April 2014


(photo courtesy Mike McDaniel)

(photo courtesy Mike McDaniel)

This weekend the Summit commissioned 108 people to four North American church plants. Over the next few weeks we’ll be seeing these folks move to D.C., Wilmington, NC, and two locations in Durham. Our Summit Network has been training up the lead pastors of these plants, preparing them in part for the rigors of planting a new work.

In full disclosure, not all people on stage were covenant members of the Summit. We were missing some of our covenant members who are going, and in their place Grace Park Church and Waypoint Church both had part of their core teams that were there. But the majority of people standing on that stage have been an integral part of life at the Summit. We’re sending pastors and interns, worship leaders and elders, First Impressions and Summit Kids volunteers, college students, older people, younger people, married couples, singles…you name it, they’re going. People have given up jobs, sold homes, given sacrificially, and poured out their lives to see the gospel go forward in new places.

At the Summit, one of our plumblines is We send our best. We don’t want to be guilty of hoarding talent or gifts; we recognize that God gives us great people so that we can give them back as a faith offering elsewhere. But while we’ve said that now for several years, this weekend I felt it in a real, tangible way.

Two of the men standing on that stage represented the best of the best. Josh Lawrence and Clayton Greene have been my fellow pastors, team members, and personal friends for the last several years. When they made the decision to be a part of The Bridge Church in Wilmington, they represented 50% of my Connections team. One-half. Two out of four. However you do the math, that’s a chunk of “best” that is heading out.

2Musketeers

Josh was my First Impressions Director in our Brier Creek South venue, and held down a side role as my Special Events Coordinator. That’s a lot of hats for a guy workin’ intern hours. Nobody thinks through the logistics of an event and gets volunteers where they need to go quite like Josh. He was the calming force to crazy moments, the unsung hero of all kinds of behind the scenes magic, and just simply got the job done. In addition to that, he served as the small group leader to my two oldest sons for several years, so Josh is a part of our family’s fabric.

Clayton was the First Impressions Director in Brier Creek North, and the evil genius behind a tremendous amount of the “why behind the what.” Clayton has suffered through – and subjected me to – hours upon hours of conversations on why we do what we do, how we do what we do, and how we can do it much, much better. We’ve never met a whiteboard or a blank sheet of paper that we couldn’t fill up with ideas we just knew would change the world. I never walk away from a conversation unchallenged or discouraged. He gets guest services at the heart level like no one I’ve ever seen, and he wants to do whatever it takes to help people take a step towards Jesus.

Send our best? Yes we do. My buddy Ethan Welch, lead pastor of The Bridge, is getting the cream of the crop, as is Waypoint, Grace Park, and Restoration City Church. Whenever we send our best, we are making a sacrifice. There’s no way around it. There are tears. There are losses. There are real, gaping voids that are left behind.

But here’s why sending our best is vitally important: I’d rather give away good people than get greedy with good people. I’d rather see the gospel take root in new places than just build a deep bench of talent in RDU. I’d rather lose geographically-close friendships if it means seeing friends use their gifts to do some serious damage for the kingdom in another city.

We’re called to send. It’s in the DNA of the Christian, and it’s in the mandate of the gospel. So if we’re called to send, why not send our best?

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This is a different kind of Flashback Friday.

Most weeks, I dig into the archives and pull up an old post. (Haven’t seen it? It’s new to you!) But here’s a fair warning: this may be the first of several “new breed” of flashbacks coming over the next few weeks.

You see, my firstborn graduates high school five weeks from today. Jacob is thrusting us down memory lane while taking us through a series of “firsts” like we’ve never experienced before, and last night was one of those.

Jacob’s elementary school hosts an annual Senior Night. It’s a chance for their former students to come back to their old stomping grounds one last time before they wrap up their high school years. Last night was an absolutely amazing experience as we reconnected with old friends and caught up with kids we knew way back when.

We moved to the community halfway through Jacob’s second grade year, and his elementary school became home for our family for the next nine and a half years. All three of our boys went through the system, and we have incredibly fond memories of our time in the hallways, in the classrooms, and on the rec fields.

