Archives For Brandon Cox

Pastor Rick Warren has often said that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and an ounce of pretense is worth a pound of manure.” Fake faith is a pet peeve of mine, and it is certainly an issue God addresses rather directly in Scripture. I believe God is serious about it because ultimately, Christianity with pretense hurts the reputation of the gospel. So, it’s a huge relief when someone comes clean and speaks with brutal honesty about the Christian life.

Brutal honesty, plus hilarious anecdotes and some inspiring stories of redemption at work changing lives is what I encountered when I read Ir-rev-rend: Christianity Without the Pretense. Faith Without the Facade. by Greg Surratt.

ir-rev-rendAs a church planter who is trying to figure things out on a week-by-week basis, I loved Greg’s opening chapters in which he relayed plenty of advice about how NOT to plant a church, all learned in the laboratory of his own experiences planting Seacoast Church in the Carolinas. Greg would almost have us believe that the church came into being in spite of his ministry there. Nothing could be further from…

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barnNot really. Or at least I’m not sure. Church planting is a hot topic right now in western Christianity, and it needs to be with the spiritual condition of North America and western Europe. And when anything is a hot topic, it creates tension.

Tension can be good.

Out of tension flows a creative discussion and differences of opinion that force us to re-evaluate our viewpoints and emphases to ensure that we’re thinking biblically and effectively.

Right now, the tension in church planting discussion surrounds models. Should we launch large and fast? Should we take our time and build a strong core group? Should we start having church to make disciples? Should we make disciples and allow a church to form out of the discipleship? Should we be attractional? Missional? Uni-laterally bi-directionally intentional? And so we have megachurches, house churches, traditional churches, organic churches, plus a lot of dead and dying churches (unfortunately).

As we plant Grace Hills Church, here are three words that stay at the forefront of my mind, as well as the biblical phrases that these words reflect.

We Need to be Attractional (The “Come and See” of the Gospel)

The attractional

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malcoIt looks as though we’ll be launching Grace Hills’ weekly public worship services in a movie theater – Malco Rogers Towne Cinema to be exact. And I must say, I’m very excited about the opportunity ahead!

We will have three auditoriums: a 149-seat auditorium for worship (until we outgrow it) and two 83-seat auditoriums with open floor areas for kids’ worship and childcare. I have to praise Malco’s people. They offered, without our asking, to keep the slasher film posters at the other end of the theater and stated they didn’t want us to stay forever, not because we weren’t welcome but because, in their words, “if you outgrow us, we’ve done our job in helping you plant your church.” Cool.

Even before our first preview service (October 16), we are looking ahead to some of the benefits of meeting in a theater. As we thought through the decision and prayed for guidance, we listed out some big advantages…

  • People love walking into theaters. Some cultural barriers between church and the non-churchgoer are already out of the way.
  • It’s a location central to shopping, eating, and neighborhoods – it’s in the center of…

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dangerouschurchWe know that the answer is yes. Throughout Scripture, God has accomplished it repeatedly. He’s even done far more in far less time. He did, after all, create the universe in just six days.

Right now, John Bishop and Living Hope Church are attempting something that seems impossible – get 1,000 churches to give $1,000 in just 40 days so that they can purchase an old K-Mart building in a part of town with the highest homeless rate, crime rate, and ethnic diversity in all of Vancouver, Washington.

Hear John’s heart in this video…

Can’t view it? Watch 1,000 Churches on Vimeo.

John is the author of Dangerous Church, a challenge to church leaders everywhere to risk everything to reach everyone. Here’s an inspiring description…

It’s dangerous not to be a dangerous church. The book is less about methods or even the message of God, but about a church that risks everything it has to reach lost people. Living Hope was birthed 8 years ago and has grown from five families to 5000 attendees, grown from one to 19 services on many campuses, and baptized 5,000 people along…

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oldbuildingThe church we are planting, Grace Hills, is part of the Saddleback Network, a new, still-forming initiative to cover the earth with purpose driven churches. Today, there are four of us in the network. Peter Dupre is planting Revive Community Church in the Boston area. Jose Gonzalez is planting a Hispanic congregation in Anaheim. And now, Lower Manhattan Community Church, led by Pastor Ryan Holladay, is part of us as well.

I just finished reading a post about the church written by my friend Alex on ChristianPost.com that tells the story well. As we approach the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on America, I’m praying for a great response to Lower Manhattan Community Church as they minister to people who lived in the middle of the upheaval that took place. Alex wrote a paragraph about what they’re doing…

Lower Manhattan Community, which has a relatively small congregation, will be part of Saddleback’s 9/11 Hope & Freedom services this weekend commemorating the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the U.S. Holladay was recently filmed at Ground Zero for video to be shown during the Saddleback services, he…

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thereishopeWorshipVue is offering a free mini-movie download for churches to use this coming Sunday. A powerful video to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the September 11th attacks. Set to the song ‘There Is Hope’ by Christian artist Dave Pettigrew, this mini movie reminds us all that no matter the circumstances, there is always hope to carry us through.

