December 2013

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Merry Christmas to you and yours. Thanks for spending part of your 2013 in this little corner of the blogosphere. See you in ’14!

Day one is done.

Last night we saw well over 4,000 people brave the December downpours and fight downtown traffic in order to experience the first two of five Christmas Eve services at the Durham Performing Arts Center.

Missed it? Live local? There are three more services today at 10, 1, and 4. Plenty of tickets remain for the 10 AM, and though the 1 & 4 are technically sold out, we did have tickets turned in last night. Show up at the box office an hour before your preferred time, and there’s a good chance you’ll get in (but don’t tell anyone I told you that).

Here’s a small peek at what went down last night. Wanna see more? Check out #christmasatdpac on your social media machines. All the cool kids are doing it.

(all photos courtesy of the very talented Brett Seay)




Christmas season doesn’t officially begin until this song blasts through my speakers.


You’re welcome.

Four Reasons Why You Might Feel Disconnected From Your Church(via @NathanRouse, HT @JustinKBuchanan) Don’t read the post without also hitting the comments. Yes, I agree with all four of Nathan’s points, but I also know that even those things aren’t always enough.

A common phrase that pastors hear when a family leaves their church is “We just don’t feel connected.” I’ve heard it countless times. When a family makes this statement to me I always ask the following four questions. The answer inevitably is almost always no to each. Here they are:

Eight Photos You Didn’t See From Obama’s Trip to South Africa
(via @ninaippolito, HT @persinger) I’ll admit: I’m a sucker for behind-the-scenes photos of politicians. These are pretty incredible.


Coke commercial absolutely nails the joy and insanity of early parenthood
(via @22words) There aren’t enough words for how much I like this.

(Yep. That's just the top of his head. You have to wait until he's home for the full reveal!)

(Yep. That’s just the top of his head. You’ll have to wait until he’s home for the full reveal.)

You’re looking at my friends Ryan and Morgan, and my friend-that-I-haven’t-yet-met, Charlie.

Charlie is an orphan from central Africa. Scratch that. Was an orphan from central Africa. A few months ago, a court declared Charlie a Doherty. He’s Ryan and Morgan’s son now. Instead of growing up in an orphanage, he’ll grow up in a home with a daddy and mommy who love him, a brother and sister who spoil him, and he’ll be friends with more people who have prayed for him than he can possibly count.

But because of some governmental glitches, Charlie can’t leave the country for now. What has been promised has not yet been realized. “Home” is still a foreign concept, both figuratively and geographically. For the foreseeable future Charlie is – for all practical purposes – stuck.

But while Charlie can’t come to his mom and dad, his mom and dad can go to him. And go to him they did. A couple of weeks ago Ryan and Morgan made the rather sudden decision to temporarily leave Durham and head to Africa. The son that is theirs is still there, and so it made no sense for them to be here.

They decided that the uphill journey would be more effective if they were on the ground and close to Charlie. And so – armed with nothing but a folder full of documents and a heart full of fire – Ryan and Morgan boarded a flight and promised to fight.

Even as I type, I weep. I wonder if Charlie knows what is transpiring around him? I wonder if he knows the prayers that have been offered, the tears that have been shed, the money that has been spent and the battles that have been fought? I wonder if he realizes that before he knew he needed these parents, these parents knew he needed them, and they were willing to do whatever it took to bring him home?

I wonder if he’ll ever realize the sacrifice they made to leave two children in one country while pursuing a third child in another? Will he know the sleepless nights they endured, the hundreds of times they looked at his picture, the thousands of times their arms ached for the baby that belonged there?

As Charlie snuggles up to his parents at a tiny bungalow, does he know what awaits him on the other side of this journey? Can he fathom what it will be like to spend his life being pursued, known, and loved? Can his little mind begin to imagine what life in his daddy’s house will hold for him?

Does that little boy know that he’s been given a new name? That he possesses a new identity? That he’s forever protected and completely provided for? That everything that Ryan and Morgan call theirs can now be called his?

Later this week, Morgan will begin the journey back to America. You can imagine that it will be one of the hardest goodbyes she’ll ever say. But as she reunites with her two oldest children here in Durham, Ryan will remain with their youngest on another continent. And he’ll fight. He’ll leave no stone unturned and no door unopened as he looks for just the right connection, just the right answer, just the right approval to rightfully claim his son and join the family that awaits him. He won’t come home until Charlie comes with him.

A father who fights. That’s what Ryan is for Charlie. And that’s what God is for us. We’re in the middle of a season where we celebrate the One who left his home and went to a foreign land. What he didn’t have to do, he chose to do. He sent his son to become one of us. To live among us. To come to our turf and dwell in our land and fight on our behalf. Before we knew we were orphans, Jesus knew we needed a Father. And the Father knew we couldn’t get to him on our own.

