to rethink your commitment to the church. Yes, Jesus loves you. But I’m having second thoughts.
  • 1-49: Step it up. We had an open seat for you. We want to have one for our guests. Don’t make us park people on your lap.
  • 50-99: You have the makings of a top notch church member. Stick around, we might name a pew after you someday. If we did that kind of thing. Or had pews.
  • 100 and up: You’re far too accommodating of people and way too easily swayed. And I need to borrow some money. Texas Roadhouse sounds good.

The bottom line: we need to make room for our guests. They’re coming. They need a place to sit. You can help out by making the switch to a lesser populated service time, venue, or campus. Have more questions? Listen up this weekend and we’ll ‘splain it all.

(Not a fan of pastoral monkey business? Check out this slightly more serious post over on our campus blog.)

Today is an awesome day.

It hasn’t been a great day. A sick kid, a busted van, a missed meeting, and appointments and emails that just won’t quit have made for a very hecticbusycrazyinsane morning and afternoon.

But it’s still an awesome day.

In about two hours from now, it will be twenty years to the moment that my life changed forever. On January 25, 1991, I walked into my high school gym and saw a 5’2″ beauty with whom I’d spend the rest of my life. Two weeks ago, we celebrated our 18 year wedding anniversary, but in some ways, today is even more special.

Today represents two decades of having someone know me better than anyone else knows me. It represents two decades of loving and being loved by my best friend. It represents ups and downs and highs and lows and the fact that I’m more sure than ever that she has been among God’s greatest gifts in my life. (Jesus. Merriem. Kids. Just in case you’re keeping score.)

Twenty years ago I happened to show up at a basketball game. I wasn’t a fan, but my buddy was the team captain and had been giving me flack about never supporting the team. When I walked into that gym, I immediately spotted a girl who made my world stand still. Blonde hair. Blue eyes. Gold socks…although we’re still arguing over the presence of those socks. I swear she was wearing them. She swears I’m crazy.

Her brother was on the team, but since it was a small Christian school, he commuted in and they didn’t live in my hometown. We had spent our young lifetime a whopping 23 minutes away from each other and never knew of the other’s existence. This was in the day before cell phones and cheap long distance, so our early relationship was marked with letters. Lots and lots of letters. Letters that now fill a couple of boxes in our bedroom closet.

We were 17 years old. We were babies. And yet it was only two weeks after I met her that I knew I would marry her.

And I did.

Ten months later in the romantic surroundings of our college’s student lounge, I popped the question and gave her a chip of a diamond. We were in our first semester of our freshman year. Fourteen long months later, we walked the aisle and committed our lives to one another.

I know why I fell for her: she loved Jesus. She loved me. And she was the prettiest thing that had ever crossed my path.

And I know why I’ve stuck with her: she brings out the best in me. She wants what’s best for me. And she’s still stunningly beautiful. Even today when we’re out in public, people look at us with surprised pity. Bless her heart. She must be legally blind. Look who she married.

In a few minutes I’m meeting with a couple who will get married just a few weeks from now. We’ll talk about what it takes to have a gospel-centered marriage. And then I’ll rush home to what will undoubtedly be chaos: a feverish eight year old, uncompleted homework, an annoying dog.

But when the kid is in bed and the homework is done and the dog has collapsed on the floor, I plan for us to kick up our feet – maybe she’ll be wearing gold socks again – and talk about that cold January night two decades ago. The first twenty has been incredible. I can’t wait for the second round.

Howdy Blogosphere. I’m back after a nearly two week hiatus. I…

Editor: Hold on. You can’t just show up after two weeks and jump right in to content. Where have you been?

You know, places. Lots of stuff happening. Snow days. Holidays. Anniversary trip (18 years, thank you very much).

Your anniversary trip took you 18 years?

No, I took an anniversary trip to celebrate 18 years. You know, for a blog editor you’re not all that bright.

Never mind that. What is your opinion on Hu?

Who?

That’s what I said. Hu. As in, the Chinese president that is at the White House right now.

What do you mean, what’s my opinion?

I mean, if you weren’t a pastor, wouldn’t you like to be a news anchor so you could say, “Hu is at the White House.” And your co-anchor could say, “Who?” and you could say, “THAT’S WHAT I SAID!” and then just smirk to the camera.

Um. Sure. that would be funny.

I know. That’s why I said it.


