April 2014

(photo credit: Brian Fleming Photography)

(photo credit: Brian Fleming Photography)

My adopted hometown of Durham, North Carolina is known for a lot of things: we’re the City of Medicine. We’re historically a tobacco town (because smoking and medicine go great together). We’re the home of Duke basketball. And we have a grilled cheese food truck (your move, Charlotte).

But one of Durham’s best attractions is our own Durham Bulls baseball team. I’ll be honest: I’m not a baseball fan, but I’m a huge Durham Bulls fan. Our church has partnered with their organization to host a couple of large scale events in the park. I love their staff, I love the organization, I love the park.

That’s why I was so excited to see them come to the end of a recent 20 million dollar renovation. The goal was for them to finish prior to opening day last Thursday, but that’s not exactly what happened. While the game went on as planned, there were hiccups across the board: concessions weren’t up to par. Construction wasn’t finished. Credit card machines were down. Their pets’ heads were falling off.

As an event guy, I get it. I appreciate it. Stuff happens, and sometimes that stuff is out of your control. Durham faced an insane winter that kept construction from happening on time. And by the way: I’m glad to know we’re not the only ones who see deadlines flash past us no matter how hard we work. It happens to the best folks out there.

On opening night, I genuinely felt bad for the Bulls’ organization as I saw the critics take to Twitter to highlight their first world problems: You ran out of fresh-squeezed lemonade! I had to stand in a line longer than the foot-long corn dog I was standing in line to buy! Your credit card machines wouldn’t allow me to go into debt for a beer!

But I digress. I was thrilled to see the way that the Bulls’ General Manager Mike Birling handled the situation. The following day, Birling sent an email to all ticket holders. He didn’t spin it, he didn’t defend it, he just owned up to the fail and told fans what he was going to do to make things right.

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So what do you do when your good systems go bad? When your good plans go awry? When your good intentions get kicked to the curb? How do you handle a guest services fail?

You can ignore it. You can chalk it up to “just one of those things.” You can tell people to suck it up and stop being consumers. Or you can take a cue from Mike Birling: own it. Apologize for it. And tell what you’re doing to fix it.

That’s one way to hit it out of the park.


As I type, I’m sitting in a local tire repair shop, getting my front driver’s side tire plugged. Or patched. Or replaced. They haven’t told me which one just yet, but I’m sure it’ll be the most expensive option, because that’s how my tire problems roll.

(I’m sorry. Couldn’t help myself.)

The adventure began on Sunday afternoon on the way home from church. Merriem and I were in separate vehicles as usual (sorry, Mr. Gore), when I got a phone call telling me she was on the side of the road with a screw in the tire. This was no ordinary piece of hardware. It was a major chunk of metal. I think it might be the type of screw that holds up the Empire State Building. Heck…it may be the Empire State Building. And for once, I’m grateful that I wasn’t the one running around with a loose screw.

But I digress. We met up, switched cars, and I decided to try to make it to the repair shop on the still-mostly-inflated tire. But because I valued my life and safety (hands at ten and two, keep it below 40, no Netflix watching behind the wheel), I turned on my hazard lights and crept along in the right lane.

Now picture it: I was on two major highways (Hwy. 70 and I-85, for my local readers). There was always between two and five lanes of traffic. My hazards could be seen from a half mile back. And yet, there were still some – ahem – impatient ignoramuses who insisted on tailgating me, swerving around me, and shooting me dirty looks. And although I never saw it, I’m sure I received more than one Durham Wave. (Just like a regular wave, except with fewer fingers.)

Now my friends, I ask you: was such impatience justified? Other drivers had fair warning. They could see my hazards. They could obviously tell I wasn’t going fast enough for their preferences. In most cases the passing lane was clear and they were free to pass. So why the frustration?

In case you’re wondering, there’s a point to this story other than the one that went through my 225/60/R16’s:

if the guy ahead of you isn’t going as fast as you’d like, it’s okay to pass.

Here’s what I mean: more often than not, I’m not the smartest guy in the room or the best voice at the table. And a lot of times, my title and position possibly dictates that I ought to be. Maybe I’m talking to a group of volunteers, a new batch of interns, or a table full of much younger pastors. And though I should be leading the pack, I’m not. Whether or not I should be the fastest brain, I’m often struggling to keep up. And in those moments, I want to communicate that it’s okay to pass.

It’s okay to be smarter than your leader.

It’s okay to be more well-read on a topic.

