Archives For Brandon Cox

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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Calendar

I’ve spent the last month or so mapping out the next year of preaching. That doesn’t mean I’m preparing a year’s worth of sermons in detail or that I won’t make changes along the way. Sometimes a congregation experiences unexpected transitions or cultural events, and sometimes God just makes it clear that what was planned isn’t the best message for the moment. So I’m flexible, but I want to think ahead.

I believe annual sermon planning is vital for several reasons.

1. TO BALANCE WHAT THE CONGREGATION IS BEING FED.

When I map out a year of sermons I try to be intentional about balancing certain factors, such as:

  • I want to teach from both testaments and every major genre of literature – narrative history, prophecy, poetry and wisdom, the gospels, and the epistles.
  • I want to touch on all of the major areas of systematic theology – bibliology (the Bible), soteriology (salvation), pneumatology (the Holy Spirit), anthropology (mankind), ecclesiology (the church), etc.
  • I want to talk about all five purposes of the church, and of life – worship, evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, and ministry.
  • I want to plan series designed to reach seekers, ground new believers, and take…

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Change

We like change that directly benefits us – a job promotion, a new home, marrying our dream mate, etc. But we’re terrified of change that threatens our sense of stability, security, or significance. Having been a Pastor for eighteen years now, I’ve seen my share of missed opportunities for new, fresh growth resulting from the fear of taking risks that might cost our comfort.

God is living, active, and dynamic. Furthermore, he is sovereign. We like to treat God as a product – apply, rinse, and repeat – who will give us the same results forever as long as we never change the way we use him. But God has a tendency to be elusive, calling us out of our comfort zones and drawing us into the sometimes crazy adventure of following him on his terms, not ours.

Growth and forward momentum are created by significant catalytic changes.

We’ve watched this already in the short life of Grace Hills Church. We started meeting in an office building with about 30 people. When we moved to a local hotel, we grew to 70. When we launched in our first movie theater location, 174 showed up and we averaged…

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Family Laugh

Guitars sound nice because of stress. Great guitarists know how to turn the tuning pegs just enough that all six strings are in harmony with one another and on key. But too much stress, too much tension, can stretch or break a string.

In the same way, every family will experience stress and tension. It’s inevitable, and it’s possible to experience peace together even in the middle of tension. But too much stress can cause us to snap and lose our harmony.

Families are experiencing unprecedented stress today. It results from economic hardship, the rat race at work, global and cultural events, high educational standards, peer pressure, and much more. I’m convinced that home ought to be a little like a island – a safe place in a war zone. And the Bible gives us some simple wisdom about some valuable practices for peaceful homes.

Learn to Laugh

Proverbs 15:13 says, A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.” (ESV) Laughter is like medicine, and laughing together as a family is highly therapeutic. And it doesn’t take a lot of effort to find things to laugh about. My daughter and…

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Rocky Road

Having an ambition to lead is great, but it doesn’t produce actual leadership. Taking risks does. The best leader in the room isn’t the one with all the answers. The leader is the one who volunteers to go first and show the way. Every great leader I know has been scorched by the pain of making the hard, and sometimes wrong, decisions.

But the only way to change the world is to take the risks of leadership, such as the risk of

  • Casting a bold, impossible vision.
  • Writing the first check.
  • Releasing people before they’re quite ready to fly.
  • Opening up and getting nothing back.
  • Opening up and getting slammed.
  • Losing consensus.
  • Praying the bold, public prayer.
  • Choosing a conviction over compromise.
  • Confessing a wrong turn.
  • Wasting time on a failed endeavor.

Real success stories are never built out of an unbroken chain of successes. They’re pieced together with wins and losses, tough seasons, temporary setbacks, and half-dead dreams.

Successful leaders push through. They keep going. They trust one more time. They try one more time. They take the risk, embrace the pain, and celebrate recovery along the way.

Stop thinking of leadership as synonymous with continual victory. As long as you define leadership this way, you’ll do whatever it takes to not mess…

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Hot Coals

John Maxwell said, “Teamwork makes the dream work, but a vision becomes a nightmare when the leader has a big dream and a bad team.” When it comes to church leadership, there isn’t any room for lone rangers. We need a team. We need to be making more disciples, and empowering more leaders to fulfill the mission Jesus gave us.

Tony Morgan was spot on in a recent blog post in which he spelled out the two keys to breaking through any growth barrier. He boiled it down to developing more leaders and developing better systems. The problem is, some churches are terrible, unhealthy incubators for potential leaders. From churches that still think nominating and voting on volunteers is actually effective to those that create a culture where volunteers are afraid to mess up, many churches reflect a set of values that stifles leadership development.

I recently met with the Grace Hills staff to remind us all of some of the key values of a church that allows volunteers to emerge as leaders and develops great teams. These may seem a little random, but they actually flow together.

  1. The leader of leaders must be growing

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