Archives For Brandon Cox

Vanderbloemen Bird NextSuccession has been a hot topic in many church leadership circles lately.

William Vanderbloemen, former pastor and President/CEO of executive search firm Vanderbloemen Search Group just wrote a book on the subject called Next: Pastoral Succession That Works, which is a church leader’s comprehensive guidebook to understanding what you can do now to prepare for the day your church faces a leadership transition.

Brandon: What is the overall big picture of Next?

William: It really comes down to one sentence: Every pastor is an interim pastor.

Why? Because unless you plan on pastoring your church after Jesus returns, every church will have to face the reality of a leadership transition. Are you ready? Most people aren’t. Many church leaders equate succession planning to retirement planning. However, smart church leaders realize that succession planning is much more than that. We hope that this book will be a conversation starter and a guide for pastors and church boards as they look to the inevitable reality of transition.

Brandon: In Next, you mention the old adage, “Everyone wants to talk about succession…until it’s their own.” Why do you think many pastors feel that way?

William: What…

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Everything Is CommunicationI first read The Purpose Driven Church around 1998 and began to implement some of the core ideas of the book. Somewhere along the way, Christian leaders began to re-interpret Rick Warren’s ideas and reduce the idea of being a purpose driven church down to a seeker-sensitive style of worship and nothing more. But being a purpose driven church is really about having an intentional process for disciple-making.

This disciple-making process is rather simple. Bring your community into your weekend crowd. Help the crowd become part of your congregation. Move the congregation to be committed, and turn the committed into a core. And as your core adopts the mission, vision, and values, they reach the community and the cycle repeats. So it’s a matter of moving people into church membership, into spiritual maturity, into ministry, and into mission.

Church communications is an area of special interest to me and a vital part of any church’s strategy for reaching our current culture. And in a purpose driven paradigm, we need to think about how we communicate in a well-rounded fashion to strengthen the process of disciple-making. We tend to think about church communications as design, marketing,…

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MoneyAs a Pastor, I’m well aware of how many people have the assumption that “all Pastors want to talk about is money.” The funny thing is, after twenty years in ministry and communicating regularly with thousands of pastors, I can firmly assert that talking about money is one of our least favorite things to do, especially in our culture where personal finances are very… personal.

But the Apostle Paul wrote to a younger Pastor in Ephesus named Timothy once and told him to “Teach and urge these things… there is great gain in godliness with contentment… but those who desire to be rich fall into temptation… for the love of money is the root of all evil… As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches.” (1 Timothy 5:2-17 ESV)

In other words, good doctrine (which literally means “teaching”) demands that we address the issue of money. Here are several reasons why the church NEEDS to talk about finances…

  • Money is a gift from God to be managed for a season, not an earned commodity to be consumed…

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Marriage Like JesusAngie and I are approaching our 17th wedding anniversary. I’d love to say that we’ve always been happily married, but that kind of dishonesty wouldn’t help you much. Happiness rises and falls, for all of us, married or not. And happiness isn’t the real goal of life anyway. Every day, I pray a prayer over my children that says, “God, help them to first be holy (set apart for You), and then to be healthy (physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially), and finally to be happy.” I want all three for them, but I want them in the proper order. So hoping to be married “happily ever after” will leave most people frustrated by unfulfilled expectations.

If you just read that and thought, “Man. The guy sounds pretty UNhappily married…” you’d be way wrong. I would just say it this way… I’ve been married to the most awesome woman for nearly seventeen years. In the seasons of our marriage where holiness has been my first priority, and when I’ve been healthy on multiple levels, our marriage has experienced joy that goes deeper than mere surface or self-fulfilling happiness. But in moments or…

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Big Flock of Sheep

Pastors have an awesome calling. They’re my heroes. I serve them through the pastors.com community because I know what it’s like to be in the trenches of leading a local congregation. It’s tough. It’s blessed, it’s fulfilling, it’s an adventure… but it’s tough. Why is it so tough? There are plenty of reasons but for me, the primary has always been living up to the unrealistic expectations of fellow believers.

In the way of personal testimony, my own failure to live up to the expectations of others (which should not have been my focus to begin with) drove me to discouragement and a period of very real depression in my life just a few years ago. I still go there sometimes, slipping into that dark place where the names and faces of those I’ve disappointed flash through my mind. But I’ve also learned, the hard way, that I absolutely must stand confident in three things:

  • My identity as God’s child, which means His approval alone matters.
  • My calling, which is irrevocable, and which is entirely by grace.
  • My focus on the Great Commission, which is our prime objective.

