Archives For Brandon Cox

Off Script BookOur friend, Cary Schmidt, who serves as a Pastor at Lancaster Baptist Church, has just been through a challenging battle with cancer. The only authorities on pain are those who have walked through it, and Cary’s experience has well qualified him to release a new book entitled Off Script: What to Do When God Rewrites Your Life. Here’s the Amazon description:

We all have a script for our lives. It resides in our minds and hearts–perhaps a good bit in our imaginations. Things are good in our script. But every now and then, God takes our lives off script. He reaches into our circumstances with events we would never choose. These unexpected adventures are often painful, uncomfortable, and scary. Off script times are pivotal, defining moments. If your world has gone awry, if your life is off script, this book will help you discover God’s heart, God’s joy, and God’s truth in the fog of an uncertain reality. If your life hasn’t gone off script, then these pages will prepare you for the moment that it does.

As I look at my own life,…

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Casting a Church Planting VisionThis past Sunday was an exciting day for us. We’ve spent months dreaming and planning for the planting of Grace Hills Church. We hauled our belongings across the country, then stayed with some friends while waiting for the closing on our home purchase. We booked a storefront meeting room at South Walton Suites, just blocks from the headquarters of the world’s largest retailer. We bought coffee from Starbuck’s and sweet refreshments. We set up our projector, arranged the chairs, and checked the facility over to make sure everything was lined up properly.

Then we waited.

The twenty minutes a church planter waits between getting set up and seeing the first person walk through the door seems like an eternity. Would anyone show up? Would we be packing everything up and heading home early with a lot of donuts to eat? (One must find the positive in such cases.)

We were thrilled to greet the first family, then the second and third, and so on. In all nearly forty people came to hear what Grace Hills will be all about, and most gave us very…

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Grunge LightI recently read the quote of a skeptical unbeliever that stopped me in my tracks…

The church is a parasite. It owns the best property, doesn’t pay any taxes, and doesn’t help anybody.

As a Pastor who loves the local church rather deeply, everything in me wants to argue. Who does this anonymous skeptic think he is? He’s just never been to the right church! But sometimes arguing with someone’s perspective is rather pointless. In the end, it’s better to be introspective and ask, is there any truth here?

Jesus came into a religious culture in which people thought they were doing just fine. People with real hurts, hang-ups, and habits were frustrated and flocked to Jesus because the established religion of the day just didn’t have any real power. So Jesus challenged His disciples to think differently about faith. He preached the Sermon on the Mount for several reasons, but one was to sort of set the record straight. Throughout the discourse, He keeps saying things like “You’ve heard it said that —, but I say to you —.”

Right after the beatitudes, Jesus sets the record straight on what disciples should…

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Hands in ClayEvery believer in Jesus has been granted abilities that are empowered by the Holy Spirit. We are all born with various talents, but spiritual gifts are given to us when we become a Christian. The seeds of those gifts are often evident from birth, but the Holy Spirit empowers believers for ministry in supernatural ways.

In one sense, spiritual gifts are overrated. What I mean is that we often fail to examine the other aspects of how God has shaped us for His purposes. He has also given us passions, talents, a unique personality, and both positive and negative experiences from which to draw. In another sense, spiritual gifts are underrated in the sense that we allow our feelings of personal inadequacy to convince us that we couldn’t possibly be “gifted” even though the Scriptures explicitly state that we are.

Spiritual gifts are by no means a simple subject. There are plenty of beliefs and opinions about the subject. Cessationists believe that certain “sign gifts” (such as speaking in tongues) were for a season of the early church only, and now have ceased. Continuationists believe that all of…

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Teaching HospitalThat phrase – “teaching hospital” – jumped out at me during a recent conversation with Geoff Surratt, 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…

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Hipster ChristianityI value books that take me deeper than the average blog post, and Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide is just such a book.

No, it’s not a slam against the modern church and it’s also not written to somehow transform us into cooler creatures. Brett spends a lot of time unpacking a multi-century long history of hipster Christianity dating all the way back to the Renaissance. He raises some big questions and provides some good answers, but the greatest strength of the book is the thinking it stimulates.

I concluded that sometimes we don’t try hard enough to understand the culture around us, and at other times, we try too hard to be relevant and leave the bigger questions unanswered. With a young generation calling us to authenticity and true mission, we often get wrapped up in the superficial facade of coolness in hopes that we’ll transform the communities around us. Ultimately, it all comes back to the gospel, no matter what kind of jeans we wear.

It’s definitely worth a read – Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide. And while you’re at it, take…

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Cake for VolunteersWe pastors often struggle to ask people to give their time and talent to Jesus. Perhaps we’ve been rejected before and don’t like to hear someone say “no.” Perhaps we don’t like volunteering ourselves and we transfer our own rebellious attitudes to others. Or perhaps we know, when we make “the big ask,” that we’re going to exhaust another servant. If the latter is true, we need to change our volunteer culture.

