February 2014


(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

Every Friday we dive into the Wayback Machine for a little trip down memory lane. If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you.

Not everybody is going to be on stage this weekend.

Not everybody is going to be in the spotlight.

Not everybody will speak to the masses; not everybody will carry a title; not everybody will be seen by a crowd.

Somebody’s work is going to be behind the scenes. Somebody is going to feel like their contribution is insignificant. Somebody is going to ask the question, “Does what I do really matter?”

Read the entire original post.

Are we putting too much emphasis on the moment of conversion? (via @_MichaelKelley) Sobering stuff to think about.

You, like me, probably know someone in your life who at one time or another had what seemed to be a really genuine encounter with the gospel. They heard the word of truth, accepted they are a sinner, and asked Jesus to forgive them and be the Lord of their lives. And though the decision seemed genuine at the time, over the years you’ve seen them slowly but surely drift from that original moment until now they are just another story of someone who prayed a simple prayer, maybe got baptized, but now seem to have no real affection for Jesus.

 

Should you teach the world a new word? (via @ThisIsSethsBlog) Before you ask, yes: Connections Pastor is a real thing.

Choose a new name when it helps you achieve your goals, not because you’re worried about some truth-in-taxonomy commission giving you a hassle. It doesn’t matter if you’re right, it matters if you are understood.

 

Sweet little old lady smiles and waves at passing kids every day(via @22Words) Every high school student in America needs a Tinney Davidson.

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My firstborn turns 18 today. Yep, you read that right. I had to go back and read that first sentence a few times, myself.

I’ll never forget that brilliantly sunny day in a tiny community hospital when I was fulfilling all of the stereotypical “first dad” routines: pacing, fidgeting, perspiring, and fighting the urge to pass out cold on the floor (that’d already happened once before during the first trimester, anyway).

And then…Jacob was born. I remember holding my son, staring at his face, counting those fingers and toes, praying over him, and being struck with the glorious wonder of human life.

Eighteen years later, I’m still overcome with that wonder sometimes. I marvel at the grace of a God who allowed us to be Jacob’s parents. I’m stunned by the stewardship we’ve been given, to try and fail, try and fail, try and fail to be the perfect parents. I’m thankful for the realization that it’s not about our perfection (or lack thereof) as parents, but the ability to simply try to point him to Jesus.

I’m thankful for a little boy that’s grown to be a man.

I’m thankful for his servant’s heart: the dozen little things he does every day without taking credit for it.

I’m thankful for his work ethic: most weeks he works full-time hours in a part time position. He loves his job at the Christian Chicken, and it shows.

I’m thankful for his sense of humor: he’s got an extremely dry wit that’ll catch you off guard and nearly always makes me laugh.

I’m thankful for his love for his brothers: regardless of the torture he’s dished out on my other two sons, he loves ’em.

I’m thankful for his love for his sister: three years ago I watched him welcome Haven into our home, and I’ve watched him adore her ever since (the feeling is mutual).

I’m thankful for his protective nature: he takes care of his mama. Regardless of his teasing, she knows her baby loves her.

I’m thankful for his missional heart: last year he took his first mission trip to Baltimore. This summer he’ll spend a month working with university students in Southeast Asia. I wish I’d had that commitment at his age.

I’m thankful for his friendship: the older he gets, the more I like him. Not because he’s my son, but because he’s my friend.

I’m thankful for Jesus: after 18 years, I realize that all I did was buy diapers and put groceries in his belly. Jesus did the heavy lifting, and he’s making him look more like him every day.

Happy 18th, Jacob.

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Around these parts, we talk a lot about serving our guests as well as our members. And that’s a great concept, as long as people behave themselves.

When they don’t complain about the parking, when they worship with passion rather than complaining about the volume, when they don’t gripe about the coffee bar shutting down when the service begins, then serving people is a delight and not a drudgery.

Read the entire original post.

Raleigh Boy Scout battling cancer receives high honor (via @WRAL) If you’re not a part of the Summit, you may not have had the opportunity to get to know the incredible Noah Spivey. Noah’s fierce faith in Jesus has been inspiring all of us from the early days of his cancer fight. Watch the video to see why.

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“I wouldn’t say I’m the best Scout, but I try to be,” Spivey said. “My journey’s been rough. I got a lot of crap on my plate, but that doesn’t stop me. The Lord is greater than all the crap on my plate,” he said.

