KL 3Over the last few months our family has charged headlong into a series of firsts. Our oldest, Jacob, has naturally been the one to break us in on the first-time parents thing in just about everything he’s done over the last 18 years: teething. Walking. Kindergarten. Drivers license. High school graduation just over three weeks ago.

And last week: sent.

We use the S word a lot around the Summit. We talk about sending our best. We want to plant a thousand churches in forty years. Pastor J.D. encourages college students to give their first two years after graduation to ministry, unless God specifically tells them no (we call that “the Mormonization of the Christian church”).

So when our Student Pastor Jason Gaston approached me last year about involving Jacob in an immersive overseas summer project, I couldn’t necessarily lock my kid in his room and hope that the bug didn’t bite.

On Thursday, we put him on a bus that started a 40 hour journey to the Southeast Asian city that he and seven other Summit students will call home for the next four weeks. The eight of them plus two leaders will spend a month building relationships, looking for opportunities to share their stories, and engaging university students in everyday life.

Proud? Yep. (I’m a dad. That’s my job.) But this transcends the “You got an A” / “You won the game” / “You’re a special snowflake” kind of pride. This is a pride that’s broken on a foundation of gratitude: gratitude for a God who’s a better Father than I could ever be. Gratitude for his prompting in my son’s life to do something bigger than life. Gratitude for student leaders who have spoken into his life, discipled him, and mentored him. Gratitude that Jacob is willing to be used at 18 to invest in the lives of complete strangers.

Gratitude that he’s sent.

As me and Merriem and fourteen other parents said goodbye to our kids last Thursday, I suspect we all carried the same thoughts in the backs of our minds: Is this just the beginning? Does this trip symbolize a lifetime lived overseas? Does it herald a call to ministry? Does it mean that what we thought was true for our children and their futures may not necessarily be true?

Maybe a better question: does it mean that God knows our kids and loves our kids better than we do?

I wouldn’t dare guess what God will do in the lives of these eight young adults over the course of this summer. But I do know that I’ll pray for them, and cheer them on, and encourage them to not only let him work in others’ lives, but in their own.

Would you join me in praying for them? The parents received this list of prayer points in a pre-trip meeting. I’d be honored and grateful if you’d print this and pray over it several times this summer. You can also keep up with the team via their blog.

  • That students would seek and know God. 
    • Matt 6:33
    • Psalm 1
    • Deut 6:5
  • Wisdom in all situations: how to interact with each other and with new friends. 
    • James 1:5
    • Psalm
  • Fruit in ministry
    • Psalm 37:39
    • Jonah 4
    • Romans 10:17
  • Perseverance
    • Hebrews 12:1-3
  • Grace giving to each other 
    • John 13:35
    • Eph. 4:1-7
  • Not a burden to the local body, but a blessing 
    • Isaiah 52:7
(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

The chances are good that there are a few pastors sitting down at their desk, sipping a cup of coffee, and spotting this post in their blog feed just before starting work. And that “work” may be nowhere close to a church office or the pulpit they preached in on Sunday.

My name is Danny, and I’m a former bivocational pastor.

I did the bi-vo gig for a decade. I was always a pastor plus something else: Pastor + full time student. Pastor + 40 hour a week job. Pastor + full time student + 40 hour a week job. (I still compulsively chew on some stress meds just thinking about that one.)

Hardly a week went by that I didn’t curse my status in life. (Scratch that. I questioned it. Because good Baptist bi-vo’s don’t curse.) I wasted my day job for years because I saw it as a stepping stone on the way to somewhere else, not as a part of the journey where God had sovereignly, graciously placed me.

But then I came across this passage, which seemed custom-crafted for a guy who watched the clock in order to get back to doing the stuff he loved:

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. (Psalm 37:3-6)

Befriend faithfulness. Your translation may say cultivate faithfulness. Your coffee cup or grandma’s cross stitch might phrase it Bloom where you’re planted (though I wouldn’t necessarily endorse that one). You can even hijack it to say things like “If I do A, God will do B.” (Please don’t make that mistake.)

