February 2011

I believe that Jesus’ “Well done!” was shouted a little louder on Thursday night.

By now most of the Summit Church knows that our dear friend Curtis Crutchfield died suddenly last Thursday of a heart attack. To say that Curtis was a key figure in the life of our church is a vast understatement. On his blog, Pastor J.D. recounted Curtis’ tie to the days just before the Summit became the Summit. (Please click the link to read Curtis’ final, incredible letter to J.D.)

Curtis was a true prayer warrior. A man who – perhaps more than any other – led our church to both corporate and private prayer. For the last several years, Curtis was the one-man force behind our church’s vast email prayer chain. While many people at other campuses may not have known Curtis personally, they certainly knew his email name, “Putterbud.” I’m afraid to guess how many hundreds of people received his daily prayer updates, and how many thousands of people Curtis personally prayed for through the years.

Regardless of all of our fancy websites, our multiple blogs, and our bajillion Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, Curtis remained the primary communications arm of the Summit. At church on Sunday, one of our deacons asked me when we’d be making Curtis’ funeral arrangements public. The irony is that it was Curtis himself who we usually turned to for things like that.

Many tributes have been and will be made. Yesterday Curtis’ wife Kathy told me that she’s had complete strangers walk up to her and tell her what an impact he had on their lives. This post, however, is about Curtis’ impact on one life: my own.

My friend Curtis wore many hats at the Summit: deacon. Route 56 Kids’ director. VBS worker. Mission trip participant. First Impressions team member. Chicken suit wearer. But the role I’ll remember him for more than any other is that of my sons’ teacher.

When my family and I first arrived at the Summit in 2002, Curtis was teaching the first grade Sunday School class, along with “Mrs. Joan.” My oldest son Jacob – now 15 – was in that class. Curtis and Joan moved up with the kids to second grade. And then to third. And then to fourth and fifth. Jacob was exposed to the sweet heart of Curtis Crutchfield for five solid years.

My second born Austin (now 13) was a part of Curtis’ Wednesday night group from the time he was four. He loved…dare I say adored…Curtis. He even had a stuffed puppy that he named “Mr. Curtis.” (There’s no higher honor than having a stuffed animal named after you.)

And it was Curtis I turned to when Austin started asking questions of faith. I was convinced that at four years old, he was too young to understand the gospel. I asked Curtis to cross-examine Austin to see if I was missing anything. He spent a few minutes with him and came back to me, smiling: “The kid is good,” he said. “he’s got solid theology. Don’t stand in his way.”

It’s been bittersweet to watch my boys over the last few days. These young men have been reconnecting with their Summit Kids’ classmates, sharing the initial news and then the ensuing memories of Mr. Curtis…all via text messages. A generation that still remembers who he was…what he taught…how he loved. Curtis was known for saying, “We don’t give these kids enough credit. They’re capable of so much more than what we challenge them to do.”

And challenge them he did. He wanted them to pray. To read their Bibles. To believe God for great things. And to share their faith with their friends. I dare say that my boys are who they are – not because of me – but because of Curtis.

When I received the call on Thursday night that Curtis was gone, I was sad…but only for a moment. How can you truly mourn a man who lived a life as he did? How can you keep from smiling at the certain reality of heaven that Curtis is now experiencing? What Curtis once saw by faith, he now sees by sight. The hope that once accented his prayers is now his for eternity.

Well done, Curtis. I can’t wait to see you again.

You can honor Curtis’ memory by joining us for a celebration of  his life and the gospel that he loved. Visitation will be tonight (Monday) from 5:00 – 8:00 PM at Hall-Wynne Funeral Home in Durham. The memorial service will be tomorrow (Tuesday) at 11:00 AM at our West Club Campus.

More tributes to Curtis by…


Yes, yes, I know it’s a stretch from The Proclaimers’ one-hit wonder, but work with me here, people. Work with me.

