January 2013

Remember kids, click on the bold print to see the original article.

If Only They Knew How Many Times We Wanted To Quit! A great post on marital longevity by my friend Matt Pearson.

Couples who have been married 54 years didn’t make it that long because they never had a fight; or never had a rough season; or never had any major issues or problems; or never argued over finances; or never cheated; or never yelled at the other. NO. NO. NO. NO. They made it that long because they CHOSE TO STAY MARRIED AND WORK THROUGH THEIR PROBLEMS. The only other option is to  get out and try again with another.

Reverse Culture ShockIf you’re a pastor or ministry leader who has missionaries or church planters returning from the field, this is a must read from some of our own planters here at the Summit.

Reverse culture shock is no joke, people. It is painful and lonely much like the culture shock you go through on the other side of the pond, but in my estimation, it can be worse.  Reverse culture shock has you going in, well, reverse. The language, cultural taboos, greetings, slang, pop culture, etc., are all new or in some cases old, and you have to rewind and learn or relearn them or risk looking like a fool in front of your own people.  Overseas, you can chalk up your silly cultural blunders to the fact that you are a foreigner.  In America, not so much. You don’t look like a foreigner, you don’t talk like a foreigner.  So why on earth would you take your shoes off at someone’s door and kiss them three times on both cheeks when you meet them???  Cause it’s cultural… somewhere.

A Pep Talk From Kid President To YouApparently I’m late to the Kid President game, but I’m now campaigning for him in 2016. This may be the most fun 3:28 of your day.


One of the plumblines for our First Impressions Team is that the gospel is offensive, but nothing else should be (follow the link for a more detailed explanation). That means we intentionally enter into each weekend with one end goal: we will honor our guests by creating an inviting environment that engages worshippers and builds meaningful relationships.

That means we’ve implemented teams like parking and seating to help people find their way more easily. It means we’ve invested major budget dollars into things like gift bags for our first time guests. It means the language we use and the information we ask for and the traffic flow we create are all intended to funnel guests towards the gospel.

But in reality, any of those systems, structures, and strategies can become a gimmick if the gospel isn’t our driving force. A first time guest bag is just a monetary expenditure if we’re not using it as a connection point for building a relationship with someone new. A parking or seating team just serves to create catered-to people if we’re not using it as a lavish display of biblical hospitality. A coffee bar that doesn’t engage people in community is just another place to get a caffeine fix (while throwing elbows to get the creamer before a fellow Christian does). And an information card just becomes a spiritual mailing list if we’re not intentionally connecting people to their next step towards understanding the gospel.

Gimmicks aren’t inherently bad, but gimmicks don’t save people. The gospel saves people. Gimmicks – left to themselves – are ultimately a waste of time for our volunteers and our guests, and a waste of money for our churches.

But here’s the beautiful thing about gimmicks – they can be redeemed and used to funnel people towards the gospel. We engage people where they are (gimmick) but we help them take a step towards who God designed them to be (gospel).

What gimmicks are you using in your weekend ministry that needs to be redeemed? What gimmicks are already making inroads towards the gospel? Have you read the word “gimmick” one too many times in the last few minutes and realized it’s one of the strangest words ever? (Gimmick gimmick gimmick gimmick gimmick) I’d love to hear from you. Comment below.

Last night was a fun moment in the life of the Franks family, if you define “fun” as torture + horror x infinity. Jacob and Austin’s school was playing basketball against a school in Wake Forest. They wanted to go to the game, and Merriem had a ladies’ Bible study, so dear old dad loaded up the entire brood in the minivan and headed down 98. While the older two were watching all the hoops action, I decided that Jase (10) and Haven (2.5) and I would kick around my old stomping grounds in Wake Forest. We’d have dinner at one of my favorite fast-food places (a place we don’t have in Durham), dessert at Chick-fil-A (a place we do have, but let’s face it – you can never have enough chocolate chunk cookies), and watch untold hours of annoying kids’ movies on Jase’s portable DVD player.

