July 2013

It seems that everybody has a first time guest horror story.

You show up at a church for the first time and you’re either put on the spot, ignored, or confused. People don’t talk to you, or the pastor calls on you from the stage, or some other nightmarish scenario emerges to make even the most raging extrovert cringe in embarrassment.

I’ve both experienced and heard of a whole library of guest horror stories, and there’s one thing they all have in common: comfort. Nope, not the comfort of the guest (they’re sweatin’ bullets in the third pew back), but the comfort of the regulars.

Church people naturally tend to drift towards an inward focus. When they do, they forget that part of the purpose of the weekend is to serve as a front door to the community. And so – being inwardly focused – they pursue things that guarantee their own comfort: insider language. Insider traditions. Insider everything.

Comfort for insiders will always lead to discomfort for outsiders. When the weekend starts to revolve around our likes, our preferences, our comfort, it will naturally make outsiders feel like…outsiders.

But the reverse is true as well: comfort for outsiders can mean discomfort for insiders. We have to think about our processes and systems. We have to remember that there are others in the room. We have to change what we’re doing because we realize it’s not all about us.

So who do you want to make uncomfortable this weekend? The people you’re trying to reach? Or the people who are already in the pews?

Something to pray about.

Nothing good ever begins with the words “Don’t…anybody…move…”

And yet, those fifteen letters are what started the entire adventure last Friday night. It was sometime after 11 PM. The whole family – sans the Princess – was up way too late, hanging out in the living room watching Monk reruns and playing on iDevices.

And then Jacob, our 17 year old firstborn, said those three terror-striking words, bringing the night of merriment and mirth to a screeching halt.

My wife, who has never adhered to those three words out of sheer obedience but only abject terror, whispered like a camper in a Friday the 13th movie: “WHAT IS IT? WHAT DID YOU SEE?”

Jacob had seen the newest guest at the Franks household: a smallish field mouse that somehow found his way into our fireplace, from which he decided he’d emerge.

At 11:30 PM.

When I should be in bed.

But I wouldn’t be.

For a very long time.

Merriem has never been known for her athletic prowess (that’s one of the reasons we go together like peas and lazy carrots). And yet, at the mention of “mouse crawling out of a fireplace,” she leapt straight up off of the couch as if she’d been ejected from an abandoned fighter jet and catapulted herself backwards into the kitchen, where she landed on the countertop with the dexterity of Mary Lou Retton, circa 1984.

Merriem & the MouseThat’s where I snapped the picture. That’s where she stayed for the next 30 minutes or an hour or three weeks, I can’t really be sure. It could be because I was distracted with the following helpful comments:


Me: “Well babe, that’s sort of the plan. I wasn’t going to domesticate him and ask him to apologize for the trauma he’s caused.”


Me: “Getting my phone. This is going on Twitter.”


Me: “Um, is that your phone? What are you typing?”

She: (no longer speaking in caps) “Putting the picture you took on Facebook.”

Me: [intentionally overlooking the irony in order to avoid death]

She: (shuddering with her every-30-seconds case of the violent willies) “What are you doing now?”

Me: “Trying to find him. Nobody saw him go back into the fireplace. He’s probably hiding behind the TV.”

She: (going back to caps to stress the severity of the situation) “YOU ARE NOT GOING TO CHASE THAT THING AROUND THE KITCHEN. SO HELP ME IF IT RUNS OVER HERE I. WILL. KILL. YOU.”

Me: “I…”


At this point, it was all over. I laughed harder than I’d laughed since – well, since ten minutes earlier when she pole-vaulted to the kitchen.

That didn’t help matters, if you get my domestic altercation drift.

The next half hour was filled with exactly what you think it would be filled with: four Franks men wandering around the house with weaponry and blue face paint shouting “FREEEEEEDOMMMMM” and trying to track down and inflict damage on our rodent friend. And also gently tossing mouse-sized objects in the direction of our wife and mother, who was so busy having multiple heart attacks she didn’t even notice.

We were also Googling questions about how mice get into fireplaces in the first place. Did they crawl onto the roof? Did they use very tiny ladders? Were they simply recreating the chimney sweep scene from Mary Poppins when things got out of hand?

And the biggest question…how could we get rid of them? The collective answer from The Internet was steel wool. Steel wool? Yes. Steel wool. It told me to take steel wool and shove it up into the chimney flue. Apparently our particular mouse was frightened as a young child by a robotic sheep.