Today marks a half-a-thousand blog posts here at Connective Tissue. When we began this journey together back on July 8, 2008, whodathunk that we’d get this far? And yet here we are. The blog is moving out of the terrible twos stage, it’s been fully potty trained, and it doesn’t drop dictionaries on the cat nearly as often.

Poor kitty. There there.

So today instead of the usual stream of useful information (why are you snickering?!?), I just want to say thanks. Thanks for the conversations, the kind words, the support, and the friendship. Thanks for being a reader.

I would type 500 posts, and I would type 500 more.

(Oh, go ahead…it’s Friday. Crank your speakers and dance.)

That’s right, readers. I’m bringing Santa back. Revisiting the reindeer. Turning back to the tinsel.

Christmas happened nearly two months ago, but there was one Christmas-themed video that never made it onto this particular blog. As a matter of fact, I didn’t see it on too many blogs at all, such was the uproar over this other very amazing video.

But this one…this one deserves to be seen. Fun. Engaging. Creative. And in true Northpoint style, over the top. Enjoy.

(And while you’re at it, bring me some figgy pudding.)

Okay, so I don’t really have a question. For once, I’m not the hand-raised, kid-at-the-back-of-the-class, yelling “Ooh, pick me! Pick me!”

Nope, this is a post about people who have questions. Scratch that. People who are questioning.

There is a difference between having a question and always questioning. I love people who have a question: “How does this work?” “What does the Bible say about…?” “Can you help me understand…?”

But churches seem to be filled with the other kind: people who are always questioning. “Why in the world did you…?” “What gives you the right…?” “Why won’t you just…?”

People who have a question are almost always a joy. They’re inquisitive. They’re typically growing. They love to discover new truths and new insights.

People who are always questioning are almost always a drain. They’re rarely satisfied. One question spawns another. Nothing ever gets settled.

Those who are always questioning rarely trust leadership…they’re suspicious…they assume every motive is a bad one.

Scripture calls us out of the “always questioning” trap. Philippians 2:14-15 says, “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…”

Living a non-questioning life sets us apart from unbelievers. We live in a world where people are more known by what they’re against rather than what they’re for. Living a life where we assume the best and trust others isn’t just unusual, it’s almost unheard of.

So how about it? Do you have a question? Or are you always questioning?


Disclaimer: nope, this post wasn’t sparked by any frustration with anyone. Settle down, skippy.

We continue our spring series of Topical Tuesday posts, where you pick the topic (i.e., ask a question) and I ramble on and on until I think I’ve answered it. Or until you put your foot through your computer monitor. Whatever.

Want to ask a question about anything – ministry, theology, life in general? Comment here.

Anonymous asks: David and Solomon both had hundreds of wives and concubines. The OT seems to simply state this as a matter of fact rather than a sin while in the NT marriage is clearly between one man and one woman for life. Bad always seems to come of polygamy in the OT so why is it not more strongly opposed in the Old Testament scriptures?

First of all, I seem to get a lot of questions from Anonymous. I’d like to meet that guy someday. (He also came up with a lot of quotes that I like.)

So Anonymous, we have to start by affirming the obvious: a lot of Old Testament relationships were jacked up. These people made the folks on Jerry Springer look like the cast of The Waltons. Lot’s daughters got him drunk and slept with him. Abraham tried to pass off Sarah as his sister (that only works in Arkansas). Jacob thought he married one girl, but woke up the next morning with her twisted sister.

And that’s just in Genesis. Don’t get me started on Hosea.

But then we have to look at God’s design and direction vs. the reality. The design was one man and one woman for life (Genesis 2:18-24). The direction we see God continually steer his people in was that of monogamous marriage: there were always consequences that went along with multiple wives (and forgetting multiple anniversaries was just one of them).

The reality was that people had the freedom to choose, and they rebelled against God’s plan. What we see in the Old Testament is a cultural reality: as populations grew and tribal culture increased, men took several wives into their clan. Just because OT characters exemplified a characteristic doesn’t mean that it’s one we’re to emulate. (If that’s the case, Rahab gives credence to prostitutes everywhere.)

