Serve’s Up

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

Maybe you grew up in a church like mine, where your pastor preached a 147 week series a couple of times a year on how to discover your spiritual gift, with an exhaustive explanation on everything from prophecy to prayer and teaching to tongues (scratch that, Baptists don’t do tongues). And maybe, like me, you spent more than your fair share of years wondering exactly what your spiritual gift was. It was like Christmas every time you took another spiritual gifts test: “I hope I get discernment this time! I’ll bet it’s discer…aw man! Celibacy again!”

I think our spiritual gifts quests can be misguided at times. We spend so much energy trying to pinpoint exactly what our gift is, we unnecessarily  delay the way in which God wants to use us. We’re so busy filling out surveys that we’re not actually serving.


Read the entire original post here.

(photo credit: Chris Haston / NBCU Photo Bank)

(photo credit: Chris Haston / NBCU Photo Bank)

True story: I was just a little bit old for the Saved By The Bell. I was 16 when it premiered in ’89, and besides, it didn’t really take off until Mr. Belding hired his brother Rod as a substitute history teacher and the kids had to convince him that – even for all the charm and charisma of Rod – their principal was the better Belding.

But I digress.

If you watched SBTB much (unlike me, who again was way too old for it), one of the common themes was that those six kids did everything. Can we agree on that? Zack, Slater, Screech, Kelly, Jessie, and Lisa had a larger on-campus presence than a Zack Morris cell phone. Band? They were all a part of it. Sports teams? On ’em. Debate team? Swim team? Student council? Check. Check. Check.

It seemed that everywhere you looked you had six kids as the primary do-gooders, surrounded by a chorus of extras who may or may not have been engaged. It’s enough to turn a teen to caffeine pills to keep up, which may finally explain why Jessie was SO EXCITED! SO EXCITED! SO…so…scared. (Arguably the best dramatic moment in television history. Yes it is. Shut up.)

Watching those wacky Bayside kids get involved in everything can kind of remind you of your core team of church volunteers. Maybe they serve on the parking team, moonlight in the first grade classroom, step up to help with the offering, tutor kids after school, and show up to help stuff envelopes for the quarterly mailing. And it’s volunteers like that that we’re grateful for. We thank God for. The activity of the church is built on their backs, and we couldn’t do it without them.

But is it healthy? Is it sustainable? Is it a workable model for either your dependable volunteers or your dependent church? I’m afraid that we’re all too eager to cultivate a Bayside atmosphere with our volunteer team. They’re up front, they’re willing, they’re doers, let’s just let ’em do more.

And all the while they’re strung out on caffeine pills. And all the while there are others in the background who should serve, can serve, and maybe even are willing to serve, but for whatever reason, they don’t serve.

I’m not knocking faithful volunteers. Again, I thank God for them. But are we being faithful to their faithfulness? Do we better serve our servants by helping them target their service? And do we better serve our congregation by encouraging those on the sidelines to step up?

Figure this out…help your congregation see the beauty in involvement and shared responsibility…and you too can be the better Belding.

Go Tigers.

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

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

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.


Recently one of our First Impressions team members moved out of state. As her team leader was conducting an “exit interview” of sorts, he asked her about the type of church she’d be looking for in her new city. Here’s what she said:

“While I’m nervous to have to look for a new church, if the Summit has taught me anything, it’s that I felt the most connected and cared for when I was serving. So thanks for the awesome example y’all have been in that for me and hopefully I can lead a ‘sent life’ when I move away.”

What this awesome volunteer learned is that serving is more than simply caring for others: it’s making sure that you’re cared for as well. Some of the strongest relationships I see at the Summit are those that are birthed out of serving shoulder to shoulder on the parking team, the seating team, the Summit Kids team…you name it. There’s something about serving together that builds trust, camaraderie, and a common purpose.

Does that mean that small groups aren’t important? Absolutely not. We say that we’re a church of small groups, not a church with small groups. Our goal is that every single person that calls the Summit home would also be a part of a smaller group of believers.

But if the passages on spiritual gifts are to be believed, believers should be serving. And as believers serve, those connections points are naturally going to be established.

What are your “I serve with my friends” stories? Comment below.

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(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.


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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This weekend our pastor preached a barn burner on busyness. (If you missed it, you can catch up here.) And at some of our campuses, the “You’re probably doing too much” sermon was followed up by a “You’re probably not doing enough” announcement: attempting to get volunteers to sign up for a weekend ministry.

