(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.

That’s right, boys and girls: Christmas is coming again this year. Even better, it’s coming back to Durham Performing Arts Center.

More info is coming later on tickets, service times, and how you can volunteer to serve the RDU community as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. But for now, a recap of Christmas 2012…


Five days. FIVE DAYS, people. Five days is what’s on the old countdown clock as we prepare for Church at the Ballpark ’13, arguably the largest worship event in the Summit’s history.

And with large events usually comes large confusion. Unless you landed here. In that case, you’re going to be in the know, smarter than the average bear, and the coolest kid on the Durham Bulls’ block come Sunday. That’s because you’re getting the inside scoop on everything in 3…2…

When & where? CatB happens Sunday, September 15th, at 10:30 AM, but you should arrive earlier than that. Much earlier. We suggest getting downtown at 9:15. Gates will open at 9:30 AM, and we’ve got a full slate of goodies prior to the service’s start time that you won’t want to miss. We’ll be at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in downtown Durham, which is an easy drive from anywhere in the Triangle. Map it. And by the way, there are NO services at any Summit campus on September 14-15 (although we’ll have a few people armed with flip cams just to get your stunned reaction when you show up to an empty building because you haven’t been paying attention for the last week or seven).

Parking. We have access to all decks of the American Tobacco Campus. When you arrive downtown, you’ll see our parking army outfitted in neon vests and ego-boosting radios. They hold a lot of power, so you should follow their instructions. Trust them, and they will get you to the closest possible spot. Ignore them, and your car will be sold on eBay while you worship. All parking is free in the three ATC decks on Sunday.

Accessibility. Handicapped parking is available on Blackwell Street, adjacent to the stadium. Blackwell will be one-way this Sunday, so you must enter from Jackie Robinson Drive, and you must have an official handicapped placard. Those spaces are first-come, first-served, but there’s also handicapped spaces available in the ATC South Deck.

Fill the trucks. We’re partnering with two local organizations who serve the homeless population in Durham. We’re asking every CatB guest to bring one or more of their needed items. Those trucks will be located on Blackwell Street just to the left of the main gate…fill ’em up before you fill up the stadium.

First Time Guests. If this will be your first visit to a Summit service, we have a special experience just for you. Stop by one of our eight First Time Guest tents (they’re both outside and inside the gates) for a gift and a personal greeting. Summit regulars who try to pass themselves off as a FTG just to get free swag will be subject to fingerprinting and church discipline.

Childcare. We’re taking care of kids ages six weeks through 23 months old. The childcare area opens at 9:30 AM, and is located in the VIP suites overlooking the field. Families with strollers can access that area through the elevators inside the gates and to the left. Non-stroller families can access the suites from seating sections 207 & 208.

Bigger kids. We’ve set up a family-friendly section close to right field and just below Wool E. World. Watch for our Summit Kids team – they’ll be distributing white goodie bags with enough stuff to keep your kids happy and you sane. In addition, Wool E. World will be open before and after the service so that your home team can run off some energy.

Seating. We nearly filled the stadium in 2011, and this time around we’re expecting to overflow it. That’s why we’re bringing in thousands of extra chairs, and why we need you to follow the instructions of our 200+ person seating team. Please scoot to the front and center when you enter the stadium and fill in all empty chairs so that no one is left without a seat. If you’d like to meet up with your family, small group, biker gang, etc., we simply request that you gather in the concourse before entering the seating area.

Deaf / Hard of hearing interpretation. We’ll be providing assistance in section 114, just to the side of the right field dugout.

Baptisms. They’re back, and we’re excited. We’ll be offering the opportunity to celebrate baptisms in front of thousands of your closest friends. If you’re interested in being baptized, all you have to do is show up. We’re providing decision counselors, clothing, towels, photographers, hair gel, you name it. (Just don’t name arm floaties, because we’re not providing those.)

Concessions. We’ll open the concession stands at the end of the service. You can get several items for a buck (hot dogs, soft drinks, popcorn, etc.) as well as traditional $26 ballpark nachos (those had better be some awesome jalapeños). Bring some money and plan on hanging out with your Summit family for the afternoon.

Merchandise. The Summit’s resource table will be located at the top of the front entry steps, in front of the MVP suite. We’ll have the newest CDs from Matt Papa & Hank Murphy, as well as souvenir CatB t-shirts. Please note: we can only accept debit or credit cards at the merch table, no cash this weekend. (Our sincerest apologies to Dave Ramsey.)

Social media. Bring your Instagram, bring your Twitter, bring your Facebook, bring your MySpace if you’re still stuck in the 90’s. #ChurchAtTheBallpark is our official hashtag. Help us spread the excitement all over the interwebs.

Serve. If you still haven’t signed up to serve this weekend, we don’t want you to miss out. Visit the sign up form and let us know you’re coming. That form will officially close on Thursday at noon, so jump in.

Everything else. We’re blanketing the park with hundreds of people that can help you. If you have a question or need assistance, simply find one of our volunteers in the gray shirts. We’d be glad to serve you!

You read the book, now see the movie. Want to get all of this info in living color? Check out the helpful video below. No, we don’t know who that dashingly handsome man is, but look at how awesome he is at sucking in his stomach!


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This thing is really happening.

After months of planning, weeks of fine-tuning details, and hours upon hours of thinking through every last contingency, we’re almost ready for Church at the Ballpark. It’ll be the biggest worship service the Summit has ever hosted, and an opportunity for the church to gather in one location.

