Archives For Brandon Cox

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Have you ever read Acts 15? It’s right between Acts 14 and Acts 16! Many people find themselves skipping the chapter, or at best, lazily dozing their way through it to get to the excitement of chapter 16 where Paul received his great “Macedonian Call.”

But there are thousands of churches in America that need to hear the message of Acts 15. It’s written for grumpy people. Or more accurately, it’s written about some grumpy people. They were more religious and more “churchy” than everyone else, and yet demonstrated the greatest lack of maturity among all the saints.

Let me give you the short version… Paul and Barnabas were doing awesome things for God, bringing the least, the last, and the lost to Christ, and establishing local churches across the region. The church was happy! There was celebration and excitement!

The church sent the delegates to Jerusalem, and they stopped along the way in Phoenicia and Samaria to visit the believers. They told them—much to everyone’s joy—that the Gentiles, too, were being converted. (Acts 15:3 NLT)

Notice, growth is happening. People are being saved. Churches are being started. After thousands of years of obstinate resistance, finally, the Gentiles are submitting…

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Preaching, as a pastor, is hard. It’s not hard to get up and say something inspirational. It is hard to get up and rightly divide God’s Word, build a bridge from an ancient culture to our own, and then to call people to an appropriate response to God’s revealed truth consistently week after week.

On a recent Sunday, I kind of bombed. Most of the congregation probably couldn’t tell; partly because they’re so stinkin’ nice, but I knew driving home I had missed the mark. For my own benefit, and for the benefit of pastors who may read this, I wanted to use a blog post to explore where I think I went wrong.

You must understand that every pastor prepares messages a little differently. I plan a year of preaching in advance using a spreadsheet, then write an overview of each series a couple of weeks before it begins. On Sunday night, I start reading and soaking in the primary passage and theme for the following Sunday. On Tuesdays, I study hard and usually by Wednesday, I have an outline. I purposely wait until Saturday to turn it into a publicly presentable outline and slideshow…

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Deep in the heart of every man I’ve ever met lurks a daunting question that casts a shadow over every major challenge we ever face: Am I up to this?

When I went to take the test for my driver’s license… When I enrolled in college… When I bought the ring to propose… When my babies came along… Am I up to this? Or am I destined for failure? Since I’m probably not up to this, maybe I should go ahead and sabotage it.

Such are the thoughts that, at least subconsciously, go through the heads of us men as we make decisions in life. I’m sure women struggle with it too, but I’m speaking out of my own experience here. Some men sabotage by shirking responsibility and self-medicating through addictive behavior – drugs, alcohol, porn, gaming, etc. Others just go numb, becoming “yes” men to the tyranny of mediocrity.

For some who have already made the tragic choice of shutting down and checking out, this is a call to repentance and revival. For those still wrestling with the decision, it’s a call to arms.

As I coach ministry leaders, I hear it in…

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I want to be a great pastor. I make no apology for that. It’s an ambition. I want to lead and shepherd well. I want to preach and communicate effectively. I want to develop leaders and cast vision and build a great staff. So where should I start?

Level zero.

One of my favorite lines from the original Kung Fu Panda is when Po shows up at the dojo to begin his training and tells Master Shifu, “Let’s just start at level zero.” Shifu explains that there is no such thing, but gives Po a chance to prove his most basic skill of punching one of those wobbly inflatable toys. It doesn’t go well, and after Po returns to Shifu’s feet, beaten, bruised, and burned by all the equipment he accidentally stumbled through Shifu pats him on the head and softly declares, “There is now a level zero.” Here’s the clip, in case you need a break from politics.

That’s me! Sometimes, I just need to go back to level zero. What’s level zero, for pastors and church leaders? What is it that we need to put into practice before we begin doing anything else?…

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Talent and charisma aren’t bad. They’re good. They’re gifts to be stewarded. In the Bible, Joseph and Daniel are two striking examples of both attributes and how God uses them to put us in places of expanding influence. The problem, however, with both talent and charisma is that they expand our influence whether our character is ready for it or not.

Keep a close watch on yourself  and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

1 Timothy 4:16 (ESV)

Joseph and Daniel were prepared, even through adversity, for the platforms to which God led them. Other leaders have not been so well prepared.

Every time we hear of another moral failure of someone we respected in leadership, a range of thoughts go through our minds…

  • This didn’t have to happen! What a waste!
  • Those poor, innocent and unknowing spouses!
  • The children caught in the crossfire!
  • The church now dealing with the aftermath of a scandal!
  • The reproach upon the Kingdom!
  • The ammunition we give to the naysayers!

At the end of the day, such stories should drive us to our knees in both repentance and in…

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Five years ago, Grace Hills Church was made up of about 35 of us. Last year, our final year meeting in a movie theater, we had an average worship attendance of about 240. And since moving into our current location in January of this year, that average has been 385 with over 400 in five out of the last seven weeks. In November, we’re adding a third morning worship service to accommodate the growth.

Here’s the disclaimer you knew was coming … numbers aren’t everything, as I’ll explain in a moment, but numbers can show us things. As Ed Stetzer likes to say, “facts are our friends.” Outreach Magazine just released its annual list of the nation’s largest and fastest growing churches. Among the fastest growing, the highest rates of growth range from 48% to 187%. Grace Hills’ rate of growth in the last 12 months has been 60%. In that time, we’ve seen 35 people baptized while also launching a daughter church in a neighboring town (and we’re developing two more planters now who will be sent out next summer).

