April 2011

You’re looking at someone’s spiritual gifts on display.

I snapped this picture on Easter Sunday morning just before our volunteers snapped the food up. This is the result of a couple of ladies – Vickie Jacob and Lynne Cox – doing what they love in order to fuel other people to do what they love.

Vickie and Lynn head up the hospitality portion of our VHQ (Volunteer Headquarters) for our First Impressions Team. Every Sunday morning they stock a room with snacks, drinks, and conversation so that our vols can refuel during a few minutes of downtime. Sure, the fuel isn’t always this premium (I mean, it was Easter Sunday, after all), but the servant’s heart is always there.

Frequently I’ll drop by VHQ to overhear Lynne or Vickie talking with a volunteer, catching up on their week, and encouraging them as they serve our guests. These two ladies serve those who serve others. They’re behind the scenes unsung heroes who keep our team running at top speed. Oh sure, sometimes they put us in a diabetic coma and expand our waistline, but I’d say it’s worth it. There were even mini Kit Kat bars on Sunday. Mini Kit Kat bars! That’ll preach.

My point? You don’t have to be an up-front preacher, teacher, or singer to serve in the church. You have to figure out what you’re wired to do, and do that thing well. That’s what Vickie and Lynne do every single week, and that makes ’em super heroes in my book.

If you’re not a part of the Summit Church, y0u may not know that we’ve stumbled upon what has become an annual tradition. For the last couple of years, we’ve offered an instant baptism following all of our services at all of our campuses. We provide clothing, towels, and a thorough interview with a trained baptism counselor. (We also provide incredibly funky water by the time the day is over that probably hosts more parasites than a third world outhouse, but maybe that’s just my inner germophobe talking.)

But yesterday, we celebrated baptism with 79 people at our Brier Creek Sunday campus, and 159 baptisms church wide. I was able to be a part of many of those, and these are just a few of the stories I saw playing out…

  • Ron is in his late 40’s / early 50’s, and is a brand new believer in Jesus. Once he was baptized, he helped baptize his wife, because he wanted to signify his desire to lead her spiritually.
  • Norine is a single mom who moved to the Triangle on January 15th and started attending the Summit the next Sunday. She has four high school / college age daughters. Norine was baptized yesterday…along with three of her girls.
  • We baptized a Duke nursing student who moved here from California in August. When I asked her story, she said, “Long story short…I’ve run out of excuses. It’s time for me to do this.”
  • And in one of our last baptisms of the day, a girl climbed into the tank to be baptized by Omar King, our new venue pastor. They immediately recognized each other from when they’d worked together at O2 Fitness. The look on Omar’s face to see a co-worker come to Christ? Priceless.

I baptized a new friend from Kenya who is a student at UNC….along with a huge number of international students who moved from death to life. There were several sets of siblings who were baptized side-by-side together. Small group leaders baptized their small group members who’d given their lives to Jesus. College ministry leaders baptized scores of their own students. David Thompson, one of our pastors, got to baptize his oldest daughter Caroline.

It was an incredible day.

I’m thankful to be a part of a church where baptism is celebrated often. More than that, I’m thankful to serve a savior who was buried and rose again…not just as symbolism, but as reality.

So how about it, Summit? What were your favorite baptism stories from yesterday? Comment below.

My sin. His holiness.

My sorrow. His joy.

My works. His grace.

My shame. His glory.

My wounds. His scars.

My selfishness. His kindness.

My pride. His humility.

My self-righteousness. His gift of righteousness.

My rebellion. His obedience.

My clenched fist. His open hand.

My wandering. His seeking.

My running. His pursuit.

My failed attempts. His finished work.

My brokenness. His healing.

His death.

My life.

His resurrection.

My eternity.

“This is that mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ’s, and the righteousness of Christ not Christ’s but ours. He has emptied himself of his righteousness that he might clothe us with it and fill us with it; and he has taken our evils upon himself that he might deliver us from them.” – Martin Luther

Last week I told you about my wife’s demon bunny and how she taunts me with it on a regular basis. (The taunting hasn’t stopped, by the way. Yesterday morning I found it in the drawer where I keep my Bible. How am I supposed to have my time with Jesus when my heart just stopped beating? I mean, face-to-face time with Jesus, sure…)

But now my co-workers have gotten into the act, because Sunday morning I walked into my office and flipped on the lights to find this:

Evil Rabbit pictures on my bookshelf

Evil Rabbit pictures on my walls.

