March 2014


Today marks a milestone of sorts on the ol’ blog: you’re reading post number 1,000.

Well, y’know. 1,000 according to the WordPress dashboard. That includes all the Flashback Friday posts, those days where I cheap out and dig into the archives (although in my defense, the intro lines are fabulously original).

But still, that’s four digits, my friends. A number that includes a comma. Boom.

When this site launched way back in July 2008, I had no idea what the page, the content, or the readership would look like nearly six years later. Shoot, I didn’t know if there would be a six years later. And while the page looks much the same and the content’s beauty is still in the eye of the beholder, the readership has grown and gotten better with time. I’m always amazed and humbled at the caliber of people who find their way to this corner of the blogosphere, whether on purpose or purely by accident. And I’m always, always grateful for the voice that you add to the conversation.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet some great people through this medium. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from those who have left comments and those who have contacted me directly. I’ve made new friends and perhaps an enemy or two. But every single encounter has been well worth it, and every one has made me grateful for the community we’ve built together.

Writing has always been a primary outlet for me. It’s cheaper than therapy and a great way to process: whether that means processing joy, pain, or simply working through new knowledge. My goal has always been to take what I believe, what I’m learning, or what I’m feeling, and get it in black and white, knowing that a few of you are looking over my shoulder as I do so.

So thank you. From the bottom of my little ol’ heart, thank you. Thanks for every comment, for every post you’ve read, for every offline follow up conversation, and for for all the ways you’ve challenged me. Thank you for going on this journey with me.


You Can Never Know It All(via @TheJimmyCollins) This is a great post on when to gather more information and when to act.

There will never be a situation when we will know everything before we act. We must realize that all decisions are based on partial information. That means there will always be some degree of risk. A decision may be good or bad; an action may work, or it may not.

Considering the Effect That the Internet Has on Memory(HT @LaughingSquid) I was going to make a comment right here, but I can’t remember what it was.

It’s that feeling of short-term overload that’s really letting the internet affect us. When you’re writing a paper, checking Facebook, looking at Twitter, getting an email ding, well that’s your four thing limit. You’re always putting yourself into a place where you’re overloading and swapping stuff in your short term memory…There’s some concern that because of the internet, we are re-wiring our brains to constantly scan for information rather than taking it in, losing our ability for long-term memorization.

Stupid Things People Say to Adopted Kids and Their Parents(via @22Words) I’ll add our own: shortly after Haven came into our home, a well-meaning individual asked, “So are you going to tell her she’s adopted?” (Um…have you seen us? I hope she ain’t so dumb that we have to spell it out.)

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On Sunday morning I was walking up the sidewalk at our Brier Creek Campus when I saw Robby, our Sunday First Impressions Director, coming from the other direction. He’d take a few steps, stoop down. Take a few more steps, stoop down. Over and over.

Step, step, stoop. Step, step, stoop. Step, step, stoop.

Once my bad eyes and new glasses adjusted, I could see the reason for the stoop: he was picking up trash along the way. Gum wrapper here, discarded Kleenex there, dropped coloring sheet over there.

Step, step, stoop. Step, step, stoop. Step, step, stoop.

In case you missed it in the first sentence, Robby is our First Impressions Director for Brier Creek on Sunday. He’s the man in charge. He leads a team of dozens of people week in and week out. He has a set up team that’s ready to do his bidding at that time of the morning. All he had to do was grab his walkie and dispatch a guy with a trash bag. But he knows one of the marks of a good leader:

Leaders pick up the trash. 

Picking up the trash isn’t something that we get beyond as we rise up the food chain. While it may be something that we delegate out to another team as part of their checklist and duties, it’s never not our job. If a leader sees a need and refuses to stoop to meet that need, they may not be a leader. They may be a title-holder.

Maybe your “stoop” isn’t always trash pick up. Maybe it’s taking time to pray for someone when you’ve got places you need to be. Perhaps it’s speaking a word of encouragement to a team member who is hurting. It could be replying to an email in a timely manner or pitching in on a project that’s not yours or taking on extra work that benefits the team.

