February 2012

As a part of this week’s Ten Year Anniversary emphasis, the Summit staff and their spouses took a little field trip yesterday back to our roots. Well, some of our roots. The vast majority of our team had never seen these particular roots, and were subjected to a half-day of one-sided reminiscing:

“Oh look! They painted this thing. Remember when it used to not be this color?”

“Wow! Chairs! Remember when we used to have chairs here but they were different?”

“What the…they kept the bathrooms!”

Okay, so our reminiscing was a bit more in-depth than that, but you get the picture…the day was much more fun for those who remembered our old facilities.

[click on any photo to enlarge]

We started off with breakfast and an orientation of sorts at our Cole Mill Road property (location of our original multi-site experiment)...

...then drove over to the old building on Holt School Road.

The north entrance (Holt Elementary side); looks a touch different than when we were there.

If you look closely you can see a 2004-era Homestead Heights / Summit logo still hanging on...

Our staff gathered in the main auditorium...

...and filled it up close to what the church would have on some Sundays back in the day.

Rick Langston assumed his position as Pastor of Announcements (still the greatest).

J.D. made a few presentations, including one to Rick and Chris Gaynor, two super-studs who weathered many storms in this building.

Brad O'Brien and I snuck off for a photo op in our old office space.

Confused about the Homestead Heights / Summit Church timeline? Check out this video that will explain more.

Special thanks to The River Church for allowing us to take a trip down memory lane!

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that we’re celebrating the Summit’s 10th anniversary. On February 17, 2002, Merriem and our two kids at the time walked into Homestead Heights Baptist Church (I followed along the next weekend…more on that later). The following year I went on staff, and it’s been a wild ride since.

Did I say “wild ride?” I meant “fasten your seat belts, hands inside the vehicle, stomach distress bag is in the seat in front of you, keep your eyes open, and know that the in-flight movie is something by Quentin Tarantino.”

In other words, it hasn’t always been easy, but it’s never, ever been boring.

Over the last few days I’ve reminisced on some of my favorite moments from the first decade. The vast majority of my readers probably haven’t been around long enough to remember these, but this is where we’ve come from as a church…

  • I remember experiencing my first real prayer meeting where we prayed for real needs in our community. This was no organ recital (Aunt Ginny’s liver, Uncle Bob’s spleen)…we were asking God for big, bold things and believing he’d answer.
  • Standing in front of a group of 30 or so Sunday School teachers and telling them we were going to make the final jump to small groups. No more classrooms. No more Sunday mornings. No more sacred class coffee makers with a brass plaque stating it’s ownership. I was as much of a rookie as you could imagine, and they handled me with more grace than I could have asked for. Those leaders accepted the challenge and today we are running nearly 8 times that number of groups.
  • Standing in the back of the room at an event with my dear friend Curtis Crutchfield. I made some comment about it being “unbelievable that the Lord would bless this church this way.” Curtis – in a way that only he could – looked at me and said, “Why? Why do you ask God for something and then are surprised when he does it?”
  • The Sunday mornings in the building on Holt School Road where people kept coming. And coming. And coming. We had people sitting in the hallways, in the lobby, and on the steps leading up to the balcony. People on the front row didn’t have to worry about J.D.’s spit as much as him kneeing them in the eyeball…that’s how close they were sitting to the stage. There were mornings that I was seriously afraid the Fire Marshall would show up and drag us all off to jail.
  • Sharing cramped office space with Brad O’Brien, the man who saved my life.
  • The Riverside High School days where we’d show up at 6 AM, not leave until 2 PM, and usually smelled like sweat or frostbite in between. Who would have thought that we’d look back at that as the “good old days?” Unloading four tractor trailers is not my idea of “good”…but what fun it was!
  • Leading our very first First Impressions Team of 30 or so people to make a high school into a worship center and help every person feel like an honored first time guest on that first day.
  • Baptizing UNC students as Duke students good-naturedly booed them, and vice-versa. J.D. baptizing an Indonesian girl, speaking to her in the baptistery in her native tongue (not a dry eye in the house). Baptizing my two oldest sons on the same day, and dousing the back row of the choir in the process. Baptizing my good friend Tommy Swain…a moment I’d prayed for since I met him. Baptizing dozens of people in Falls Lake in the middle of a drenching rainstorm. The first Sunday we tried mass baptisms (against all my protests, by the way) and I was proved so, so wrong in a glorious way.
  • Officiating the wedding of Mike & Kristen. I’ve officiated more before and since, but theirs will always stand out because of their amazing step of obedience in letting Jesus direct their relationship.
  • And the big events? Oh how I’ve loved the big events. Our first Easter service at the Marriott in downtown Durham. Church at the Ballpark. Christmas Alive / Spectacular / Palooza / whatever we called it in that particular year.
  • Seeing story after story after story of life change. My life change. It would take a thousand blogs to begin to scratch the surface.

So what about you? Whether you’ve been here since 2012 or since 1962, I want to hear your favorite memory. We all do! Comment below…

This weekend was a high-water mark at the Summit Church. My family and I have been privileged to be a part of the Summit since close the beginning of J.D.’s tenure here. On Saturday and Sunday we celebrated all that God has done over the last decade.

