November 2012


E’ry Friday, I scrape a couple of layers of strata off of the archaeological archives. Today, I dug up a post that just got me riled up all over again. Actually, it might have riled me up more than it did the first time.

In case you’re not already hot under the collar about something today, I’ll be glad to contribute.

One of our pastors received this from a friend. The friend is on staff at a church in the Triangle area, and this very real email found its way to the office of that very real church:

Hello,

Our family has just moved to your area. We are seeking a church home and have a few questions please:

*We know the Lord loves all of us, but we believe in honoring the Culture the Lord gave us, so we are seeking a traditionally “White” church as opposed to Multi-cultural. Is your church White?

Read the rest of the post here, and then read the comments. They’ll make you (and me) get glad in the same pants you got mad in.

The gospel changes everything.

TGIT? You betcha. Here are three things that I’ve had my eyes on this week (click the header links to read the full articles).

Broken EventsEvery single pastor and every single speaker and every single leader in every single church needs to read this. Seth Godin displays his usual genius.

If someone starts by telling a joke that they know is lame or starts going through all the tribulations they had finding something to say, if the audience is checking the time or secretly tweeting, then the event itself is broken. The speaker who discharges an obligation is not a speaker you are hoping to hear.

Items in “12 Days of Christmas” Now Costs $107,000…Plus TaxGreat news: those eight maids a milking are a real bargain.

The cost of buying all 364 items repeated throughout the timeless holiday carol has gone up 6.1 percent since last year, according to the annual Christmas Price Index compiled by PNC Wealth Management. And the new retail cost of $107,300 really hurts in the biggest U.S. cities, where state and local sales tax adds on as much as 9.5 percent.

Inside One of Amazon’s Busiest Days. This makes my inner organizational nerd just a little bit giddy.

If you’ve read this blog for a few seconds you know that I’m a freakishly huge Disney fan. Not the type of fan where I have a Captain Hook costume in my closet and the complete set of director’s cut Disney/Pixar movies on DVD. Nope, I’m more of a fan of the Disney process, their attention to detail, and their ability to tell a story like no one else.

In case you’re an uncultured snob, you may not realize that all Disney parks are set up to tell a story. From the moment you get off the monorail or ferry at the Magic Kingdom, you’re walking into a movie set, complete with posters of “coming attractions” (ie, rides) the smell of popcorn, and the visual cues that you’re being transported to another world.

The newest example of this is the newest attraction at Magic Kingdom: an expansion of Fantasyland that takes guests back to the early 90’s classic Beauty and the Beast. The attention to detail is stunning, the painstaking recreation of movie themes is evident, and the story is king. Here’s what Creative Director Chris Beatty said in a recent FoxNews.com article:

What has been revealed is far more than just a restaurant. Like any great Disney attraction, Be Our Guest tells a story. Tucked away atop sharp, rocky hills is the Beast’s castle, trapped in the cursed moment before Belle breaks the spell.  As guests cross a stone bridge lined with tormented gargoyles, Disney lets the story of the Beast’s transformation unfold through architecture and design.  Beatty underscores the importance of layout, noting “the average guest may never see this, or really understand the story behind it, but for us it’s so critical to help tell that transition – that metamorphosis of who the prince is, as he was turned into the Beast.”

Continuing into the foyer and down a suit of armor-lined hallway, there is a feeling of coldness, decorated with hard stone, metal, and desaturated tones.  “You still feel like any moment you could be escorted out – you could be thrown out of the castle,” said Beatty.

But the mood shift as guests enter the study, welcoming with soft wood finishes and a roaring fireplace.  From there guests come across the most famous of “Beauty and the Beast” settings: the ballroom.  Adorned with gold and marble, giant chandeliers illuminate the impressive space that feels, as Beatty puts it, “almost like Belle and Beast could dance in at any moment.”  Artificial snow is even seen gently falling outside giant picture windows.  Entering the ballroom is the ultimate wow moment.

Disney is the undisputed master at telling stories. Churches? Well, we may be the undisputed disasters. Contrast Disney’s newest attraction with our regular attraction: our church building and facilities. Unclear signage? We have it. Overgrown parking areas? They’re there. Unmarked doors, bad lighting, unfriendly greeters, a confusing process for next steps? Oh yeah.