Evil Rabbit pictures on my wifes head (thats kind of poetic, if you think about it).

Even an Evil Rabbit on my Jerry Falwell bobblehead (sacrilege!).

So I ask you: with co workers like these, who needs enemies?

Awesome take on what Moses’ journey would look like if it happened in the age of social media. (from Aish.com)


My wife loves me.

I want to tell you that right up front, because based on what you’re about to read, you’re going to question it. You’ll think that your pastor blogger friend needs immediate marriage counseling and/or a protective order, and it just ain’t so. She loves me. I’m confident she does.

At least…I’m pretty sure.

Merriem is a preschool teacher, and at their preschool they have “secret pals.” That’s a term that means “additional frou-frou items often containing polka dots show up at my house every few weeks.” The way it works is: at the beginning of the year all the teachers draw names, and then several times throughout the year they leave gifts. In my wife’s case, it’s usually pink, and it’s usually fraught with polka dots, because that’s how she rolls.

But this week I believe her secret pal has exhausted her supply of polka dotted things, because this week I was minding my own business, watching a little TV, when I noticed this…this thing staring at me from a pink Eastery arrangement in our living room:

This is the latest acquisition in our Secret Pal Gift Archive. But it’s an evil acquisition. Look at the eyes on that rabbit. It’s evil, I tell you. And it creeps me out. I’m scared of this rabbit the way that Jason Gaston is scared of pregnant women or Brad O’Brien is scared of midget clowns or J.D. Greear is scared of preaching a sermon without a C.S. Lewis quote.

This is not a rabbit that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus (good grief, I can’t believe I just typed that sentence). No, this is a rabbit from the underworld. A rabbit that was a product of the fall. A rabbit that was spawned from hades itself in order to wreak havoc on my family.

This is a bad bunny.

My bride – whom I am fairly certain loves me – does not see it this way. And she’s absolutely delighted that I’m scared of this hare. She thinks it’s the funniest thing in the world that I can no longer walk through our living room because I’m afraid this fuzzy portal of evil is going to leap from it’s perch and use my jugular vein as a drinking straw.

Which is why – and again, I want you to know that I have a decent amount of confidence that there are no major issues in our marriage – I was rather distraught when I went to bed the other night, pulled back the blanket, and found this sitting on my pillow:

That’s correct: the wife of my youth – who quite possibly doesn’t hate me – planted the zombunnie right where it would stare up at me before I tried to drift off to sleep.

You’re right. We need counseling. She’s out to get me. And I’ll tell her that as soon as I get brave enough to go back to my house, because that rabbit is waiting on me.

When you serve as a volunteer in the church world, dysfunction is a part of the job. It’s not 24-7 sunshine and daisies, people don’t always rise up to call you blessed, And chipmunks don’t line up in formation and hold up “Jesus thinks you’re awesome” signs as you drive to volunteer position.

(For some reason, I always thought the chipmunks were just a given.)

Nope, sometimes quite the opposite is true. When you minister to broken people, sometimes you get cut by the shards of their life. That happens occasionally with our First Impressions team. We have 120 people or so who serve on that team at our Brier Creek Campus, giving their time every week to pick up trash, wipe down restrooms, find empty seats, pour coffee, and park cars. And yet, people will come to worship expecting not to be served like an honored guest, but a dictatorial king.

Thankfully, the volunteers on our teams are rock stars, and they understand that the best service is gospel-centered service. We serve out of the overflow of what Jesus has done for us, not in an expectation of how others will respond.

Jason Smith is one of our team leaders that sent this note out to his seating team a couple of Sundays back. I’ve edited only slightly for clarity:

I wanted to send a note out to the team and encourage us about something that happened this morning because we will probably all have something like this happen to us if we continue to serve by interacting with people (which we should).

This morning, a man and his family came into the [Brier Creek North] venue while the worship team was still up, we had about 20 seats available in the back-center section, so we hadn’t taken the curtains down [that we use to block off seats in the back of a not-quite-full auditorium].  When I directed them to those seats, the man grimaced, shook his head, and took his family out to the lobby.  I was caught a bit off-guard, and as I was thinking about what to do, a small wave of people came in, prompting us to take the curtains down.  After the wave passed, I motioned to the man to come on in.  As he passed, he looked at me and muttered something.  I couldn’t quite understand him, but based on the look of disgust on his face, I figured it was probably not good.  When he passed Pauline, he very explicitly gave her some instructions on how to better do our jobs, and wasn’t very kind about it!