It’s okay to bring up better ideas, smoother strategies, or cleaner systems.

Passing your leader isn’t something you need permission to do. No, it’s a gift. It’s a gift to the one leading you. It’s a gift to your peers. It’s a gift to the entire team. Don’t hold back a great idea or a valid opinion just because you feel bad about passing the guy in front of you. While it might not feel natural, it moves everyone forward.

To keep quiet and stay where you are just proves that you may have a screw loose.

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

We can believe that Jesus is greater than any earthly competition for his affection. We can say that his glory should eclipse all others in our life. We can sing of our love for him, our devotion to him, our passion for him.

But while we believe, we forget.

We get into the busyness of our day, and we forget. We get into the heat of a trial, and we forget. We wrestle with the same old sins, and we forget.

What we know to be true, we forget to be true.

Read the entire original post here.

I mentioned yesterday that April 1st (April Fool’s Day, here in these United States) is my favorite day on the Internet. That’s why I’m presenting you with top three pranks I saw out there. No foolin’.

MEGroups(via @MidtownColumbia) My friends down at Midtown Fellowship took a strikingly similar path as our socialMEdia™ Small Groups. No, we didn’t collaborate. We didn’t swap notes. But we should have. Oh, we should have. Their video is epic.

MeGroups from Midtown Fellowship on Vimeo.


Canada’s WestJet Airlines Converts to Metric Time(via @PremiumFunny) WestJet is still my favorite-airline-I’ve-never-flown-on, and this is part of the reason why.


Tom’s ShuberX(via @TIME) From the people who spread shoes around the world comes a car service that will take you around the corner.

SocialMEdia_logo - X

It’s a sad day for the online community.

Yesterday I announced the launch of the Summit’s brand new initiative called socialMEdia™ Small Groups: the groups that let you grow in grace without getting off the couch; that let you build community without any commitment. It was a genius idea, really: use your already-existing web presence to “do life together” while being very much alone.

The only problem was that we made that announcement on April 1.

April Fool’s Day.

Oh, many of you got it. You told me that you knew something was coming (maybe because I. do. this. every. year.), that you could tell two sentences in that it was a prank, or at least that you clicked the link at the bottom of the post and figured out the big reveal. (I was especially proud of four commenters: Josh, Jon, Chris, and Lori, who got the joke and played along. Well done, y’all. Well done indeed.)

But more than a few of you didn’t get it. I fielded phone calls and text messages and emails and personal conversations in the hallway, expressing concern about this new direction our discipleship strategy was going. That list included everyone from out of town relatives to pastors on our small group teams (those guys were really upset that they were just finding out about it).

And to all of you, I offer this:


Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

I know, it’s not nice to laugh. But it was April 1, after all. My friends, that is my favorite day on the internet. And you should not believe anything you read on the interwebs on that day, especially on this blog. (Oh, and while we’re at it, Sonic is not unveiling a Kale Cream Pie milkshake, Cheetos is not launching a perfume line, and Southwest is not offering non-stop flights to Mars.)

So to clear things up:

  • The Summit still believes in face-to-face discipleship.
  • We’re not abandoning our current small group model.
  • And we’d really rather not start a sanctification selfie trend anytime soon.

Did you bite? We’d all like to hear about it in the comments below. And after you comment, please feel free to go ahead and mark your calendars for March 31, 2015.

Thanks for playing.

If you’re so inclined, here’s a list of posts from April Fool’s Days gone by:

[Editor’s note: before you read the following post, please take notice of two things:

1. It was originally penned on April 1. (APRIL. FIRST.)

2. And if April 1 does nothing to jog your brain, you should definitely click the link at the bottom. No seriously. Please click it.

Okay, carry on.]

SocialMEdia logo

Every once in a while an announcement comes along that’s just too good to sit on any longer.

In just over a month, the Summit Church is launching a brand new initiative called socialMEdia™ Small Groups. For the last nine months, I’ve been collaborating with Spence Shelton, our Spiritual Formations Pastor, as well as a ton of our IT people in order to roll out this launch. Nine months is an appropriate time frame, because in many ways it feels like we’ve been preparing to give birth. We’ve labored over it, cried over it, wrestled with it, but we’re ready to introduce this proverbial baby to the world.



Every “what” needs a “why.” Here’s ours: we know that getting into a small group is tough. Every month we see hundreds of people attempting to join a group, and the truth is, it’s hard to keep up. We want to have well trained group leaders, but training takes time. And time is something that prospective leaders and members just don’t have.