32 photos that will make you fall in love with Durham (via @movoto) I do love my adopted hometown.

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Netflix introduces new “Browse Endlessly” plan(HT @LaughingSquid) It’s funny ’cause it’s true.

Humanity has only wiped out one disease—smallpox. This is the second. And we’re doing it without meds. (via @22Words) This is simply fascinating.

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Right now, a mother in South Sudan is sipping from the bucket of water she is carrying to her family. A man in Mali or Chad is cooling his head in some standing water and takes a couple of gulps. A child in Ethiopia splashes her face and has a quick drink.

One of them swallows the very last Guinea Worm larva that will ever grow to torment a human being again. It will be painful for them, but after that it will literally never happen again.

Five Reasons  You Should Smile More as a Leader. (via @MichaelHyatt) I have what some on my team call a “thinking face.” And it usually involves a less-than-happy look. While I’m actually not mad 94% of the time, this article nailed my frown to the wall.

“Are you angry at someone?”

“No,” I said, somewhat surprised.

“You sure?” she pressed.

“Absolutely,” I insisted.

“Then you might want to let your face know, because it looks like you are are ticked off! It’s intimidating and shutting people down.”

100 Year Old BFFs React to Pop Culture. (via @IAmSteveHarvey) Warning: there’s a couple of mild wordy-durds in this, but they’re spoken by 100 year old women, so I reckon it has to be okay.

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

Yesterday we covered the six times in a weekend service that you should strategically plan to address your guests. But what about times when you should strategically plan not to talk to them?

Any time you would single them out.

True, the whole point of yesterday’s post was that you should recognize guests. But not if it means turning the spotlight on them in the service. Recognizing them in a general sense (“If you’re a guest with us today…”) is great. But getting too specific in a service can turn people away faster than you can imagine. (“Hey, you’re new. Stand up and tell us your name, who invited you, and the sin you’re currently struggling with.”)

I’ve got horror stories for days of how I’ve seen this go bad: “Welcome times” when members stand and guests remain seated. “Introduction times” when guests stand and members remain seated. Ushers handing out name tags or info cards to seated guests as a part of the service (i.e., all eyes are on them). I’ve even seen a church that played “Name That Mystery Person” at the beginning of the service (and no, I’m not making that up, and yes, the details are worse than you can imagine).

The key to interacting with guests is that you want them to set the speed for interaction. You should provide multiple opportunities for them to connect and take a next step, but ultimately you should leave the option to them. Some are ready to make themselves known from day one. Others want to remain more anonymous for a time. Neither of those things are wrong, they’re just deeply tied to an individual’s personality and comfort level, so respect it.

Think through your guest’s experience from your own perspective as an outsider. When you visit a restaurant or retail establishment, when you show up for the first day on the job, when you’re called on to give an impromptu speech at a big meeting, how do you feel? Harness that. Multiply it by ten, and then you’re starting to imagine what it’s like to show up at your church for the first time.

So how about it, readers? Are there any other times you shouldn’t talk to a guest? And better yet, what are your horror stories? Comment below.

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

Let’s start with the basics: we should aim to talk to our guests all the time. When they show up on the weekend, they are our honored guests (that’s why we call ’em guests, and not the V-word).

But there are strategic times during the worship service when we should especially address our guests. When we do so, we serve not only our guests, but our members and regular attendees as well. Addressing guests reminds a growing church that there are newcomers in the midst, and encourages a plateaued or declining church of our evangelistic responsibility.

Keller says it this way in Center Church:

Almost every Christian, if they pay attention, will be able to sense whether a worship experience will be attractive to their non-Christian friends. They may find a particular service wonderfully edifying for them and yet know their nonbelieving neighbors would react negatively, and so they wouldn’t even consider bringing them along. They do not think they will be impressed or interested. Because this is their expectation, they do nothing about it, and a vicious cycle begins. Pastors see only Christians present, so they lack incentive to make their worship comprehensible to outsiders. But since they fail to make the necessary changes to adapt and contextualize, outsiders never come. The pastors continue to respond to the exclusively Christian audience that gathers, and the cycle continues. Therefore, the best way to get Christians to bring non-Chrsitians to a worship service is to worship as if there are dozens of skeptical onlookers. If we worship as if they are there, eventually they will be.

