(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.

Get a Load of That Trash

…It was when I drove into my hometown that I remembered the twice a year trash amnesty week.  For seven days in the spring and a matching seven in the fall, you can put anything – anything at all! – out on the sidewalk and the city will pick it up.  Reader’s Digest magazines from 1952?  They’ll get ‘em.  Broken dining room chair?  Not a problem.  Rat-infested mattress that looks like several people may or may not have died on it not that we’re asking any questions if we know what’s good for us?  You betcha.

Read the entire original post here.

It’s that time again, campers. Thursday: where I serve up the stuff that’s been rattlin’ around in my skull this week. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy…

 

Lighten Up, Christians, God Loves a Good Time. (via @CTMagazine, HT @_MichaelKelley) Send this to a stuffed shirt you know and love. And remind yourself of it, while you’re at it. I know I need to.

Look over our day-to-day lives. How do we parent, for example? Rules. Fears. Don’ts. Don’t jump on the couch. No gluten in this house. Get down from that tree. Quiet down. Hold still. We live as if God were an infinite list of negatives. He is holiness, the rawest and richest of all purity. In our bent way of thinking, that makes him the biggest stress-out of all.

 

Six Reasons You’re Losing High Capacity Volunteers. (via @cnieuwhof) This has sparked more than a few discussions over the last couple of days. See if it does the same for you.

3. You’re disorganized

Few things are more demotivating than giving up your time as a volunteer only to discover the staff person responsible didn’t set you up to succeed.

The tools they need to do the job are missing or incomplete. The rest of the team is late.

Or maybe—worse—they’re not even 100% sure what they are supposed to do or how they are supposed to do it.

You can always find people who will put up with disorganization, but many more will simply give up.

And high capacity people will make a beeline for the door.

 

If you can spot what changed in Google’s new logo, you have an amazing eye for detail. (via @22words) Don’t anybody ever call me OCD again.

Here’s the updated version…

Google Logo - After

And for reference, here’s the previous one…

Google Logo - Before

 

(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.

[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.

 

THE BACKGROUND.

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.

 

THE PRODUCT.

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!

 

THE PAYOFF.

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.

 

GETTING STARTED.

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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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.

Yes, I recognize the irony in having a flashback post that tells you not to look back, but work with me here, people.

Wednesday was a first at our household.  After weeks of begging, I finally relented and let my 12 year old hop on the riding mower and mow the lawn.  I had mowed all the tough parts…he had no trees, no flowerbeds, no sidewalks to maneuver…just one huge rectangular spot of grass.  Up.  Down.  Back.  Forth.  It was simple, really.  I gave him a quick tutorial about how he needed to use the front right tire as a guide.  Watch the tire.  Keep it lined up with the strip that needs to be cut.  Watch the tire.  Watch the tire.  Austin, what did I say?  Watch the tire.  There was no way he could fail.

Read the entire original post here.

(click for photo credit)

(click for photo credit)

This weekend I was honored to preach at the Summit’s Brier Creek Campus. I’m taking a few days this week and unpacking some further ideas from the message. I do this because (a) I’m a pretty lazy blogger and don’t feel like thinking up new stuff this week and (b) I had more stuff I wanted to say this weekend, but not enough time to say it (doggone you, countdown clock!). If you get the notion, you can listen to the entire message here

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.

Paul gives us a four-word commandment in Romans 12:6: “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…

That’s it. Just use them. But use what? Because let’s face it, if you can’t piece together an outline and people fall asleep when you speak, you might not have the gift of teaching. If you’ve never put together a to-do list and constantly misplace your left shoe, administration might not be your bag.

Here’s how to figure out how God has wired you and what your spiritual gift is: jump in. Do something. Serve in some small way, and let God illuminate you as to whether it’s something you should keep doing.