Every weekend, we’re telling our guests a story before they ever hear a sermon. We’re telling them how much we value them, how much we anticipated their arrival, and how much we expect them to return. Our lackluster (translated: messy, shabby, gross) facilities tell the story of the attention to detail we’ll give to our ministries, to our families, and to our guests.

It’s odd to me that the greatest story ever told often starts with such a bad story.

So what story are you telling?

 

Other posts you might like:

Preface: if you’re a pastor (or you’re a human), you’re going to receive criticism. And if you’re a pastor (or you’re human), you’re going to give criticism. So if you’re gonna do it, you might as well do it right. Here’s how to complain for maximum results.

 

The note landed on my desk several weeks ago. It came to me via a weekend worship service, into the offering bucket, through the hands of the counters, and finally past someone who felt like I should be the one to see it. (“He’s the Connections Pastor. Nobody knows what he does. Maybe he can handle it.”)

The note said, in effect, “Somebody needs to do something about [event in the worship service]. It is making me and many other people very uncomfortable. It makes me want to leave and never return.”

I’m not going to reveal the event itself, because the event is irrelevant. It’s the note, and the complaint lodged within, that I want to focus on.

I’ve gotten plenty of these notes in 20 years of ministry. All of them have said the same thing, though many of them were complaining about the same thing. They all followed the same formula: I don’t like ___ + other people also don’t like ___ = fix it or I’ll leave.

You need to know that I’m all for feedback. I’m a big proponent of your voice being heard. And I solicit, abide by, and adapt to feedback all the time in my role as a pastor. But here’s what this person needs to know about how to deliver effective complaints:

1. Have the guts to sign your name. Six out of ten times, the negatives remain anonymous. I want you to know that I value your feedback. I also want you to know that I value it about 96% less when you don’t have the courage to tell me who you are. Unsigned complaints don’t allow for conversation. They don’t allow for vision casting. They simply allow you to lob your negativity and run.

2. Stand up for yourself. A close second to anonymous letters are anonymous letters with anonymous friends. “Other people” could mean 100 or it could mean your wife. Or it could mean the crazy voices in your head. I have no idea. Regardless, don’t drag “other people” into the situation. Either tell me their names when you tell me yours or let them write their own complaints.

3. Don’t make threats. I’ve gotten to the point where I stop making apologies that this church (or ANY church) is for everybody. Every church is not for every person. It should be open to every person, but it’s not going to fit every person. We’re not trying to scratch every person where they itch. We are trying to honor Jesus in all that we do. Sometimes that means we’ll preach hard sermons. Sometimes that means we’ll have long services. Sometimes it means we’ll attack your idols. Either way, your personal agenda won’t make us change that course.

4. Assume that somebody cares. Here’s where I get touchy-feely again. Anonymous person, you need to know that I really do care about your note. I really do care about how you feel. In this particular situation, there are some things that I identified with and would agree with you on. I don’t think you were wrong in your opinion, but you were wrong in the way you delivered your opinion. This church isn’t about “Do what you’re told and shut up.” But it is about seeking common grace at the foot of the cross. In your anonymous note, you robbed yourself of the grace both to be heard and the grace to hear. I would have loved to sit down with you and talk through your very real feelings, affirmed your continued involvement here, and yes, sought to help you find a solution. But because you didn’t think anyone cared, you scrawled a note and dropped it in the offering bucket, which is the ecclesiastical version of a hit and run.

 

Constructive criticism can be helpful, even honoring. More than that, well-timed correction is biblical. Proverbs 15:31 says “The ear that listens to life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.” But there’s a difference between gospel-centered correction and self-centered complaining. Philippians 2:14-15 reminds us to “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 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…”

Do you know how unity as believers serves as a witness to the world? It’s when we learn to have a criticism without being a critic.

 

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Meticulous research has shown me that there are two kinds of people in this world: (1) those who like the predictability and practicality of an artificial Christmas tree, and (2) insane people.

For 19 years, my beloved bride has hinted that maybe we should get a real tree. That maybe we’re not a true American family if we don’t have a real tree. That maybe Al Gore is just kidding and cutting down a real tree doesn’t actually cause a puppy to go blind.