I digress.

I scoured through the garage for every trap I’ve ever owned, positioning them in a stockade across the fireplace. No mouse was getting in. No mouse was getting out. And then I gave my panic-stricken bride a piggyback ride across the kitchen and then performed a search-and-destroy mission throughout the bedroom, just in case Mickey had made it that far. She took a sleep aid or perhaps drank hard liquor for the first time in her life. I can’t be sure.

The next morning, I awoke to the sight of my fallen rodent comrade. The smell of Jif peanut butter had proven to be too much, and he stepped into eternity from the launching pad that is my fireplace.

Sadly, the death of one did not make up for the fact that THERE MAY BE MORE. So that evening I bought even more traps, ensuring that every corner, crevice, entrance, and square inch of our house is adequately covered with the very real possibility of spring-loaded death.

Don’t anybody move.

Last week I was talking to a guy who has virtually no first impressions experience, at least in the church world. But it was immediately obvious that he was a Who that already understood the Why. He valued people. He understood how to make them feel valued. And he knew that the end game was not a good parking spot or a hot cup of coffee, but a distraction-free worship experience that pointed people towards the gospel.

Those are the Whos that you want to have on your team. Those are the Whos that you unapologetically steal from other ministries, set a huge vision in front of them, and then turn them loose to run after it.

It’s that Who that you want to pursue.

Read the entire original post here.

A Greater IdentityAs a white American, I’m not sure I’ll ever completely understand my African American brothers’ and sisters’ hurt over the outcome of the recent Zimmerman trial. Earlier this week, a wise friend tried to guide me through the reality of the pain that surrounded the trial. Not the Martin / Zimmerman situation particularly, but the fact that our nation is still so racially divided.

This post by my friend Casey Chappell takes the perspective of a white mother of a transracial family. Casey astutely points us towards the only solution in the fight for racial equality: the cross of Jesus Christ.

My heart has been heavy because of the extensive conversations about race… I have cried over the ignorance on both sides and yelled at the TV because I wish people could hear how they sound… I’ve said enough and turned the thing off and even then my thoughts race.  It’s frustrating and even comes with a lot of cognitive dissonance because I can’t just think as a mom or a white person… I have to think as a white mom to a black person.


Seven Seconds to Make a First Impression. (ForbesFirst impressions count…inside the church and out. Here’s what people thing about you in the first few moments.

First impressions are more heavily influenced by nonverbal cues than verbal cues. In fact, studies have found that nonverbal cues have over four times the impact on the impression you make than anything you say.


How to Become the British Monarch. Just in case you wondered how this Royal Baby thing works out…

By now most of y’all know that I use this blog to think out loud. Well, “out loud” if you have a fancy way of making your computer device read to you. Or if you have a butler so you don’t have to be bothered by things like reading. (In that case, I hope he’s British because I’ll bet that would make this content sound 23% smarter.)

I digress.

Here’s my thinking out loud post for the day. Fall is coming. And with Fall usually comes a big need for new volunteers. Every summer, pastors across the land are scouring the church roll and beating the bushes to get someone…anyone…to work with eighth grade boys. (News flash: no one is ever going to work with eighth grade boys. Give it up.)

I believe that we typically go about the volunteer search all wrong. I think that there are three ways that we can invite and retain more volunteers:

1. Soft sell

We can scare off volunteers by releasing too much information too soon. Americans are typically afraid of commitment; ask any guy who’s ever tried to muster the courage to buy a diamond. That’s why I think we should give potential volunteers an easy on ramp. Explain the opportunity. Invite them to get more information. And promise there will be no obligation.

We should provide potential vols the chance to ask questions before signing a contract. If they’re pressured into a decision, that decision usually won’t last.

Our model: we’ll frequently invite potential volunteers to attend a training – say, First Impressions – with no expectation required beyond that. Almost every month we’ll have people show up who “just want information.”


2. Deep vision

Once a potential vol shows up for training, we bring out the big guns and unload on ’em with both barrels. The strongest vision you ever give for any volunteer ministry should be at their initial orientation. That’s your first opportunity to enlarge their heart towards what you want for them. If your orientation is boring as C-Span and dry as toast, then you deserve to have a lack of volunteers. Tell stories, share wins, feed them, for crying out loud, and bring them into the inner circle so they feel like owners in the ministry.