This week I’ll be sharing more about the first ten years at the Summit, but for now, I want you to meet the man who planted Homestead Heights Baptist Mission (the original Summit Church) fifty years ago. We were honored to have Dr. Sam James with us in this weekend’s service. Hearing him pray over us a half-century and 6,500 people later was something I won’t soon forget.


1:45 PM update: the other video from yesterday’s service is now available. It’s a bit long (17 minutes) but well worth your time!

Summit 10 from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

This weekend we’re celebrating both our 10th and 50th year anniversary. (We can do that because we’re just a bit schizophrenic.) It’s going to be an amazing weekend. If you’ve been at the Summit for one week or 49.5 years, you need to be here. Trust me.

Today I thought it would be good to use Flashback Friday to highlight one of the keys to the Summit’s growth over the years: passionate worshippers who point other people to Jesus, even when it means using…um…unconventional methods to get ’em here.

This morning we had tons of first-time guests that showed up at all of our campuses.  One couple arrived at our Brier Creek Campus about 45 minutes after the service began.  Now, 45 minutes late is the norm for most of our covenant members, staff spouses, etc, but a little unusual for guests.  What follows is the story of  one family, whom I’ll call “Ken & Barbie,” since I haven’t gotten their permission to share it…yet…

Pick up the rest of this must-read story by clicking here.

I’m still licking my wounds from the fact checker fail of the century in yesterday’s blog post. (Hey…at least I gave UNC some love. They needed it after last night. “You guys didn’t beat your arch-rival, but you’re awesome at laundry services! Be encouraged!”)

So without further ado, here’s the fun stuff I’ve been reading this week:

10 Tips on Writing from David Ogilvy.  If you write, you must read this. (Warning: one sorta bad word is included. Cover the kids’ eyes.)

People who think well, write well. Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches. [read more]

Finding a Balance Between Delegating and Micromanaging. Ouch. I do one really well and one really poorly. I’ll let you guess which is which. (You’re not allowed to seek input from my team.)

“He asked the sisters how their employees could be expected to handle complaints when they didn’t know the company’s big picture goals. The coach asked about Bari Jay’s purpose and stressed that it couldn’t be simply to make money or sell dresses. Ms. Parker said that homing in on a purpose took time. “But we came up with ‘making memories,’” she said.” [read more]

12 Drinks on Starbucks’ “Secret Menu.” That’s what I need: another reason to spend more money on my caffeine fix.

“I began to wonder about the other off-the-menu items I had been missing out on, and how many there were. As it turned out, quite a lot. Green Eyes and Double-Dirty Chais, Zebra Mochas and Crunch Berry Frappuccinos — an entire ‘secret menu,’ revealed.” [read more]

Last weekend we had a baptism service of ginormous proportions here at the Summit. Over two days in fifteen worship experiences at six campuses, we saw 305 people cross from death to life and symbolize that through the act of baptism.

That stuff never gets old. We’ve seen God do that over and over here, and we’re grateful. Eternally grateful. In the past, I’ve told “stories from the tank” here on the blog (you can find those here and here and here).

But today I have to tell you one of the best behind-the-scenes stories ever. Because we provide clothing and towels for these on the spot baptisms, we have hundreds of pounds of wet, dirty laundry that has to be washed immediately after the services or it will go all John 11:39 on us.

We had three college students lined up to get the laundry after our last service on Sunday and haul it off to the laundromat. In the rush, we forgot to give them the many rolls of quarters they’d need to pay for the wash. So David Talbert, one of the guys on my team, called them and told them to pay for it and we’d reimburse them.

Fast forward to yesterday, when David called Brandon Smith to see what the damage was and how much we owed him. This was Brandon’s reply (paraphrased, because I heard it second hand and probably embellished it with dramatic details):

“Hey David, no worries on the reimbursement. UNC gives us ten bucks a week on our student card for laundry as part of our tuition. I went around to all my Summit friends and told ’em we were going to do some baptism laundry. After everybody chipped in we washed everything for free.”

And there you have it: ingenuity via one of our incredible college kids. From the school that brought us the basketball blessings of Michael Jordan, Vince Carter*, and Tyler Hansbrough, you can add “free laundry for the Summit” to the list of awesome things to come out of Chapel Hill.** Put that in your Separation of Church and State pipe and smoke it.***

*Thanks to Spence Shelton for helping me think of Vince Carter, as I could only name two basketball players.

**Sorry Dukies, I’ll say something about Ninth Street eventually.

***No judicial rulings were harmed in the making of this one-liner.

UPDATE (2:22 PM)

The following items have come to my attention:

(a) Brandon Smith is, indeed, still awesome.

(b) Michael Jordan did, indeed, play basketball for UNC-CH.

(c) Brandon Smith definitely does not go to UNC-CH. He does, indeed, go to North Carolina State University. He was, indeed, assisted by the equally-awesome Stephen Taylor, Ashley Howell, and Daniel Salo.

(d) Part of our laundry crew (Rebecca Batchelor and Trace Clevinger) do, indeed, go to UNC-CH, so you can see how I easily made this mistake.

