Archive for June 2007

A Few Mission Trip Pics

June 29, 2007

My Mom recently emailed some Ukraine mission trip pics:

Church Gathering

Mom with a group of girls

Local village crazy guy (Oh wait, never mind, that’s my Dad…ha)

Dear Homeless Friend

June 28, 2007

Sorry for the awkwardness last night. Well, maybe it was just me. Maybe I was the only one feeling uneasy. I saw you looking at me while I was sitting at the redlight. Yeah, you’re right. I think I did what most everyone does….I stared straight ahead, praying the light would turn green – like now! – and then when I realized it would be awhile, I drummed up a conversation with someone in the car so I would look busy and not have a chance to roll down my window and give you money…or, even more basic, have to look at you.

By the way, I was quite surprised. I knew there were homeless people in downtown Atlanta, but I had no idea you had hundreds of friends. As I drove through the downtown streets, I was shocked to see 25 people sleeping on church steps…or a group of 10 over here…a group of 3 over there…hundreds scattered about.

Let me also apologize. You see, I’ve made the same excuses as many of my friends. In my head I’ve said things like, “God helps those who help themselves.” Yeah, you’re right. This is our way of avoiding you. It’s much easier to focus on YOU and YOUR problem and what YOU need to DO to fix it. Or, worst yet, we talk…and talk a lot…about what got you there in the first place. Drugs, alcohol, more alcohol, bad decision making. We talk a lot about it. We talk. We talk. And we talk some more. Forgive us for not DOING.

I have another confession my homeless friend. I couldn’t shake the idea of just how much MORE could be done to help you. Here I was surrounded by thousands of people leaving an Atlanta Braves game, sitting in traffic…in our nice cars, who just sat in nice stadium seats, in nice weather, nice food…and we have our worries…like how can we fit that new boat or new mountain home in our budget. I must confess that when I do the math, it would only take pennies a day from each of us to purchase or build something magnificent FOR YOU…a place to help you in your recovery…and still have plenty of money to provide you with counseling or whatever you need to get you back on your feet.

Worst yet, my homeless friend, I belong to a group of people who have vowed to DO that very thing. Yet I’m not sure…no, wait, I AM SURE we have NOT lived up to our professions. So forgive us. We’ve too often left it in the government’s hands to “fix the problem”. Another confession: Instead of using our buildings as a safe haven for you and your family, we are more concerned about the color of our carpet, or whether the organ should stay or go, or whether we should give pastor so-and-so one more year or not (by the way, he’s our 5th pastor in the last 7 years). I’m not trying to discount the valiant efforts of all those who have offered you a warm plate of food, or shelter, or have given you money, or an act of kindness. We have many many organizations and programs…lots of “programs”…but my heart is burdened with the knowledge that OVERNIGHT we could do SO MUCH MORE.

So sorry for the awkwardness. Next time (which will be soon…I vow to be changed) I will not look away or disregard your stares. I will talk to you. I will do what I must to break the years of bad habits that separates us and makes me think that I can do nothing…or that we have nothing in common. I’ll try to do what I’ve vowed to do: To consider you more important than myself.

By the way, what’s your name?

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

June 27, 2007

Heading to Turner Field tonight with my lovely bride, oldest son Braden, and my “little” brother Justin from Auburn. Should be fun. Braves, as usual, are struggling a bit…but who knows, they may pull it together here at the end of the season – if they can get some pitching.

Possible highlight of the evening: the enormous jumbotron in center field. They do a lot of entertaining stuff between innings and that will keep Braden occupied. Also, Smoltz is pitching tonight. That ought to be good.

Promise To Serve

June 26, 2007

Being in sales, I pay attention to customer service. (Side note: I tip really well at restaurants-especially when the service is great-I think it’s extremely important to do so, especially as a believer.) So, back to the point: I pay attention to how companys handle my calls and service my needs.