Our model: we offer a once-per-month First Impressions training that’s designed to share the “why” behind the “what.” It’s a 75 minute, high-energy vision session that focuses on touch, not task. 


3. Big ask

By the end of your training / orientation / whatever, you should have sold your vision so strongly that a volunteer is itching to join the team. True, you’ve said there’s no obligation, and you should stick to your word. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t end with a big ask. Lay out the expectations for a volunteer, explain the commitment level required, and give them an opportunity to sign on to be a part of perpetuating the vision.

Our model: there are a lot of “big asks” at the end of a training: attend one, serve one. Commit to a weekly schedule. Serve outside of your comfort zone. We set the bar high so the team’s quality will continue to increase.

Soft sell. Deep vision. Big ask. Is there one of those that is off base? Anything you’d add? I’d love your input (I am, after all, thinking out loud here). Comment below.

There’s a “Keller Clause” in the contract of all Summit employees. Because he and our lead pastor are besties, we have to quote Keller roughly every 20 minutes, or our tithing rate goes up significantly.

The following is a guest post by Clayton Greene, the First Impressions Director for Brier Creek’s North Venue on Sunday mornings (try fitting that on a business card). Clayton is one of the braniacs behind why we do much of what we do in the realm of guest services. If you’re looking for a robust theological defense of guest services, you’re going to love this:

I was recently reading Center Church by Tim Keller. This book, without directly mentioning first impressions, gives a framework for the necessity of intentional planning for your guests each weekend.  Chapter 23, “Connecting People to God,” is one of the chapters full of wisdom in encountering the outsider, specifically at your weekend worship gathering.

About halfway through the chapter Keller switches from talking about worship preferences to talking about what characteristics describe an evangelistic worship service.  The thesis of this section is that “The weekly worship service can be very effective in evangelism of non-Christians and in edification of Christians if it is both gospel centered and in the vernacular.” (ironically, I had to look up the word vernacular, which means “native language”.  Apparently vernacular is not in my native language)

He talks about Acts 2 and how the worship of believers should be attractive to outsiders.  This attraction can and should lead to conviction and conversion, therefore making the worship evangelistic.

In the last section he talks about making worship comprehensible to nonbelievers.  Here are some of the gold mines for why we do first impressions.

He starts off saying “our purpose is NOT to make the nonbeliever “comfortable.”  They will not be comfortable because as 1 Cor 14 and Acts 2 say, “a non-believer will be convinced by all that he is a sinner” and that “the secrets of his heart will be laid bare.”  These descriptions of a nonbeliever in a worship service describe anything but comfortable.  However, it is a conviction of the heart that is the goal here.  What he does not encourage is any personal offense other than the gospel.

Keller goes on to say we need to “speak respectfully and sympathetically to people who have difficulty with Christianity.”  He also says, “it is extremely important that the nonbeliever feels we understand them.”  Essentially, everything about our time together in and surrounding a worship service should be sensitive to the guest to allow the offense and un-comfortableness come from gospel application to the heart.

He goes on to discuss which truths of the gospel are discussed each week in their services and why some truths may not be discussed on Sunday morning.  Some truths are left out on Sunday morning because they are applications or truths that must come from the basis of an understanding of the gospel.  Although some truths may be left out, he says they are not pulling any punches with the nonbeliever in the service.  He says the truths they teach “are not only theologically substantial; they are also controversial.  But we are choosing to contend and argue for the basic truths of the faith, of the gospel.”  “Evangelistic worship is not avoiding the bold proclamation of the truth; rather, it is leading with the offense of the gospel instead of with the truths that are predicated on the gospel.” 

At the Summit, on our first impressions teams, we always say, “the sermon starts in the parking lot”.  So let me apply this discourse on the truths discussed in the sermon to what happens in the parking lot.

For our guests, we don’t want to lead the sermon off (in the parking lot) with any offense other than the offense of the basic truths of the gospel that will be on display through the worship and spoken truths of the worship gathering.  This is why our number one plumbline for what we do on the first impressions team is, “The Gospel is offensive, Nothing else should be.”

Are you allowing your worship service to offend the hearts of nonbelievers with the truths of the gospel?  Or is something else offending them before they even find their seat?

“Preachers of LA” brings the prosperity gospel to reality TV~sigh~ I’m not even sure where to begin with this. But I do like Joe Carter’s response over at the Gospel Coalition blog.

