June 2013

It happened again this week: I saw a really really bad church sign that was so bad, I had to pull over to snap a picture. Which reminded me of this post from a few years back:

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t weep bitter tears over the demise of the Crummy Church Signs blog.  The guy who ran that thing gave voice to a truth that I’ve always known: church signs are a bad idea.  Giving a church a marquee is like giving a dingo a baby…eventually, something’s going to go horribly wrong.

I was reminded of that truth earlier this week while driving down a rural road in the deep south.  (In the south, summer doesn’t officially begin until a church sign says, “Brother, if you think it’s hot here…”)

Read the entire post (and see some doozy examples).

Feeling lazy? You’re in luck. I’m not even going to make you do the heavy lifting of reading this week. You’re welcome.

(Remember, click on the bold print to see the original video.)

It’s called a lilac chaser(via Kem Meyer) Mind. Blown. This must’ve been what it was like to live in the 60’s. (Follow the link to get the instructions.)


Power-tripping preacher rebukes the video guy for having a bad attitude. (via TwentyTwo Words) Dang. This guy wasn’t paying attention in the “How to Win Friends and Influence People” workshop.


A couple’s quintessential conversation about dinner(via TwentyTwo Words) This is a great follow up to It’s Not About The Nail.

Yes, yes. I realize that summer break is roughly 1/3 over. But I’m just now getting around to some vacation reading, which means I’m just now getting around to my sort of annual suggested reading list.

“Why should we pay any attention to your book suggestions?!?” You shriek. Because Oprah is busy running a network and she doesn’t have time to oversee a book club, that’s why. Somebody has to step in, and I’m glad to do it.

So without further adieu, here are the top seven books I’ve read over the last few months. I highly recommend ’em for your beach reads…

Church Membership: How the World Knows Who Represents Jesus, Jonathan Leeman. Leeman gives a great view-from-the-pew perspective on why covenant membership is important. This is a required read for all of our Connections team this year.

Connect: How to Double Your Number of Volunteers, Nelson Searcy. Searcy is the king of church systems. He gives a great play-by-play of how to identify, invite, and retain the most important people in ministry: volunteer servants.

Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, Paul David Tripp. Perhaps the most spiritually challenging book I’ve ever read, Tripp squares off against the pastor’s common enemies of pride and self-sufficiency.

The Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide to Parenting, Bunmi Laditan. I finished this book a couple of days ago and was literally sore from laughing. I think I LOLed on all but about five pages. Seriously, if you’re a parent you have to buy this one. Funniest book I’ve ever read. Ever.

Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service, Ken Blanchard & Sheldon Bowles. If you serve retail customers or church guests, this book is a quick, easily-implemented read to change the way you look at both.

Red Letters: Living a Faith That Bleeds, Tom Davis. Davis’ Fields of the Fatherless was a game changer for me a few years back when Merriem and I were praying through adoption. He challenges the American church’s apathy towards the worldwide AIDS epidemic.

Sent: How One Ordinary Family Traded the American Dream for God’s Greater Purpose, Hilary Alan. This could be one of the most impactful “calling” books I’ve ever encountered. Hilary and her family are personal friends. I’ve had the privilege of observing them from God’s call on their family to their time overseas to their re-entry into stateside life. If you’ve never read a page-turning disciple-making story, this one’ll get you started.

What am I missing? What have you read lately that should be on my list? Comment below.

My little girl will turn three in August. She is the source of way too much laughter in our family. Her adorability seems to know no bounds, and she has her three big brothers, her mommy, and especially her daddy wrapped around her fingers.

Exhibit A: yesterday she and I were sitting in the van as the rest of the family had run into a store (Haven doesn’t “run into” a store. She will “run around” a store, “run amok” in a store, or “run a store owner’s nerves into the ground” in a store, but she never just “runs into” a store). So as she was sitting in the back seat, I hear

“I sorry, Daddy.”

“Um. Okay. What are you sorry for, baby?”

“I sorry I ate my cwayons.”

And sure enough, I look in the rearview mirror, and there she is, going to town on a Brick Red Crayola like it’s a piece of buttered corn on the cob. (At least she had the decency to peel it first.)

But I digress.

There are other times when her adorability doesn’t shine. There are times when the angelic halo gets a little tarnished and the horns start to come out. Take bath time, for example. Bath time is a delicate process around our house, because it involves a complex formula that includes 47 Bath Toys x 1 head of extremely curly hair + multiple girly hair products that I’m still not educated on ÷ dozens of primal screams when I try to comb the tangles out of aforementioned hair. By the time that process is over, she’s a wreck, I’m a wreck, the bathroom is a wreck, everything is a wreck.

And add to that that she employs a trick known as “slo-mo inchworm” as we’re going back to her room (think two-year old walking as slow as she can. Okay, slower. Even slower. You’ve got it.), and I’m usually pretty frazzled by that point.

I digress again.

It’s in those moments where Haven is a pro at spotting my frustration (perhaps the clenched teeth and bulging forehead veins have something to do with tipping her off). And in those moments, she almost always says three words:

“You happy, Daddy?”