Even as we grow, I’m being cautious. We’re walking carefully through each next step. Here…

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Burnout is easy to accomplish. In fact, it’s our default destination when all we do is coast along. I’ve conversed with tons of pastors who are discouraged. Not one of them predicted it. It always sneaks up on us. It’s the creep – the gentle drift – that is the most common culprit of a healthy soul’s demise.

If you’re a pastor or ministry leader, let me challenge you to make three bold decisions today, and every day hereafter.

1. I will grow deeper roots.

One of my favorite passages is Jeremiah 17:7-8:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, And whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit. (NKJV)

We all want to bear fruit, but the prerequisite to doing so is tapping down and spreading out our roots. When our roots are deep, hot, dry weather and seasons of suffering won’t kill us at our core.

And how does…

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This week, Pastor Pete Wilson’s name is coming up on newsfeeds after he stepped down as Pastor at Cross Point Church in Nashville. Pete’s a great guy and handled his resignation in a positive way. He stepped down primarily because of exhaustion and burnout. He’s tired. He’s broken. He’s not okay. But he is in the good hands of a good Father.

Unfortunately, over the last month or two, dozens – perhaps hundreds of pastors, have stepped down from their positions because of burnout. It’s epidemic. And that’s the point Karl Vaters addresses on his blog, Pivot, this week…

The pain of one pastor is intensified under the unforgiving glare of the spotlight, while the pain of another is ignored. Both hurt equally…

The pain of the megachurch pastor is intensified by failing under the unforgiving glare of the spotlight, while the pain of the other is amplified by failing in anonymity. Forgotten by almost everyone.

Both scenarios are toxic. They break the heart of Jesus, they damage his church, they devastate pastors’ families, they ruin ministries and they make it harder for church members to trust a pastor again – or to…

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Healthy, growing churches create pathways for people to take the next step in their spiritual journeys. Recently, Pastor Rick Warren wrote about understanding where people are spiritually as you plan your ministry to help them grow to the next level. Saddleback’s approach has been to offer Class, which is made up of four separate classes people can take to better understand their next step.

Obviously, there are churches of all shapes and sizes, and yours may not necessarily benefit the most from a one-time, four-hour offering of Class. You may be in a new church plant or a very small church with only a handful of people gathering. Or you may not have the facility to host a larger class gathering. Or it simply may not be working, in your context, to do it this way.

It’s important to understand your own context and get creative with how to do things best. We listen to what churches are saying and we observe what is working in purpose driven churches. Here are four other ways of offering Class and helping people take their next step.

1. Offer Class through small groups.

Each class can easily…

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I was told, early in ministry, some of the most terrible advice: “Don’t get too close to people. You can never trust them.” I now give leaders the exact opposite advice. Fall into the depth of meaningful friendships. Will you get hurt? Yes. Such is life, but it’s worth it. From personal experience I can say, it’s worth it.

I’m thankful for the words Shawn Lovejoy wrote about this on Ed Stetzer’s Exchange blog…

The #1 mistake I see pastors make is living in isolation. We don’t mean to, but we just get busy, overcommitted, overextended, exhausted, and sometimes even numb. After a long week of ministry, many of us just want to go home and binge on Netflix or self-medicate in some other way.

What’s missing in the lives of many megachurch pastors I know is genuine friendship, camaraderie, koinonia, and intimacy. We are missing relationships that are for us and with us, not just behind us or under us.

Jesus is our greatest example. Why did He pick the 12 apostles? Mark 3:14 tells us: “And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out…

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I grew up attending church a lot. I was in a church classroom a lot. When I was a kid, my family attended Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night preaching and prayer services, plus Sunday school, plus missions education programs and Vacation Bible Schools. But… I didn’t grow spiritually, didn’t really experience spiritual depth, and didn’t really learn what following Jesus looked like outside the walls of the church.

When I hit adulthood, I started to grow spiritually, but I would say it was still rather slow going. I started attending church with my wife and soaking up biblical knowledge like a sponge. I entered ministry and attended Bible college and developed the spiritual disciplines. But something was still missing.

Finally, several things happened that prompted a complete perspective change in me and kickstarted my journey toward being more like Jesus. In particular…

  • I walked through pain – depression, specifically.
  • I began to repent of pride, self-centeredness, and other sins.
  • My wife and I began to have tough conversations.
  • I went on staff at a church with a strong culture of discipleship.
  • We joined a small group of people who cared a lot about doing life together.

After a…

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Secrets stink. Secrets ruin families and bring nations to the fields of war. Consider the convoluted mess created around Edward Snowden, or the carnage being witnessed by Josh Duggar’s loved ones, or the wreckage in the lives of little children victimized by Jared Fogle. Secrets are dangerous, sometimes deadly things.

And the worst part of it is… we all have them. We hide them. We protect them because of one of our deepest, darkest fears – exposure. Nothing is more painful, more shame-inducing, more frightening to us than being fully, completely known.

Obviously, not everyone, and probably very few people (proportionally speaking) carry the kind of scandalous secrets held by these whose lives have been flayed open by the media. But all of us carry around in the most obscure nooks and crannies of our hearts the things we hope no one discovers. Ever.

Secrets can be completely innocent while still causing extreme shame, such as having been abused or raped. Or they can be heinous and sinister, such as having been the abuser. Addictions to sex or pornography, gambling, drugs and alcohol thrive off the parasitic energy of secrecy. And for all of us who carry them, the…

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