August 2013

Sometimes I go back and read old posts, and realize how badly I still stink – years later – at putting what I wrote into practice. This is one of ’em.

When evangelism creeps into the realm of the “big deal,” it becomes something we’re scared of.  It becomes a topic that is relegated not just to the back burner, but to that little portable propane burner that you took on a Boy Scout camping weekend when you were in middle school and now is chock full of spider webs and fossilized centipedes.  Big Deal Evangelism means that we avoid the topic just like we would avoid selling our I Heart Rush Limbaugh bumper stickers in the middle of a Kennedy family gathering or how we would avoid saying to a woman, “So tell me about your upcoming elective surgery.”

Read the entire post.

Process Practice: Do You Get It? (via @robertvadams) Everybody seems to have good ideas while in the shower. Bob shows us how to generate those kinds of “aha” moments by hardwiring them into our teams.

Inspiration generates ideas, and the process helps to shape efforts in a way to keep the team moving towards a fully developed idea.


Dear Friends of Waiting Adoptive Moms: Some Things You Need To Know (and also, we’re sorry) (HT @rjdoherty) Some great prayer points in here if you’re friends with families who are adopting.

We’re moms without children. It’s an ache that doesn’t go away. It starts before we see their faces and only ends when they’re in our arms. So, we walk about with half our heart missing. It’s hard to breathe, to think, to speak. Something always feels missing. Because they are.


Breanna and the Quarterback (via @_michaelkelley) I’m not much of a football fan (that’s the ball with the pointy ends, right?), but I agree with Michael: this guy just became my favorite college player. I dare you not to cry.

…every few weeks, University of Memphis quarterback Jacob Karam volunteers at St. Jude children’s hospital. He doesn’t do it through any programs at his school. He’s there on his own, playing games with the kids, organizing crafts, and playing the piano either with the kids or as background music as families eat.


This thing is really happening.

After months of planning, weeks of fine-tuning details, and hours upon hours of thinking through every last contingency, we’re almost ready for Church at the Ballpark. It’ll be the biggest worship service the Summit has ever hosted, and an opportunity for the church to gather in one location.

As with any Summit event, this one is going to take an army of volunteers. We’ve identified spots for well over 1,000 people serving in various capacities. Here’s the skinny:

  • Set up. Help load in First Time Guest tents, Summit Kids’ supplies, and hundreds of towels for baptisms.
  • First Impressions. Slap on an orange vest. Greet people on the concourse. Work that seating team like you were born for it.
  • Summit Kids. Let’s face it: this might be your one shot to visit the VIP suites at the Bulls’ Park. Might as well take a couple dozen toddlers in there with you.
  • Baptism Logistics. Pass out clothes. Help with registration. Direct foot traffic for hundreds of people responding to the gospel.
  • Baptism Counseling. Help make sure those who respond understand the gospel and are ready to take the next step. (Limited to Summit covenant members who have completed training.)
  • Prayer. Church at the Ballpark will be lots of fun, but it’s not a game. We’re asking God to do what only he can do.
  • Tear Down. If it goes in the park, it’s gotta come out. Stick around for an after-party workout like you’ve never experienced.

Do we need volunteers? Sure we do. But more than that, you need to volunteer. Believers are hard-wired to serve out of their skill sets, and we want to give you an outlet to get involved.

Don’t currently serve at the Summit? Not a problem. Church at the Ballpark is a great way to jump on a “one-serve” opportunity. Kick the tires. Take us for a test drive. Don’t knock it ’till you love it. (Trust us…you’ll love it.)

Afraid of serving on your own? That’s understandable. But as our volunteers often discover, serving is a great way to make new friendships and discover shared interests. But hey – if you have a small group, bring ’em along.

Don’t overthink this. Don’t put off the decision. Let God use you to welcome thousands of people to Church at the Ballpark. Sign up today.

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This weekend our pastor told a story that’s worth repeating. (It’s also worth repeating that he thought it was a story worth repeating, since he said he heard it from “a pastor friend.” No word on who that friend is, but my money is on Chandler, Platt, or Yoda.)

Imagine for a moment that you’re a part of a fire department’s engine company: you’re the guys who slide down the pole and hop on the truck whenever the alarm goes out. And imagine that I ask you to define your job. You might say:

  • I’m the driver. I’ve led this company for 18 years, so I get the privilege of being the first one out the door.
  • I’m the hose man. I stretch the line from the hydrant to the truck and from the truck to the blaze.
  • I’m the ladder guy. Two story building? Got it covered. Fourteen story building? Boom. I’m there.
  • I’m the engineer. If there’s a bell or whistle on this truck, I know how it operates and why it’s there.