When she first started saying that phrase, I used it as an opportunity for a pious teachable moment. “No baby, Daddy is not happy because you are being disobedient. You splashed water out of the tub onto the floor. You wouldn’t get out of the bathtub when I told you to, and I know you can walk faster than what you just did. So no, Daddy isn’t happy at all. You need to be obedient.”

But at some point over the last couple of months, my own Father convicted me with my words. He reminded me that my own obedience isn’t a prerequisite for his joy over me. My ability to walk the line doesn’t mandate his kindness towards me.

Before I knew him, he knew me.

Before I looked for him, he pursued me.

And even now when I’m willfully disobedient to him, he loves me.

He’s happy with me.

And so I’m training myself with my daughter. Do I want her to be obedient? Yes. But for her joy more than my own. My role is not to shame her into obedience by dangling my love in front of her like a carrot on a stick. My role is to love her on her good days and her bad days and her slo-mo inchworm days.

My goal is to listen for my daughter to say, “You happy, Daddy?” and be able to respond truthfully, joyfully, authentically:

“Yes baby. Daddy is happy, because your Daddy is glad you’re his little girl.”


The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17, ESV)

Often when I pray, I’ll pray through 1 Peter 5:5-7 as a reminder of how to walk through my day:

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

After reading and praying through that verse hundreds of times, I noticed something today that I’ve never seen before: the inextricable link between pride and anxiety.

Read the entire original post.

(Remember kiddies: bold print takes you to the original article!)

The Extravagant, Irrational PointMy friend and former Summit coworker Ashley Dickens wrote a phenomenal Fathers Day tribute to her dad. I’ve never met him, but I wanna be like him when I grow up.

To you Daddies out there—especially y’all with little girls—buy her flowers. Buy her so many flowers that no other man will ever be able to compete. They are expensive and unnecessary and will die in a week and that is the extravagant, irrational point. It is through your extravagant, irrational love that she will begin to understand the way that Jesus loves her. Eat everything that she proudly hands you as she’s learning to bake, and every once in a while ask for seconds. Wear the feather boa AND the floppy hat, and cheers her stuffed bunny rabbit when she invites you to tea. Tell her that she looks just beautiful every single morning. Let her see you read your Bible, but more importantly, let her see you value the God that gave it to you. Value that God above all of his gifts—above her Mother, above a comfortable life, above keeping her safe.

Pooch package gives your dog a $74,000 vacationProving that there are still people with far more money than sense.

“Being the leaders in luxury breaks for dogs, we wanted to be the first to offer the most spectacular luxury holiday a dog could wish for,” Paw Seasons founder Jenny Hytner-Marriott said in a press release.

Say it with baconTruer words? Never been spoken.


Once a month I get together with our Connections staff from all of our campuses. It’s a way-too-early discussion fueled by way-too-awful coffee that always yields way-too-awesome conversations. This morning was one of those.

The question of “who gets to serve?” was brought up. In other words, if an unbeliever comes to your church, should they be allowed to volunteer for various ministries? Or if a believer attends your church but have not yet submitted to membership, can they serve?

Although there are great and valid points on both sides of the issue, my opinion (and it is only that) is a resounding YES. Here’s why:

  1. Allowing non-members to serve allows them to take a safe first step. I’ve seen it hundreds of time in my tenure at the Summit: people think the church is a good fit for them, they think it’s a place where they want to put down roots, but they’re still timid. Unsure. “Prayerfully considering.” And so allowing them to join a team where they’ll get to know like-minded believers is a good thing. They build relationships, build community, and ultimately make a move towards formalized membership.
  2. Allowing unbelievers to serve immerses them in evangelistic environments. You will never see a Christian in their most authentic form until you put ’em in a parking vest and send them to an asphalt lot on a 95 degree day while they’re trying to dodge insane people with fish on their bumper. Mixing unbelievers with believers gives them the opportunity to live life with one another, and seeds are planted for the gospel.
  3. Allowing unbelievers to serve gives them a chance to see the “one anothers” in action. The New Testament is filled with “one anothers”…we’re to love one another, encourage one another, rebuke one another, send Farmville requests to one another (oh wait, that’s entirely unbiblical). Serving alongside one another lets them see a Christlike community in progress. Yes, they’re exposed to the bad as well as the good, but it seeds the ground for faith to grow.
  4. Allowing unbelievers to serve communicates “you matter.” We should never relegate unbelievers to the non-serving sidelines, as if they’re second tier citizens in the church world. True, they’re not yet citizens of the kingdom, yet they’ve already been gifted with talents, skill sets, and giftings that can be used for the kingdom. Our job as leaders is to develop all people – believers and unbelievers alike – but developing unbelievers with an eye towards moving them closer to Jesus.

Are there potential pitfalls in allowing unbelievers or non-members to serve? In the words of that great theologian Sarah Palin, you betcha. Not everyone should have access everywhere. I don’t want a non-member serving as a host in a membership class. That seems sort of hypocritical. And while an unbeliever would absolutely be allowed to park cars, help people find seats, or set up and tear down, we’d obviously restrict them from leading a small group or taking on a team leadership role.

