September 2012

I just wrapped up a phone call with an old friend who is a pastor in another state. He’s serving at a new church, maneuvering new challenges, and trying to figure out the age-old question for ministry leaders: Where to from here?

Their church is at a crossroads: it sits in the middle of a professional, upwardly-mobile, progressive community, but uses largely traditional methodology. They have a desire to reach their neighbors, but don’t have the infrastructure in place to do so. Many of their ministries don’t rise to the quality that the business professionals surrounding them would expect. Their pets’ HEADS ARE FALLING OFF! (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)

One of the questions that came from our conversation was, “Who should we target?” Whenever someone asks that question, I immediately think about the demographics of a middle-class family where the parents are 34 years old, college educated, with 2.5 kids and a golden retriever. (That’s who I would target, anyway,  because I’ve always wanted to see a half a kid.)

But the “who should we target?” question has always seemed to backfire whenever I see it play out. I think a better question is not one of target but one of identity. It’s not “who are we going after?” but “who are we? Right now: what’s our identity? What’s our mindset?”

The mindset question changes everything. At our church we’ve had college kids visit who should like the music…but they don’t. We’ve had senior adults who shouldn’t like us nagging them about being in a non-traditional small group…but they do. And that mindset gives us not a homogenous audience who all look and think and dress the same, but a diverse crowd of ages, races, and backgrounds who are all rallying together around a common mission.

All of that came – I think – as a result of us figuring out who we are as a church. Gospel-centered? Yes. Church of small groups rather than a church with small groups? Okay. Missionally focused, not just with cash but with involvement and ongoing relationship? You bet.

Picking a target audience often causes you to change inauthentically to someone you’re not. And hear me: I do believe that lots of churches should change. But we should never change to reach a demographic, we should change because of the vision and mission that God is writing on our hearts.

That’s my two cents after an early morning phone call without so much as a second cup of coffee in me. On target? Off base? Just wanna argue? Comment below.


‘Twas an incredible weekend around the Summit Church. Hundreds of people celebrated baptism, signifying their new life in Christ. Here at the Brier Creek campus, we saw 99 people baptized over the course of six services. Here are just a few of their stories:

  • Chris was raised in a cult, and for years didn’t trust any sort of organized religion. But the message on “putting the weight of glory on Jesus” struck a chord, and now he has a relationship with a Savior instead of more rules to follow.
  • Chelsea is a pregnant teenager, weighing her options on what is best for her baby. Merriem and I had dinner with her and some of her friends just a few weeks ago. Seeing all of them there to support her? Amazing.
  • Elena has been “doing life” with her small group for a while now. She made the decision to be baptized on Saturday night, but decided to wait until Sunday so she could make sure they were there for her. They were.
  • Wayne has multiple sclerosis. His obedience in making the decision wasn’t quite as simple as walking down the aisle. It involved a long, slow, painful walk. It involved multiple men  helping him into the tank. But it was a beautiful thing to witness his obedience as well as the body of Christ serving him so well.
  • A seminary student was baptized early in life, but realized that the symbolism of that baptism occurred before the reality of his relationship with Christ.
  • Paul was baptized, and then helped to baptize his son Philip. Jim was baptized, then helped baptize his wife Lauren. Fathers baptizing sons and husbands baptizing wives? It doesn’t get any better than that.

Those were just a few of the stories I heard. How about you? Comment below.

(By the way, if you don’t attend the Summit and you’re skeptical of how we do mass baptisms (decision counseling, logistics, etc.) check out this earlier post.)

On Saturday, I snapped this picture of my little girl and posted it on the Twitter. (You should probably follow me over there since I’m always launching hurricanes of cuteness like this.)

It was a busy weekend. A bit of a crazy weekend. We crammed in a date night, a birthday party, baseball practice, a garage overhaul, a small group relaunch, and one of the nuttiest Sunday mornings I’ve experienced in a long, long while.

But it was this quiet moment with my daughter that was one of the defining moments of the weekend. Those eyes? I figure they cost me an average of four bucks every time they look at me like that. (My understanding is that those numbers increase significantly as she gets older.)

Icee, if you need a spokesperson, call me.

It’s Friday. My proverbial feet are up. I’m pondering deeper issues of the universe like “How has Nickelback sold that many albums?” and “Why do I have proverbial feet?”

Anyway, here’s a clip from the archives:

Here’s my diatribe for the day: I believe that churches and fast food joints should be more aggressive.  Take, for example, Tuesday night.  On Tuesday night, my 13 year old and I walked into an artery-clogging establishment to get our grub on.  As you know if you’re a faithful reader of this blog, when I’m shaming a retail place I don’t name names because it’s not Christlike, plus I don’t want to be sued and end up living under I-85 eating Cheez Whiz out of a shoe.

Read the entire post here.

Here’s the goodies I’ve been reading / watching this past week. Enjoy.

Controlling Your Home with the Touch of an iPad. Good googly moogly, this is cool.

The technology works remotely from anywhere in the world. If you have an internet connection, you can control the home. Want the air conditioning running when you walk through the door on a hot summer day, flick it on using your iPhone. [video]

Glimpses of the 1906 Earthquake Seen in Modern Day Photos of San Francisco. Amazing.

To put these photos together, I first create a catalog of historical photos that look like they have potential to be blended. Unfortunately most of these photos end up on the digital cutting room floor because there’s simply no way to get the same photo today because either a building or a tree is in the way. Once I get a good location, I get everything lined up just right. My goal is to stand in the exact spot where the original photographer stood. Doing this needs to take into account equivalent focal length, how the lens was shifted, light conditions, etc. I take plenty of shots, each nudged around a bit at each location. Just moving one foot to the left changes everything. [read more]

What Successful People Do with the First Hour of Their Work Day. I define successful as in, “apparently not me, because I don’t do any of this stuff.” Bummer.

How much does the first hour of every day matter? As it turns out, a lot. It can be the hour you see everything clearly, get one real thing done, and focus on the human side of work rather than your task list. [read more]

One of my First Impressions shift leaders snapped this picture on Sunday and sent it to me. He was impressed. I was beyond impressed. I think you will be too:

This is a diagram that was designed by our 9 AM seating team leader, Maritza Pearce. (I’ve used my mad Photoshop skills to blur out last names, emails, and phone numbers, in case any of you are feeling stalkery.)

Nobody told Maritza to do this. This isn’t part of her job description. She didn’t study 55 different churches to see how they seat people and then develop this resource to match. Nope, she did it because she’s a great leader who wants to lead a great team.

And you know what? It works. We’re fitting more people into the same number of seats. Less gaps. More smiles. Less team member frustration. A better experience all around.

Control freaks like me love leaders like Maritza. She knows exactly what happens, when it happens, and how it needs to happen. Her team is literally on the same page with her. And while I don’t know all of the fine detail and thought process that went into refining this document, I know she does.

For some reason, my leaders never came up with stuff like this when I was a raging micromanager who wanted to dictate every last detail and be the guy who invented all the diagrams. I wonder why?