May 2013

Recently I came across this comment from a first time guest. (You should know that I don’t make a habit of quoting FTGs on the blog. So if you’re a soon-to-be first timer, feel free to give your candid comments. I’ll probably keep those under my proverbial hat.)

…the pastor just highlighted a couple verses but for the majority he taught from quotes from other theologians. Would like to learn more about God’s Word – not necessarily inspirationaly quotes. We brought our bibles but we barely went from the Bible – even the pastor left his Bible on the podium while teaching, never picked it up.

If you’re a regular at the Summit, you’ll probably find that critique as out of place as I did. If our pastor is anything, he’s expositional. He preaches verse by verse, he expounds, he elucidates, he does other things that I would describe but my thesaurus isn’t handy right now.

But on the particular weekend this FTG showed up, there’s a chance that he didn’t do that quite as much as he normally does. And maybe it did come across a little…I don’t know…inspirationaly.

The point? Our honored FTG got one glimpse. But it was that glimpse that defined our pastor’s preaching style, whether it was indicative  of the norm or not, and whether it was true or not.

Your FTGs get those same glimpses of your church, too. They glimpse an unfriendly greeter…or an inattentive children’s volunteer…or a cluttered parking lot…or an unclear system…and regardless of whether or not it’s the norm on every other weekend, it’s the norm for them, on that weekend. And it tells them everything they need to know about your church, even though it might be the wrong thing.

What that means for us is that no weekend can be an “off” weekend, because no weekend will see an absence of first timers. We owe it to them to be prepared and ready every single week.

What feels inspirationaly at your church this week? What’s the “one chance” that you need to get right?

Two weeks.

Two. Glorious. Weeks.

That’s what it’s been since the last post. In that time, my girl and I got away for a few days to celebrate twenty years of marriage. It was five days of pure bliss. No cutting up food. No refereeing arguments. No potty training accidents. We remembered how much we really like each other (which is always a bonus after 20 years).

And then last week our team got away for a brief time for our semi-annual-sort-of-regular-did-we-forget-to-do-this-last-year staff retreat. Again: 2.5 days of not cutting up anyone’s food. Unless you count Rick Langston, who is getting old and sometimes takes a bite and forgets to chew.

But I digress. Our retreat took place at Ridgecrest Conference Center, the site of my 8th grade summer youth camp. Since that week in 1987 I’ve been back twice: once for an overnight trip and once to just drive through. So on Wednesday afternoon I tried to relive my middle school years and take a trip down memory lane…


This was the view outside the room in the Maple building where I stayed way back when. It was here that a bunch of dumb little 8th grade boys got into a full-scale pillow fight (the kind where bones get broken). It was here that my youth pastor Sam told us a really embarrassing story about the time he went to Hawaii (I probably can’t repeat it here). And it was here that half the guys in my group fell in love with half the girls from Philadelphia Baptist Church in Mississippi (believe it or not, I wasn’t in on that matchmaking session).

Ridgecrest2This is Spilman Auditorium. Jason Gaston and I had to talk a security guard into letting us in there, but I’m glad we did. This was the place where God planted some of the first stirrings of ministry in my heart. It was the place where our camp speaker preached a few messages that I still remember 26 years later. It was the place that many in our group experienced life change that we never quite got over.

We sing an old song around the Summit called Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. In it, there’s a line that says “Here I raise my Ebenezer / Here by Thy great help I’ve come / And I hope, by Thy good pleasure / Safely to arrive at home.” It’s a reference to the Old Testament account of the Israelite victory over the Philistines, when the Israelites placed a memorial stone to signify God’s grace to them.

Ridgecrest is one of many Ebenezers I can point to in my life…one of many places that I can look back on and remember God’s faithfulness during a crucial time of life. Some of those Ebenezers happened nearly three decades ago. Some three years ago. Some three days ago.

Ebenezers are important, because they give us a place to hang a little bit of significance, or attach a memory, or remember when God moved in a particularly fantastic way. I hope my kids will have some of those same Ebenezer moments they can point back to, whether that’s in our home, our church, or – like Ridgecrest – a camp experience.

How about you? What are the Ebenezers in your life? What are the places that hold a special memory for you? Comment below.

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