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?

Hey campers: I’m working on a new blog series that’ll debut soon, and I need your help.

If you’re a small church, big church, or in-between church, chances are your guest services team needs tweaking. Shoot, maybe it needs to be built from the ground up. (And in worst-case scenarios, maybe it needs to be mercifully killed and then resurrected to look a lot different!)

If you could ask one question (“Who do you use for exterior signage?”) or broach a broad topic (“Where do you start when recruiting volunteers?”), what would it be? No question is too large or too small, so fire away. Let’s get to the nitty gritty of what’s helpful to you.

Leave a comment below or email me directly at the “Make Contact” tab above. Either way, we’ll tackle as many as we can over the next few weeks.

(And by the way, if you’re newish to the blog but work in the area of connections ministry, please let me know you’re here.)

While you’re waiting anxiously on those Inauguration Day parades (complete with the Joe Biden balloons, if we’re lucky), here are some  useless Inauguration Day facts to make you smarter:

  1. George Washington’s second inaugural address was the shortest in history, clocking in at 135 words long (of all his pre-presidency careers, one was not a Southern Baptist preacher).
  2. Ronald Reagan was the first president to take his oath on the West Front of the US Capitol. Prior to that, oaths had been taken on the east side, in Philadelphia, even in New York City (probably at the original Ray’s Pizza).
  3. In a cost-cutting measure, this year’s inaugural budget is only $1.237 million, down from $1.24 million in 2009 (the extra $.01 million was spent on Aretha’s hat).
  4. John Q. Adams did not use a Bible for his oath, but a book of law that contained the constitution (I guess he forgot about Leviticus).
  5. William Henry Harrison gave the longest inaugural speech in history (8,445 words) in March. In a snowstorm. For two hours. Without a coat. (He died 31 days later. His last words were reportedly, “You were right, dear.”)
  6. A total of 147 horses will participate in today’s parade (which comes as a total shock to Obama the debater, who didn’t know we had that many).
  7. During JFK’s inauguration, the podium caught fire while Cardinal Richard Cushing was delivering the invocation (thus proving that God is not a Catholic).
  8. If you donated $50,000 to the 2013 inaugural fund, you were awarded with a photo session with the President & Mrs. Obama and Vice President and Dr. Biden (for 60 grand they’d lock crazy Uncle Joe in a closet).
  9. In 1865, VP Andrew Johnson had one too many glasses of whiskey before he took the podium, and was obviously drunk (several members of Congress were so inspired, they started drinking and haven’t stopped since).
  10. Ben’s Chili Bowl, a famous DC landmark, prepared 1,000 gallons of chili in advance of today’s event (insert your own politicians-are-already-full-of-gas joke here).

Sources: About.com, ABCNews.com, Time.com


(Photo courtesy of Noah’s Facebook page)

By now most of the Summit Church knows about Noah Bacon, one of our 16 year old covenant members who was in a serious accident yesterday. But even if you’re not a part of the Summit, I’d appreciate it if you’d read the following and spend a few minutes this morning praying for him.

On Thursday morning, Noah was driving to school when he was in a single car accident, left the road and hit a tree. He’s currently in Duke’s pediatric ICU where he is in a medically induced coma. He has multiple fractures to his face and skull, a broken collarbone, and numerous lacerations. The medical team said that the first 48 hours after the accident will be critical in determining any lasting injury to his brain.

Noah and his family have been good friends of ours since coming to the Summit. We’ve been in small groups together, been on overseas mission trips together, Austin and Noah played on baseball and basketball teams together, and until he got his license in November, Noah, Jacob, and Austin carpooled to school together.

Please pray:

  • For the pressure on Noah’s brain. Pray that the swelling will go down (doctors say it will get worse before it gets better) and there will be no lasting brain injury.
  • For Noah’s anxiety as they bring him out of his coma. Pray that he will remain calm as he gains understanding of what has happened.
  • For Bob & Clarissa, Noah’s parents, and Jean Ann, his sister. Pray that they will not be given to despair, but will trust in God’s sovereignty even in this.
  • For the medical team. Noah is surrounded by the best of the best. Pray that their wisdom will continue to emanate from the Great Physician.

On a side note, it was an amazing thing to see the church in action yesterday. There was a constant stream at Duke all day long, and the vast majority were not the “paid professionals,” but the Bacon’s small group, friends from the West Club Campus, and folks that they serve with on the weekend. And of course, the Bacons held true to their normally encouraging nature, leaving everybody wondering who was ministering to whom.

For more updates on Noah, check out The City, the Summit’s online communications portal.

