Archives For Brandon Cox

I recently told a friend, who happens to be agnostic, that he “shouldn’t” go to church. I know. That was dumb, right? I really didn’t mean that he should avoid attending church. Rather I meant that he, as a non-believer, wasn’t under any particular moral duty to attend church on the weekends.

Instead of feeling as if he should attend church, I wanted him to understand that he could attend. He could freely and he would be welcome. He would be loved. He would be accepted and treated like family. And… it might even be good for him. No, not a good thing for him to do… a good thing for him. See the difference? I don’t embrace moralistic therapeutic deism. I don’t think the weekend worship service is about making people better.

The worship service is all about magnifying the redemptive good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection for sinners and how he is the one and only saving King for all of eternity! But… I still think church can make life better for people, even when they don’t believe the core message of the gospel.

Why does this matter? It matters because of where our culture is in relationship to the church. There are two primary reasons people have traditionally…

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I’m a sucker for vintage Disney stories. I have a collection of old Disney story books from my childhood and often read them to my boys. Tonight we chose The Aristocats, and I was moved by the final page. I’ve seen the movie and read the story dozens of times in my life, but I’ve never really stopped to take notice of the great story of redemption in O’Malley the alley cat’s life.

Duchess and her kittens are abandoned by the house butler, Edgar, and left to die in the French countryside. Along comes the loner, O’Malley, who has no interest in taking responsibility for the lives of others. But through the crisis of their lostness, O’Malley’s heart breaks and he becomes the hero, guiding them safely back home. At the end of the story, Edgar gets fired and sent away and the Madame of the house adopts O’Malley into her family of felines. And the final page says,

Madame said she needed a cat who was smart and brave.

So O’Malley decided to stay.

He was a very good father.

“How did we ever get along without you?” asked Duchess.

O’Malley just smiled.

The end.

I’m a Pastor, so in my line of…

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Preaching is a sacred task. We who shepherd congregations are entrusted with the assignment of opening God’s very own words to his people, week after week, and translating ancient truth to today’s people. We are to preach so as to build up (edify), to hold up (encourage), and to fire up (exhort).

I’m burdened that so much preaching today remains in its ancient context and fails to be interpreted to our current cultural circumstances. I agree with Chuck Swindoll that boring preaching is a crime, and I wish more pastors would come to the pulpit not only prayed up, but touched with the feelings of their flock. In a given year of preaching, we ought to at least touch on every major area of doctrine, each genre of Scripture, and address the major points of pain and need in people’s lives from Scripture.

I do this by preaching thematically in shorter series’ but it can also be accomplished through an expository framework equally well. But this isn’t really a post about what topics, themes, or books of the Bible you should be preaching from. It also isn’t about preaching about current cultural crises which, while…

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Gathering Community

American Christians have been conditioned by our cultural surroundings in many ways, and none is more prominent than our shift from communal thinking to individual thinking. We love inspirational and motivational content that revolves around memyself, and I. That’s why we sell so many books about how I can be successful, how can get rich, and how I can be a better master of my own universe.

The Bible, on the other hand, speaks far more of we than of I. Two thousand years ago, Jesus gathered some ordinary misfits into a little community called the church. He trained them as his disciples, died for their sins, rose again and breathed life into them by sending his Holy Spirit. He commissioned them to go forth into every nation and share the gospel.

We usually interpret that commission individualistically. That’s why we have so many books and courses on how I can witness and share my faith. We think of evangelism as an individual enterprise and the church as merely an afterthought.

I even see a bothersome trend in church planting that encourages planters to hold off on planting a church and just “plant the gospel” and hope a church forms. So planters, without…

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Prayer

Does prayer make any difference? Absolutely! And prayer makes a difference because the living God, the Holy Spirit, lives inside the one praying. Further, when God’s people get together and pray as a community, amazing things happen!