The really fun part was the fact that Haven is potty training and so every four and a half minutes we had to pull over, unbuckle her from her car seat, and plop her down on an actual kids potty that’s in our actual van so she could do her thing. That’s right – my van now includes an open sewer. There’s nothing like sitting in a school parking lot while people walk past you and hear you give helpful coaching through phrases like “HAVE YOU GONE YET?” “HURRY UP AND POOPY.” and “WAIT DON’T MOVE YOU’LL SPILL THE PEE PEE.”

Especially when the people can’t see that you’re talking to a real person who’s just out of their line of sight, but for all they know you’re a weirdo who is sitting in the back of the van yelling out literal potty language.

But I digress.

So we were at one of my favorite fast-food places that I mentioned above. The place shall remain nameless, though I will tell you that I grew up with this particular chain, there is not one in Durham, and so every time I find a town that contains this place, I stop, no questions asked.

I placed the order. The order taker was a most unhelpful young man who had been hired exclusively on his ability to mumble and get my order wrong. After placing the order, there was no less than 20 seconds of silence while he did – I don’t know what he was doing – maybe playing Words With Friends, I don’t know. But when he read the order back, it was wrong. So I tried again. Another 20 or 180 seconds (triple word score!). He read it back. This time, I think it was right. He could have been mumbling the weather report, for all I know.

A few minutes later, the young lady brought us our food. She was the exact opposite of MumbleBoy. Friendly, gregarious, cheerful. She went over my order to make sure it was all correct. Asked if I needed anything else. And if the sum of my experience was based on interaction with her, it would have been a great one.

But it wasn’t just based on her. It was the sum total of everything: the guy who took my order, the girl who brought my order, the amount I paid for the food, the temperature and taste of the food, the cleanliness of the restaurant…everything.

As much as I enjoyed one encounter, I loathed the other encounter. Every kind gesture one employee made couldn’t erase the rudeness of another.

Their best was only as good as their worst.

It works the same way at our churches. You might have 50 friendly greeters, but a guest will remember the one rude parking attendant. You might have four worship songs that were flawless, but someone will walk away talking about the one where the soloist lost her place. You might appropriately connect 100 people to their next step of ministry, but to the one who fell through the cracks, they see the entire system as flawed.

Our best is only as good as our worst.

What needs to be fixed in your church this week?

Yesterday I was rolling down the road and listening to NPR, because apparently I’m 62 and have an affection for endangered spotted owls. They were doing a feature story on the infamous “Marshmallow Test” conducted by Stanford researcher Walter Mischel in the late 1960s.

You may not be familiar with the Marshmallow Test if you’ve never heard J.D. Greear preach. That’s his third favorite illustration to use in a sermon (just behind Dee the Waffle House waitress and anything having to do with Narnia, and just ahead of David the psychotic but obedient 12 year old soccer player). Basically, the Marshmallow test took a bunch of preschoolers, put them in a room one at a time, and plunked a single marshmallow on the table in front of them. Those who were patient (“The Marshmallow Waiters”) were able to eat two marshmallows. But those who were impatient (“The Marshmallow Grabbers”) got just a single marshmallow, plus a lifetime of being labeled as a negative example in an illustration.

But here’s the kicker: the study ended up expanding over the next 40 years, tracking these subjects through high school, college, and adulthood. The Marshmallow Waiters typically had higher grades, better SAT scores, and lasting relationships. The Marshmallow Grabbers were typically more dysfunctional, had higher behavioral problems, and followed Kim Kardashian on Twitter.

The NPR commentator then made this statement: “It would appear that self-control is hardwired, and that even by the age of four in a test as simple and insignificant as marshmallows, we can already tell the lifestyle that child will lead.”

So it seems. Or does it? Yes, I believe that there are behavior patterns in childhood that can serve as a predictor for later life. I believe that there are lots of times I see four-year-old-Danny resurfacing in 39-year-old-Danny. But Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that self-control is a fruit that grows. It’s not a fruit that we plant, cultivate or grow, but it’s a fruit that’s borne by the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer.

I don’t have innate self-control. But the Spirit within me makes it available.

I’m not a naturally patient person. But yielding to the Spirit can produce that patience.

There are days when I’m just not joyful. But there is a Helper that brings joy from a deeper source.

My name is Danny, and I’m a Marshmallow Grabber. You probably are, too. But that’s our old nature. That’s who we were. For the Christ follower, we’ve been given the gift of the Spirit, and the Spirit gives us the gift of self-control.