And for 19 years, I’ve deftly avoided being drawn into those hints. For 19 years, I’ve put up our massive behemoth plastic tree, the one that is already pre-woven with lights that we lovingly pre-wove one year, and then cursingly re-wove every year after that, because one of the stupid strands burned out.

But this year, her hints turned into very strong suggestions, to the point that I felt threatened by her hints, if you get my domestic altercation drift.

And so it was that on Black Friday we set out like the pioneers of yore, trudging into the wilderness on an odyssey (or IN an Odyssey…did you see what I did there) for the perfect tree. Thankfully, we found the perfect tree after searching high and Lowe’s (wow, the hits just keep on coming), and as we gazed at it in astounded wonder, asked ourselves the age old question,

“How in the blazes do we move this stupid thing?”

You see, it brought me great joy to see the joy my wife had over her real tree. As a matter of fact, I encouraged her to go big before we go home and upsize that sucker. For only twenty more bucks we could have two more feet of tree and – the way I calculated – a few more strands of lights to fight over.

So we got the eight footer. I hauled it out of the bin to stand it up and bounce it on the ground to see if any needles fell off, just like my forebears taught me to in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The only problem: eight foot trees don’t bounce. And neither do they stand up easily when you’re trying to get your 5’2″ wife to hold it so you can take her picture.

Me: Look, it’s standing up! All you have to do is hang on to it.

Merriem: I can’t hang on to it! It’s going to tip over.

Me: HANG ON LET ME SWITCH TO VIDEO MODE!

Then it was time to move Mr. Tannenbaum to the trimming stand, where two helpful men look and you and grin while you try to maneuver an eight foot tree onto the trimming stand. They then ask you how much you want taken off, which is the Christmas Tree Stand equivalent to my mechanic asking what weight oil I want to use. (Answer: “Um…a couple of pounds?”)

So they trimmed a bit off the trunk, and then put the same netting around the tree that I had just removed from the Thanksgiving turkey the day before. Then one of the guys helped me strap the tree to the top of the van, all the while telling me how we were making memories with our kids, and they would never forget these moments, and this would be the kind of thing that they would tell their kids about. Except I was having a hard time agreeing with him, because at that moment our kids were sitting at home playing their WiiBoxStation or whatever they have, because they weren’t all that interested in picking out the thing that would serve as the foundation for their generational memories.

Back to the house, where my in laws were waiting to (a) help put up the tree and (b) serve as witnesses in case of a future court deposition. And for two more days, we wrapped that rascal in lights and ribbon and ornaments and vile hatred and broken dreams, because let’s face it: that’s what Christmas lights do to you. Merriem and I know we can count on one major fight per year, and that will be the Christmas Light Fight. (“Just toss me that strand.” “Which strand?” “That strand.” “I NO LONGER RESPECT YOU AS A HUMAN!”)

But as of this morning when I left the house, amidst the living room floor shrapnel known as falling pine needles, we have a beautiful, pine scented, joyously festive Christmas tree that has brought our family together and helped us look forward to the season. At least until it crashes to the ground because one of the kids bumped into it.

I hope I have the camera in video mode.

Today wraps up ThanksWeek on the blog. I’ve been checking off the list of people I’m thankful for, but you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know I’d save my favorite person on earth for last.

I married up. Everyone who knows me knows that. Outside of redemption, Merriem is the greatest gift God has ever given me. In January we’ll celebrate 20 years of marriage, but this post was penned on the 20 year anniversary of the day we met (yes, I keep up with stuff like that). This post originally appeared on January 25, 2011.

 

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.

It’s ThanksWeek around these parts, and you can bet your giblets I’m having a great time flipping through some old posts and thinking about the things I’m thankful for.

Today, it’s about the dudes of Casa de Franks. While I had to narrow three boys down to the one post below, I still have some specific things to say in today’s bonus content: Jacob / Austin / Jase. Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

This post originally appeared on September 2, 2011.

This has turned into Adoption Week here on the blog, which is kind of like Shark Week, only cuter. (Although if you haven’t been exposed to Haven’s razor sharp teeth…)

We’ve told Haven’s story, and told a bit of the rest of our stories along the way. But there’s one more thing that needs to be said:

My sons are real men. And I don’t deserve them.