So I’ve personally had a bunch of different emotions/responses to this:  indignation (hey, we’re doing the best we can, why don’t you try this job and see if you are perfect, buster!), retaliatory thoughts (sir, maybe you should show up on time if you don’t want to sit at the back), and other witty responses to “put that guy in his place”.  Pauline and I even had some half-joking/half-serious conversation after the service.

But all of that would be against what we’re really trying to do as part of this team:  show people the Gospel.  Colossians 3 has some great guidance, and I’ll point to a passage there that tells us how we should interact with each other:

12  Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13  bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. – Col 3:12-15 (ESV)

We’ve been forgiven much, haven’t we?  Even today, God will forgive me of my lack of humility while I was thinking about that man’s response to us.  I could put on my self-righteous hat and print that text out and hand it to that man next Sunday, but if God did that for all of the things He’s forgiven me, it would be quite embarrassing.  God has mercifully spared me from so many of the consequences of my sins and mistakes!

So let’s pray for each other this week.  Pray that we will forgive and love much because of how much of those things we’ve received from God in Christ.

I love ya’ll!


Thank God for guest service champions like Jason Smith, Pauline Miller, and the hundreds of others that serve at all of our campuses. Thank God that they understand the gospel, even when those they serve do not. And thank God that through their service and sacrifice, this gentleman might see not only their kindness, but the kindness of the cross.

It happened again last night.

I met another practitioner in a long line of walking customer service disasters. Two of my boys and I stopped by a fast food chain to grab dinner after a ballgame. The lady behind the counter made no eye contact, grunted her way through our order, and generally acted like I was the biggest nuisance that’s ever interrupted her day. When I went back up for a refill, she slumped over the cash register and pointed to the other side of the counter:

“Can I get a refill, please?” (point)

“Oh, down there?” (another point. No actual words, mind you. Just pointing.)

“Can I get you anything while I’m down there? Perhaps a personality?” (I didn’t really say that, but I felt it. Oh, I felt it.)

Now I realize that I’m extra-sensitive to quality customer service. Mark Waltz both equipped me and ruined me forever in that regard with his First Impressions book. I know that it’s what I spend a majority of my time focusing on within our church. Caring for people matters. Treating people with respect matters. And slumping and pointing and grunting and mumbling is just inexcusable.

Being a customer service hero doesn’t take any extraordinary skills, but it does take engagement. Look people in the eye. Let your conversation rise beyond “You want fries with that?” Smile, for Pete’s sake.

If you work at a fast food joint and can’t engage with the customer, request a job in the kitchen.

If you answer telephones and can’t engage with the person on the other end of the line, switch to a data entry job.

If you work in retail and can’t smile your way through an encounter with a difficult customer, offer to stock shelves on third shift.

If you’re in the ministry and can’t engage with people, repent. You’re a shepherd, not the Lone Ranger.

Engagement is not extraordinary, but it’s terribly uncommon. Engage with people or get out of the people business.

So yesterday was a fun day at the Summit’s Brier Creek Campus, if you define “fun” using a dictionary from some bizarro alternate universe.

We launched two services at our brand new 450 seat venue, “BC South.” As a part of the kickoff, the plan was to have Pastor J.D. preach live at South, and to show a DVD in our North auditorium (a rare treat for those of us who normally enjoy real-time pastoral spittle).

As planned, I jetted up to the North auditorium at 11:15 to introduce the DVD and give the “J.D. in 2D” instructions (“Talk back to the screen, people. Laugh at his jokes. Please, no popcorn.”). But as soon as I walked in, I knew something was amiss. Our worship pastor Chris Gaynor was ad-libbing…something that he never does. It seems that the screens had gone dark. They were blank because the projectors had blown a gasket.

All of ’em.

At once.