While God may have tolerated their actions, it doesn’t mean that he approved or ordained their actions. Throughout the Old Testament, God used people who were liars, adulterers, murderers, and lawyers*. He called David a man after his own heart, and yet David is one of the shadiest kings / husbands / fathers in history.

We see the covenant of marriage move into the New Testament much the way other Old Testament practices did…through progressive revelation**. As people learned more about the character and nature of God, it changed their character and nature. People who understood the new covenant of the cross typically understood a new framework of life. That applied to marriage, parenting, work ethic, generosity, and so much more.

It works the same with us. When the cross is our center, it changes us. It changes the way we view life. It changes the way we live life.

But if you insist on multiple wives, it might just mean a shorter life. Especially if you forget too many anniversaries.

*My apologies to the murderers for lumping you in that sentence.
**Special thanks to my very smart friend Eric Stortz for helping me with that term.

This post won’t be pretty. The squeamish should look away. And if you’re a neatnik Pharisaical type, just go ahead and start polishing your rifle, because you’re going to need it in 3…2…

As Campus Pastor at the Summit, one of my roles is to lead our congregation through the act of communion. Usually when I do that, I’ll grab my wafer and cup of grape juice (Southern Baptist wine) during our pre-service run through and set it somewhere on stage so it’s easily accessible when I get up there.

Yesterday, Pastor J.D. was about 3/4 of the way through the message when I realized I hadn’t set the elements out as normal. Since I would be leading into communion directly out of the sermon, there would be no chance to grab them before heading onstage. So I pulled out my phone and texted* our 9:00 backstage manager, the talented Nick Nohling. A few minutes later I received this reply:

“There are no cups in the green room but I have improvised. I found some red Sobe Lifewater and a cup. Hopefully that works for you.”

Obviously, I thought Nick was joking. Of course he was joking. All of the stress of wearing that headset and sitting backstage all morning had finally taken its toll.

But nope, I walked backstage, and there was Nick, holding my chicklet cracker and a cup of Strawberry Dragonfruit Lean Machine. I immediately started reviewing the theological ramifications of drinking said dragonfruit and, realizing my options were pretty limited, took to the stage, trying to shield the very pink communion wine with my hand.

…It’s only a symbol. It’s only a symbol. Jesus doesn’t love me any less because I’m using Sobe instead of Welch’s (the official brand of first-century Passovers)…

You might be surprised to know that’s not the best part. Nope, the best part happened after I walked off stage. And by “best,” I mean the most horrible, atrocious, soul-crushing thing that could ever happen to a germophobe.

I thanked Nick for his quick thinking, and then said, “So where did you find the Sobe?” He simply pointed over to a bottle that was sitting backstage. A half-empty bottle. A bottle that obviously didn’t have the quality seal broken just in time to fill my tiny cup.

I drank Sobe backwash for communion.

Now that’s enough to make an Episcopalian cry. No longer was I concerned that I had violated some doctrinal boundary. Now I was worried that I was about to start yakking at any moment.

But that’s not the most horrible part.

When I arrived home last night, another staggering thought occurred: Where the heck did he get the cup?

This was our ensuing text conversation…

Me: Ok so I gotta ask. My Sobe communion cup this morning: was it new or recycled?

Nick: Do u want to really know?

Me: It’s kind of like a terminal illness. I don’t want to know, but I have to know.

Nick: Haha yeah it’s def recycled…didn’t go trash diving though, it was just out.

So there you have it, Summit peeps. Your incredibly germ-conscious Campus Pastor has once again taken one for the team. It’s not enough that I shake hundreds of hands during flu season; now I’m drinking typhoid or bubonic plague or heaven knows what else up on that stage.

You’re welcome.

*Professional texter on a closed course. Do not attempt during your pastor’s sermon.

I was totally blindsided on Sunday. Hoodwinked. Wool pulled over my eyes. Bamboozled. Shenanniganized.

Editor’s Note: I don’t think that’s a word.