I’ve noticed lately that the all-hated customer service call centers have changed how they answer their phone and how they do immediate grades on their services. For instance: Today I called my bank and just had a quick question for them. The lady on the other end of the 800 line answered something like, “Thanks for calling Wachovia where I PROMISE TO SERVE you as a valued customer, how can I help?” Now I realize 48 jokes could be inserted here…and worst yet, it’s really funny to hear a lame customer service rep repeat a line like that when they sound half dead and you can tell in their voice they really HATE being there…but still, I was impressed by the greeting. Quite a statement too, huh? Right off the bat they are trying to set the stage: “Hey, I promise to fix what is broken or guide you in the right direction, etc.” Just as important, at the end of the call, she asked something like, “Mr. Sutton, did I fulfill my promise and treat you as a valued customer…?”

I know it’s cheesy, but the underlying reason WHY they do biz this way is cause the stats don’t lie. Their stats probably tell them they will have 23% less “high risk of leaving” client situations resulting in 11% more client retention resulting in 3.8 billion more dollars of interest revenue per quarter. Or something like that 🙂 And all of that from a greeting and a philosophy of customer service.

Having been in various ministry positions, I think the church should do this more. Not just promise to serve the church as they are called to do, but to consistently ask, “Are we doing it?” Analyze their efforts. Ask the tough questions of the people they lead and listen to the results. Oak Leaf is one of the few places I’ve seen do this. They value the feedback and strive to make sure every person is fulfilling their role.

p.s. I think the next time my bank asks me if they fulfilled their promise I’m going to shout, “No, you didn’t give me a hundred thousand dollars did you??!!” And then start talkin all kinds of crazy talk…just to see how they react.

A Contemporary Post

June 26, 2007

I’m kinda surprised as I drive around NW Georgia and see the number of churches who still have “Contemporary Service 9:15am, Traditional Service 11am”. I’ll keep this brief, though it would be easy to write a 10 page paper on this issue.

I understand why they do it…or at least I think I do. And I imagine for most the intent is good. They want to attract more people. They want to offer something for different age groups. They want to grow.

But here are some observations I have…for what it’s worth:

* I think most do a disservice to themselves by doing this. In most churches I’ve been to where this is done, one (or both) of the services are mediocre. More importantly, I sense that in the “contemporary” service they are trying to be someone they are not. (Well, except for the one dude in band who plays electric guitar and he’s FINALLY glad he found a spot in the church to serve.)

* Definition of contemporary: “existing, occurring, or living at the same time; belonging to the same time”. In other words, RELEVANT. So, question: Does this mean your first service is relevant, “belonging to the same time”, and your second service is not? Not trying to be cruel, just seriously asking.

* Sometimes I think churches have offered both services because it is a “keeping up with the Jones’ “.

* I haven’t done the research, but are there vibrant growing churches who do both services like this? From what I see, the most exploding, talked about, tangible result churches out there are the Northpoint’s, Willow Creek’s, etc. And maybe I’m just too country boy simple minded…but dig this: You know who they are. They are who they are. They do things the way they feel God has gifted them to them. They have a target audience (and for most it is the LOST…should be for everyone). They do what they do and don’t pretend to be someone they are not.

Ok, enough for now. Time to do something very traditional: Get to work!

p.s. Best time of the year is quickly approaching. For a brief taste, see this Countdown Clock.

Poem 4 U

June 25, 2007

Too Busy To Blog, by Jonathan Sutton

Too much work
No time to blog
Too much work
I wonder how difficult it is to learn how to clog?

Very very busy
Yes busy indeed
Very very busy
Blogging is not a major need

I wish you well on this sunny day
Be back soon to say hey and play

Though you may be tempted to copy this and sell it…please refrain from such activity. The above masterpiece is copyrighted and such illegal activity could land you in jail.

Friday Pic

June 22, 2007

Ahhhh…so cute, right?! And indeed she is. But caution: She has 3 brothers who are molding a fiery attitude in her! (And one over-protective Dad.)