So you should make a plan for talking to guests every single week. Here are six specific times that you can do that:

  1. At the beginning of the service. Within the first five minutes someone should deliver a welcome. Most churches do that, but we have to be intentional in recognizing that there are guests present. So welcome them. Let them know you’ve planned the weekend with them in mind, and you’re glad they showed up. (“Some of you may be with us for the very first time. We want you to know that we’re especially glad you’re here. There are a lot of places you could be or other things you could be doing, and we’re grateful that you’ve trusted us with your time.”)
  2. During the sermon. Your preaching shouldn’t be exclusively focused on the guests in your midst, neither should it be exclusive to the seasoned saints among you. So every weekend in every sermon, address the common doubts, questions, and “so what?” moments that your guests are certainly having. (“If you consider yourself an agnostic or atheist, skeptic or seeker, this [passage / statement / point] may be confusing or it might make you downright angry. This is a place where you are welcome to ask your questions…I still have lots of them as well…let’s work through this together.”)
  3. Prior to communion. Whether your church offers communion weekly or quarterly or anywhere in between, you have a responsibility to “fence the table” appropriately and explain the significance of the event. (“This church offers many things that are wide open to you. But if you’re here today and you’re not yet a believer, the Bible is clear that this one act of worship is not intended for you. As the elements come by, we respectfully ask that you let them pass you, and rather use this time to reflect on the sacrifice that Jesus made for you.”)
  4. Before the offering. Nothing riles a newcomer’s fur quite like the money bucket coming around. So give ’em a pass before it’s passed. Let your guests know that the service isn’t about what they should give, but what they can receive. (“If you’re a guest, we don’t want you to feel compelled to give in any way, we’re just glad that you’re here.”)
  5. At the end. As you’re dismissing the service, remind guests of an appropriate next step. For your church, that might mean a stop by the Welcome Center or First Time Guest Tent. Whenever we remind guests of that opportunity, we always see an uptick in those that drop by. (“Maybe you saw the First Time Guest Tent when you entered. That’s set up especially for you. We have a gift there for you and would love the opportunity to get to know you.”)
  6. Any time something is unclear. Baptism. Communion. Commissioning. The stand up / sit down / stand up / sit down game that is Baptist Aerobics. No, you don’t have to specifically address those explanations to your guests, but an occasional description of what is coming next will benefit not only first timers, but long-timers. (“This morning we’re sending out one of our families to serve as church planters overseas. Any time we do this, it is our privilege to pray for them as they go out.”)

So what area(s) did I miss? Are there other times when we definitely should address guests? Comment below.

Coming tomorrow: when NOT to talk your guests.

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This weekend our pastor preached a barn-burner on Stephen from Acts 6-7. (In case you missed it, you can watch, listen, or read it here.) As part of the message, we talked about Stephen as one of the early servants of the early church. It’s important to note that Stephen was a table waiter. He wasn’t an apostle, he hadn’t been to Bible college, and he didn’t even have a parking pass to visit church members at Jerusalem General Hospital.

But Stephen served. And it was his selfless service, his “it’s not about me” attitude that caused people to take notice and actually served as a catalyst for the salvation of others.

I’ll go ahead and give you the punch line: if you’re a Christian, service is not an option. You’re hard-wired for it. Your soul craves it. And the surrounding church and community needs it. The one who died for us was and is the Servant-In-Chief. He lay down his pride and took up the wash basin not because he had to, but because he wanted to, and because he demonstrated for us what it looks like to pour out our lives for others.

A recent study of the Summit shows that – on average in our weekend services – we have one adult volunteering for every eight adults attending (or about 12%). That’s an average across campuses: some campuses see a 1:5 ratio (20%), others see 1:11 (9%). But the point: that ain’t good enough.

Now I understand that we have plenty of people who serve outside the walls during the week. This is not an indictment against those who are serving somewhere, rather an encouragement to those who aren’t serving anywhere.

So where do you get started? And how do you determine the best place to serve? Pastor J.D. gave us three areas:

  1. Place of skill. Look at the things that you have a natural talent for. Are you an organized person? Are you great with numbers? Do you have an ear for sound? Your gifts and skill sets – whether they’re hobbies or vocational – can be used to serve the body.
  2. Place of passion. Do you love kids? Love talking to people? Love one-on-one discipleship? The things that make your heart beat a little faster can be used for ministry. As long as it’s not illegal or immoral, God can use it. (And if it is, we have people with a passion for law enforcement, so win-win!)
  3. Place of need. What are those things around you? Babies that need to be rocked? Cars that need to be parked? Homeless that need to be fed? Elementary school that needs to be tutored? Every church in America has a wish list: figure out how you can check the box on some of those things.