Because of the relatively small student body, everyone was able to take the stage last night and tell their post-high school plans plus a favorite memory from their elementary school days. It was a blast from the past: one of the last times I saw most of those kids on stage, they were dressed as reindeer or elves for a Christmas program. Now they’re practically adults, getting ready to major in biology or graphic design or business or who knows what else. They were poised, articulate, sometimes funny, and seemed ready to take on the world.

I’m thankful for an elementary school that would take time out of a busy end-of-year schedule to honor their former students. I’m grateful for the staff there that have proven time and time again that teaching isn’t just a job, it’s a calling. I’m proud of the friendships our boys made there and the memories they’ll carry with them for life. And yep, I’m still shaking my head wondering how the second grader who walked in that building is now a senior who’ll soon be walking across a stage.

So for today’s Flashback Friday, a question: what’s your favorite elementary school memory? Comment below.

You know the drill, campers: Thursday is lazy day. I cut and paste, you humor me and pretend I did some work.

 

Easter Was Not Enough… Expectation Shapes Experience 51 Other Sundays(via @thebryanrose, HT @robertvadams) Don’t pull a bait & switch: you dressed up for company last week, do it again this week. And the next…and the next…

This anticipation of guests every Easter causes us to see our systems and facilities with outside eyes, and respond appropriately. Just like we would at home, we straighten up “for company” and plan to make a great impression. Every Easter, we are more diligent because we know that “they” are coming. And one of two messages is communicated by our guest’s experience…

 

They’re Your Words, Choose Them(via @ThisIsSethsBlog) Seth Godin = genius as usual.

There’s no legal requirement that signs have to make you sound like a harsh jerk in order to carry weight or to inform the public.

 

DHL Pulls Trojan Package Prank on Other Shipping Companies(via @PremiumFunny) Well now this is just evil. And hilarious.

(photo courtesy @AaronJCoalson)

(photo courtesy @AaronJCoalson)

We’re coming off of another incredible Easter weekend at the Summit. 18 services at seven locations, plus two worship events on Good Friday. 169 people who symbolized their faith in Jesus through the act of baptism. Nearly 10,500 people in attendance. Hundreds upon hundreds of faithful volunteers, many serving multiple services over several days. And oh…did I mention that two campuses combined for a first-ever service at Carolina Theatre downtown?

I don’t take any of those things lightly. Lives changed through the gospel is nothing to sneeze at. Our volunteers are my absolute heroes, and there are not many words to express my gratitude to them. Hundreds of first time guests were exposed to the resurrection message of Jesus. God did more than we could have asked or imagined, and we are grateful to him for that.

But there is one aspect of Easter weekend that cannot be missed. It has nothing to do with baptisms or first time guests or volunteers, and yet it has everything to do with that.

Like most churches with multiple services, we made a big push for our regular attendees to attend at a service they normally wouldn’t, to free up seats for those who may be showing up for the first time. At our Brier Creek campus, we asked for people to consider coming on Saturday (same experience, more elbow room) in order to create room on Sunday (a more traditional time for a first time guest to surface).

And boy, did they ever.

We saw 1110 people show up and scoot in for the 4:00 Saturday service. Our previous “high” for that service is 740. Folks, that’s a 50% increase, even by common core math standards. We packed the auditorium, packed the lobby (pictured above), and tossed 100 more into a secondary venue that wasn’t supposed to be used until the following day.

And because of everyone that showed up at a time normally inconvenient to them, we created space that lasted us the rest of the weekend. What we thought would be crowded, wasn’t. Where we didn’t believe we’d have room, we did. The “80% full is full” rule didn’t apply. Not a single guest was turned away, not a single guest was put off by the sardine-like conditions, and I credit that largely to the faithfulness of our regular crowd.

Here’s what we’ve learned over the last several years: mission trumps need, every single time. Many times churches appeal to need: “We need you to come at a time you hate so that we don’t have to turn people away!” “We need you to serve in the nursery or we’ll have to toss babies on the sidewalk!” “We need you to volunteer or this place will go down like the Titanic!”

And while need always has it’s place, it’s not sustainable. People get tired of responding to need after a while, and so…they don’t.

Instead, we prefer to appeal to mission. We asked people to temporarily move to Saturday because it was a missional opportunity to make room for guests. It was a way they could practically, easily serve. Was it a need? Sure it was. But more than that, it was a part of the mission. We say all the time that people are the missionand for that reason, making room for new people was a critical step in the mission.

