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 mid-week prayer meeting, plus some other programs. W. A. Criswell (one of my biggest heroes) was a pioneer of 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 started…

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Tame the Tongue

Have you ever met a verbal arsonist? Their words are always inflammatory.

James says that words, like a fire, can burn people. We grew up saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” But words do hurt. Words destroy. Fire and words under control can give tremendous warmth and light, but fire and words out of control can be devastating. It can destroy miles and miles of homes and lands and peoples.

James wrote in his letter, “All of us do many wrong things. But if you can control your tongue, you are mature and able to control your whole body” (James 3:2 CEV).

In other words, if you can learn to master your tongue, everything else about your life will be easier to manage.

The problem with our words is that they can create a chain reaction. You can say something that you didn’t mean to have any harm, but it can have devastating effects that are beyond your control. Just a few inflammatory statements set off a chain of events that we now look back on and call World War II.

On…

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Prayer

At Grace Hills, having sensed something of the direction God was taking us as a community, we declared 2017 to be “the year of the breakthrough.” And we’ve seen breakthrough!

  • People have come to know Jesus and have been baptized.
  • Marriages have gotten back on track toward unity.
  • People have discovered and committed to biblical community.

And much more. God’s Spirit has been stirring our hearts as we’ve gathered before him. And it’s left us wanting more of what God wants to give us, which really means, it’s left us wanting to give ourselves more to his control and influence.

We held a worship celebration recently and referred to it as an “All In Gathering,” but it was really a meeting filled with prayer, praise, and a little bit of preaching, too. The night culminated in us huddling together as a church family around the stage, praying over our leaders and asking God to show us how to follow him into the future more faithfully.

1. God, Give Us a Breakthrough in Evangelism!

God, remove the blinders from the eyes of unbelievers so that the Gospel we are sharing will connect with their minds, hearts,…

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Typesetting

When big news happens — civil unrest, natural disasters, terrorist attacks — pastors usually start an internal dialogue about the coming Sunday’s message.

Do I preach the message I’d planned on preaching? The one I had announced and slotted perfectly into our current series? The one I’ve already spent a couple of early mornings and late nights working on?

Or do I preach a message that addresses this current cultural crisis?

The question isn’t as simple as you might think, or as some leaders make it out to be in social media posts.

Does every significant cultural moment require us to abandon the pre-planned message for a “hot topic” message? Not necessarily. It all depends.

Here are a few questions that guide me when I’m deciding whether or not to address a particularly prominent news story . . .

Does this crisis affect my congregation more than the topic I’d planned on talking about?

If I happen to be preaching on the topic of marriages in trouble or how to recover from financial failure, should I switch to a topic that might actually be less deep for my congregation? Could the conversation about what’s in the news actually just be a distraction from what…

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Isolated in the Crowd

Do we choose to be overwhelmed? Or to suffer with depression and anxiety? The answer isn’t as simple as yes or no.

Depression and anxiety are epidemic in our culture. Suicide, the most tragic possible end of these conditions, is all too common today; and the church has had a mixed and mediocre track record of dealing with it.

Close to a decade ago, I entered a period of depression and anxiety that I didn’t see coming, and didn’t recognize until I was in fairly deep. I had made the choice to say yes to “opportunities” that wound up crowding God and other people out of my life. As a result, I descended into a bit of a pit. My soul suffered. My wife and kids suffered. My church suffered.

After moving to the West Coast and getting plugged into a church and a small group that forced us to get real, I finally began to understand where I was and make the slow and difficult climb out of the valley. I’d been overwhelmed.

What does overwhelmed look like in the life of a Christian?

First, you can’t keep God happy, so you stop trying,…

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Do you want to pray powerful prayers? Charles Spurgeon once said, “Prayer moves the arm that moves the world.”

One of my mentors, Grady Higgs, often says that “nothing heavenly happens on earth without prayer.”

In other words, there are things God is willing to do – wants to do – but he has chosen to do them only in response to prayer.

Prayer, then, is like a great joint venture between the Creator and his creatures. In prayer, we join forces with the God of the universe to accomplish his will around us. He asks us to do the asking, and then he responds by answering.

Jesus even gave us a model for prayer that included praying “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10 ESV). So in prayer, God’s will is accomplished around us in much the same way that his will is accomplished in the heavenly realm, where angels attend to his desires at all times.

If all of this is true, then . . .

Powerful Prayers Are a Partnership

Don’t misunderstand. It’s not that we accomplish anything with the help of God, nor is it that God accomplishes…

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One key? Is that even possible?

Many of the books I’ve read and the speakers I’ve listened to have listed out way more than one key. Napoleon Hill’s Keys to Success offers 17 principles of personal achievement. Grant Cardone teaches about a dozen rules for success. Jim Rohn, in this classic 90-minute talk, gives way more than one key.

