- How long have you known Mark?6.532 years, from that epic lunch at OK Cafe in early 2010.
- Three words to describe Mark: energizing, consistent, positive
- If Mark created a nickname for you, what is it and where did it come from?
Mr. Roboto, which is pretty accurate, given I'm overly analytical and can compartmentalize with the best of them. The first time I remember him saying this was when I was sharing my Life Map at Josh McAfee's house. My Life Map is generally in the +7 to +9 area, but my Life Line starts heading down in a few places. Each time, I was able to say "nope,", and make some quick changes to hockey-stick it back up. Shull challenged me on a few areas, saying "how could that not impact you more???" I pretty much gave matter-of-fact answers of how it wasn't logical to feel defeated when I could (with God's help) control the situation and make it a short-term rather than long-term challenge. Instead of pointing out that I have a cold, black heart or calling me Spock, Shull chose Mr. Roboto. That nickname has been reinforced over and over when I have overly-analytical and unemotional responses to many topics that have come up over the years.
- Funny memory with Mark:
It has to be "The Jump." Shull kept egging people on to jump off the rock at Lake Burton....not the mid-level rock, but the top-level rock. First off, it's not a rock, it's a freakin' cliff. Like 80 or something feet in the air. So before even contemplating the consequences, I say, sure, I'll do it, what the heck. So now I'm committed, in that if I back out, I have to surrender my man card indefinitely until I do something manly, like pulling a tractor-trailer off a school bus full of children. I casually mention this to my mom in a phone conversation the day before, and she freaks out. After begging me not to do it, she makes a reference to starting up the prayer chain at church, and before long, 100 Southern Baptist ladies are praying that I survive this STUPID-duh (audible vocal emphasis on that last letter D) decision. As I'm swimming out to climb up this cliff, I'm amazed how calm everyone is, like....OK, Greg will jump off the cliff, and we'll go get dinner." Um, OK, but I'm still the ONLY one doing this. The path to the top is littered with the final remnants of those who have perished on this journey...bottles, cans, other trash. I ponder their demise, if they realized what was to come for them, and if I'm the only sober person that has ever done this willingly. As I'm looking out over the CLIFF into the water, I can identify with the astronauts looking out of Window 1 on the space shuttle down at the earth. I mean, it's HIGH. I can't even make out any water patterns, it just looks like a flat blue blanket. I realize no one has checked to make sure there's not a rock, piece of metal, sunken boat, whatever, lurking 10 feet under. Shull's like "people do it all the time!" Of course, there's dust covering this rock that looks like it's been undisturbed for years. I ask Shull multiple times to make sure I'm not going to hit the rock face on the side down (translation, stalling while convincing myself that if I die, maybe it won't hurt for long), and he says "you're FINE!!!" Shull says this without even taking a good angle to check out the rock. He says he's seen it before, but has he? Hmmm, I wonder. As I'm lining up my approach, I remember Jeff Moore claiming he's City Champion of cornhole, so I decide to one-up him by screaming "I'm STATE champion!" as I plummet to a life-changing experience. All this while, Shull (from the comfort of the boat, I might add) keeps screaming, go! jump! like I'm holding up the line at Six Flags, and all I have to do is jump to the next step on the stairs leading to the ride. At this point, I say a little prayer not only for myself, but for Cooper and Jackson who undoubtedly down the road will be peering out of a plane with a parachute on their backs, as Shull says "do it, go, it's easy!" on the radio as he's kicking back with a cold drink in a comfortable chair on the ground. So I jump. And if you think reading this is taking forever, you get a glimpse into how long my trip to the water felt. It took a REALLY long time. People have completed their tax return in less time. As I hit the water, in that instant, I forgot to lock my knees, so upon hitting the water my body rotates backwards, and my butt hits the water head on. Despite being a rotund fellow, I actually have a small butt in comparison, so my butt absorbs next to nothing of the impact and sends the shock wave upwards. If you think about human anatomy, what's just above your butt? That's right, kids, your SPINE. I feel my spine explode in pain as I sink into the depths of the