But however you cut it, the scriptures say that we are to be faithful where we’ve been placed, to delight ourselves in Jesus before we grouse about our circumstances.

I had to learn that slowly over the course of a decade. But once I began to understand this passage, I saw that there was a method behind the madness:

Those customers I dealt with day after day? They helped me understand the importance of knowing people by name and caring about their needs.

The monotonous tagging and bagging I did as a part time seminary dry cleaner? (Shut up. I did too.) It taught me that details matter.

The coworkers I shared life with? They helped me to understand that we all have a story, and we all walk around as people in need of hope.

If you’re a bivocational minister, I’m praying for you especially today. I know it’s hard. I know there are days when you’d like to cash in your chips and take your chances on doing ministry while living under a bridge. But this season? It’s worth it. Your calling and God’s work is worth it. And more than that, God’s work in your life is worth it. Don’t squander the spot where he’s placed you. View that as much of your ministry as when you’re standing behind that pulpit.

Befriend faithfulness today.

Windows

My firstborn, Jacob, and I grabbed lunch at a local pizza place a few days ago. Without knowing it, we were walking in to dinner and a show: a window washer who was wowing everyone in the place with his mad skills.

He was super fast: he cleaned massive picture windows in no time flat. He was super talented: one minute he’d be washing with one hand and squeegeeing with the other, the next he would have both the brush and the squeegee in the same hand, knocking out the same work in half the time.

And all the while, he was keeping up a running dialogue with anyone who’d stop to talk: “I work fast because I hate to work. I want to get back home and get on the couch!”

For all of his anti-work braggadocio, I have a feeling that Mr. Window Washer likes his job a little more than he was letting on. He worked with a smile, he added a bit of theatrical flair, and he left the glass sparkling when he finished.

Today is Monday. Most of us are going back to our 40 or 50 or 60 hour workweeks. The question: how can you turn what you have to do into what you love to do?

Loving your work takes work. It’s not impossible, but it is countercultural. How can you highlight the work of God in the work you’ve been given?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Gandalf

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.

From the archives:

There will be days…weeks…months where I have to give an inordinate amount of time to the church or to ministry.  But there will also be times that are relatively calm.  Both are necessary, and both should be expected.  There are times that I have to suck it up and just get the job done, and there are times when I need to say “no” to some great opportunities, simply because my family is more important than doing the opening prayer at the Women’s Ministry Annual Bake Off and Missions Auction.

Read the entire post.

I’m a man with exquisite tastes. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I’ve been known to polish off a bag of chips that are well past the expiration date. And also, I view high dining as anything related to the words “Dollar Menu.” So disregard my first sentence.

But I am a man with a few preferences. As in, most of the time I think that things done my way are the best way. And so do you, most of the time. But some of the time, our preferences are wrong. (Insert Scooby Doo-style flashback music here)

Preferences aren’t right or wrong, they just are. As long as you’re not violating scripture or common courtesy, you can shape a service or a congregation just about any way you’d like. And it’s natural that the longer a pastor is at a church, the more that church will look similar to his personal bent. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but the question is: do your preferences represent the majority?

Read the entire post.

No matter the size of your church or the breadth of your volunteer team, you likely struggle with the never-ending need for good quality training. If you’re like me, you’ve spent roughly 40 bajillion waking hours trying to read, research, curate, and create content that will help take your volunteers to the next level. Add to that that at any given moment you have 50 volunteers who are at 62 different levels of competency, and…well, it’s enough to drive a Baptist to drink (Red Bulls. Let’s not get crazy).

That’s why I’m very excited about a new resource that LifeWay is launching next month. Ministry Grid is an online training tool that features a library of 1200 videos (and growing). LifeWay gathered content from leaders all over the country on every topic you can imagine. Everyone from Tim Keller to Matt Chandler to David Platt to crazily obscure people (like yours truly) wax poetic on everything from evangelism to church discipline to the most fun subject in the world (first impressions. Pay attention.).

And the coolest part is, it’s all fully customizable. You just want to expose your kids’ ministry team to kids’ ministry training? You can choose to do that. Just need advanced evangelism content for your small group leaders? Boom. Want to provide training for the left handed blue eyed Republican Walking Dead fans in your congregation? You’re way too high maintenance. Stop that.