I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of those before-and-after photos advertising the latest weight loss and fitness program. The Bible gives us a pretty neat before-and-after picture of the early church. Before the Holy Spirit empowered the church at Pentecost, the apostles are waiting, hiding, and hoping. And they’re praying.

Then Pentecost occurs. The fire falls. The Spirit empowers. And things begin to happen. Thousands are saved and added to the church. Miracles occur. Healing takes place. The impact is so tangible that the church leaders start getting in trouble for bringing attention to the crime of the unfair crucifixion of Jesus. Peter and John heal a crippled man at one of the Temple gates and it lands them in jail where they take a beating and are sternly warned not to speak any more in the name of Jesus.

Upon their release, instead of cowering away in fear, the Bible says this…

As soon as they were freed, Peter…

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Broken Guy

“I’m not broken. Get off my Facebook.”

Our church uses a lot of sponsored Facebook posts. Aside from attenders bringing friends, it’s the primary way that people in Northwest Arkansas discover us and check us out on Sunday. One of our posts referenced an upcoming message about brokenness and that comment was left by someone, annoyed that our sponsored ad showed up in their newsfeed.

I’m okay with that. I don’t like annoying people so we always apologize and offer a quick instruction for removing us permanently from their content stream. But I have to respectfully disagree with the comment’s author. There are actually two kinds of people in our culture.

  1. Those who are broken and don’t know it or won’t admit it.
  2. Those who are broken and do know it.

There are no unbroken people. Of this fact, Scripture is quite clear. It may help for me to define what brokenness is all about. We’re all broken because of sin. Universally, we’ve walked away from God, which has left a crack in our identity that can only be cured by the blood of the cross via repentance. And almost as universally, most of us are also broken by the sins of…

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Thin Ice

Churches do not automatically thrive. The American church, as a local institution, has proven that it can coast along in almost-dead mode for many years. But there are no churches that are effectively reaching and changing their surrounding culture by accident.

Rick Warren wrote a brief piece on Pastors.com about breaking three common barriers to church growth. In the comments, a troubling attitude emerged that is probably not too uncommon among believers in American churches – that growth is up to God (which I wholeheartedly agree with) and so any intentional effort to cause growth is somehow wrong (which I couldn’t disagree with more).

You can have “good Sundays,” but the natural tendency of a church will always be to drift slowly from the mission into autopilot mode. When that happens, we go back to doing church in the easiest way we know how rather than intentionally working to be the kind of church we need to be.

If we fail to intentionally be the church, we will unintentionally just do church. And that’s true, no matter how much we say we’re going to “be the church.” Doing the Sunday gathering thing…

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We are sent, on mission, to make disciples. It is for making more and stronger disciples that the church exists. So… what’s your process for making them?

There are two significant weaknesses common to struggling churches.

  • They’ve never discovered or clarified the biblical purposes for which they were founded.
  • They’ve never clarified or pursued a basic strategy for making disciples.

Healthy, purpose driven churches have made these two issues very core to their existence. They understand that they exist for the five purposes of worship, evangelism, discipleship, ministry, and fellowship. And they understand that discipleship happens best through an intentional process.

Particularly, there are five questions that must be answered by every church’s leadership about their discipleship strategy.

  1. How do we help the community around us become part of our crowd? This is the evangelistic mission of the church.
  2. How do we help the crowd that gathers on Sunday become a congregation? This is a matter of helping people discover membership in the body.
  3. How do we help the congregation remain committed to growing spiritually? This is discipleship – helping people grow in spiritual maturity to be more like Christ.
  4. How do we move committed members into the core to serve others? This is how we expand the ministry…

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BOOKS TO TAKE NOTE OF

Screenshot 2016-02-19 15.30.57Ephesians: Six Choices For Making the Most of What You’ve Been Given, by Tom Holladay

Based on Tom Holladay’s popular podcast, DriveTime Devotions, this personal devotional book on the book of Ephesians helps lift you beyond your circumstances and shows you that God sees you in light of where you’re headed—not where you are today.