Leadership isn’t dictatorship. It’s not rallying the troops beneath you so you can have a more comfortable life. Leadership always brings with it service. It always brings with it sacrifice. It always brings with it a humility that knows that trash pick up will forever be a part of our job description.

So how about it, leader? Got some trash that needs to be picked up?

Stop. Stoop. Lead.


Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Philippians 2:3-7

(photo courtesy WRAL. Click for more.)

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Our Summit family lost a warrior this weekend.

Noah Spivey was a seventeen year old who had seen more than his fair share of suffering. For the last four years he’s battled Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that took him in and out of hospitals and clinics around the country as doctors struggled to find a cure, a treatment, anything that would bring healing or at least minimize his symptoms.

I met Noah for the first time a few days after his initial diagnosis four years ago. Yesterday, I told his mom Christine that I remember walking into Duke Hospital, trying to come up with something to say that would encourage him. One chat with Noah assured me that I never needed to worry about that again. That’s because whenever you talked to Noah, you were rarely the one doing the encouraging. You walked away challenged, you walked away humbled, you walked away grateful for how God was working in a young man’s life, even as his life was slipping away.

Noah wore his cancer as a badge. It wasn’t a badge of pity, but rather one of opportunity: he realized that with the cancer came the chance to put his faith on display.

And display it he did.

Noah never lost his love for Jesus. I never heard him question God’s faithfulness even in the midst of excruciating suffering. On the contrary: he said over and over that “What Satan meant to kill me, God is using to give me life.” Those weren’t just clever soundbites for a video, it’s what we all saw Noah live every day.

Even as cancer ravaged him, Jesus was restoring him.

We don’t know why Noah’s story turned out as it did. Our pastor reminded us this weekend that we may never find the silver lining in our suffering. And yes, as a church we prayed for an outcome that would be much, much different.

But the truth is, Noah was healed. Because as we worshipped through tears this weekend, Noah’s faith became sight. His journey with pain was over, but what he believed in his heart is now being seen with his eyes.

As you pray this week, would you pray for Noah’s family? John, Christine, Lisa, Brooke, and Timmy are just beginning life without Noah. Pray that they would live with the same gospel-driven strength they’ve shown throughout Noah’s illness. Pray also for Jason Gaston, our Family Ministries Pastor. I’ve watched my friend Gaston walk faithfully with the Spivey family, and was humbled to see him lead our church so well through a time of grieving reflection this weekend. No student pastor should ever have to bury a student, but he has shown us what it means to trust in Jesus even while dealing with his own pain.

Noah Spivey wasn’t just a special kid. He was a young man who led our church on a journey of faith. He preached the gospel to us constantly for the last four years. He reminded us that joy is not found in perfect health, but in Jesus. His faith led us to greater faith, and our church family is stronger because of what God did through him.

May we all live lives marked with such courage and faithfulness.

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It’s Flashback Friday, kiddies, and around this corner of the webosphere that means that I scour back through the archives, dust off an old post, and repackage it for you.

Which, after you read today’s particular post, will really make you feel ripped off.

Somewhere up in Chocolate Heaven, Milton S. Hershey is laughing his chocolate milk mustache off. For decades, his company has been taking the same old chocolate – reshaping and repackaging it – and selling it to a bunch of suckers that are easily distracted by big bright letters that say BRAND NE…

…um, what was I saying?

I’ve noticed that we do the same thing with our religion. We tend to repackage the same old product and dress it up to sell it in a brand new way. I’m not talking here about contextualizing the gospel message to fit the culture we’re in. Nope, I’m talking religion. Pure, unadulterated, man-centered religion. The “guilted-to’s” over the “get-to’s.” The duty over the delight. The law over grace.

Read the entire original post here.

Five Facts About Multisite Churches That Should Impact All Churches(via @RichBirch) None of these findings are particularly surprising, but they’re all a good reminder for all of us. How do our churches measure up on the metrics?