Update: 9:00 PM, 1/18/13.

Noah has shown some improvements today. They have begun weaning him from the sedation meds and are waiting for him to start responding. There’s been slight arm and hand movements and he took a couple of breaths on his own this afternoon.

His intracranial pressure has decreased – a very good sign. The “bad” number is 30, and since last night he’s gone from 11 to 14 to 5.

They’re bringing in a specialist to check out possible damage to his eye. He took a pretty good hit in the wreck and they want to make sure there’s no lasting damage to it.

Update: 6:00 PM, 1/20/13.

Noah is still holding steady and showing improvement. He’s had a good couple of days and is still responding to the medical team’s pokes and prods. Translated: they’re aggravating him. :)

While he’s still unconscious, he has been taking a few more breaths on his own. The doctors are satisfied with where he is, and said that the five day mark (Tuesday) is entirely appropriate for him to remain in the same state he is now.

Some of you have asked how you can best help Bob, Clarissa, and Jean Ann while they wait. Here are three ways:

  1. Leave a comment below, letting them know (a) who you are and (b) where you’re from. They’ve been so encouraged by knowing that people are praying for them all over the globe.
  2. Consider donating gift cards to local restaurants in the area around the hospital, or better yet – a Visa or MasterCard gift card that can be used anywhere (hospital cafeteria, parking garage, etc.) Also, Bob is getting his regular Starbucks fix and there just so happens to be one on the main floor. If you can’t get by the hospital, you can mail them to the church office: Summit Church, ATTN: Noah Bacon Family, 2335 Presidential Drive, Suite 114, Durham, NC 27703.
  3. Once Noah is in a step down room it will be easier for them to accommodate some pre-packaged snacks, bottled drinks, etc. in their room. The waiting room right now is a bit on the small side, so it’s hard to fit all the donations that are coming in.

Update: 10:00 PM, 1/22/13.

I just heard from Bob, who asked me to cut and paste the following from his Facebook page:

Great day for noah, CT scan came back with no additional injuries from accident. He moved all of his body parts and breathed on his own for a couple of minutes. His eyes were fluttering as well. Still not conscious. Please continue to pray as they lower medications that we will start to see some reaction.

In addition, our West Club Campus has set up a Food Tidings page in order for meals to be brought to Duke’s cafeteria for the Bacons. There are 2 links: one for LUNCH and one for DINNER.



Update: 10:00 PM, 1/23/13.

From Bob’s Facebook update:

Noah had a great day today. Movements and breathing have been good. They are looking to flush the plumbing overnight. They are going to change meds in the early am and then neuro will look to wake him up and evaluate we hope before 7am. Please be in prayer for him as this is going to be a next big step for us

[12:00 PM, 1/30/13] 

Sorry for the awful delay in updating on Noah’s condition. The past week has seen some major steps forward. While Noah is still unconscious, the doctors say that the rest is doing his body a great deal of good. However, they’re adjusting meds to maybe help him wake up.

Facial surgeries started on Monday, a full 7-10 days before they thought he’s be ready. Noah had a cheekbone reconstructed and got a good face and hair wash to boot! His right eye is back to normal; left eye is fully dilated, but they’re at a standstill until he comes to.

Biggest news yet: Noah is in a step down unit now that he’s breathing on his own. That’s a huge praise for Bob & Clarissa as well.

Keep praying, and keep leaving comments below to let the Bacons know you’re praying.



[10:00 PM, 1/31/13…the latest from Bob’s Facebook page]

Noah had another good quiet day today. Physical therapy went very well today. Although he is still not responding to commands as of yet, he was still able to work with the PT folks and have both heels on a bench and had his eyes tracking the therapist while they were working with him. It does look like we are now done with the facial surgeries for a while. The doctors are very pleased with his recovery of the orbital bone. They are looking to put in a feeding tube into his stomach area the next a few days. This will be a quick surgery to have this done.

Earlier this evening we did “face time” with Noah and his girlfriend, and it was absolutely amazing to see his reaction to this. He actually opened up BOTH eyes for a moment and started to move forward to the phone. What a praise to see him active like this.

Prayer requests for us:
* we want Noah to start responding to our commands. So much of his treatments are now becoming dependant on him being able to tell the doctors what are going on
* we need to start looking for a rehab facility for him. We have narrowed this to one in Charlotte or wake med n Raleigh. We are going to tour the wake med unit on Friday.

Please know that your prayers are being felt by Noah. To see where he is just 2 weeks removed from the accident. We serve a great and powerful God, and we give him all of the praise for where we are.

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