Archives For Brandon Cox

“The New Testament is the only model we need!” There, I went ahead and said that for you. It’s out of the way. For those pastors and church leaders who highly value the New Testament AND actually want to accomplish something meaningful, read on…

Every church follows a model. Most of the church leaders who criticize following a model follow a model that tends to criticize models. Follow that? There are traditional models with an age-graded Sunday School, a morning worship service, evening worship service, and a midweek prayer meeting, plus some other programs. W. A. Criswell (one of my biggest heroes) was a pioneer in this model in the 1940’s. Back then, grading ministries by age was innovative.

Other churches follow the “simple church” model. They have weekend worship, small groups, and that’s about it. The ministry and mission is carried out by the groups and the individuals in them. It works well for those who do it right. There are also house churches, and still a few quarter-time churches that only have a Pastor once per month. There’s the Amish and Mennonite model – very community-centric. You get the picture.

We…

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Affirming Words

Want to change the whole world with small, bite-sized steps? Affirm people. We’re starving for it. We live in a highly critical age when civility has been replaced with sharp-tongued sarcasm. We celebrate witty criticism far more than we celebrate affirmation, but affirming people is a missing ingredient to deeper relationships, mutual emotional healing, and basically, a better world all the way around.

You can most likely identify with what it feels like to live in a vacuum of praise, where affirmation is hard to come by. Statistically (and hopefully you’re an exception), you probably grew up lacking genuine affirmation from Mom and/or Dad. You’ve probably worked in an atmosphere were correction was far more plentiful than congratulations on a job well done, especially when the “performance review” rolls around. And you may have even been labeled a rebel or a juvenile delinquent by teachers, school administrators, or even the local police.

Let me clarify, first of all, what affirmation is not.

  • Affirmation isn’t empty flattery – words with no foundation in truth.
  • Affirmation isn’t appeasement or agreement, especially with actual error.
  • Affirmation isn’t saying words without action, but saying words plus action.

In other words, correction isn’t always bad….

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Snow Church

I posted something negative about abortion on Facebook and then watched a mini-landslide of comments come in calling me all kinds of not-nice names. Others jumped in to stand up for life but it just wasn’t a pretty moment at this table of strangers. This issue, among plenty of others, begs the question: will we ever figure it all out?

Will we determine what righteousness in a nation really looks like? Will the innocent, born and unborn, be rescued? Will the victims of oppression ever be delivered? Will the poor ever eat well? Will the burdened ever have their burdens lightened?

The answer to all of these, of course, is yes. And it’s a big loud YES! because of the great, glorious agenda of King Jesus.

For those who choose to place their trust squarely in Jesus, the world will absolutely look much differently someday, and many of the issues we do battle over in the culture today will be solved once and for all to the benefit of the poorest and most broken among us. A psalmist once wrote about the agenda of the King with these words:

Praise the Lord!

Let all that I am…

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Muddy Path

Yesterday, I had a phone call with a young leader convinced he was no longer qualified to lead because he’d messed up in a way that pretty much every man on the planet has messed up repeatedly. This morning, I received an email from a Pastor wanting to know if he was qualified to lead when he still struggles with sins of the heart and mind.

First, a disclaimer… Paul made it clear in the pastoral epistles that those who desire to be overseers must live lives that are above reproach. Certainly, no one can actively serve as a Pastor who is secretly harboring or openly flaunting unrepentant sin, and often confession of certain sins sidelines our ability to lead with credibility.

But what about those weaknesses that are common to man? Not the scandal that brings reproach upon the cause of Jesus, but the sins which arise out of our struggle with the flesh and with humanness? I love this summary from Robert Coleman in his classic work, The Master Plan of Evanglism:

Our weaknesses need not impair discipleship when shining through them is a transparent sincerity to follow Christ.

Perfection isn’t the requirement for…

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historical-sculpture-religion

The “Dones.” It’s a term sociologists and researchers use to describe those who are done with church. The Dones were once part of a church, but have become disillusioned for a variety of reasons and have decided to be spiritual without the help of a local congregation. And the Dones are growing in number.

I’m a Pastor, and I’ve seen the church from every angle. I’ve been a church kid, a kid whose family left the church, and a young adult who found my way back to the church. I’ve been the Pastor of smaller, more traditional churches, on staff at a megachurch, and a planter of a new church unlike any other I’ve ever been part of. And there have been, in my twenty years of ministry, quite a few Sunday nights when I’ve felt the desire to be Done again.

But I’m here. And I’m committed. And I’ll share why, but first, I want to address some of the most common reasons you might think you’re Done with the church.

“The Church Is So Judgmental”

Guilty. The church in America has had a history of perpetuating an us-versus-them mentality toward people who…

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Blog GraphicWhen I was a kid, my grandparents owned a small, community store in Browning, Kentucky where I grew up. It was the hub of social activity a the end of each workday. Commuters from town would stop for gas and maybe an ice cream cone and would catch up on life with one another before driving on home.

That store, along with multitudes of others like it across the country, is closed now. But I’m convinced the social aspect of the community store lives on in the form of online social networking. People hang out in community with each other on Facebook, sharing about life and tuning into the lives of others, discussing news and culture, and sharing their faith.