Never mind. My two older sons and I were shopping at that fine bastion of quality consumerism, Dollar Shrub, or something like that. As we were in the checkout line, we decided to grab a quick snack to fuel the rest of the day. I chose a BRAND NEW! product called Hershey’s Drops. They’re just like M&M’s, except NO CANDY SHELL! and NO MESS!

I got to the car, and started popping the Drops. And about halfway through the bag, I came upon this startling truth:

Hey…these are smooshed-down Hershey’s Kisses!

And once I got to really putting on the old thinking cap, I realized that Hershey’s Kisses are just Hershey’s Miniatures, except round and with a pointy head. And Hershey’s Miniatures are really Just Hershey’s Bars, except broken up into bite-sized pieces. The same goes for Hershey’s Sticks, Hershey’s Nuggets, and Hershey’s Diabetickles*.

Somewhere up in Chocolate Heaven, Milton S. Hershey is laughing his chocolate milk mustache off. For decades, his company has been taking the same old chocolate – reshaping and repackaging it – and selling it to a bunch of suckers that are easily distracted by big bright letters that say BRAND NE…

…um, what was I saying?

I’ve noticed that we do the same thing with our religion. We tend to repackage the same old product and dress it up to sell it in a brand new way. I’m not talking here about contextualizing the gospel message to fit the culture we’re in. Nope, I’m talking religion. Pure, unadulterated, man-centered religion. The “guilted-to’s” over the “get-to’s.” The duty over the delight. The law over grace.

  • We look down on the New Testament’s Pharisees, yet we adopt our own brand of morality that others around us must adhere to or face our wrath.
  • We say that we’re saved by grace alone, yet we continue to live in a mode of making ourself look good before God.
  • We wise up and repent of our works righteousness, and then we’re proud because we’ve repented of our works righteousness. (That pride is a sign of righteousness, in case you’re keeping score.)
  • We look with pity at religious groups that idolize a statue or a temple or a talisman, and yet we set up our idols of self and sin and addiction.

Recently our staff has been reading through Michael Horton’s incredible book Christless Christianity. In it, he makes this statement:

We are not called to live the gospel but to believe the gospel and to follow the law in view of God’s mercies. Turning the gospel into law is a very easy thing for us to do; it comes naturally. That is why we can never take the Good News for granted.

Any form of doing the gospel is a confusion of categories. The law tells us what to do; the gospel tells us what God has done for us in Christ. When it comes to the question about how we relate to God, doing is the wrong answer.

In a self-centered society, it’s so incredibly easy for us to say we’re presenting the gospel when we’re really just repackaging religion. The cross is a center from which we naturally drift. We forget the gift of Jesus and we rely on the grit of our spirit. We spurn the offer of grace and we run to embrace the law. We overlook that Christianity is about what Jesus has done, not what we do.

If you’re a pastor, a church leader, or simply Joe Believer, I’d encourage you to simply believe the gospel and present the gospel. Trying to live it or turning it into law becomes a sticky mess.

Much like the Hershey’s Drops. I’m going back to the candy shell.


*Coming in 2017. Consult your physician before use.

It happened again on Sunday. I met another Summit family who have whole-heartedly bought into the vision of why we do what we do. I was visiting our new North Durham Campus at Hillandale Elementary School, and in the clean-up-and-tear-down party afterward, my fellow desk mover told me her story:

Her: My husband and I were driving to Brier Creek from Butner. We loved the service, we loved the energy, we loved the people. But one Sunday the auditorium was full and the Bay was full. So I said, “Why are we driving past one campus to get to another? We can give up our seats and make room for other people!”

Me: So how long have you been at this campus? You must have been coming here prior to the move to the new location, right?

Her: Nope, this is our second Sunday. I figure, why not help out? I’m not too good to help out!

Unbelievable. It was their second Sunday at their particular campus, and Mark and Janet are already breaking down rocking chairs and folding up pack-n-plays and scooting desks back around a room…desks that have used chewing gum and fossilized boogers and who knows what else just waiting to jump on you…and they view it as a tangible way they can serve the body.