So he fought. Jesus came. God wrapped himself in flesh and lived with us so we could live with him.

With us.

God with us.


He fought for us then. He fights for us now. You see, Christmas isn’t just a reminder of what Jesus did, it’s a reminder of what he is doing. How he still fights. How he still pursues. How he still does whatever it takes to bring us home, give us a new name and identity, and help us see our Father.

So as you prepare your heart for Christmas, remember that it’s not just about a baby in a stable. It’s about a King who invaded the earth to claim what was rightfully his and to give us our forever home.

And as you thank Jesus for his pursuit, beg Jesus for his mercy: on Charlie. On Ryan and Morgan. Pray for walls to fall and doors to open and mountains to move. Pray that Charlie will miraculously spend Christmas Day in a living room in Durham. Pray for dozens of other Summit families who are enduring a similar journey. And most of all, pray that spiritual orphans will know the pursuit of their Daddy this Christmas season.

“I will not leave you as orphans. I will come to you.” – Jesus (John 14:18)


I managed to snap this photo on the fly yesterday morning at our Brier Creek Campus. I say “managed to” because Sandy – the lady in the picture – is like a Windex Ninja. She stealthily sneaks in, works a little no-streak magic, and then disappears as quickly as she came. (Look at her! She’s even wearing black. Boom.)

Sandy is a part of our Freshen Up Team…a weekend band of super heroes that are never seen by 98% of the population of the Summit. But they’re there. Oh, how they’re there. While people are sitting in the auditorium participating in worship, the Freshen Up Team is hard at work cleaning windows, restocking toilet paper, wiping down sinks, and flushing toilets (seriously, some of you people are slobs).

And it hit me yesterday: when Sandy and Todd and the rest of the Windex Ninjas do their job well…no one notices. But when it’s undone…when a door is smudged with fingerprints or there is paper towel confetti on the restroom floor or the trash cans are overflowing in the lobby…that, people see.

It’s the unnoticed details that can often carry the biggest impact if they’re not taken care of. It’s the little things that we don’t proactively think about that can sink a guest services ship. It’s the Sandys and Todds that do what they do not so they’ll be seen, but because the smudges will be seen if they don’t.

Who are some of your unsung heroes? And what are the jobs they faithfully do every single week, even when nobody knows about it?


DPAC is back.

Last year’s services at the Durham Performing Arts Center were a high-water mark for our church. We swung the doors wide open to our community, inviting them in for two days as we celebrated the sights, sounds, and story of the season. Jesus’ birth was celebrated through spoken word, video, drumlines, rap, solos, and the proclamation of the gospel. Thousands experienced the Christmas story all over again…for the very first time.

We’re just days away from Christmas at DPAC 2013, another opportunity to invite friends and family to a common venue as we observe the birth of the King of the ages.


Like any Summit event, this one is going to take volunteers. Lots of volunteers. 1274 volunteers, to be exact. And we need them in Summit Kids, Guest Services, Prayer, Set Up, & Tear Down. We’re challenging everyone at the Summit to consider attending one service and serving one service. Or, if you want to make it on Santa’s Nice List, you can attend one and serve four. Ho ho ho.

But let’s be realistic: you don’t really have time to serve during the holliest, jolliest time of the year without a really good reason, do you? Here are three:

  1. This is our gift to our city. It would have been far more convenient to pay DPAC to provide their own staff to open doors, point out seating, and welcome people to the venue. And while they’ll have a few of their folks helping us with some of those tasks, this is an event that we own. And as owners of the event, we want to own the experience. We’ve made huge inroads to our community with events like ServeRDU and Church at the Ballpark. Let’s not stop now.
  2. Your personal gifting demands it. Many of you reading this have gifts for serving kids or being hospitable to guests. You need to exercise those gifts. Do we need you to serve? Yes we do. But more than that, you need to serve. It’s how you’ve been wired.
  3. The gospel still starts in the parking lot…even when it’s not our parking lot. Every weekend we challenge people to share the gospel in the way that they serve. Just because we’re offsite doesn’t mean that challenge stops. With hundreds (perhaps thousands!) of first time guests expected, we have the opportunity to introduce people to Jesus by the simple act of serving them well and loving their kids.

So here we go again, Summit. Step up. Serve with abandon. Sign up today. We’ll see you at theDPAC!


Avoiding the Christmas Crowd Trap. (via @MarkLWaltz) A great reminder as we head towards Christmas at DPAC. Don’t just show up to serve. Engage. 

We expect thousands of new people this Christmas season. People who haven’t attended church services much, if at all, the rest of the year.

There’s a hidden trap in all this. When we acknowledge that many of our guests don’t attend services except at Christmas time (or Easter), we are prone to assume they won’t return ’til next year. 

