Archives For Brandon Cox

Church communications is both art and science. You can use spreadsheets, but you also need finesse.

You can print bulletins, but few people will read them. You can use social media but few people will see the updates. You can send email but a majority won’t see it in their inboxes. You can even print and snail mail a newsletter, but why in the world would you?

Church communications leaders and church staff members hear it all the time… I didn’t know that was happening.

I’ve been a pastor for twenty years and I’ve been designing church websites for fifteen years. I’ve worked in church communications for over a decade and in the last five years, I’ve watched our church plant grow from two families to five hundred or so regular attenders.

We still struggle with all of the same questions every church leader has about keeping people informed.

  • What gets announced from the stage?
  • What gets put in the bulletin?
  • What gets posted on social media?
  • What gets passed along via email?
  • Who is in charge of all of that?

Signal-to-Noise

The reason this matters so much is that people are constantly being bombarded with noise. From work,…

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Winners

If you’re a pastor, you’re a motivator. In fact, motivational preaching is one of the most powerful and persuasive tools for change our culture knows.

W. A. Criswell, one of my own preaching heroes, defined preaching as “seeking to move a man’s will God-ward.” He went on to define teaching as “instructing that man in the will and ways of the Lord.”

I agree with the late Dr. Criswell that both are the tasks of the local church pastor, but it was his words about the motivational nature of preaching particularly captured my heart.

The very idea of motivational preaching may have negative undertones with many people because we assume that the Gospel is at odds with a message of personal motivation. Or at least we feel that the doctrine of depravity is incompatible with a doctrine of personal achievement. But when we begin with a proper perspective of self — that we are completely and totally dependent on the redemptive power of God — then the Gospel becomes the most motivational message of all.

We win. We are winning, even when it seems that we’re losing. So we are winners, now and forever because of the grace of God…

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That phrase “teaching hospital” jumped out at me during a conversation with Geoff Surratt, who was then pastor of church planting at Saddleback Church. As we discussed the vision of Grace Hills Church over lunch, Geoff helped me put words to the burden I kept feeling to plant more than a church: to plant a multiplying movement of reproducing churches.

I believe in church planting. I believe that the local church is supposed to multiply itself, birthing daughter churches, and that this is not only biblically mandated, but a highly practical way to expand the Kingdom of God in our culture.

America has seen well over 1,000 new megachurches spring up the last decade, and our actual transforming impact upon America is often difficult to spot. We need more churches. Why?

  • People are going to Hell without Jesus, and the percentage of our population without a relationship with Christ is on the increase.
  • Many existing churches are dying, and birthing new babies is usually easier than raising the dead.
  • God has ordained the local church as his primary vehicle of spiritual and social change in the world.
  • New churches reach more people, faster. It takes…

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Most Christians I know want the Church to experience revival. We just don’t all agree on what revival looks like.

Back in the olden days (the mid-1990s) I preached a few times at a small church (averaging 12 each Sunday) in eastern Arkansas. They had a rotation system that determined who would take the visiting speaker home for lunch, and one day my lot fell to two elderly ladies who made awesome roast beef!

As I sat in their living room visiting after lunch, they brought out some photo albums from the church’s history. I was amazed to see crowds of people stuffed so tight into the little white clapboard building that they were spilling out into the yard around the church, with small groups gathered around each window leaning in to hear a loud evangelist thunder forth the Gospel.

The next few photos were of the mass baptisms they conducted in the White River — dozens had come to claim Jesus Christ.

Some argue that “revival” isn’t about people being saved but about the Church coming back to life. I agree, but the byproduct of the church coming to life is nearly always that lost people knowing and…

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Your church doesn’t need a new mission. God determines the mission. He defines the mission. And he’s been about the mission for thousands of years and simply wants your church involved in it. But your church is in desperate need of a vision that is informed by God’s Word, inspired by God’s Spirit, and applied passionately and brokenheartedly to your local context.

If you’re a lead (senior) pastor and you don’t have a vision for how your church will carry out its mission in your local context, here’s my advice: Get away with Jesus! Take a retreat. Meet with some mentors. Read the Word. Drive around your community and beg God to paint a picture in your mind of what could be if the Gospel took root and sprouted all over the place.

Every ministry leader needs to cultivate a vision for their ministry context, but lead pastors are out front, setting the pace. God has chosen you to lead his sheep on a rescue mission for other lost sheep.

Once you’re a leader with a vision from God of what should be, it’s on to step two. Get mean. 

No, this is not an…

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LightEvery great movement of God invites a challenge from sinful people. I wrote about this recently in a post entitled How to Stop a Church from Growing, and Pastor Titus S. Olorunnisola, who is planting Bethel Gospel Centre near Melbourne, Australia, asked the magic question: How, then, do we handle the legalists?

In the case of the early Jerusalem church, the problem was complex. Non-Jewish people all over the region were coming to know Christ, but some deeply legalistic Jews, known as the Judaizers, were demanding that all of these new believers go through the rite of circumcision and keep the ceremonial law in order to be both Jewish and Christian.

Paul, Peter, James, and others were of the viewpoint that salvation for these newcomers was by grace alone through faith alone, but the vocal minority raised enough of an issue that the elders had to gather for a discussion. They finally emerged from this first church council with some wisdom for churches everywhere.

Their decision was rendered as follows:

“And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write and tell them…

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AdventAlways.

’Tis the season of Advent  –  the celebration of the coming, the appearing of Jesus Christ. Advent consists of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, and Christmas Day. Traditionally, the Christian church has used the first two Sundays of Advent to anticipate the second coming of Christ and the last two Sundays to celebrate his first coming, as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem.

Different church traditions approach Advent in different ways, but I favor the approach of focusing on the four key messages of the Christmas story: hope, peace, joy, and love.

This year, we’re doing an Advent message series based on these themes…

The Christmas season seems to do two things in relationship to hope. It highlights and accentuates the hopefulness we can have when we follow Jesus, who came once and who is coming again. But this time of year also exposes the hopelessness that so many feel because of loneliness and losses.

It’s a tough time of year for a lot of people financially, with winter coming on and the days getting shorter. There’s less sunlight and therefore a little less energy and a little more sadness…

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WinterDecember is crazy. It’s chaos for most American families. We’re rushing from one party to the next, getting the shopping done, and wrapping up the year at work and at home, hopefully before we have all the kids in the house full-time for their two weeks off.

December also tends to highlight our consumeristic tendencies. We go from celebrating thankfulness and contentment on Thanksgiving to the mad dash for cheap stuff on Black Friday. Just take a glance at the condition of the Nike Outlet Store in Seattle after Black Friday shoppers went a bit mad…

If you don’t think consumerism is that much of a problem for us, consider some highlights of this story from Becoming Minimalist‘s website: 21 Surprising Statistics That Reveal How Much Stuff We Actually Own:

There are 300,000 items in the average American home (LA Times).

The average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year (Huffington Post).

Americans donate 1.9 percent of their income to charitable causes (NCCS/

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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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bible

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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