As the Announcement-Guy-In-Residence at the Brier Creek Campus on Sunday, I found myself on the horns of an ethical dilemma: could I legitimately encourage people to take the opportunity to serve when the vast majority I was talking to were still repenting of their busyness?

The answer: yes. (And not just because I get commission off of each new volunteer that rushes the stage as a result of my mad announcing skillz.) I really believe that there is enough bandwidth in the life of a believer for each of us to use our wiring to serve one another.

But before we get there, let me clarify: I’m not advocating for people who already have 15 ministry activities to take on a 16th. I’m not suggesting that people who are actively ministering in their community during the week should feel guilty because they don’t have an “inside the walls” ministry on the weekend.

No, I’m talking about the believer who isn’t currently, actively serving out of the overflow of their gifts and skill sets. Yes, they may be working 60 hours a week. Yep, they may have a job that keeps their weekend availability a bit unpredictable. But I believe that most Christians – with few exceptions – are wired to serve others, and for that reason, God dispenses grace for those believers to do what he’s wired them to do. Here’s why:

  1. Serving others is a constant reminder that “it’s not about me.” Don’t misunderstand: I believe you can get great personal joy from serving in the nursery or parking cars on a cold winter’s day. But when you do those things, it’s a heart check that the universe doesn’t revolve around you. When you serve, you give up something you love (your comfort and convenience) for something you’ve learned to love even more (the joy of selfless giving in the love of Jesus).
  2. You serve not because the church needs you to, but because you need toPastors are pretty infamous for pleading according to need: “If you don’t sign up to serve in the nursery, we’ll have to toss babies out on the sidewalk.” But that’s just what they teach you in Announcements 101 in seminary. (In reality, very few babies are placed on the sidewalk.) When you serve according to need, you’ll quickly find yourself on a slippery slope of never-ending need. The church was probably okay before you came along, and they’ll likely survive if you never get off your padded pew. No, serve because it’s the way you’ve been wired and it’s a part of your own spiritual growth.
  3. Serving according to your passion can supply energy, rather than drain it. We’ve all served in areas where we weren’t qualified or did it because someone begged us to. And we know how that goes – after a few hours or few weeks or few months we’re ready to chew off our arms to get out of there. But when we serve in a place that matches our passion, gifts, and skill sets, church leadership will have a hard time keeping us from serving.
  4. Serving perpetuates a very important weekend cycle. When you first show up at a church, you rightfully arrive as a consumer. And after a time of getting assimilated to life within the church, you should grow from a consuming taker to a commissioned giver. But here’s the catch: you’re serving those who are arriving in your wake. You are remembering the grace others gave you, and you’re now doling it out to others. And your example can serve to raise up those consumers to one day serve as well.

Are you serving? Is there a place where you’ve determined your gifts and you’re pouring them out to others? Are you following the biblical mandate to serve one another and outdo one another in showing honor? If not, now is the perfect time to get started. If you attend the Summit, you can follow this link for more information. If not, email your pastor today.


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!



There are two businesses that I frequent on a regular basis. (And by “regular” I mean “compulsive.”) These are different businesses, with two different product lines, two different bottom lines.

Both businesses are great. Both are leaders in their industry. And the particular franchises I’m referring to? Well, they’re simply top notch.

But like all businesses, there are times (albeit infrequent) that there are missteps. Incorrect orders, inattentive employees, underwhelming experience.

Infrequent, although it happens. Sometimes.

But here’s the difference: when it does happen, there’s one business that I tend to be more forgiving of. One that I intentionally overlook the misstep, forgive the inattention, and know that the next experience will be better.

The reason? Relationship. At one business, I’m known. I’m on a first name basis with most of the employees. They know my regular order. They know my face. They know my family.

At the other, I’m…well…not known. I know a couple of employees, but not more than that. I recognize some of the regulars, but I don’t feel like a regular. And a lot of that is my fault. Before I grouse that they haven’t gotten to know me, I have to realize that I haven’t made a concerted effort to get to know them, either.

Both are great places. Both are staffed with great people. But it’s the relationship with one that sets it apart.

It works the same with our churches and our guest services teams. We’re more likely to forgive the inevitable missteps when we know the people doing the misstepping. It doesn’t excuse mistakes, but it does soothe mistakes. And that’s one of many reasons that relationships matter.

So what are you doing to facilitate relationships between your servant team and those they’re serving? I’d love to hear your success stories. Comment below.

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