Archives For Brandon Cox

I love small churches. I love medium-sized churches. And I love large churches and “megachurches” (typically defined as an evangelical congregation with 2,000 or more weekend service attenders). I also agree with a principle shared by Bailey Smith who once said, “There are no large churches. All churches are small, some are just smaller than others when compared to the surrounding lost population.”

I’ve pastored churches of 30 and I’ve served as a staff Pastor at a church that averaged about 22,000 attenders at the time. In many ways, the largest of them was also the smallest – the most capable of shaping and nurturing my soul. For whatever reason, church size is a very, very sensitive topic. Within the church, everyone seems to favor whatever size the church they’re part of represents. Some view small churches as ineffective and unwelcoming. Others view large churches as doctrinally weak or merely as corporate structures who prefer making dollars over disciples.

Why all the sensitivity? I think it’s social. We’re all a little protective of our identity, especially when we feel that someone is judging and assessing us as more or less worthy by secondary measures such as church size.

At Grace…

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Counseling

Some of the spiritually healthiest people I know are in counseling. There seems to be some stigma around it, but getting help with our mental and emotional issues is really a matter of choosing to grow with the help of others. And the New Testament reveals a pretty neat idea in the mind of God… the church can be a growing body of compassionate counselors. If you’re a Christian, you need counseling from other Christians, and you need to offer counseling to others too.

I believe there is a huge need for professional counseling in the culture in which we live, and there are times for all of us when the the healthiest thing we can do is pay to see a clinician trained in the art of coaching us toward healthier thinking and relationships. But there is also a vast army of counselors within the membership of the church.

Paul challenged Christians to “Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives.” (Colossians 3:16 NLT) He challenged us to admonish and to encourage, to hold others accountable, to help apply biblical truth, and to make each other healthier, mutually.

When I was a…

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Mother TeresaMartin Luther King, Jr. was so moved by the plight of black people in America that he gave his life leading a civil rights movement. Mother Teresa was so crushed by the poverty she saw in Calcutta that she spent her life there ministering to the poor. John Knox was so burdened for the souls of the people of Scotland that he prayed to God, “Give me Scotland, or I die.”

Moses saw the suffering of his Hebrew brothers and sisters and it moved him to reject his royal upbringing and ultimately lead them across the Red Sea to freedom. David was touched by the broken and outcast who were fleeing Saul’s kingdom to live in the caves that he became the great shepherd-king of Israel. Paul was devastated over the Jews’ rejection of Jesus as Messiah to the point that he bordered on wishing himself to be accursed if it would mean saving them.

What breaks your heart?

After Jesus encountered the woman at the well and changed her life with the good news, His disciples wondered why Jesus would even waste his time on the Samaritans. Jesus forced them to refocus and…

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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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