“P. Diddy, Jay-Z, they’re not the only ones who should be driving Ferraris and living in large houses,” says cast member Bishop Ron Gibson, a former gang member who now ministers to 4,500 people each week at Life Church of God in Christ.

“The Bible says that those of us who sow among us should reap from us, that’s implying that preachers should be taken care of,” says Senior Pastor of The Sanctuary of Huntington Beach Pastor Jay Haizlip, who is also on the show.

What’s actually inside an average cup of coffee. (HT Laughing Squid) Mmmmm…cockroach pheromones.

Lights catch fire during a stand-up comedy routine(HT Lance Murphy) This guy handles an emergency interruption like a pro. I wanna be like him when I grow up.

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

This weekend I was honored to preach at the Summit’s Brier Creek Campus. I’m taking a few days this week and unpacking some further ideas from the message. I do this because (a) I’m a pretty lazy blogger and don’t feel like thinking up new stuff this week and (b) I had more stuff I wanted to say this weekend, but not enough time to say it (doggone you, countdown clock!). If you get the notion, you can listen to the entire message here

Maybe you grew up in a church like mine, where your pastor preached a 147 week series a couple of times a year on how to discover your spiritual gift, with an exhaustive explanation on everything from prophecy to prayer and teaching to tongues (scratch that, Baptists don’t do tongues). And maybe, like me, you spent more than your fair share of years wondering exactly what your spiritual gift was. It was like Christmas every time you took another spiritual gifts test: “I hope I get discernment this time! I’ll bet it’s discer…aw man! Celibacy again!”

I think our spiritual gifts quests can be misguided at times. We spend so much energy trying to pinpoint exactly what our gift is, we unnecessarily  delay the way in which God wants to use us. We’re so busy filling out surveys that we’re not actually serving.

Paul gives us a four-word commandment in Romans 12:6: “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…

That’s it. Just use them. But use what? Because let’s face it, if you can’t piece together an outline and people fall asleep when you speak, you might not have the gift of teaching. If you’ve never put together a to-do list and constantly misplace your left shoe, administration might not be your bag.

Here’s how to figure out how God has wired you and what your spiritual gift is: jump in. Do something. Serve in some small way, and let God illuminate you as to whether it’s something you should keep doing.

Not good enough for you type-A people? Oh, alright. Here’s a list of questions you can ask yourself as you’re serving:

  1. Am I passionate about what I’m doing? It’s going be hard to work with kids if you’re scared of kids. Or worse yet…if they’re scared of you.
  2. Do others affirm this as a gift? What do people in your small group, friends in your circle, co-servants on your team say about your service? They may be the best ones to help you spot your strengths or weaknesses.
  3. Is my service pointing others to Jesus? There’s a huge difference between self-glorifying talent and humble, gospel-driven service. Make sure you’re building God’s kingdom, not your own.
  4. Does my service lead me to Jesus? I believe that when we’re serving out of our giftings, we’re truly engaging in worship.

So that’s it. Just serve. Jump in. Explore a few ministries until you find one that you think you’re cut out for. Try out your church’s guest services team. Park a few cars or open a few doors and see if that sticks. Or volunteer in the kids’ ministry. Or sign up to serve in the downtown shelter or go on a short term mission trip or…you get the picture.

If you attend the Summit and still aren’t sure what’s out there, you might start here.

This weekend I was honored to preach at the Summit’s Brier Creek Campus. I’m taking a few days this week and unpacking some further ideas from the message. I do this because (a) I’m a pretty lazy blogger and don’t feel like thinking up new stuff this week and (b) I had more stuff I wanted to say this weekend, but not enough time to say it (doggone you, countdown clock!). If you get the notion, you can listen to the entire message here

You don’t have to live in Church World very long before you realize that Professional Church People are pretty intent on getting you to do stuff: volunteer in the nursery. Teach the 7th grade boys’ class. Set up tables for the 41st Annual Bake Sale and Turkey Shoot. As a matter of fact, if you’re not careful your name will be on every volunteer list and sign up form and database that’s existed since St. Peter chartered First Baptist Jerusalem.

The tactics that pastors and ministry leaders use can be just as varied as the volunteer positions themselves: announcements. Pleas. Begging. Cajoling. And guilt trips? Oh man, way too many pastors are certified travel agents for guilt trips.