I don’t want to argue with any of those people. They, and so many more leaders like them, are smarter and more experienced than i am.

But I’ve discovered a principle in the Bible, in business, and even in my own life that has me convinced there is a pattern to be observed. There is one principle of success I see repeated time and again. So here’s my assertion . . .

The one big key to becoming a successful person is giving your life to making the lives of others better.

If you decide today to give your life – and by “life” I mean your time, your attention, your resources – to making the lives of other people better, you will discover success….

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One of our core values at Grace Hills is, “We stay fast, fluid, and flexible. There are no sacred cows. We embrace the pain of change for the win of seeing more people meeting Jesus.” I wrote that one knowing that of all of our other core values, it would probably be the hardest to honor over the long haul. It addresses the crossroads where theology meets psychology, where truth, mission, and fear intermingle. Change is hard.

The American evangelical church is in a rather desperate condition. You’ve heard that America is a “Christian” nation and that Christianity is dominant. Perhaps it’s the popular religion, but far fewer people are attending church than we realize. And we’re only planting one-fourth of the number of new churches needed to keep pace with America’s current population growth and rate of decline in existing churches.

So churches absolutely must change and adapt if they will remain relevant to the culture.

I realize many Christian leaders don’t like that terminology, so let me clarify that God’s Word, the Gospel, Jesus,…

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I want the church – your church and my church – to grow. I’m encouraged when I see the church effectively demonstrating the love of God and communicating the Good News of Jesus to a culture with an ever-evolving language. I’m concerned when I see the church struggling to connect with people who are far from God. This concern is grounded both in my understanding of Jesus’ challenge to be fruitful and my conviction that millions are spiritually dead and hopeless until they trust in Jesus. But fruit-bearing is only half of the equation.

I do not have a green thumb. I’ve purchased a number of plants over the years and have managed to watch most of them die grueling deaths, mostly from dehydration. But I do have enough common sense to know how vital roots are to the life and vitality of any garden variety plant. And typically, the deeper the roots, the fresher the fruits. Jesus even used this as an illustration of the Christian life.

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot…

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Photo by Ales Krivec on Unsplash
Time management. Of all the people I know who ever focus on this concept, only a small handful are confident that they’re doing it well. Most of us feel out of control. We feel that our specialty is time mis-management. Why is this so?
I believe it’s because we fail to see the bigger picture. Time management isn’t enough. It’s one small piece. Typically, when we think about managing time, we’re visualizing our to-do list, as if everything on it occupies an equal priority in our lives. When we can’t get it all done, we assume we’ve managed our time poorly.

The problem is, not everything we think we should be doing should actually be done. Some things should actually go undone on purpose. But that’s not the primary reason we can’t manage our time well. The biggest reason we struggle here is that we keep thinking of time in a merely logical way. We see every hour as equal in value to all the rest and there are never enough of them in a week.

There are actually at least four dimensions to managing time well, and we need to understand all…

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Desperation

Desperation can be a powerful tool for change. Nobody knows this better than Bartimaeus, who received a miraculous healing from Jesus because of his willingness to break social norms, reject passivity, and cry out in shameless desperation.

As Jesus passed through the crowds of Jericho, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus was hanging around, just hanging on to hope. When he heard the commotion of those following Jesus, something inside him began to cry out. The Bible says, “he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (Mark 10:47 NLT).

I’m an introvert. I don’t want attention (in spite of the fact that I’m a public speaker). I’d rather just blend in and go unnoticed, hanging out in the corner with a close friend or two. But there are times when keeping a low profile isn’t an option if you want all that God has in store for you.

When I was 18, God was calling me to a life of preaching and vocational ministry. While everything in my flesh resisted the thought of standing in front of a crowd of people and attempting to teach the Bible, I was also desperate…

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Friction

Eliminate friction!

That’s the goal most of us have when it comes to leading a team, or a church, or a company.

But what if friction is actually the key to getting things moving in the right direction.

I’m not into friction. Or conflict. Or awkwardness. Or even the remotest sense of being uncomfortable in a group setting whatsoever.

But I’m also learning the hard way that where there is no friction, there is usually no action.

We all coast on autopilot, doing what needs to be done to get through the week. But if we’re going to grow . . . if we’re going to go further or higher than we are today, we have to do things in a way they haven’t been done just yet.

And that requires us to think creatively, to challenge the status quo, to troubleshoot and pick apart not only our failures, but our successes as well.

In my experience, that kind of deep self-evaluation and intentionality only comes when some kind of friction is in place.

Todd’s ultimate conclusion about friction is this…

The moment you create an outcome with accountability, you’ve just created friction.

As a church leader, that sometimes means tough conversations. Here’s an example…

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