Today it’s my pleasure to bless your Friday with this little gem of a video that my family tipped me off to over Christmas. God bless Bill Cosby. He’s the greatest comedian that America has ever known.

Hu?

No. He’s only funny in China.

 

On Sunday I preached to my favorite people in the world – the folks at the Summit’s Brier Creek Campus. I displayed my awesome math skills (“$544,000 is dangerously close to well over a half million dollars”) and explained the history of Greek-speaking Christians (“Hellenists descended from a Greek great-grandma named Helen”).

Now you know why I don’t preach that often.

But the serious part of the message is that we’re a church that’s been graciously marked by the grace of God. We know what that looks like in the corporate church (racial diversity, doctrinal integrity, community identity, and radical generosity), but what does it look like in our individual lives? If you’re looking for a place to hang some action on your fancy Bible learnin’, here’s where I’d suggest you begin…

  • Get in a group. We’re launching 30 new small groups by the end of the month here at our Brier Creek Campus. Attend GroupLink on January 30th.
  • Join a ministry team. On January 22nd we’re hosting Frontline, a place for you to connect to our Production, First Impressions, Worship, or Summit Kids teams. Our campus is expanding, and there are plenty of places for you to serve!
  • Read the Bible. If you want to have doctrinal integrity, you need to know what God’s word says. I’m slowing down my normal Bible reading plan and taking all of 2011 to read / meditate / savor the New Testament (that’s about 20 verses per day). You can download the plan I’m using here. (I’m sorry I can’t remember where I found it, or I’d give the guy some credit.)
  • Climb the mountain.Matthew 5:1 is a good reminder that there’s a difference between a crowd that are seeking “Warm and Fuzzy Jesus” and a crowd that wants to know Jesus. If you’re ready to break away from the crowd, check out our Starting Point event.

Looking for the sermon / can’t sleep? Find it here.

Yesterday I experienced what can only be described as a holy moment.

I had the opportunity to participate in a dedication service at a local hospital as two families met to complete a long-awaited open adoption process. The birth mother: a teenage girl who has been attending our church for the last few months. The adoptive parents: a young pastor and his wife who were welcoming their second adopted child into their home.

As we stood in the hospital room, it was obvious that it was filled with a range of emotions:

  • Intense sadness: two kids were saying goodbye to a baby they created. Regardless of intention, regardless of regret, regardless of possible future scenarios, they were sad. Broken. Hurting. Four new grandparents stood at their side. These weren’t the circumstances they’d imagined for their first grandchild. These weren’t the emotions they’d expected to feel.
  • Intense joy: a man and woman were arriving at the day they’d waited for…prayed for…hoped for for months. This was the child they wanted. This was the child they’d pursued. They were as gentle and kind and reserved as you could possibly imagine. They stood to the side, they gave plenty of time for goodbyes, but the anticipation and exhilaration was written all over their faces.
  • Intense love: no fewer than a dozen people were crowded into that room: biological parents. Adoptive parents. Representatives from the adoption agency and the home where the birth mother has lived for the last several months. There were many unknowns surrounding that moment, but the baby was surrounded by people who wanted what was best for him.

It was impossible to stand in the midst of that event – to hold an infant not yet 48 hours old – and not have my mind go back to the spiritual nature of adoption. We’ve been helpless like that. We’ve been loved like that. We’ve been pursued like that. We’ve found hope like that.

My new friend Kim – who with her husband Mike has ministered to so many pregnant girls in their home – said it best: “There’s a huge difference between giving up a child and handing over a child.” Handing over still isn’t easy, to be sure. But it’s intentional. It’s sacrificial.

It’s love on display.

There are a few phrases that I never planned to say in my lifetime:

“I’m sorry I ran over your kitten.”

“How was I supposed to know that you can’t microwave gloves to warm them up?”

“Your Christmas cards will be late because I tossed them in the trash in a Long John Silver’s in Mayberry USA.”

I have yet to say two of the three aforementioned phrases (but 2011 is still young, and I haven’t worked my way through my bucket list quite yet). However, one phrase was forced to jump right out of my mouth a couple of weeks ago.

Our family was on our way back to TenneBama, with a minivan loaded down with travel gear that would make the Clampetts jealous. We decided to take a new route this year, one that would lead us through Mt. Airy, NC.