Let’s be honest: guilt is a great motivator. It’ll get you out of your pew and into a volunteer spot quicker than you can say Vacation Bible School Craft Room. But guilt will hardly bring you to maturity. You’ll never grow through guilt. You never serve out of joy. You may never know if you’re actually serving where you’re wired.

Paul spoke to this in Romans 12:6: “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…” Paul had spent the first eleven chapters of his letter to the church at Rome explaining the doctrine of grace: what it is, who it’s about, why we need it, and why we can’t live without it. It’s grace that caused God to send Jesus to reconcile us to himself. It was grace that Jesus displayed on the cross. And it’s by grace through faith that we’re saved.

But after salvation, grace remains, and grace must rule. The gifts that we have, we have because of grace. The way that we serve others is out of an overflow of grace in our lives. Paul knew that. And he knew that no amount of bully pulpiteering would ever replace our awakening to God’s grace and our gifts.

We don’t serve because we’re guilted to, but because we get to. 

So take it from a Professional Church Person: you have permission to no longer serve because you’ve been begged. You have liberty to dodge the guilt trip. Instead, look to the grace you’ve been given, and discover how God can use you as a conduit of his grace to others. When that happens, no one will need to push you to serve. As a matter of fact, no one will be able to keep you from serving.

We serve because we’ve been served. We love because we’ve been loved. And when those things are true, we’ll always point people to Jesus.

This weekend I was honored to preach at the Summit’s Brier Creek Campus. I’m taking the next day or three and unpacking some further ideas from the message. I do this because (a) I’m a pretty lazy blogger and don’t feel like thinking up new stuff this week and (b) I had more stuff I wanted to say this weekend, but not enough time to say it (doggone you, countdown clock!). If you get the notion, you can listen to the entire message here

It’s no secret that the Summit is a big church. And with a big church comes lots of options, a relative amount of influence in the community, a wide reach into missional endeavors, and a decent sized budget.

None of those things are insidiously bad. It’s not necessarily bad to want to get a good parking spot or sit in a comfortable chair or to be led by a great worship leader or to hear the “real” preacher preach when you show up. Those aren’t bad desires.

Where it turns bad is when what we desire turns into what we deserve. We deserve a nice facility. We deserve options to meet our every need. We deserve that our whims be met and our wants to be catered to and our preferences win out.

Entitlement will kill a church. It’ll kill an individual. It’ll kill a body of believers when we think we’ve arrived and the church exists to serve us. If it’s our world, we don’t serve others. Others exist to serve us.

Jesus busted up this entitlement mentality in Mark 10:45 when he said that the Son of Man came – not to be served – but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for others. If Jesus – arguably the one person in human history who deserved service – took on the form of a servant, shouldn’t we do the same?

I’m not sure what entitlement looks like for you. But I’ll tell you what it looks like for me: it looks like me believing I should have something better than others, simply because of our pecking order. It looks like me coasting by on what I can do based on my experience, rather than relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. It looks like me taking advantage of the perks that are offered to me by others. It looks like me talking to people much more than I listen to people.

Here are a few questions that will help us diagnose entitlement in our lives. Hopefully these will keep us from thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think (Romans 12:3).

  1. Do I believe that I am entitled to the good things that I have in life, or do I look on them as undeserved blessings of grace?
  2. Do I expect others (my family, co-workers, neighbors) to serve me? Do I ever consider serving them in return?
  3. Do I generously and regularly help others who have no way of “paying me back”?
  4. When I attend church, do I look out for my own best interests (where I park, where I sit, who I talk to, etc.), or that of our honored guests?
  5. Do I joyfully serve the body of Christ and our surrounding community, looking for opportunities to use the gifts that God has given me?
  6. Do I see myself as a conduit of grace to others, allowing God to use my skills, passion, and opportunities as fertile ground for him to work through me?
  7. Do I balk at being asked to help out in various ministries in the church or needs in my community?
  8. Do I ignore opportunities for service when they’re presented in church, believing that those are jobs for “someone else”?
  9. Is there a role or a job that I believe is beneath me or simply not worth my time?
  10. Am I prone to complain about perceived shortfalls in weekend ministries, or prone to jump in and see how God can use me?
  11. Do I serve out of pure and selfless motivation, or do I do it to be recognized by others?

What are some of the diagnostics I missed? Comment below.

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