Archives For Brandon Cox

Marriage Like JesusAngie and I are approaching our 17th wedding anniversary. I’d love to say that we’ve always been happily married, but that kind of dishonesty wouldn’t help you much. Happiness rises and falls, for all of us, married or not. And happiness isn’t the real goal of life anyway. Every day, I pray a prayer over my children that says, “God, help them to first be holy (set apart for You), and then to be healthy (physically, emotionally, spiritually, and socially), and finally to be happy.” I want all three for them, but I want them in the proper order. So hoping to be married “happily ever after” will leave most people frustrated by unfulfilled expectations.

If you just read that and thought, “Man. The guy sounds pretty UNhappily married…” you’d be way wrong. I would just say it this way… I’ve been married to the most awesome woman for nearly seventeen years. In the seasons of our marriage where holiness has been my first priority, and when I’ve been healthy on multiple levels, our marriage has experienced joy that goes deeper than mere surface or self-fulfilling happiness. But in moments or…

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Big Flock of Sheep

Pastors have an awesome calling. They’re my heroes. I serve them through the pastors.com community because I know what it’s like to be in the trenches of leading a local congregation. It’s tough. It’s blessed, it’s fulfilling, it’s an adventure… but it’s tough. Why is it so tough? There are plenty of reasons but for me, the primary has always been living up to the unrealistic expectations of fellow believers.

In the way of personal testimony, my own failure to live up to the expectations of others (which should not have been my focus to begin with) drove me to discouragement and a period of very real depression in my life just a few years ago. I still go there sometimes, slipping into that dark place where the names and faces of those I’ve disappointed flash through my mind. But I’ve also learned, the hard way, that I absolutely must stand confident in three things:

  • My identity as God’s child, which means His approval alone matters.
  • My calling, which is irrevocable, and which is entirely by grace.
  • My focus on the Great Commission, which is our prime objective.

Here’s the problem…

One of the greatest burdens Pastors carry is…

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Grace Hills Church Worship

I was humbled by the words scribbled on the back of a communication card this past Sunday:

This was my first time to church. I have struggled most of my life and just find myself in the worst situations. Listening to your sermon gave me a lot to think about and I am ready to let Jesus help me find the way.

I had a follow-up conversation with this young man after the service was over and I was moved by his honesty about his past and present struggles. We make it clear at Grace Hills that all of us are broken and any of us can find healing in a relationship with Jesus. That healing process just started in the life of this young man. Another young lady made the same decision Sunday as well.

In addition to two people trusting Jesus for the first time, we heard from quite a few others who were discovering or rediscovering Jesus, or church, or both.

Easter Sunday was big for us this year. Each year, it’s been our highest attended service and this year a new record was set with 337 people attending. That…

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Get NotificationsThe gospel did okay before Facebook, and will do just fine without it. But plenty of churches and organizationslike mine have found Facebook to be an incredibly useful tool for getting the word out about Jesus and His people. We’ve devoted time, energy, and even financial resources to gathering a community of fans who read posts, click links, and pass things along to friends.

Now however, Facebook is changing in ways that are bringing the pain to brands of all kinds, including churches and Christian organizations. In short, they’re changing their algorithm so that the content posted by pages doesn’t get seen by many fans. (Hat tip to Jim Gray for the links.) You may have assumed that you see 100% of the updates from any page you’ve liked. It hasn’t been that way in years since Facebook’s normal layout shows people what they deem “top stories” as opposed to all the most recent updates from your friends.

Pages have been posting updates that only get seen by 30 to 40% of their fans, at best. More recently that percentage has dropped to 10 to 20%. And it’s eventually going…

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Refinery

It’s inevitable. Every single time we publish an article on pastors.com designed to help Pastors lead their churches to grow, people react with defensiveness and pseudo-spiritual comments. Everyone seems quick to point out that “it’s not about numbers,” “bigger doesn’t mean better,” and “my small church matters just as much as your big church.”

Yes. We know. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a small church. Small churches do awesome things for the kingdom and for their communities. And Pastors of churches of fifty people can have just as much integrity and just as much of God’s blessing as Pastors of churches of five thousand. Transfer growth is not a net gain for the church – we need to talk about conversion growth. All true.

Some go even further to imply that if you’re big, you must have gotten big by compromising the gospel or watering down God’s truth. These critics can’t help but grit their teeth when they talk about “thosemegachurches!!”

Here’s the problem. When we celebrate smallness as though growth is optional, we show that we think of the world around us as…

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Kayla BaileyGuest artist Kayla Bailey leading worship at Grace Hills Church.

What does it mean to worship “in the presence of God”? Sometimes we take our terminology for granted. After all, isn’t God always present everywhere? And in reaction to our feel-good, experience-driven culture, many church leaders conclude that we over-rate the importance of the weekend experience. Perhaps, but I err on the side of thinking that most people still haven’t experienced the fullness of God’s presence in a corporate worship experience.

Perhaps we’re afraid of what God will do if we yield ourselves fully to Him. Or perhaps we’re afraid of what other people will think of us when they see us getting swept up in the moment. Will they accuse us, at least secretly, of showing off? Of being too emotional? Funny how we don’t ask these kinds of questions from the stands while screaming for our football team while waving a giant foam finger.