Here’s the problem…

One of the greatest burdens Pastors carry is…

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Grace Hills Church Worship

I was humbled by the words scribbled on the back of a communication card this past Sunday:

This was my first time to church. I have struggled most of my life and just find myself in the worst situations. Listening to your sermon gave me a lot to think about and I am ready to let Jesus help me find the way.

I had a follow-up conversation with this young man after the service was over and I was moved by his honesty about his past and present struggles. We make it clear at Grace Hills that all of us are broken and any of us can find healing in a relationship with Jesus. That healing process just started in the life of this young man. Another young lady made the same decision Sunday as well.

In addition to two people trusting Jesus for the first time, we heard from quite a few others who were discovering or rediscovering Jesus, or church, or both.

Easter Sunday was big for us this year. Each year, it’s been our highest attended service and this year a new record was set with 337 people attending. That…

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Get NotificationsThe gospel did okay before Facebook, and will do just fine without it. But plenty of churches and organizationslike mine have found Facebook to be an incredibly useful tool for getting the word out about Jesus and His people. We’ve devoted time, energy, and even financial resources to gathering a community of fans who read posts, click links, and pass things along to friends.

Now however, Facebook is changing in ways that are bringing the pain to brands of all kinds, including churches and Christian organizations. In short, they’re changing their algorithm so that the content posted by pages doesn’t get seen by many fans. (Hat tip to Jim Gray for the links.) You may have assumed that you see 100% of the updates from any page you’ve liked. It hasn’t been that way in years since Facebook’s normal layout shows people what they deem “top stories” as opposed to all the most recent updates from your friends.

Pages have been posting updates that only get seen by 30 to 40% of their fans, at best. More recently that percentage has dropped to 10 to 20%. And it’s eventually going…

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Refinery

It’s inevitable. Every single time we publish an article on pastors.com designed to help Pastors lead their churches to grow, people react with defensiveness and pseudo-spiritual comments. Everyone seems quick to point out that “it’s not about numbers,” “bigger doesn’t mean better,” and “my small church matters just as much as your big church.”

Yes. We know. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a small church. Small churches do awesome things for the kingdom and for their communities. And Pastors of churches of fifty people can have just as much integrity and just as much of God’s blessing as Pastors of churches of five thousand. Transfer growth is not a net gain for the church – we need to talk about conversion growth. All true.

Some go even further to imply that if you’re big, you must have gotten big by compromising the gospel or watering down God’s truth. These critics can’t help but grit their teeth when they talk about “thosemegachurches!!”

Here’s the problem. When we celebrate smallness as though growth is optional, we show that we think of the world around us as…

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Kayla BaileyGuest artist Kayla Bailey leading worship at Grace Hills Church.

What does it mean to worship “in the presence of God”? Sometimes we take our terminology for granted. After all, isn’t God always present everywhere? And in reaction to our feel-good, experience-driven culture, many church leaders conclude that we over-rate the importance of the weekend experience. Perhaps, but I err on the side of thinking that most people still haven’t experienced the fullness of God’s presence in a corporate worship experience.

Perhaps we’re afraid of what God will do if we yield ourselves fully to Him. Or perhaps we’re afraid of what other people will think of us when they see us getting swept up in the moment. Will they accuse us, at least secretly, of showing off? Of being too emotional? Funny how we don’t ask these kinds of questions from the stands while screaming for our football team while waving a giant foam finger.

So what then does it mean to experience God’s presence in a time of worship? I think one of the best explanations I’ve heard recently comes from Jeff Kennedy’s book, The Father, the Son,…

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Coke Pic

Christianity has a brand, like it or not. So does your church. And so do you, for that matter. That might make more sense if you define branding the way I do – as the story people are telling about a person, product, or organization.

Artie Davis wrote in his book Craveable that when someone introduces themselves as a Christian, what goes through the mind of a person outside the kingdom is often something like this: “Before me stands a judgmental, mean, ignorant, and intolerant person. Why should I listen to anything they have to say?” People perceive that the church has lost its way in the light of public scandals, personal rejection, and spiritual abuse. Our brand is hurting.

It is not possible to concoct a story about the church that is better than what people actually experience in the real world, but it is possible to tell the right stories and to tell them well. Part of flooding the online space with God’s glory and with the gospel of Jesus is making sure the gospel is given a great deal of attention next to all the other stories being told. This has been…

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