Not good enough for you type-A people? Oh, alright. Here’s a list of questions you can ask yourself as you’re serving:

  1. Am I passionate about what I’m doing? It’s going be hard to work with kids if you’re scared of kids. Or worse yet…if they’re scared of you.
  2. Do others affirm this as a gift? What do people in your small group, friends in your circle, co-servants on your team say about your service? They may be the best ones to help you spot your strengths or weaknesses.
  3. Is my service pointing others to Jesus? There’s a huge difference between self-glorifying talent and humble, gospel-driven service. Make sure you’re building God’s kingdom, not your own.
  4. Does my service lead me to Jesus? I believe that when we’re serving out of our giftings, we’re truly engaging in worship.

So that’s it. Just serve. Jump in. Explore a few ministries until you find one that you think you’re cut out for. Try out your church’s guest services team. Park a few cars or open a few doors and see if that sticks. Or volunteer in the kids’ ministry. Or sign up to serve in the downtown shelter or go on a short term mission trip or…you get the picture.

If you attend the Summit and still aren’t sure what’s out there, you might start here.

This weekend I was honored to preach at the Summit’s Brier Creek Campus. I’m taking the next day or three and unpacking some further ideas from the message. I do this because (a) I’m a pretty lazy blogger and don’t feel like thinking up new stuff this week and (b) I had more stuff I wanted to say this weekend, but not enough time to say it (doggone you, countdown clock!). If you get the notion, you can listen to the entire message here

It’s no secret that the Summit is a big church. And with a big church comes lots of options, a relative amount of influence in the community, a wide reach into missional endeavors, and a decent sized budget.

None of those things are insidiously bad. It’s not necessarily bad to want to get a good parking spot or sit in a comfortable chair or to be led by a great worship leader or to hear the “real” preacher preach when you show up. Those aren’t bad desires.

Where it turns bad is when what we desire turns into what we deserve. We deserve a nice facility. We deserve options to meet our every need. We deserve that our whims be met and our wants to be catered to and our preferences win out.

Entitlement will kill a church. It’ll kill an individual. It’ll kill a body of believers when we think we’ve arrived and the church exists to serve us. If it’s our world, we don’t serve others. Others exist to serve us.

Jesus busted up this entitlement mentality in Mark 10:45 when he said that the Son of Man came – not to be served – but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for others. If Jesus – arguably the one person in human history who deserved service – took on the form of a servant, shouldn’t we do the same?

I’m not sure what entitlement looks like for you. But I’ll tell you what it looks like for me: it looks like me believing I should have something better than others, simply because of our pecking order. It looks like me coasting by on what I can do based on my experience, rather than relying on the power of the Holy Spirit. It looks like me taking advantage of the perks that are offered to me by others. It looks like me talking to people much more than I listen to people.

Here are a few questions that will help us diagnose entitlement in our lives. Hopefully these will keep us from thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to think (Romans 12:3).

  1. Do I believe that I am entitled to the good things that I have in life, or do I look on them as undeserved blessings of grace?
  2. Do I expect others (my family, co-workers, neighbors) to serve me? Do I ever consider serving them in return?
  3. Do I generously and regularly help others who have no way of “paying me back”?
  4. When I attend church, do I look out for my own best interests (where I park, where I sit, who I talk to, etc.), or that of our honored guests?
  5. Do I joyfully serve the body of Christ and our surrounding community, looking for opportunities to use the gifts that God has given me?
  6. Do I see myself as a conduit of grace to others, allowing God to use my skills, passion, and opportunities as fertile ground for him to work through me?
  7. Do I balk at being asked to help out in various ministries in the church or needs in my community?
  8. Do I ignore opportunities for service when they’re presented in church, believing that those are jobs for “someone else”?
  9. Is there a role or a job that I believe is beneath me or simply not worth my time?
  10. Am I prone to complain about perceived shortfalls in weekend ministries, or prone to jump in and see how God can use me?
  11. Do I serve out of pure and selfless motivation, or do I do it to be recognized by others?

What are some of the diagnostics I missed? Comment below.

Often when I pray, I’ll pray through 1 Peter 5:5-7 as a reminder of how to walk through my day:

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

After reading and praying through that verse hundreds of times, I noticed something today that I’ve never seen before: the inextricable link between pride and anxiety.

Read the entire original post.