Now you need to realize that we have a bajillion video projectors in our North auditorium. It’s like Best Buy meets the Grammy Awards meets the video projector fairy. And the breaker box for said projectors is nowhere that normal people would look. I know that, because Julian Milano, our head tech guy yesterday, is a very normal person who was feverishly looking in very normal places. Meanwhile, I grabbed the backstage headset so I could listen to the mayhem and start a fingernail-chewing habit, because one thing was becoming increasingly clear: if there was no projector, that means there’s no DVD, which means there’s no sermon, unless you fall back to Section D, Paragraph J12, Clause IVXX of my job description:

The Campus Pastor will, in cases of extreme duress, be called upon to preach a sermon at a moment’s notice, no matter how badly he may or may not feel the urge to throw up or submit an immediate resignation and find a less stressful job such as a personal pit bull tickler.

Finally, Julian popped back on the headset and let us know that he’d found the breaker box. It was resting comfortably on the ceiling of the auditorium, 30 feet in the air. It’s apparently placed there because that’s the last place a terrorist would think to look.

(Oops. Forget I said that.)

So with our only alternative being to pull out the Mi-T-Lite Ladder and hoist Julian over a crowd of worshippers, I pushed the transmitter button for my final piece of communication, feeling very much like Bruce Willis’ character in Armageddon:

“People, we’ve reached the point of no return. We’ve gotta call this thing. I’m about to sign off, walk up on that stage, and preach a sermon that I just heard an hour ago. May God be with us all.”

(That’s not exactly what I said. But it’s funnier than what I said, so it stays.)

And for the next 48 minutes my literacy skills came in very handy, because I read Pastor J.D.’s transcript word for flippin’ word. Including the big words that I didn’t understand. Including the parts I didn’t hear during the 9:00 service because I was playing Angry Birds.

(Just kidding.)


But as you might guess, that’s not the best part. The best part was when I came off stage at the end of the sermon. You see, on our staff we have a rule of thumb that whenever someone preaches – from Pastor J.D. on down – we have free reign to critique and correct the moment the sermon is over. Apparently, even if it’s not necessarily your sermon. So I stepped off stage and into the presence of Jason Gaston and Spence Shelton: two of my favorite sermon critiquers. Gaston had dutifully taken this page full of notes:

Among other things, it says “Original content could be better. You sounded a lot like Tim Keller / Mark Driscoll.”

I don’t care who you are, that’s funny stuff right there. And if you’re not laughing, you don’t recognize our lead pastor’s primary resources for … ahem … research.

As a side note, I’m not sure why Gaston believes he has the right to make fun of me. It’s not like I’ve ever compared him to Sasquatch or said he looked like a Sleestak or called him a backwoods redneck duck killer.

Anyway, if you were in the 11:00 service in BC North yesterday, thanks for your patience and your graciousness. Make sure you show up next week for more electrical hijinks, because if you don’t, the terrorists win.


*oh, who am I kidding? It was fun.

I’m not sure what Jesus is trying to teach me.

Recently I was moving through our offices at a rather high rate of speed. I was late for a meeting and trying to wrap up some loose ends in my office before heading down the sidewalk. Our office complex has quite a few blind corners…the kind that make us want to install those fish eye mirrors that you find in grocery stores of old. You know, the ones that help store owners know if someone is shoplifting, but the only thing they accomplish is making you think you’re in a carnival funhouse. (“Hey, did that guy just slip a bag of Doritos under his jacket? What the…THAT GUY JUST STOLE MRS. PAUL’S FISH STICKS! No wait. That’s not even a guy. That’s the Kraft Mac & Cheese display. STUPID FUNHOUSE MIRRORS.”)

So anyway, I’m blazing through the office as fast as a sedentary out of shape pastor can move, and as I round the final corner on the way out the door…my world came crashing down.

I was coming around the corner at the same time as Jason Gaston, our sasquatch of a student pastor who is something like 8’6″ (without his heels). Rev. Sasquatch had just been to the kitchen, where he’d fixed himself a nice cold beverage. A nice cold beverage that he was raising to his lips. A nice cold beverage that he was raising to his lips that put the bottom of the cup just about level with the top of my head.


The cup went up. Cold beverage came down. Not only had I just experienced the full wrath of a face full of Sasquatch chest and possibly belly button, now I was being pummeled with our resident redneck’s backwash. Backwash in my hair. Backwash in my ears. Backwash soaking through my shirt and threatening to burn off my skin.

This, of course, comes just weeks after another backwash fiasco, when I drank our lead pastor’s leftovers for communion.

So again: what is Jesus trying to teach this OCD germ freak? Because I’d like to go ahead and learn it.

Just as soon as the skin grafts heal.

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