68% of multisite churches stated they have a formal leadership development process.

At it’s core it would appear that thriving multisite churches are leadership development machines … they are able to find more volunteers and staff to lead their ever expanding ministries. Critical to this process is the ability to develop leaders. How is your church tackling the leadership development process? Is it written down? Does it have a leader and a budget? It’s going to be need to formal to meet the need of reaching your community.

Five Quick Tips For Lasting Customer Service(via @FastCompany) Whether you’re a CEO or a shepherd, this’ll help you in the quest to connect.

First, I don’t call people clients, or even customers. At my companies we refer to them as “guests,” and we are their host. We are always happy to see them and strive to make their time with each of us a great experience.

You Haven’t Seen A Big Brother Like This, Ever(via @Cheezburger) If you can watch this without weeping, you have no soul.

For those of us in ministry world, we hear that statement too many times. “I’m just a volunteer.” That statement can mean a lot of things: This job isn’t that big of a deal…I don’t have any real authority…What does it matter?…I don’t want to do that.

But however deep you dig, the statement is still wrong. You’re never just a volunteer. You’re way more than that:

So before you soft sell your service as a volunteer, remember: you’re never “just” anything. You’re an ambassador for the kingdom. A part of the royal priesthood. A living, breathing, functioning part of the body of Christ.

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It’s no secret that humor is kind of a big deal to me. My kids learned early on that if they were in trouble but could make me laugh, their punishment would be 17% less severe.

And I love the fact that all of my kids have a very unique slice of their own humor personalities. Jacob is the unsuspecting dry wit. Jase is the 11 year old, still-feeling-out-his-humor-roots-so-lets-just-make-up-weird-stuff guy. Haven is three. Everything she does is either infuriating or hilarious.

And then there’s Austin: the kid who has kept us laughing from day one. Today we flashback to one of my favorite Austin stories.

Austin [running out of his room at bedtime]: My short are making SPARKS!

Merriem: They’re what?

Austin:  SPARKS!  They’re making SPARKS!  When I got in bed and pulled the covers up, there were blue sparks everywhere!

Merriem: That’s just static.  It’s fine.  Go to bed.

Austin: But it’s SPARKS!

Read the rest of the story here. (Trust me. You wanna.)

At Chick-fil-A, HATCH comes first – even before the chicken or the egg(via @robertvadams) My friend Bob Adams gives us a behind the scenes tour of Chick-fil-A’s new innovation center. How are you thinking ahead in the guest service experience?


If you’re going to innovate in ministry, you will have to find ways to identify the fledgling innovators in your church and then find ways to support some of their seemingly crazy ideas.

Five things we expect (and rarely get) from conference sessions(via @360connext) Good stuff here. If you are a part of organizing, leading, or speaking at conferences, these are great things to keep in mind.

Ensure content isn’t completely redundant. If speakers keep saying “well I guess Joe already covered this,” that’s not the presenter’s fault. Planners and organizers should know who is presenting what and how it can benefit the audience.

Things I’ve said to my children(via @NathanRipperger) Yep. Guilty.


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It happened again just a few minutes ago.

I was on the phone with a company, trying to get a customer service issue resolved, and I had the sneaky suspicion the service rep wasn’t giving me her full attention.

Oh, she was doing plenty of talking. There was lots of typing going on the background. She was obviously taking notes, trying to be helpful, attempting to take care of my concern.

But she jumped ahead. She assumed she knew. She tried to fill in blanks that weren’t there. And because of that, what should have been a four minute call turned in to 14.

I’m afraid we do the same thing in our churches. Because we’ve been down that road, we think we know the answer to everyone’s question. The only problem is, the question we’re answering may not be the same question they’re asking.

So stop. Breathe. Take a minute, and really listen.

What’s their concern?

What do they need from me?

What clarification do I need to ask for?

How can I best serve them…right now?

If we’ll just listen, we might be surprised to find out what we hear.

Related post: Listen.

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