But one thing Americans (even American Christians) seem to have time for is social media. Whether you love it or hate it, most of us are tech junkies. We love our Twitter, our Facebook, our Instagram, and our MySpace (shout out to our 90’s brethren!). So last year several of our pastors asked the obvious question: Why can’t we do both?

Why can’t we increase involvement by CHANGING commitment?

Why can’t we lower the risk and give a better return?

Why can’t we – for lack of a better term – dumb down the process?

So that’s exactly what we did!

We took the best that social media had to offer and applied it to the fast paced lifestyle of the 21st century disciple. We worked with some of the best and brightest tech people out there to flush out the kinks in the system. We vetted the go-getters of the online community to build a new kind of community, and we think you’re going to love what you see.



Imagine: what if you could have all of the benefits of a small group without the difficult commitments? What if you could connect with your fellow disciples anytime, anywhere? What if you never again had to walk into a strange living room, endure a long and awkward prayer request, or risk rejection from a group that’s already gelled before you showed up? Maybe you laugh at those examples, but then again, maybe you’ve never had to face these realities.

socialMEdia™ Small Groups changes all of that. For starters, you choose the group that’s right for you. When the SMSG site launches, you’ll complete a profile that describes your preferences. You can tag your profile with any descriptor from seeker to serious, from dog lover to Democrat, from Lecrae devotee to Larry the Cucumber fan club president. From those tags and profiles, our database will run an algorithm that will generate up to ten social groups that might be right for you, much like E-Harmony or Match.com. You can pick one or several, and try them out at your leisure.

Some groups will meet weekly, much like our traditional groups. Others will meet at more random times: sometimes every other week, sometimes several times a day, sometimes once a quarter. Because there are no houses, childcare, and schedules to deal with, the sky is the limit and the pressure is off.

Group facilitators will be chosen by the group members. Once a group has been formed for two weeks, group members will take an online poll to select the person who appears most qualified to lead. It’s Seth Godin’s Tribes principle at it’s best: find someone who seems to be passionate about what they’re doing, and follow them.

Then the fun begins: once your group is fully operational, you have the opportunity to fully explore all that the socialMEdia™ Small Group has to offer. We’ve pulled in all of the major social networking sites to give you the opportunity to integrate your discipleship with your everyday lifestyle:

  • “Like” your group on Facebook and post it to your wall so that your non-Christian friends can see what they’re missing.
  • Encourage other group members on Twitter. Discipleship doesn’t have to be lengthy; sometimes it can happen in less than 140 characters.
  • Watching a great documentary on Jesus? Link your Netflix account so your other group members can join in the learning. (Or comment on your favorite Walking Dead episode; we won’t judge.)
  • Set up a Google Hangout in order to discuss the weekend sermon in real time.
  • Connect your LinkedIn profile to remind your friends to live out the gospel at work.
  • If you’re one of those who tagged yourself a Lecrae fan (98% of you), let people know you’re listening to him on Spotify.
  • Share inspirational sayings, gospel-centered kids craft ideas, and home improvement tips with Pinterest.
  • Want to get together with a group member for a meal? Make a recommendation on Yelp and a reservation on OpenTable.
  • And that’s just the beginning. Share a mini-message with Vine, a funny selfie with Instagram or Snapchat, or a sermon link on YouTube.

Keep in mind that all of this is just the beta version. In the months to come, we’ll be integrating VimeoPathFlickrUrbanSpoon, and tons more. The best is yet to come!



So how does learning happen? While you’ll still have the opportunity to participate in the Summit’s alignment series like Sent, socialMEdia™ Small Groups will give you far more flexibility on what you learn and when. The voted-on group facilitator will be able to select from all the resources of the internet. We’ll provide links to LifeWayGroup, RightNow Media, even Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You find something that looks interesting and go to town. And of course, group members can access the material by simply downloading to their Kindle device or app. Amazing.

I am incredibly excited about what the future holds. Our team believes that – while admittedly non-traditional – this model may soon overtake traditional groups in popularity. Life is busy, so “doing life together” will necessarily look different.

Imagine: connected to the community without the constraints of community. Life together while doing life solo. Growing in grace without getting off the couch. It’s a new kind of paradigm for a new kind of pilgrim.



socialMEdia™ Small Groups don’t officially launch until mid-May (just in time for your summer travels), but you can join the waiting list and fill out your profile starting today. Simply follow the link to get started.

Get ready to get social!


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