Like their freakish athletic ability, there are some other characteristics that they didn’t get from me. They’ve been supremely selfless through this whole process with Haven. When I was their age, I would have been appalled if my parents had tried to add one to our nest. I remember freaking out the year my dad invited a homeless guy for Christmas. (It’s not that hard to remember. I was 33 years old. No seriously.) I flip out when my peanut butter jar gets disturbed. I am – in short – selfish. My boys – in short – are not. And for that I’m grateful.

Has it been easy? Nope. After the novelty of having a new baby in the house wore off, Haven has moved from being the fragile princess to being the little sister. She has an uncanny knack for finding the “off” button on Austin’s Playstation just when he’s about to make the high score, causing him to fling her into the front yard. (That’s hyperbole, social services people. No babies were flung in the making of this story.)

It’s not easy to go from a house with a 15 year old, 14 year old, and 9 year old – all very self sufficient – to a house with a toddler. They have had a crash course in changing diapers, making bottles, and clipping hair bows. They have mixed her formula, fed her smashed carrots, and snuck her ice cream. They’ve been puked on and peed on and pooped on more times than they can count. And through it all, they have led her and loved her well.

Nothing has made me prouder in this process than to see my boys become protectors. They hold her when she’s scared at the beach and hug her when our “attack monkey” game goes too far. They make sure her car seat is tight and her sandals are strapped and the kitchen cabinets are latched.

I feel sorry…very, very sorry…for any young man that shows up at our house in the future. Though I may be too old and senile to intervene, I know that three big brothers will work him over a few times before he gets close to their little sister.

People have frequently asked them, “So what do you think about having a little sister?” Last Sunday after church, one of them said, “How should we answer that? ‘We don’t like her, but I guess we’re stuck with her’? What kind of question is that? What do they expect us to say?”

Since they don’t know how to articulate it (especially after the 150th time), I’ll answer it on their behalf: they love her. They adore her. They want what’s best for her, and they wanted her. She lights up when they walk into the room. She loves her Jachub and her Ya Ya and her…well, she’s working on getting Jase to come out just right…but she loves him too.

She may never know how they’ve changed her life, but Merriem and I do. What’s more, we know how she’s changed theirs.

My little girl may have taught me what it looks like to be wrapped around her finger, but my sons have taught me what true selflessness is. I’m grateful that they’ve made room for one more at our table. I could learn from them.

We all could.

Jacob (15) at Wrightsville Beach, just after Haven decided she hated Wrightsville Beach.
Austin (14), probably just moments before she peed on him for the 28th time.
Jase (9), not bitter that Haven can’t pronounce his name yet.

ThanksWeek rolls on here at the blog, where I’m dusting off some old posts and sharing them one more time. 

Today’s gratitude check? My daughter. And my daughter’s birth parents. Here’s their story, which originally appeared on January 23, 2012.

 

Yesterday was the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, as well as the observation of what the evangelical church refers to as Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. For 19 years of ministry I’ve observed SOHL Sunday. I’ve prayed on it, read scripture for it, written about it, and in one semi-odd occurrence, participated in a skit about it. But for the first time yesterday, I experienced it in a brand new way.

Yesterday I realized that our family has a daughter because her biological parents chose life. She was conceived out of wedlock, born into poverty, and could have easily become a statistic. Mainstream society wouldn’t have batted an eyelash if they had chosen to abort rather than to bring a child into an unsure situation.

Thank God they didn’t pick that option.

A few months after our daughter was born – when they realized that they could no longer care for her physically or financially – they selflessly allowed her to be adopted. They chose her needs over their wants and gave her a second chance at life.

Thank God they did.

Last night I read my sweet Haven a bedtime story, I prayed over her, and I held her for a moment longer than usual in my arms. The full weight of reality sunk in – I was able to put my daughter to bed because her birth parents refused to take the easy route. She was in my arms because they released her from theirs.