How about it, church leader? Are you banging the drum of need? Or are you faithfully casting vision for the mission?

 

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

Pastors: they’re coming.

Easter weekend is one of the two largest church attendance weekends in any calendar year. People attend church with Grandma. Irreligious people come because it’s still the socially acceptable thing to do in some parts of the country. Folks who are normally sporadic in attendance wouldn’t think of skipping church on Easter.

And pastors…well, we pastors don’t generally know what to do with the new-found fullness of our auditoriums. So we freak out. We nervously resort to humor or snarkiness or futile attempts at bridging the gap.

We say things like, “We want to extend a welcome to the poinsettia and lily crowd!” or “Thanks for coming. We’ll see you again at Christmas.” (No seriously, I’ve heard both of these things said by a real pastor to a real congregation.) And while we think it’s cute, or funny, or disarming, it’s really anything but.

What we mean to be appealing is insulting.

What we hope makes a point is really pointless.

Instead of drawing people in, it chases them away. Instead of bringing comfort to the outsider, it just keeps them on the outside. And instead of helping your cause, it’s hurting your church.

I get it. Shoot, I’ve said things like this in the past. But what we have to remember is that any step towards the Church is still a step. It still takes effort. You’re going to have guests this weekend who wrestled with the decision to come, but in the end, they honored you with their presence. So please, don’t insult them with your comments and give them one more reason not to show up the following weekend.

Rather than snarky one-liners, how about grace? How about an easy next step? How about a way to connect to other people, and most importantly, to the cross?

Jesus took those who were on the outside and he brought them in. Regardless of how long it had been, regardless of how far they had wandered, regardless of how far they had to go…the message of Good Friday and Easter Sunday is that new life is available to anyone who asks and the grace of Jesus meets us at the point of our deepest need.

They’re coming. The Holy Spirit is drawing brand new honored guests to your services this weekend. How will you serve them?

This post seems to appear every couple of years here, and for good reason. Max Lucado reminds us that the cross isn’t just an event in history, but a life-changing event right now. As you read, pray that the eyes of thousands would be opened this weekend and they would realize that the cross is for them.

With hands nailed open, he invited God, “Treat me as you would treat them!” And God did.  In an act that broke the heart of the Father, yet honored the holiness of heaven, sin-purging judgment flowed over the sinless Son of the ages.

And heaven gave earth her finest gift.  The Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world.

Read the full post here. And have a Great Friday.

Ten Big Reasons Easter Giveaways Are Unwise(via @JaredCWilson) I guess this blows our Keurig giveaway out of the water.

priceisright

(click for photo credit)

Every year some churches seek to outdo themselves — and their local competition — by luring unbelievers (and I suppose interested believers) to their Easter service(s) with the promise of big shows and in some cases big giveaways. One guy in Texas made national news for giving away new cars. Another church has dropped prize-filled Easter eggs out of helicopters to gathered crowds below. Local churches with more modest budgets sometimes promise door prizes like iPods or iPads or gift certificates to local restaurants.

 

This NY Restaurant Takes Facebook Stalking to a New Level(via @GrubStreet, HT @jwickersham) What say you? Amazingly personalized service or creepy over the top in-your-faceness?

At 3:30 p.m., in the back office of Eleven Madison Park, maître d’ Justin Roller is Googling the names of every guest who will come in that night. “I’m looking for chef’s whites and wine glasses,”  he says. A shot of a guest wearing whites means a chef is probably coming to dinner. Wine glasses signify a potential sommelier (or at least a wine geek). This is just the beginning. If, for example, Roller discovers it’s a couple’s anniversary, he’ll then try to figure outwhich anniversary. If it’s a birthday, he’ll welcome a guest, as they walk in the door, with a “Happy Birthday.” (Or, if it seems to Roller that a guest prefers to keep a low profile, “I’ll let them introduce themselves to me,” he says.) Even small details are useful: “If I find out a guest is from Montana, and I know we have a server from there, we’ll put them together.”

 

Mousetrap Chain Reaction in Slow Motion(via @GavinFree) My wife would pay good money to have these guys bring those traps to our house.

 

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