And while you’d be technically correct, you couldn’t be more wrong. There’s a huge difference between task and mission: although your task is to drive a truck or stretch a hose or extend a ladder or flip a switch, your mission is to put out fires.  And if you forget that, disaster ensues.

We face the same things on volunteer teams every weekend. “Hey volunteer, what’s your job?”

  • I stand at this door and hand out worship guides. I’ve been doing it since Job lost his kids in a tornado, and if you get in my way you’ll have the same fate.
  • I park cars. I have battle scars to prove it. College girls texting and not looking where they’re driving, irate people who are going to park where they darn well please, I’ve seen it all.
  • I’m a seater. I have more authority in my little finger than most army generals possess in an entire career. That section doesn’t open until I say it opens. You feelin’ lucky, punk? Try to move that rope before I tell you to.

And while those volunteers would be right, they couldn’t be more wrong. Because while their task is to stand at a door or park a car or seat a rear, their mission is to smooth the road that leads to the gospel. They leverage their skills for the sake of the kingdom. The point of their gifts is to point people to Jesus.

So what’s your job? Better yet, what’s your mission?

What. A. Weekend.

We had a Small Groups Conference, College Leadership Retreat, and the largest Starting Point in the history of the Summit.

We launched four new service times at two different campuses, on-boarded a bunch of new volunteers, and saw well over 300 first time guest households visit the Summit for the first time.

And we celebrated Vision Weekend, our annual time where we pause to reflect on what God has done among us. In case you missed it, you’ll want to see the 2012-2013 recap video. (Grab a tissue.)

You know what I love about my church? It ain’t about my church. It’s not about building a monument to ourselves or a kingdom where we’re the kings and queens. And I think…I hope…I pray we understand that.

It’s not about statistics. It’s not even ultimately about the stories and the changed lives that those statistics point to.

It’s about Jesus…his fame. His renown. His glory. Nothing we do has any value if done apart from him or done without pointing to him.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

It’s Friday, Friday, which means I pull a post out of the archives. If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you. Boom.

If I can curse people with one thing that I’m cursed with (besides my boyish good looks) it’s going to be the inability to detach from the guest experience. I go through very few worship services or consumer experiences without evaluating my treatment as a guest. It’s not because I feel like I deserve to be treated well, it’s because I believe that the gospel demands that we treat our guests well. And thinking through my experience from their perspective helps make that happen.

Read the entire post.

The Church Welcome: This Time, With Feeling! (via @CarynRivadeneir) This is why we do what we do.

While the cynic in me roars that the employees are only so welcoming because they’re being paid to or because we paid a pretty penny to walk down Main Street, the Christian in me whispers: Jesus paid a pretty penny for us too. And while we aren’t being paid per act of kindness, Jesus did tell us to love the folks around us. It seems being over-the-top welcoming, extending hands and smiles and well-wishes to everyone who crosses our paths or walks through our doors or plays on our lawns is the initial, most elemental way of loving them. Of course, the love doesn’t end there, but it’s a start.

All Good Ideas Are Terrible. (via @ThisIsSethsBlog) No need to click through. This is the entire post:

Until people realize they are obvious.

If you’re not willing to live through the terrible stage, you’ll never get to the obvious part.

There’s Cruel, and Then There’s Just Plain Sadistic! (via Cheezburger) Ah, how I can relate.




In just under four weeks we’ll be celebrating what promises to be the largest worship service ever at the Summit Church. Church at the Ballpark 2011 saw over 7200 people gather from all of our campuses and all over the Triangle. What? You say you missed that? Well friend, you should take three minutes and watch the highlight reel.

(Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

I’m excited that we’re going back, and excited that we’re planning an even bigger event. We’re bringing in more chairs…more baptistery tanks…more volunteers…more moments that’ll give you something awesome to talk about around the water cooler on Monday.

But more than any of that, I’m excited that we’re going to be bringing the Gospel into the heart of Durham once more, giving thousands of people the chance to move from death to life on a September morning.

After the 2011 event, I remember having what felt like dozens of conversations with friends who were out of town because they were (at the beach / in the mountains / scattering their dog’s ashes at Disney World). All of them – without exception – said, “I wish I would’ve known what this event was going to be like. There’s no way on earth I would have missed it!”

Well, now you know. (Unless you didn’t watch the video above. Really, you need to start following instructions.) This is a huge moment in the life of our church. It’s a rare opportunity to gather the entire Summit family in one spot and to encourage each other by being together. It’s a great chance to invite friends and co-workers who might not normally attend church. It’s a massive platform for the Gospel. And on top of all that, it’s going to be insanely FUN.