Had they chosen the road that “made sense,” my family would have been robbed of one of our greatest joys. I wouldn’t be able to hold her when her fever hit 104° from a bout with pneumonia. I wouldn’t be able to experience the sheer bliss of messy kisses from Cheerio-coated lips. I wouldn’t come home to a beautiful brown-eyed baby girl reaching up with chubby hands and excitedly calling out “Daddy!”

There will be those who would criticize this post. There will be detractors who would argue that a termination of an unplanned pregnancy was the wisest choice. There will be people who will say that for every story involving a “Haven,” there are hundreds of other children that won’t be put up for adoption but also can’t or won’t be cared for by their birth parents.

And to those critics, I will say that I do not have all the answers. I am neither an expert ethicist nor an astute apologist. But I do believe in life. I do believe that every child conceived has the right to live. I do believe that the Bible is mankind’s highest authority, and while we may not always agree with it, we must always submit to it. I do believe in the sovereignty of God, and I do not believe that any pregnancy – planned or unplanned – is a mistake.

As I type, my mind is filled with images of families throughout our church who have children because the birth parents chose not to terminate the pregnancy.

I think of parents of special needs children – children with severe mental and physical deformities that were detected in utero – and the parents’ refusal to abort because it was “easier.”

I think of dear friends that I’ve prayed for this weekend who have been told that their unborn son will have no viability outside the womb, and yet they are letting the pregnancy go to term because they know that they are not the authors of their child’s life, but they serve and fear a God who is.

I think of childless couples in our church who have saved for adoption and completed home studies and and ready, willing, and able to help a child – any child – regardless of age, race, gender, disability, or need.

I think of couples that I’ve met with who have experienced the aftermath of abortion firsthand. The decision that once “made sense” is one that now haunts them. And while God freely and generously offers forgiveness, grace, and mercy to those who run to him, they still struggle greatly with that painful part of their past.

This year more than ever, I’m grateful for life. I’m grateful for two selfless parents that gave my little girl a chance to live. And I’m more committed than ever that Christ’s church must stand in the gap to defend those who cannot defend themselves.

Maranatha!

It’s ThanksWeek here on the blog, where I reach back into the archives and pull out some of my favorite posts of gratitude (which would be an awesome name for a Bibleman weapon: “Step back, you evildoers, lest I unleash my Posts of Gratitude™!”)

Today’s flashback is a timely and bittersweet one. It was twelve years ago today that my mom finally saw Jesus face to face. This post originally appeared on the ten year anniversary of her death: November 20, 2010.

 

Ten years later, I still remember eating hot Krispy Kremes while walking down a cold and windy sidewalk to Nashville’s Baptist Hospital.

Ten years later, I remember laughing when she said, “If Gore wins the recount, don’t wake me up.”

Ten years later, I remember praying for her just before her surgery.  I remember that her pain was worse that day than it had been in her short eleven month battle with cancer.  I remember the surgical team wheeling her out of the room.  I remember her looking at us and saying what would be her final words:

“Y’all be good.”

Ten years later, I remember a nurse asking us to come into the consultation room.  I remember a doctor in his scrubs, holding his khakis over his arm, explaining that there were complications…that they had done everything they could.  I remember my sister’s voice, trembling, shaking:

“Are you telling me my mother is dead?”

Ten years later, I still remember that detached, out-of-body experience, as if I was watching my family’s grief…my grief…from the corner of the room.  I remember the exact prayer that I prayed as I put my hand on my dad’s shoulder and held him tight:

“Father, nothing has happened today that didn’t first filter through your holy hand…”

Ten years later, I still cry sometimes.  I still laugh sometimes.  I still think about her every single day.  I still catch myself picking up the phone to tell her about something that she’d want to know about.  Something she’d want to pray about.  Something she’d want to laugh about.

Ten years later, I find it hard to believe that we’ve had two houses she’s never seen.  A seminary campus she never visited.  A church she’s never heard of.  A grandchild she’s never met.

Ten years later, I remember her infectious sense of humor.  I remember her love for my dad.  I remember her pride in her kids.  I remember her joy in her grandchildren.

Ten years later, I remember her passionate devotion to Jesus.  I remember her commitment to the gospel even as she suffered.  I remember her paraphrase of Philippians 1:21, something she repeated often:

“If I live, I win.  If I die, I win.”