So what then does it mean to experience God’s presence in a time of worship? I think one of the best explanations I’ve heard recently comes from Jeff Kennedy’s book, The Father, the Son,…

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Coke Pic

Christianity has a brand, like it or not. So does your church. And so do you, for that matter. That might make more sense if you define branding the way I do – as the story people are telling about a person, product, or organization.

Artie Davis wrote in his book Craveable that when someone introduces themselves as a Christian, what goes through the mind of a person outside the kingdom is often something like this: “Before me stands a judgmental, mean, ignorant, and intolerant person. Why should I listen to anything they have to say?” People perceive that the church has lost its way in the light of public scandals, personal rejection, and spiritual abuse. Our brand is hurting.

It is not possible to concoct a story about the church that is better than what people actually experience in the real world, but it is possible to tell the right stories and to tell them well. Part of flooding the online space with God’s glory and with the gospel of Jesus is making sure the gospel is given a great deal of attention next to all the other stories being told. This has been…

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Pillars

When it comes to leading a strong ministry and building a healthy church, it takes more than solid theology or smart strategy. In fact, it takes a combination of those, plus the Spirit’s leading and empowerment. I think of these three as pillars of a dynamic ministry.

Every church needs to be led by a Pastor with a strong ecclesiology – a strong theology of church and mission. Out of our ecclesiology flows our mission, in fact. The mission doesn’t change. Jesus defined it in the Great Commission and has never revised it. How you see the story of the church unfolding in the New Testament should have a lot to do with how you lead the church today.

A Strong Ecclesiology

My ecclesiology encompasses the truth that Jesus founded the church Himself during His earthly ministry. It wasn’t “born” on Pentecost. It was born when the first apostles followed Jesus.

The church is local and visible. While I appreciate the Apostles’ Creed, I also fear that the point about believing in the holy catholic (universal) church has shifted our focus away from the local, visible body which is…

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Emergency Room

Some churches don’t want a recovery ministry – a ministry that specializes in helping people deal with their addictions and pain – because of the messes they’d have to get involved in. That’s tragic. Most churches in this category are less than a generation from their graves because they’ve forsaken the ministry of Jesus.

Other churches get that reaching broken, messy people matters and they’ve launched recovery ministries to reach out to people with hurts, habits, and hang-ups. But often, the recovery ministry is the part of the church we’re happy to have on the side while hoping the broken, messy people don’t find their way on stage or into the mainstream of our leadership. Recovery ministry is seen as a good cause and an evangelistic tool, but perhaps little more.

There is a third category of churches rising up. These churches understand that we are ALL broken by sin, we ALL make messes, and recovery is something we ALL desperately need. These churches may or may not have an organized program for recovery, but they’ve determined to BE a recovery ministry from Sunday morning to small groups to staff and leadership…

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Grace Hills Movie Theater

If Proverbs could have a 32nd chapter of nuggets of wisdom, David Chrzan would write it. In the five years or so that I’ve known and worked with David, he’s repetitively dropped advice that has shaped my own philosophy of leadership. For example, in a recent conversation David said, “You can have growth or you can have control. And you have to decide how much of each you want.”

Wow. So true. David wasn’t implying that control is a bad thing. In fact, some level of control is essential. And “control” really refers to the amount of institutional structure and machinery required to guide a movement forward within protective boundaries.

This past weekend, Grace Hills set a new attendance record for the third time this year and it’s only February. At least five adults have trusted Christ this year in our services. And on Sunday, 36 people came to our Newcomer’s Lunch which is more people than we had in our very first public meeting two and a half years ago. Angie and I go home on Sundays and talk about how humbled we are to even get to be…

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Third World Smartphones

As we develop a driving philosophy of why to take up the mantle of social media engagement, it’s important to understand that the purposes for engaging the culture this way are the same purposes that led the church to engage with the world before the Internet ever existed.

We engage because the world needs Jesus.

Paul declared he would “try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some” (1 Cor. 9:22). I don’t think for a second Paul would ever have compromised the integrity of the theology he had carefully built while writing nearly half of the New Testament, but I do believe he was willing to adapt his communication style to any audience in order to be clear about the gospel. Paul’s willingness to adapt to his surroundings was the outflow of a heart that broke for people who did not yet know Jesus.

The world needs Jesus, and the very people we want to reach with the gospel are involved in social media—especially those in the youngest generations. They’re tweeting. They’re Facebooking. They’re Instagramming. We can’t expect a lost world to come to our turf…

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Charles Stone has that rare gift of knowing and speaking directly to the heart of today’s shepherd-leader about the one big leadership issue we all have but rarely admit – our tendency to want to be liked. He cuts through the fluff and helps us recognize our tendency to be people pleasers and gives us a practical way back to strong, authentic leadership. Churches will be far healthier whose Pastors and leaders read this book!

People Pleasing PastorsPastors and church leaders often fall into the trap of people-pleasing. Charles Stone’s research on thousands of pastors and ministry leaders demonstrates the dangers of approval-motivated leadership. Bringing together biblical insights and neuroscience findings, Stone shows why we fall into people-pleasing patterns and what we can do to overcome these tendencies.

With practical tools for individuals and teams, Stone offers concrete resources to help you and your leadership minimize people-pleasing and have more effective ministry.

Read More About People-Pleasing Pastors

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