Creating an environment in which people will gladly and readily give their time and talent to the kingdom involves making the right promises, and of course even more important, keeping our promises.

If you come from a denominational tradition similar to mine, you’ve experienced the church-by-committee syndrome where we somehow wind up with more committees than the church has members, yet they’re all full because every member serves on multiple committees. Baptists have found a good way around the issue of finding volunteers. We nominate people during public meetings when they will either be too embarrassed to say “no” or not present at all, in which case they’re helplessly drafted into a role for which God never…

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Small Groups With Purpose Steve GladenThere are, in every industry, certain books that serve as cornerstones – manuals of the trade, if you will. If you want to fix a car, you buy a Chilton’s Guide. If you’re working in any psychology-related field, you need a DSM-IV manual. And if you’re in small group ministry, ministry leadership, or you simply want your own small group to thrive, you need to have the new industry standard manual, Small Groups with Purpose: How to Create Healthy Communities.

Steve Gladen, Pastor of Small Groups and Spiritual Maturity at Saddleback Church since 1998, has just released the very book I’ve been hoping for. He addresses the biblical foundations of community, group life, discipleship, and how small groups relate to the larger church context. According to Gladen, “A healthy small group is a community of people who challenge each other to become all that God destined them to become.” That is certainly the goal, but as Steve points out, “unless you know what the target is, you can’t hit it.”

But this book doesn’t stop with the foundation, Steve…

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Pastors Content MarketingContent marketing is a buzz word. It’s a popular subject right now in the media and marketing worlds, and it’s a concept that churches can bite into and master for the purpose of spreading the gospel. After all, who has better content than Pastors who expound the Word of God week upon week.

Ministry-related blogs and church websites are a great canvas for the display of biblical content, especially when the value of it for everyday life is made clear. Recently, I took the notes from a message I had preached long ago and re-worked it into something usable, essentially re-purposing it into valuable and shareable content.
The process is simple. Let me walk you through it…

1. Re-study your old notes.

Comb back through your message notes and find those messages that would have particularly good success in the online space. Typically this includes messages that drive home a single point with a clearly structured pathway to that big truth. Lists, tips, step-by-step, and “how to” messages are perfect for this.
Flesh your notes out. If you’re a manuscript user, you’re set to go, but it usually doesn’t take much…

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Note to Self“Preaching it” is easier than living it. This creates significant problems when our speaking talent outweighs our personal character. Therefore, it is imperative that we, as shepherds, shepherd ourselves – that we hear the Word, do the Word, and preach to ourselves first. That’s why I love Joe Thorn’s book Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself (Re: Lit Books).

We often buy books to help us prepare sermons. You should buy this book to help prepare yourself. The book is divided into three sections, all revolving around the gospel. The first section leads our hearts to assume a posture of praise. The second teaches us how the gospel impacts our relationships with other people. The third reminds us of the impact the gospel should have on self. Here’s a line we need to hear concerning our wives…

You should seek to be the brightest representation of Jesus she sees, as you represent Christ as Savior and servant to her. That would look like seeking her out when you get home from work, instead of seeking solace for yourself. It means affirming her calling and gifts, listening to…

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Multiple SeedsMy friend, Stephen Gray, has recently made a comment on Twitter that has really hit home with Angie and I…

Church multiplication is a spiritual decision of a church to put the needs of a desperate world before self-preservation.

And that reminds me of another thought offered by my mentor, Grady Higgs…

Churches should be born pregnant.

The book of Acts traces the amazing work of the Holy Spirit through the apostles and it records the numerical growth of the church in its earliest ages. What is interesting to read is that in the first few chapters, God was adding people to the church. Then in Acts 6, there is a division and the leadership gets spread around to seven newly ordained leaders. Suddenly, the church multiplied.

The same is true on a broader scale in Acts 8 when persecution came under Saul and people were scattered around everywhere preaching the Word. The early church was willing (or rather forced by persecution) to lay down its instinct toward self-preservation and begin the work of multiplying.

Multiplying (planting other church-planting churches so that a local church has children and grandchildren) is a scary thing. Why? Because it…

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PrayingI arrived at Saddleback Church in early July of 2010, slightly less than a year ago. And in early July of this year, I’ll be leaving after exactly one year of serving on staff as Editor of Pastors.com.

I will most likely continue as Editor on an interim basis but will be serving the kingdom in a new role – we’re planting a church – the first in what will come to be known as the Saddleback Network, and we hope we’re only the beginning of a multiplying, church planting movement.

At the suggestion of a couple of mentors, including my own team Pastor at Saddleback, I’m going to be offering a weekly column here on Pastors.com with an update on the process of planting Grace Hills Church. And I want to do more than “report.” I want to learn and discuss the entire process by listening to you, our Pastors.com community.

We’ve begun preparing to plant Grace Hills. We’re setting aside money, contacting potential team members, and raising support (yes, we’re looking for partners). We’ve written articles of incorporation, bylaws, and a prospectus. But at the end of the…

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