Download for Free

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graphicCan you effectively lead a church without being on Facebook? It may not be such a dumb question, in my opinion. Can you lead, teach, and shepherd without technology? Sure. But can you infiltrate the culture with the gospel while walking in a circle of avoidance around the culture? To put it another way, can you snub the local favorite coffee shop and still relate to the people around you?

So the question is, are the people you want to reach showing up online? Let’s see…

The Growth of Social Media

Source: Search Engine Journal.

I don’t know… maybe it’s starting to take off…

 

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unconditionalForgiveness is tough! It’s one of the hardest requirements of the believer in Christ. Brian Zahnd does a great job of dealing with some of the hard issues we face and issuing a call for a radical kind of forgiveness in our lives.

From the publisher…

In a world where the ugliness of rage and retaliation are driving the story line, Unconditional? offers the beauty, reconciliation, and total restoration of forgiveness the way Jesus taught us to live it. More than just another biblical exposition, this book begins with the horror of the Holocaust as it explores what forgiveness means—and how far it should go—in the real world of murder, rape, child abuse, genocide, and other atrocities. With unusual honesty, compassion, and depth, Zahnd incorporates some of the most compelling and difficult thoughts on the subject from history’s writers, philosophers, and theologians; always returning to the example Jesus gave us with his life and his death.

 

Read more details and sample chapters from the publisher’s website.

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diversityIt’s tragic that Sunday is still so segregated in American culture and until we embrace true diversity within the church, we’ll miss out on God’s best for us. How can I say that? because if heaven is a picture of God’s best for us, and if Revelation is clear that people from “every tribe, tongue, and language” will be there praising God together, then God’s best for us here and now would include the same.

Scott Williams has written an excellent work on this topic, calling us to face the facts and change the status quo when it comes to diversity within the church.

From the publisher…

Church Diversity is more than a book – it’s a movement of God, pastors, ministry leaders, volunteers, congregants, and the community. It’s about the Church changing its perspective to become part of a culture-changing and world-changing movement. A new and different future begins with the turning of these pages, taking this journey, and speaking the truth in this vital conversation:

~ How we can begin to implement change today

~ What key insights, strategies and practical tips can help

~ Who are the leading voices in diversity and what…

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billygrahmI’m writing this article to a generation that might never have heard the old song, Old Time Religion (so I included a clip from an old movie for you). I grew up in an old-fashioned church. We had an old building, built in 1833, and an old cemetery with civil war era headstones. We sang old songs on old instruments and most of the old people that were my heroes when I was younger have gone on home to heaven.

You may be preparing yourself for one of those “we need things to be like they were in the old days” articles, but that’s not what is on my mind. In fact, I think we need churches to ignore the opinions and criticisms of their surrounding Christian subculture and do whatever it takes to communicate the gospel in the context of the present generation. This will, in most cases, require louder music, fewer pipe organs, and a big surge forward in the area of living with integrity and character.

In that song, however, is a lyric that keeps ringing through my mind today… “makes me love everybody.” My wife read a quote…

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Only 10% of Christian believers live in America, but 80% of global influencers are Americans. Imagine for a moment if the portions of the church that are richest in resources could pool those resources and create a global platform for communicating about ideas and sharing resources globally. Apparently, just 500 partners investing $31 per day could pull it off.

That’s the vision behind OpenChurch, an initiative I was made aware of by friend and church communications leader Kent Shaffer. And you can be part of the project too. You can write, provide resources, volunteer, or donate to make this amazing, God-sized dream a reality. Just look for a moment at the graphic below and let the power of this huge idea sink in…

Visit OpenChurch

 

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handI’ve heard from plenty of people that church planting is tough. When Angie and I expressed a calling toward it, we were warned by quite a few ministry leaders to the effect of “Don’t do this unless God has definitely called you because it’s hard.” Church planters face isolation, criticism, and the constant pressure to become self-sustaining. But for me, none of these represent the toughest aspect of church planting. The toughest aspect so far has been fundraising!

One of my own pastors has well said that “He who casts the vision must fund the vision.” So I’ve spent plenty of time connecting with leaders who might be interested in becoming a strategic partner in Grace Hills Church. And I’ve noticed a variety of reactions. Some are eager to help, but aren’t sure how or where to begin. A few are honest and forthright that the funding simply isn’t available. And plenty of leaders choose, for whatever reason, not to respond to the initial contact at all.

I think for us, being one of the first Saddleback Network churches has helped to provide some legitimacy to our work. It has also…

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