Ten years later, I remember burying her the day before Thanksgiving.  I remember preaching her funeral, trying to narrow down 27 years worth of memories in 15 minutes.  I remember looking at the faces of nearly 600 friends and family, sharing the gospel with the people that had come to honor her.  People she’d prayed for.  Souls she’d begged God for.  Witnessing opportunities she’d labored for.

Ten years later, I remember standing in a freezing graveyard under a bright blue sky.  I remember her body being put into the crypt.  I remember the numbness.  The sorrow.  And the certain hope of seeing her again.

Ten years later, and it’s November 20, 2010.  She would have been 70 years and six months old today.  She and my dad would have celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary this past spring.  She would be planning a special dinner for my brother’s 50th birthday tomorrow.  She would be keeping tabs on nine grandchildren in two different states, and be gleefully anticipating Christmas, undoubtedly her favorite time of the year.

Ten years later, and I still miss her.  I still thank God for her.  I still talk to my kids about her.  I still love her.

Ten years later, and the legacy of a godly woman extends beyond her grave.

Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. (Proverbs 31:28-30)

It’s Thanksgiving Week here in the USA (G’day, British readers!), which means one thing around the Summit offices:

It’s quiet.

That’s true. Many of our staff is traveling, we’re in the very brief lull between sermon series, and I’m gettin’ junk done. I love Thanksgiving Week. Productivity is my friend on Thanksgiving Week, much like stretchy pants.

So I thought I’d take advantage of this week of thanks to roll a few favorite posts out of the archives…posts that remind me of some of God’s greatest blessings on my life. Today’s blast from the past originally appeared on December 14, 2010. If you’re so inclined to travel back there, you can always click here.

 

As I write, we’ve just finished up Summit Staff Christmas Party 2k10. The auditorium is a wreck, the lobby is covered in coffee spills, and I’m pretty sure I just drank a year’s supply of hot chocolate (hello, 10 PM buzz!). It was a night for the history books, and a night where I realized the dream state I’m living in.

We may have the most functional staff ever. Yes, I know church staffs are often known for dysfunction, but ours has to be a pretty glaring exception. Can I brag on my peeps for a moment? (Hint: yes I can. It’s my blog. Hands off my keyboard.)

I work with some of the biggest dreamers in the church world. These people tire me out by playing the “what if?” game all the flippin’ time. “What if we went to our city instead of expecting them to come to us?” “What if we raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and gave it all away to bless other churches in other nations?” “What if we forgot about being a comfortable church in a comfortable building and adopted ‘industrial ghetto’ as our official design scheme?” They dream big, and God rewards big dreams. These people inspire me.

I work with some of the hardest workers in any office anywhere. Big dreams lead to big plans, long task lists, and multiple projects running at once. I love watching our team visualize, strategize, and execute “only-God-could-make-that-happen” plans. Whoever said pastors only work on Sunday is just wrong. (Because we also have a Saturday campus. Boo yah.)

I work with the most fun people anywhere on the planet. We laugh. A lot. Tonight’s party was one continual stream of merriment and mirth (early reports tell us at least 8% more mirth than last year. Impressive.).

I work with the most brutally honest group of people ever. Bad ideas don’t survive long around here. Neither do bad attitudes. If you’re going to work with people who are like family, you’d better be ready to get “the talk” in the middle of a family meeting. Ideas are sharpened, visions are honed, and character is crystallized in this environment. And amazingly, we walk away friends.

We have the greatest support team. Period. The unsung heroes of our church staff are people that you’ll never see on stage, never hear preach a sermon, never witness leading a ministry. But I’ll guarantee you they’re there. Our administrative staff is a group of ladies who consistently make us look much better than we actually are. They pick up the ball whenever we drop it (average drop rate: 172 per day). They do the tasks that we stink at and help us make wise use of our time and talk us off the ledges when it’s been a rough week. Any church staff – even a great church staff – probably has some dispensable people along the way, but our administrative rock stars ain’t one of ‘em. Nine of ‘em. Whatever.

So that’s it. At least five reasons why I love my co-workers. And because I’m a cheapskate, this is a dang nice gift. Merry Christmas y’all.

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