One more thing I’m excited about this year…we’re going to utilize the Ballpark event to leverage generosity to our community. We’ve partnered with two of our neighboring organizations (Urban Ministries and Salvation Army Women & Children’s Shelter) to stock their supply closets with much-needed items. Think about it: thousands of us can make a huge difference for the Triangle’s homeless. Those ministries have provided us with a list of needs, simply grab what you can and drop it off at one of the trucks on your way into the park.

So Summit family, do whatever it takes to be there on Sunday, September 15th. Ask off work. Cancel that beach trip. Tell Grandma she’s going to visit you this time.

Trust me: you’ll be glad you did.

[Check out the Church at the Ballpark website for more information, logistical details, and to sign up to serve!]

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“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” – Martin Luther

We live in a CEO culture.

It seems that everybody wants to rise to the top, and rise to the top right now. We want to bypass the “lesser roles,” jump ahead of the process, and forsake the trenches.

There are a couple of problems with that. The first is that it short circuits the growth curve. Often times the best learning is at the bottom. We learn responsibility, patience, and what it means to serve, even if that means serving with no recognition.

The other problem is that we equate less-recognized jobs with less-important jobs, as if our worth is attached to our title. If the word “Executive” doesn’t land somewhere on our business card, we feel as though our life hasn’t measured up.

But therein lies the question: measured up to what? To a title? To a position? To a sense of power?

No, the measure of a servant lies in how they cultivate faithfulness right where they are. Whether you’re a street sweeper or a surgeon, are you serving out of a sense of pride, or out of a humble dependence on the God who created you?

Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. – Psalm 37:3


This weekend was the first of two peak attendance weekends we hit every August. It’s when our vacationing families return and our awesome college kids come back, bringing a couple hundred freshmen with them.

Side note: I’m choosing to ignore the fact that this year’s incoming freshman class was born in 1995, which is the same year I graduated college, and I just want to smack ’em in their infantile little heads with my cane and ask them to bring me more fiber.

It’s a season we prepare for every year, mainly because we know it’s coming and we want to do everything possible to keep from turning people away. We don’t apologize for crowds, because crowds are made up of people, and people are the mission.

But having said that, a crowd without a strategy is a mob. And even at church, when you run out of chairs and close down venues and ask people to scoot in for the eleventy-billionth time, it can become an angry mob.

That’s why I’m so grateful for our volunteers, specifically our First Impressions teams at all of our campuses. These people get it. They recognize that the weekend is more about outsiders than it is about insiders. They know that part of making guests comfortable means we might sacrifice our comfort.

At the Brier Creek Campus that meant 250 people who made the hike to a newly-opened venue with a smile on their faces. It was pictured in a volunteer who found a first time guest and her kids who had gotten a little lost and a lot perturbed. But Matt jumped into action, engaged her in conversation, stayed with her as she checked her children in at Summit Kids, and helped her find a seat in a crowded auditorium. Our guest moved from frustrated to grateful in a matter of moments.

At the Cary Campus, the auditorium was packed out just before the 11:00 service began. Rather than turn guests away, we asked leadership to stand up and exit the venue and give up their seats. More than 100 people graciously relocated to the lobby and worshipped there, many of them standing for the entirety of the 90 minute service.

At Chapel Hill, volunteers and leadership showed up extra early for a pre-game pep rally to make sure they were ready for the day. And those “game faces” paid off – at Chapel Hill alone we saw over 100 first time guests show up.

And on and on it went. From each campus I heard story after story of our First Impressions team and other volunteers going above and beyond to turn crowds into wows. They’re not doing it because it’s their job, or out of a sense of duty. They’re doing it because they love people and they want to make sure they’re paving the way for a clear presentation of the gospel.

And when “church people” get sacrificial for “non-church people,” it communicates something huge. It tells our guests that they’re a big deal. It tells them that we love them more than we love our parking spaces and our seats. It tells them we’re glad they showed up and we hope they come back.

What are your church people saying to your guests this weekend?

Related posts:

Leadership worshipping in the lobby of Summit Cary. (Photo Credit: Ben Salmon)

Leadership worshipping in the lobby of Summit Cary.
(Photo Credit: Ben Salmon)

Photo credit: @LanceMichels

Chapel Hill Campus volunteer rally
(Photo credit: @LanceMichels)

Summit Cary leaders grabbing a spot on the floor. (Photo credit: Eric Willis)

Summit Cary leaders grabbing a spot on the floor.
(Photo credit: Eric Willis)

Chapel Hill Campus - sitting here, there, and everywhere. (Photo credit: Lance Michels)

Chapel Hill Campus – sitting here, there, and everywhere.
(Photo credit: Lance Michels)



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