Ephesians unpacks what it means to daily…

  • Relish the riches that are yours in Jesus Christ
  • Embrace and succeed in God’s calling on your life
  • Rise above the earthly and lay hold of your heavenly inheritance
  • Understand the position and power God has given you in Christ

Screenshot 2016-02-19 15.35.02New Morning Mercies: A Daily Gospel Devotion, by Paul David Tripp

Mornings can be tough. Sometimes, a hearty breakfast and strong cup of coffee just aren’t enough. Offering more than a rush of caffeine, best-selling author Paul David Tripp wants to energize you with the most potent encouragement imaginable: the gospel.

Forget “behavior modification” or feel-good aphorisms. Tripp knows that what we really need is an encounter with the living God. Then…

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Screenshot 2016-02-10 16.32.02Recently, my friends at Exponential introduced a new resource for church leaders that I believe will be invaluable for the church as we continue to focus on healthy Kingdom multiplication. The Becoming 5 Assessment Tool is the first of its kind to give churches a good read on how they’re doing with becoming a church that grows by multiplying itself (multiplication growth)—and not just adding attendees (addition growth).

The concept is simple. Register for a free account at becomingfive.org, answer the multiple-choice questions at your convenience (probably about 30 minutes to compete) and then review your results. Based on your responses, the assessment provides you with your church’s multiplication profile (Levels 1-5) and multiplication pattern.

The multiplication profile is based on five cultures of multiplication that Exponential has identified:

Level1 (subtraction, survival or scarcity mode)

Level 2 (plateaued, survival and tension between scarcity and growth)

Level 3 (growing by addition but not multiplication)

Level 4 (reproducing)

Level 5 (multiplying, releasing and sending)

(To read detailed examples of the five profiles, download the FREE eBook Becoming a Level 5 Multiplying Church by Todd Wilson and Dave Ferguson at exponential.org/becomingfive.)

The multiplication pattern you receive along with your…

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BOOKS TO TAKE NOTE OF

Screenshot 2016-02-05 14.10.39Rebuild: Reset Your Life. Renew Your Church. Reshape Your World., by Tommy Kyllonen

Rebuilding is way harder than building. But sometimes God calls you to this stretching work rather than starting something new. Pastor and hip-hop artist Tommy Kyllonen faced this journey when God led him to an abandoned Toys “R” Us building in inner city Tampa and said, “Rebuild this into a church.” How do we rebuild in a healthy way despite living in a world of brokenness? Drawing on Nehemiah’s example as the rebuilder of Jerusalem’s walls, Kyllonen reveals the struggles and joys that he, his family and his young urban, multiethnic church experienced as they pursued a seemingly impossible dream of restoration. Their story will encourage and inspire you to pursue God’s rebuilding work in your own life, church and world.

Screenshot 2016-02-05 14.14.08Philippians Devotional: The Eight Places Joy Is Won or Lost, by Tom Holladay

Based on Tom Holladay’s popular podcast, Drivetime Devotions, this personal study is designed to be read daily, five days a week, so you have the margin to stay on…

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Is God calling you to serve Him in ministry?

First of all, it’s a big YES.

God draws lost people to himself to save them, and his desire is that all saved people serve people. So, if you’re a believer, you are called! Obviously, however, there is a kind of “calling” that sets certain individuals apart for positions of ministry leadership. The New Testament refers to some people as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. And they are given to the church to teach, preach, shepherd, equip, and instruct.

It should be noted before moving any further that everyone within the body of Christ is of equal worth and importance. We may serve different functions, but the gap between “clergy” and “laity” is an imagined one. All believers are “ministers” even though a few may receive a special calling to lead and to take responsibility for the health and welfare of the flock as undershepherds who follow Jesus.

Some of these leaders are paid and some are not. Some work for churches full-time, some part-time, and others on a volunteer basis. Regardless of their formal relationship with a particular church body, they are called to a…

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