I saw it a couple of weeks ago when one of our deacons – a good friend who works in Summit Kids – decided that he and his family were going to make the switch to another campus because it gave them greater leverage to invite their neighbors.

I’m seeing it today as another staff desk sits empty because one of our own is helping to plant a new church in Denver. Our people are saying goodbye to life in Durham so people in Denver can say hello to the gospel.

Everywhere I look, I see people who are sacrificing comfort for the sake of the gospel. They get it. They understand that it’s not about what we want or what feels good or what makes sense…it’s about carrying the Kingdom forward.

What about you? Where are some areas where you’ve seen people get it? Spread some good news; comment below…

This is our Student Pastor, Jason Gaston.                         This is a Sleestak, from Land of the Lost.

If it’s okay with you, I’m just gonna sit back and let the jokes write themselves. Comment below.

Today we kick off our spring series of Topical Tuesday posts, where you pick the topic (i.e., ask a question) and I pontificate for paragraphs on end until I think I’ve answered it. Or until you get bored and start playing Angry Birds. Whatever.

Want to ask a question about anything – ministry, theology, life in general? Comment here.

Terence asks: Is it bad that I get angry when I see church groups begging for money on the street alongside the homeless? I just wanna roll down my window and shout “are you tithing?!?!”

Ah, Terence…what to do with the proselytizing panhandler? It’s a familiar sight here in the RDU area: guys in orange vests with five gallon pickle buckets, sporting signs that say “Support the Word of God Full Gospel Pre Millennial Holy Ghost Weenie Roast Church of God in Christ Teen Ministry.” Usually by the time I finish reading the sign, the light has changed and the driver behind me is honking and giving me the Durham salute.*

There are a few problems with this approach, such as:

  • It usually leaves a bad taste of Christianity in the mouth of the community. Let’s face it: churches already rob their cities of good tax revenue. They don’t pay property or sales tax, and yet they’re taking up public right-of-ways asking for donations. If anything, churches should give more to their cities than they take away. There was a time in Christian history when the churches were the educators, the health care providers, and the caretakers of the poor. Sadly, we’re better known now for how cheap and self-centered we’ve become. (Don’t believe me? Visit any restaurant this Sunday and watch how the folks dressed in their “Sunday best” treat the waitstaff.)
  • It screams a dependence on charity of the city rather than the provision of God. I believe that if God desires for a ministry to go forward, God will fund that ministry. You don’t see examples in the New Testament of the church depending on Rome for their welfare. Nope, believers took care of believers, and they often took care of non-believers. Churches asked for and acted on the provision of God rather than the generosity of the outside community.
  • It fosters a spirit of stinginess and lack of faith in churchgoers. We challenge our people to live sufficiently and give extravagantly. Whether that’s to ministries inside the walls or – better yet – to church planting efforts around the world, we want to be a generous people. Toting pickle buckets at a stoplight is definitely a donation of time, but it goes the way of bake sales and car washes to raise money that the people in the pews should be giving freely. This is not to say that there aren’t incredibly generous churches that still struggle financially. But the fact is that the majority of believers give very little to the mission of the church (one Barna study said that American Christians only give between 2 and 3 percent of their income), and that’s a statement so filled with shame that it would overflow a pickle bucket.

I truly believe that if every believer tithed a tenth of their income (the floor to our giving, not the ceiling), churches would rarely – if ever – lack for money. Back when I was a student pastor, I led the kids in our ministry on a research project. We took the average household income for our city, multiplied it by the number of households in our church, and compared it to our church’s annual budget. Not only would we have met the budget, we would have been able to completely pay off the church’s building debt, and still have tens of thousands of dollars left to give to causes in our community. (Plus we’d get the sweet sno-cone machine I’d been eyeing for our youth room.)

What do you think? Am I way off? Should I give more grace to the guys with the pickle buckets? Comment below.

*Index finger raised slightly, with a kind smile that says, “If you don’t mind, good sir, would you consider proceeding on your journey?” Why? What did you think I meant?

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