(If you’re an uncultured snob for whom the Mt. Airy bell doesn’t toll, then let me inform you: Mt. Airy is the hometown of Andy Griffith and the inspiration for the fictional town of Mayberry as seen on The Andy Griffith Show, the finest piece of entertainment to ever hit the small screen.)

Shutup. Yes it is.

Anyway, a couple of hours outside of Mayberry, I realized that about 30 of my 80 Twitter-length Christmas cards were missing. After a thorough search that can only be accomplished by kids in seat belts (“Just stretch your arm a little farther!” “Danny, this is dangerous!” “Don’t worry, we’re a good 15 feet from that 18-wheeler! STRETCH FARTHER!”), I surmised that I’d accidentally tossed them out during our lunch break van cleanup.

So I called Long John’s – which by the way was already the friendliest and cleanest LJS I’ve ever visited – and a helpful guy named Lee answered the phone. I explained my dilemma, and before I could ask the awful question (“Would you mind walking outside in the freezing cold to the parking lot trash can and dig through fish parts and half-eaten hush puppies and find my Christmas cards because I’m an idiot and threw them out?”), he said, “Sir, what time did you throw those away?”

“Um, about noon, I guess.”

“Okay, great. I emptied that trash can prior to noon, so now I know where to start. Hang on, I’ll be right back.”

I waited for a couple of minutes, and a lady picked up the phone: “Um, sir? Lee wants to know if your cards were in a sack with some glass bottles.”

“Why yes, yes they were. You see, we stopped at Opie’s Candy Store, and they had these awesome little bottles of Diet Cheerwine, and we’re not very good at recycling, so…”

“Hold please.”

And in a flash, Lee was back on the phone. “Sir, I’ve got ’em. Can I hold those for you?”

The rest of the story is this: we went back to Long John’s the following week as we were returning back home, and Lee just happened to be working. He handed us our cards and our stamps (but not the glass bottles because he loves Jesus more than I do and was trying to save the planet) and acted like what he did was no big deal.

Here’s why Lee was wrong. Very, very wrong:

What he did was a huge deal. Lee makes a living wearing a headset and taking orders for drive-through Lobster Bites. He had every opportunity to ignore my plea to save Christmas. But he didn’t. He anticipated the request, he cheerfully offered to meet the need, and he took on a really gross job in order to make up for my mistake.

Lee is a guest services hero. He may not realize it yet, but what he did set him apart from 90% of people who work with the public. He might be scooping fish for a living, but he’s making a difference in the world where he lives.

How about you? What are the areas where you’ve seen common people do uncommon things to produce almost unheard-of results? Comment below.

 

I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions.

Oh, I used to be. I was going to eat better or exercise more or keep my side of the closet more organized or finally wrestle a moose to the ground using nothing but my bare hands and a copy of my ESV Study Bible. But like many people, I finally decided that making resolutions only led to disappointment when I later broke the resolutions (usually by 12:02 AM on January 1st).

What I’ve realized, however, is that I still lean towards resolutions. I’m just not as formal about them. That way, you can’t judge me for eating more and exercising less and not beating down Bullwinkle with my 46 pound copy of God’s word. I can do whatever I want to and feel pretty good about it, because my new standard hasn’t gone on record.

Here’s what I know about me: I actually crave discipline. I want to know the parameters, I want to have a goal, I want to be a better me in 2011 than I was in 2010. Not the better me that comes with a built in health-and-wealth-o-meter that guarantees I’ll be sporting an Escalade with shiny rims by the end of the year because Jesus expanded my tent stakes. No, it’s a better me that has grown because of the discipline I’ve hard-wired into my life.

It’s a discipline that first has to start with…um…a resolution to change.

Crud.

I guess I just broke my resolution not to make resolutions.

Some people hate the idea of spiritual discipline because it drums up thoughts of religious legalism. Here’s what Kent Hughes says about that:

…nothing could be further from the truth if you understand what discipline and legalism are. The difference is one of motivation: legalism is self-centered; discipline is God-centered. The legalistic heart says, “I will do this thing to gain merit with God.” The disciplined heart says, “I will do this thing because I love God and want to please Him.”

Later this month I’m meeting with a group of guys to talk about what spiritual discipline looks like in the life of a believer. Part of that conversation will be the tools that we use (Bible reading plan, prayer list, scripture memory guide, etc.) that help us put those disciplines into practice. So here’s where I need your help: what does spiritual discipline mean to you? And what tools do you use to see that accomplished?

Comment below. I gotta get back to organizing the closet.