It’s that final aspect of online social networking that intrigues me the most. When we started Grace Hills Church, we didn’t have a bunch of money to drop on mass mailers or newspaper ads. So we turned to Facebook. Most of the first 35 people who showed up at our very first public meeting heard about us through Facebook, either directly from one of our posts, or from seeing something about us…

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Humbled

Quickly think of five common traits of high-impact leaders… good time management, assertiveness, drive, energy, charisma, etc. Humility rarely lands in the list when it comes to our modern, top-down management systems. But Jesus (the greatest leader ever) and Moses (perhaps the second) had this one thought in mind – great leaders don’t have power over people, but power under people by way of humility.

Humility may be a forgotten virtue in conversations about leadership today, but I believe it’s absolutely essential to having long-term, broad-range impact. Here are some reasons why…

  1. Until you can be managed well, you can’t manage well, and being managed definitely requires humility.
  2. You’re not leading well until you put the needs of others before your own, which requires humility.
  3. You won’t invest time into others until you realize you’re not the center of the universe.
  4. You won’t be a learner without humility, so you’ll stagnate and die on the vine.
  5. You can’t be a listener without humility, and when you don’t listen, you’ll miss some vitally important feedback.
  6. Receiving and making the most of constructive criticism definitely demands humility.
  7. Being concerned about the personal welfare of others requires humility.
  8. You won’t improve unless you realize your need…

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Old BibleThere are no “good” people in the Bible – at least not in the theological sense – except for Jesus. Everybody else is wrecked and ruined by sin and desperately in need of a Savior. So the way we have traditionally approached character-based sermons has a tremendous flaw. Here’s the traditional approach…


  1. Tell the story of a Bible character.
  2. Highlight the good stuff they did.
  3. Challenge people to follow their examples.

I’ve done plenty of that kind of preaching in my life in ministry, and I wish I could go back and re-preach them all from a totally different perspective. There are some major flaws with this kind of preaching. First of all, it’s moralism. It gives the idea that we can, in our own power, actually DO the good things we see the characters doing. But we can’t. We don’t. We fail repeatedly.

Second, preaching in this way assumes that the central protagonist of the story is a human being such as Abraham, David, or Paul. But the real protagonist in both the metanarrative of Scripture as well as each of its rather diverse stories is God. It’s about him. It’s his book, he’s…

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School Kids

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service.” So wrote the elder Paul to younger Timothy (1 Timothy 1:12 NLT)

Paul’s words are the introduction to the Bible’s three volume textbook on pastoral ministry (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus). And in that introduction, Paul issues a fairly stern warning to Timothy to watch out for three of the biggest false sources of security and confidence for those who lead in ministry. They were, and are, and have been for me in seasons when I’m not on guard…

1. Our preparation.

That is, we begin to rely on what we know, and we begin to assume that what we know is enough for us to coast. Here’s the thing. When God called me to ministry, I knew pretty much nothing. I was still cutting my teeth on trying to read through the New Testament for the first time. In my early years of ministry, I was a sponge. I learned enough before Bible college that I tested out of the required Old and New Testament survey classes and jumped right into some sophomore-level…

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Preaching and Teaching at Grace Hills ChurchWhen it comes to personal growth, the world has plenty of solutions, and all of them are incomplete. I like inspirational quotes and pithy sayings, but I can also feel the difference between wishful thinking and truth backed by divine revelation. This is what makes the difference between fortune cookies and biblical proverbs. God has inspired His word in such a way that it shapes us, molds us, and forms us as we hear it taught and expounded.

Practical teaching is one of the five things God uses to shape and grow our faith. The others are providential relationships, private disciplines, personal ministry, and pivotal circumstances. (I didn’t come up with this list – Andy Stanley gets the credit, but I agree with him completely.) It is because practical teaching plays such a prominent role in the spiritual growth of people that I’m absolutely passionate about getting it right on Sundays when I preach. God even says of His Word,

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful…

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Sunshine

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine…

That’s a line from the chorus of a hit song by the band R.E.M. And I think, surprisingly, there’s a great deal of truth in it.

I was pulled aside after a Sunday morning service not long ago by an attender who wanted to know when I was going to be warning the congregation about the impending crash of the world economy that Illuminati would be orchestrating in order to decrease the human population by up to 90%. After several minutes of hearing of the danger of vaccines, conspiracies with communist nations, and the malicious intent of the heads of states, I finally held up a hand and said, “Even if this were all true, I’d be completely comfortable preaching exactly what I just preached.”

I believe, at the time, I was in a series called Roots based on the book of Colossians. We were covering such subjects as how to spot real love, how to grow deeper in Christ, and how to live a spiritually fruitful life.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been confronted about my lack of urgency about end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it issues. There are also these pesky…

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Passion

I’ve been there. I’ve been burned out and depressed, discouraged and defeated. I’ve led in atmospheres where every creative idea was smothered by questions rooted in fear. I’ve been distracted by secondary interests. I’ve given into my own emotions and have isolated myself from healthy, life-giving relationships.

And I’ve recovered. That doesn’t mean I’m where I need to be – I’m still on the journey and have a long way to go. But I’ve learned the hard way how to bounce back to passionate preaching and leadership in the local church. From my own past and my own painful experiences, let me shoot from the hip with five big ways you can bounce back from burnout and be a passionate leader once again.

  1. Repent of sin. Dig it out of the depths of your heart – the secret recesses where no one else sees but God and own your sin, especially the seven most life-stealing sins: pride, lust, laziness, envy, unholy anger, gluttony, and greed. If you’re hanging onto these, it’s no wonder you’re feeling defeated. You’re living as though victory isn’t already yours in Christ.
  2. Read the Word. Let’s be honest. Most of the time, when we’ve given…

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