And you can track where your leaders are in the process. Once you open the grid and send the sessions to your teams, you can keep up with which leaders have watched which videos, kind of like an evangelical version of Big Brother (so it’s okay. Chill out.).

You want an example of how this works? Of course you do. Here’s one of the sessions I shot with the Ministry Grid team:

[You can see a truckload of other free previews here.]

Ministry Grid is a surprisingly affordable option for training within your church, and as a special bonus, the first 1,000 churches to sign up will get three months free with an annual subscription.

I’m excited. You should be too. Jump on Ministry Grid today.

Three links. Three things I’ve been reading this week. Starts in three…two…

Granger Community Church establishment reaches out to communityI’ve long been a fan of my friends at Granger. They’ve designed their new facility with their community in mind.

The Eatery, Reads and Things operators pride themselves on being more than a restaurant or cafe. According to their business profile on yelp, “While excellent food and drink and an open atrium atmosphere with great reads are all accounted for, we truly believe those who serve you and how they serve you is the difference. You aren’t a simple transaction. You aren’t just a number. You’re a testament to the way we do things and a treasure worth hanging onto.”

Communication is a path, not an eventAs usual, brilliance from Seth Godin.

Don’t sell us anything but the burning desire to follow up. The point of his talk wasn’t to get a new customer (impossible), nor was it to get through the talk and get it over with (silly and selfish). No, the point of the talk should have been to open the door to have a better, individual conversation soon.

30 things turning 30 this yearI turn 40 this year. Which means that I remember when most of these things came on the scene. Zoiks.

1. THE MCNUGGET

McDonald’s executive chef Rene Arend created the Chicken McNugget way back in 1979, but it wasn’t available in McDonald’s restaurants nationwide until 1983 because there simply wasn’t enough processed chicken to go around. Oddly enough, that McNugget shortage was what led Arend to create the McRib in 1981.

Last Thursday night was designated family night at the Casa de la Franks, a night where we temporarily gave up the individual staring at iPads, iPods, iPhones and iPreciouses for the collective staring at the usTV. I had a code for a free Redbox rental, so I swung by on the way home and picked up Disney’s A Christmas Carol.

Let me pause for a moment and say it was the wrong movie choice. I knew it was the wrong movie choice within the first six seconds, but in my pride of watching a free movie I stuck with it, and I made my family do the same.

Disney’s A Christmas Carol blends the worst of the worst Disney movies ever. Take the depressing elderly death metanarrative of Up, combine it with the fun loving undead holiday zombie world of The Nightmare Before Christmas, and top it off with the annoying vocal antics of Martin Short / Jack Frost in The Santa Clause 2, and you just begin to understand the horrific nature of Jim Carrey in A Christmas Carol. Nothing says, “Hey two year old daughter, I want to scar you for life and make sure you’re in therapy when you’re 36.” quite like exposing her to the ghostly storyline of that movie.

But I digress. Bad movie or not, it was free. Or at least it should have been. Because when I left the house on Friday, I forgot to return the movie. Saturday brought a full day of stuff on the honey-do list, and on my TWO errands when I got out and about, I forgot to return the movie. On Sunday I put the DVD in my car, planning to return it on the way home from church, but then Merriem and I swapped cars and it was out of sight, out of mind. This morning I meant to take it on my way into the office, but – you guessed it – it’s still sitting in the passenger seat.

That stupid free movie has cost me over three bucks so far, and the price is going up by the day.

Editor’s Note: what does this have to do with anything?

Well, that’s where this analogy gets all dressed up and has no place to go. That’s where I need you, dear reader, to fill in the blanks. That’s where – if this post bombs – you kind of have to admit that it’s your fault and not mine. (After all, I’m too busy forgetting to return movies to be able to draw all the conclusions for you.)

In the church world, I know we do free stuff all the time that ends up having a high cost. I know that things that look like a great deal economically end up breaking the bank in the long run. I know the bargains turn into boondoggles.

So in your experience, what are those things? I’m curious to hear from you. Comment below.