lake. The greater the initial height from which an object falls, the greater into the water that object sinks. So I sink....a lot. And how do you get back to the surface? You kick your legs. Ever kick your legs with pain exploding through your spine? No? Well, um, it hurts....a lot. As I rise to the surface in agony, I think about how I've let down those poor Southern Baptist ladies who could have been praying for the homeless, for the hungry, for those riddled by natural disaster. Nope, they're praying for a stupid dude who thought he was 20 years younger than he was. Turns out I had cracked two vertebrae and herniated one disc. Of course, we didn't know that at the time, so Shull says, aw, you're fine, you just tweaked a muscle.....this according to Shull's vast medical training. I'll skip the point where I thought about just drowning instead of enduring the sheer agony of climbing up onto the boat. Does the story end there? Nope. We head back in the boat, and are the wake of another boat, so the ride is somewhat smooth. Someone asks something like how bumpy is the boat if we aren't in someone's wake. Shull can't hear my cries of pain as my bones are shifting and rattling as they grind against each other, so he says "I'll show you." So we veer right, hitting white cap after white cap, bouncing 3 to 4 feet into the air and slamming back down....repeatedly. Does that feel good? Hmmm....NOPE. In the end, I decide not to bring legal action against an attorney with a family. Instead, I pay off Jeff Moore to run over Shull's mailbox, and take a tiny amount of joy thinking that digging a hole and planting a new mailbox post will make Shull's back maybe hurt possibly a little bit.
- How has Mark impacted your life?
Other than breaking my back, Mark has given me a place to really feel like I'm making a difference in men's lives. I feel that the gifts Christ has given me include level-headed-ness, remaining calm in a storm, and being dependable. This includes the ability to plan for the future, while realizing how the choices you make today (both good and bad) will impact you (positively and negatively) for years to come. The men's leadership program at Buckhead has given me that platform to share these gifts and hopefully make a difference in not only the guys in my groups, but through them impact other men down their line. Granted, not all men will appreciate what I want to share, and I realize that. But, I feel every guy has taken at least one nugget that I've been able to share. Without this program, I would only have been able to impact individual small groups, with many of those men maybe not being ready for my blunt approach on how to approach issues that come up. I realize my normal approach is best shared with leader-type individuals, and Mark has given me that platform. For the first time in the NorthPoint org, I feel like I've actually made somewhat of a difference.
- What do you think Mark’s legacy will be? What is his lasting imprint on the world?
I'm reminded of the story of the Frank Jenner in Sydney Australia, aka "the little white haired man on George Street." For almost 30 years, Jenner engaged in personal evangelism on George St in Sydney, asking them the simple question "If you died in 24 hours, where would you spend eternity?" A pastor in England had heard countless testimonies of people who became Christians themselves, or knew of others that had, after wrestling with the outcome of these short conversations with Jenner. The pastor went to Sydney to find this un-named man, and upon meeting Jenner, relayed all the stories he had heard. Jenner was amazed, as he had no idea that any of those conversations had borne any fruit, as most conversations were short, even being limited to the one question and a quick response; even the small number of people that had made the decision to accept Christ "in the moment", Jenner had no idea that they had stuck with their decision. I see Mark in the same vein. He's impacted men directly and indirectly, thrown down challenges that they might be struggling with for years before finally making the right decisions, and been that constant that meets men where they want to be met, challenging them how they deep down want to be challenged. I can see a story in the future that Mark will have no recollection of a simple conversation with, say a one-season leader back in 2011, led to someone impacting hundreds of lives down the road.
- Anything else you’d like to say to wish Mark Happy 50th Birthday!
Thanks, man. I'll leave it to others to get all mushy....just know that I'm thankful for your leadership, your consistent drive to grow men despite all sorts of obstacles, and how you are always positive and uplifting.