Now here’s the kicker: you should serve where those three things intersect. Serving according to one area only can be dangerous. You can respond to  need only, and you’ll burn out faster than you can say “8th grade boys Sunday School teacher.” You can respond according to passion only, and you’ll look like the highlight reel from the American Idol audition tapes (“Bless her heart, she really thinks she can sing.”) You can respond to skill only, and while you’ll know what to do, you’ll easily forget why you’re doing it.

How about you? Are you serving faithfully? Are you modeling Jesus’ selfless attitude of giving? Is there anything about your life that attracts others to Christ and builds a platform for the verbal sharing of the gospel?

If you’re not serving, it’s never too late to start. If you attend the Summit, talk to your Campus Pastor today (or shoot, email me and I’ll help you get started). If you’re not at the Summit, tell your pastor you’re ready. That “whoosh” sound you hear will be him jumping on that opportunity like stink on a monkey.

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In December I shared the story of Ryan, Morgan, and Charlie: two dear friends and their little boy who is stuck on the other side of the world.

Today, Ryan will land back in RDU after being in central Africa for 65 days. In that time he has followed every lead, checked out every contact, and met every conceivable person of power who would sign the paperwork so that Charlie – his legally adopted son – could leave the country and come home.

It didn’t happen that way.

Oh, it could have happened. Ryan could have shelled out some money and signed a few papers and corrupted officials would have looked the other way while he put Charlie on the plane. But my friend has too much integrity to let such a story cloud Charlie’s story. And so he returns to Durham today, alone yet not alone, and yet without his son.

It’s not supposed to be this way.

I don’t understand it. I can’t wrap my mind around it. There was supposed to be an 11th hour miracle, a story that we could celebrate, a prayer that was answered, a door that finally opened. Today was supposed to be the day that we all met Charlie, that Raleigh-Durham Airport was overrun by well-wishers, and the day that Charlie would meet his big brother and sister and sleep in his new bed in his new house in his new city.

I don’t know why this has happened. I don’t know why Ryan and Morgan have to wait even longer and spend more money and take more trips and beg more politicians to release their son. I don’t know why adoption has to be such a struggle…a spiritual warfare battle of epic proportions where evil is tangibly felt and good seems to be in short supply.

I don’t know any of these things, but I do know this: the story has not ended. The period has not been added. The chapter has not been closed. The outcome is still unknown. Yes, there may be more agony before there is relief. But what Ryan and Morgan know is that Charlie’s story is still being written. And they know that because they trust in a sovereign God who may not show his hand, but he most certainly extends his heart.

Is it easy? No. Will that knowledge help them sleep better tonight? Probably not. But as I watch their faith rise through pain and their grace displayed through tears, I know that they’re not just seeking their son, they’re seeking their Daddy. And he loves them even more than they love Charlie. His plan reaches farther, spreads wider, and delves deeper than they may ever know this side of heaven. That may sound like so many platitudes, like Ryan and Morgan are simply stepping out in faith. But I ask you: what else do they have? What else do we have? Had all of this gone textbook-perfect and we were cheering Charlie’s homecoming today, it would still have been a journey of faith. To accept the joy but reject the sorrow is not faith. To understand the mind of God is like a sponge absorbing the Pacific: it can’t be done.

So readers…believers…I’m asking you to petition God on behalf of Charlie and trust God on behalf of Ryan and Morgan. They need us to stand with them now as much as we ever have. Charlie’s heavenly Father remains by his side even though his earthly father is an ocean away. And that heavenly Father can do more than we can ask or imagine, and he will accomplish and complete Charlie’s story in a way we can’t fathom.

This weekend our pastor very wisely walked us through a time of prayer for the Dohertys, helping create a framework for how to trust God when our prayers don’t get answered the way we think they should. I would encourage you to take eight minutes and watch that video.

Ryan shared the following passage from John 14 on his Facebook post before boarding the plane in Africa. I think it’s timely not only for Charlie and Ryan, but for the rest of us as well:

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going….I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you…Because I live, you also will live…Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid… the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.”

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