And that subtle assumption can adversely affect our approach to guests this season…


33 Ways to Show Your Volunteers You Love Them(via Rich Birch) Thanks to my friend @alanpace for tipping me off to this one.

23. Calculate how many hours your volunteers have served in that last year and celebrate that!

24. Reinforce regularly with paid staff that our #1 role is to support our volunteers.

25. Take pictures of your volunteers serving and post them on various social media channels.


WestJet Passengers Have Their Christmas Wishes Granted(via @taylorherringpr) In case you’re one of the five people on the planet that hasn’t seen this in the last few days, watch it. Now. This takes “surprise and delight” to a whole new level. I don’t know where WestJet flies, but I want to go to there.

If you tuned in last week, you know that Advent has come to the Franks house. And even though we started off rough, we’ve persevered, stuck through, and endured more eye rolls and off-the-wall comments from a three year old than you can imagine.

But by golly, Haven is getting it. Yes, she says that Adam’s wife was named “Oodam.” Sure, she still tells us that Advent is something you put in your mouth (getting it confused with a mint? I think so.). But there are other things that she’s soaking up like a little sponge.

Last night we hit the story of the Ten Commandments in The Jesus Storybook BibleI was able to grab the following video recap. (And yes, I know I shot it the wrong way. Listen, when you’re trying to film a squirmy three year old that happens to be sitting in your lap and all up in your face in her four sizes too small ballerina costume, you don’t worry about iPhone video rules.)



Translation (in case you don’t speak Havenese):

Danny: What’s a commandment?

Haven: Um, a ‘mandment is a rule you can’t touch it. That’s a very hot you can’t touchin it.

Danny: What…what’s a rule?

Haven: A rule you, you need to go to da potty sometimes. And…[stuff even I can’t understand]…don’t touch that! That’s very hot!

Danny: Is…so who gave the commandments?

Haven: Jacob!

Danny: No, who gave…who gave the commandments to Moses?

Haven: Moses…Moses went WAY up in the mountain, and then he get paint the toenails.

Danny: Moses painted his toenails?

Haven: Yeah. And Jacob. And…

Jase: Haven, what’s a commandment?

Haven: A ‘mandment you can’t touch it.

Jase: You can’t touch what?

Haven: The ‘mandments.


I’ve long told you that we have some of the best volunteers at any church, anywhere. In full disclosure, lots of pastors at lots of churches say that, but the difference is it’s really true of ours (nudge nudge, wink wink).

This past weekend, we had what we call a “weather event” in the Triangle of North Carolina. And by “weather event” I mean it was cold, dreary, rainy, wet, nasty, gross (did I mention rainy?). It was the kind of weekend where even ducks and polar bears start checking out Travelocity for resort deals in warmer climates.

And yet, everywhere I looked there were volunteers. Setting-up-parking-cones-volunteers. Greeting-guests-on-the-sidewalk-volunteers. Parking-cars-in-the-rain-volunteers. Getting-soaked-to-the-bone-and-maybe-a-touch-of-hypothermia-volunteers.

At our Brier Creek Campus, Tom & Barb & Jeff were in their normal positions by 7:45 AM, getting the parking lot ready for the arrival of guests. At North Raleigh, I saw a small army of guys who – if they were ticked off about serving in the cold rain – certainly didn’t show it. At Chapel Hill, our top-notch parking team didn’t let a little moisture keep ’em from donning their festive Christmas sweaters. At North Durham, Dot & Cathy & Linda & Susie & Conway maintained their position on the front sidewalk, making sure our First Time Guests knew exactly where to go. And at our Saturday and Sunday night services at West Club, Brier Creek, Cary, Chapel Hill, and North Raleigh, people got to do all of the above, except they added “pitch black” to the cold / wet / rainy descriptor.

Here’s the thing: even as the First Impressions guy around here, I feel awful to place the “we serve in the rain” expectation on people. I don’t like wet socks and cold hands, and I can only assume they don’t either. But here’s what hit me on Sunday: I’ve long since stopped making the ask. They just do it.

They’re not out there because they’re guilted to, but because they get to.

Their reward goes much deeper than a sunny and 72 degrees weather map.

They’re not serving for their own good. They’re serving for the good of others.

And it’s that “service beyond self” mentality that make our volunteers some of the best that exist. Every time I walk around a campus, every time I see them giving up another weekend to pull off another service, I’m reminded that they’re here because of something bigger. Something beyond them.

They’re loving well because they’ve been loved well. They’re systematically filling the gaps and building bridges towards the gospel. They’re making sure that a little rain doesn’t take people’s eyes off the bigger picture of Jesus. They’re doing whatever it takes to till the soil so the gospel can grow in the hearts of our guests.

What are some areas of “service beyond self” you’ve seen recently? I’d love to hear ’em. Comment below.

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