And love.

And joy.

And peace.

And kindness, and goodness, and faithfulness.

It’s not up to us.

It’s already been accomplished by Him.

You are not who you were.

[Bonus video: check out the updated version of the Marshmallow Test.]

I ran across this old post, and it brought back great memories not only of a Durham Performing Arts Center event nearly three years ago, but a reminder of how incredible the DPAC staff was during our recent Christmas Eve services. Not only does she get it, they all get it.

The experience from beginning to end was nothing short of spectacular.  Last Thursday I received an e-mail telling me about parking, area dining options, what time to arrive, etc.  At 3 PM yesterday I received an invitation to complete a guest satisfaction survey, which I did.  When we arrived on Sunday night, there were DPAC personnel everywhere, making sure we got where we needed to go.  The doors opened right on time, and we were handed off from one greeter to another until we arrived safe and sound at our seats.

Read the entire post.

If Days Could SpeakTrevin Wax beautifully encapsulates the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

The tears of those affected are unseen, because they never had the chance to cry. Their suffering is silent, captured only in ultrasound images that show them scurrying away from the intruding instruments determined to destroy and dismember their fragile bodies.

The cries of January 22 are drowned out by partisan powers of politics, the clanging of coins and cash, the frightful sight of moms and dads marching for the right to end the lives of their children, as if a baby were only a burden and not a blessing.

36 Hours in Durham, NCThe Dirty D is quickly becoming one of the South’s coolest cities. And now The New York Times knows it.

The tobacco and textile industries left their imprint on Durham long ago, but now the historic brick mills and repurposed factories form the backdrop of North Carolina’s re-energized Bull City. Recently, artist studios and upstart galleries have multiplied in the flourishing downtown area, where new bakeries, pizzerias, tapas bars and food trucks — and trailers and buses and even the odd tricycle — seem to surface at every turn. Since Big Tobacco is dead, consider this cool mix of culture and food the new Durham blend.

Awkwardly Dancing in Front of Strangers PrankJust because he can. (I’m 99% sure this is West Club Associate Campus Pastor Billy Lowe.) (HT Laughing Squid)

Last week Merriem and I celebrated our 20th anniversary. We capped the day by visiting a swanky steakhouse here in Durham (not because I’m lavish, but because somebody gave us a gift card). We’d been to this particular place once before. We love the food, we love the atmosphere, we love the ambience.

And we love the staff’s ability to create a great experience based on their knowledge of the menu and their attention to every detail. But on this particular night, our waiter didn’t seem to be able to bring the experience down to an appropriate level.

You see, we’re pretty simple people. Regardless of how much we like the food, that restaurant is outside of our comfort zone. And while I appreciate a waiter who wanted to give us “five star,” I would have settled for 4.2. This particular waiter was stiff, staid, and stoic. He recited the nightly specials with flawless perfection. He was always there in a moment when my water glass neared empty. He was the consummate gentleman, and yet he seemed really uncomfortable in his role. There was a point in the evening where Merriem wanted to say, “Hey, loosen the tie. Lighten up. Give the fancy pants schtick a rest and treat us like we’re in your living room.”

On the other end of the swanky restaurant scale, Chick-fil-A trains their front line employees on a scale called the “Mood Meter.” If a guest walks in the store, it’s the employees job to assess if they’re a 1 (really bad day) or a 10 (just won the lottery). Then the employee has the responsibility to bring them up the meter by one or two notches. If they’re a one, it’s probably inauthentic and unrealistic to try to get them to a ten. But a three? Yeah, a three seems like a realistic goal.

When a guest walks into your church on the weekend, you also have the responsibility to assess and respond. They could be walking out of the worst week of their lives. The chances of you getting them to their Best Life Now™ is not only unlikely, it’s could also be insensitive. That doesn’t mean you don’t encourage them through prayer, the ministry of the word of God, and the truth of the gospel, it simply means that you are sensitively applying the instruction of Romans 12:15. You’re neither ignoring nor downplaying their pain, but you’re meeting them where they are and moving them along the scale to a place of hope.

How’s your ability to appropriately assess, engage, and respond t0 the emotions of your guests?

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