As with any Summit event, this one is going to take an army of volunteers. We’ve identified spots for well over 1,000 people serving in various capacities. Here’s the skinny:

  • Set up. Help load in First Time Guest tents, Summit Kids’ supplies, and hundreds of towels for baptisms.
  • First Impressions. Slap on an orange vest. Greet people on the concourse. Work that seating team like you were born for it.
  • Summit Kids. Let’s face it: this might be your one shot to visit the VIP suites at the Bulls’ Park. Might as well take a couple dozen toddlers in there with you.
  • Baptism Logistics. Pass out clothes. Help with registration. Direct foot traffic for hundreds of people responding to the gospel.
  • Baptism Counseling. Help make sure those who respond understand the gospel and are ready to take the next step. (Limited to Summit covenant members who have completed training.)
  • Prayer. Church at the Ballpark will be lots of fun, but it’s not a game. We’re asking God to do what only he can do.
  • Tear Down. If it goes in the park, it’s gotta come out. Stick around for an after-party workout like you’ve never experienced.

Do we need volunteers? Sure we do. But more than that, you need to volunteer. Believers are hard-wired to serve out of their skill sets, and we want to give you an outlet to get involved.

Don’t currently serve at the Summit? Not a problem. Church at the Ballpark is a great way to jump on a “one-serve” opportunity. Kick the tires. Take us for a test drive. Don’t knock it ’till you love it. (Trust us…you’ll love it.)

Afraid of serving on your own? That’s understandable. But as our volunteers often discover, serving is a great way to make new friendships and discover shared interests. But hey – if you have a small group, bring ’em along.

Don’t overthink this. Don’t put off the decision. Let God use you to welcome thousands of people to Church at the Ballpark. Sign up today.

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In just under four weeks we’ll be celebrating what promises to be the largest worship service ever at the Summit Church. Church at the Ballpark 2011 saw over 7200 people gather from all of our campuses and all over the Triangle. What? You say you missed that? Well friend, you should take three minutes and watch the highlight reel.

(Go ahead. I’ll wait.)

I’m excited that we’re going back, and excited that we’re planning an even bigger event. We’re bringing in more chairs…more baptistery tanks…more volunteers…more moments that’ll give you something awesome to talk about around the water cooler on Monday.

But more than any of that, I’m excited that we’re going to be bringing the Gospel into the heart of Durham once more, giving thousands of people the chance to move from death to life on a September morning.

After the 2011 event, I remember having what felt like dozens of conversations with friends who were out of town because they were (at the beach / in the mountains / scattering their dog’s ashes at Disney World). All of them – without exception – said, “I wish I would’ve known what this event was going to be like. There’s no way on earth I would have missed it!”

Well, now you know. (Unless you didn’t watch the video above. Really, you need to start following instructions.) This is a huge moment in the life of our church. It’s a rare opportunity to gather the entire Summit family in one spot and to encourage each other by being together. It’s a great chance to invite friends and co-workers who might not normally attend church. It’s a massive platform for the Gospel. And on top of all that, it’s going to be insanely FUN.

One more thing I’m excited about this year…we’re going to utilize the Ballpark event to leverage generosity to our community. We’ve partnered with two of our neighboring organizations (Urban Ministries and Salvation Army Women & Children’s Shelter) to stock their supply closets with much-needed items. Think about it: thousands of us can make a huge difference for the Triangle’s homeless. Those ministries have provided us with a list of needs, simply grab what you can and drop it off at one of the trucks on your way into the park.

So Summit family, do whatever it takes to be there on Sunday, September 15th. Ask off work. Cancel that beach trip. Tell Grandma she’s going to visit you this time.

Trust me: you’ll be glad you did.

[Check out the Church at the Ballpark website for more information, logistical details, and to sign up to serve!]

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As I type, we’re wrapping up day one of Christmas at DPAC, and getting prepared for two more services on Christmas Eve. It has been – in short – amazing. Freakishly amazing.

Our First Impressions Team has been in top form and have made me so, so proud. Our Summit Kids Team has served with class, skill, and thousands of Goldfish crackers. Our Production Team has never been slicker. The Gospel was shared 152 different ways: if you didn’t hear it, it wasn’t for lack of God speaking.

And our Worship Team?

Aw heck…our Worship Team.

I knew exactly 1.5% of the program setup before the first service launched at 11 AM Sunday. I was blissfully ignorant of what was to come. And then I snuck in for a few minutes at both the 11 and 2, but then sat through the 5.

So how was it?

I can’t explain it. Nobody can. But good grief…they absolutely tore the place to pieces. You need to understand that I’m a man with zero musical talent. When I sing it sounds like a flock of howler monkeys with emphysema have been shoved into a wood chipper. But I’m pretty sure I know when I hear something that sounds good. And they did.

If you read this early enough on Monday, you oughta join me at DPAC for the 2:00 or 5:00 services. Officially, the free tickets are sold out. However, if you get there an hour before service, there’s a good chance the box office will hook you up. It’s worth a shot.

And speaking of shots, here are a few of my faves from day one. Big thanks to Brett Seay for sneaking me a few…









From the archives: a must love dogs story…

The Summit’s West Club Campus is located in the heart of a historical neighborhood that is populated with urban professionals and urban professional canines.  These are the types of canines that likely have bowls with their names on them, and the vet knows them on a first name basis (because face it, dogs with last names are kind of silly).  In other words: these people take their dogs very seriously.

Read the original post here.

If you’ve been around these parts for any length of time, you know that every Thursday is reserved for “Thursday Three For All,” a trio of links to things both serious and silly that I’ve been reading and watching during the week.

But I think you’ll agree this video deserves its own top billing and doesn’t need to share the stage with anything else. This is the overhead railroad trestle at Gregson and Peabody Streets close to downtown Durham. Bull City folks will recognize this as the bridge that takes no prisoners. Watch the full 2:48…I promise it’ll make you groan, make you laugh, and put your day in perspective.

Click here to watch “Undefeated.”