(e) Students from both UNC-CH and NSCU have, indeed, let me know my error. (Thank you Amy Leigh Bell and Chris Nelsen.)

(f) I am, indeed, an idiot and need a fact-checker (although in my defense, I did warn you that the story would be embellished with dramatic details). 

(g) I am, indeed, being Twitter-bombed with corrections, and in some cases, pictures:

(h) I do not know the names of any basketball players at NCSU. But they do, indeed, have an awesome ice cream booth at the State Fair.

(i) I am 98% certain that tonight’s basketball skirmish will, indeed, occur between the two Blues…UNC and Duke.

(j) 3/4 of my children will, indeed, now be ashamed to call me “father.” Or “dad,” because that’s what they’ve always called me. “Father” seems a little formal, don’t you think?

(k) I do, indeed, want to use the word “indeed” one more time.

Every weekend, you commit a huge sin against those that come into your church: you refuse to think through their experience. You don’t think about where they’ll park, which door they’ll enter, how they’ll find the nursery, or where they’ll sit. You don’t think about their view of the music, their comprehension of the message, or their sense of acceptance.

All of that goes out the window when we do two things on a weekly basis: Stop. Think. 

As you’re driving through your parking lot, stop. Think about how accessible it is to your guests. Is the signage clear? Do they know where to go once they park? Have you reserved the best spaces for them?

As you’re walking around your campus, stop. Think about what they’ll see. You know that you’ve got a particular door that has never and will never be unlocked, but will they try it…and another one…and another one…and simply get frustrated? Will they know how to find the auditorium? Will they know how to find a restroom?

As you’re sitting in your service, stop. Think about what they’ll hear. Is the music attractive? Is the sermon over their heads? Are you taking time to explain what you think is an already-simple concept? Are your people taking the initiative to talk to people they don’t know?

As you’re listening to the announcements, stop. Think about what you’re communicating. Sure, most of your people know that when you invite them to G.O.P.H.E.R. Night, they’ll show up for Good Ol’ Praise Hymns & Evangelistic Renewal. But your guests don’t know why you’ve named an event after a rodent…or what it stands for…or why they’d want to come.

As you’re thinking through your systems and processes, stop. Think about the flow of the morning. If you’re going to ask everyone to fill out a form, then you need to hand out pens. If you’re going to direct them to a next step, then you need to have a visual cue (slide, video, handout) to go along with what they’re hearing. If you’re going to offer to pray for anyone with a special need, then you’d better have prayer counselors at the ready.

What is it you need to stop and think about this weekend? Where does this principle commonly get violated at your church? Comment below.

Merriem captured these pictures just before the Super Bowl party last night. Best imaginary tea I’ve ever had!

All those things you guys have been telling me about having a daughter? So true. Be still my heart.









It’s Friday, Friday, the day of the week where everyone wants to find the girl who sang that song and just clock her upside the head.

Today we dust off the archives and rewind three (count ’em, THREE) years to a little sumpin’ sumpin’ I like to call Salvation by Super Bowl:

…when I stop to think about what the advertisers are trying to accomplish in the Super Bowl vs. what our church is trying to accomplish…all I can do is laugh.  Three million bucks to get people to buy snack food that will be digested and gone in 24 hours.  The only lasting memory will be what it does to their thighs.

On the other hand, our church is just crazy enough to believe that if we spend money on our community rather than on us as consumers…the return on the investment will continue long after we’re gone.  Yeah, there’s a lot riding on your tires, but there’s a lot more riding on our mandate to share the gospel.

I believe that corn chips will make me happy while I watch episodes of The Office.  But I believe that what we’re doing as a church will transcend my lifetime.

You can read the entire post (and see my favorite Super Bowl commercial ever) by clicking here.

And who’s excited about Seinfeld and the Soup Nazi making an appearance on Sunday? Check it…

‘Tis another Thursday, blog readers, which means it’s time for T34A, a feature where I step back and let others step up. It’s social networking at it’s finest. It’s a tip o’ the hat to the fine stuff out there on the interwebs. It’s a day where I laze around in my proverbial sweatpants and don’t come up with anything original.

Except the phrase “proverbial sweatpants.” Pretty sure that’s never been used in the English language before. BOOM.

Three For All starts now…

Who Cares? A Seth Godin instant classic (as most of his stuff is). Thanks to my Pastor of Encouragement Ryan Doherty for the tip.

It’s obviously not about access to capital (doing it right doesn’t cost more). It’s about caring enough to make an effort…Caring, it turns out, is a competitive advantage, and one that takes effort, not money. [read more]

Mayor Hopes to Recruit Megachurch. Mt. Juliet, TN is just up the road from our folks at Boro City Church. Trevor, if you’re reading this…I smell a church plant. And maybe a huge neon cross.

“If we are able to recruit a mega church to our community, if they would put up a huge cross then everyone driving through Mt. Juliet on the interstate would immediately know that we stand first and foremost for God and country.” [read more]

Are you flippin’ kidding me? How can I get a job with these people? I know I have a face for radio. Shut up. I’m charming, dang it!

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