I think the bottom line in this discussion is that we allow unbelievers and non-members to serve with intentionality. And that intentionality comes from us more than it comes from them. If we maintain an “anybody can serve” mentality, then ministry leaders need to know the status of everyone on their team. Who’s not a believer? Who needs to (eventually) become a member? Regular audits of our team will keep us from being lulled into a false sense of security that our teams have “arrived.”

I’d love your thoughts. Fire away. Comment below.

On Friday, we had the brilliant idea that we’d make the short trip down 85 to spend the day at the North Carolina Zoo. We took Haven once last year, but felt like – now that she’s almost three – she would have the maturity to appreciate the finer things of the biological wonderland known as God’s caged creation.

And true to form, my princess was more than excited. For two hours, this is what we heard from the back seat:

We go to the zoo? We see bears? We at the zoo yet? Is that the zoo? We see efefants? We go to the zoo? We see…

(You get the picture.)

So there we were: the all-American family, walking through the gates of the zoo, ready for a day of fun and family bonding.

Until we rented the stroller.

You see, we ditched Haven’s stroller a few months back. She’s highly mobile (translated: she never stops moving and has the hyperactivity of a ferret on Red Bull) and usually walks / runs / lunges / catapults alongside us just about anywhere we go, unless we decide to strap her down in the bacterial rodeo known as a grocery cart. But for the zoo, we felt like having a free roaming two year old in close proximity to carnivores could be a bad idea, if you get my afternoon feeding time drift.

So we ponied up the eight bucks to rent an Official North Carolina Zoo Stroller, which for that price was hopefully hand crafted out of illegally-poached rhino horns.

And Haven loved the stroller…for exactly 4.2 seconds. But it was one of those low-slung strollers, and she couldn’t quite figure out that she was supposed to be scooted all the way back in the seat. Instead, she shoved her little rear end up to where her feet were supposed to go, which meant her feet were dragging the ground in front of the stroller, which means every time her toe would catch we’d roll up over her legs and occasionally throw her face-first onto the sidewalk.

We see the bears? Are dose the efefants? We going to see the *thwock* WAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!

It was somewhere around the chimpanzee exhibit that I decided to confront and correct the foot-dragging scenario. I calmly asked Haven to scoot back in her stroller. She calmly pretended I didn’t exist. I asked stronger. She pretended stronger.

So finally, I stopped the stroller in the middle of the sidewalk, moved around in front of her, knelt down, got nose to nose, and in my best I Am Still In Control Of This Moment But Don’t Want To Be Turned In To The Authorities voice, told her that we wouldn’t move from that spot until she did what daddy said.

And then we experienced what can only be explained as the scream heard ’round the world. Birds scattered. Lions roared. Chimpanzees screeched. And crocodile tears flowed. You would have thought that I’d amputated the child’s leg giving her nothing more than a twig from a nearby tree to bite down on.

IMG_3394But I persevered. I outlasted the crying and the tears and I remained Calm And In Control and did my best to act like an adult. True, it was in that moment that I realized that 80% of my parenting strategy is to ignore the disapproving stares of people who do not have children while I am in a Mexican standoff with my daughter, but that’s the price I’m willing to pay.

I’m happy to tell you that I survived that moment and Haven and I went on to join the rest of the family, who were convinced they were going to have to leave us at the zoo and start a new life without us. And I’m also happy to say that Haven rallied and ended up enjoying the rest of the day’s zoo-related activities.

At least until the ice cream cone fell on the sidewalk exactly six seconds after I bought it, but that’s another story.

We’re on the heels of the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2013 meeting in Houston. The following post was written just prior to the 2010 meeting in Orlando.

Our church doesn’t have the name “Baptist” in our moniker, even though we are one.  Although there are various reasons for that, one of the main benefits is that people are willing to give us a fair shake – something they may not do if they walked in with preconceived ideas of what we’re like (“Hey, no old hymnal smell?  Well, very nice.  Very nice indeed.”)  For us, one part of being Baptist means that we’re associated with a tremendous network of churches that partner together to send church planters all over the globe.

The SBC isn’t all bad.  Remember, Southern Baptists have given us great Vacation Bible School themes like Far Out Far East Rickshaw Rally: Racing to the Son.  Let’s see the Lutherans pull of something like that, especially after all the drinking.

Read the entire post.

Are you preparing for growth? (via Steven Kryger) Being a part of a rapidly-growing church for the last decade, I can attest that growth is messy. Sometimes painful. Not always a lot of fun. But part of managing growth is preparing for it.

Let me be clear, by God’s grace, churches continue to grow, usually in spite of us, not because of us. However, this doesn’t mean churches shouldn’t prepare for growth in order to care for the new people as best as possible. Churches should be stewards of the people resources that God kindly provides.

Anchorman and reporter exchange insults live on air. (via TwentyTwoWords) There has to be a leadership lesson here, there just has to be. But I’m so painfully uncomfortable I can’t figure out what it is.


And in honor of Flag Day… (via Laughing Squid) I want to hire this kid. Calm and decisive in the face of crisis? We need more of that. (Skip to the one minute mark to get to the goodies.)

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