Archives For Brandon Cox

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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Be real with people, or be prepared to lose them. It’s hard. As Pastor Rick Warren wrote in a recent article, we all fight against three particular fears: the fear that we will be exposed for who we truly are, the fear that we will be rejected, and the fear that we will be hurt again.

We overcome those fears by deciding to walk in the light, rest in God’s love, and by allowing God to give us a new heart. But knowing that authenticity is absolutely key to connecting with and leading people, how do we cultivate authenticity among those whom we lead who in turn lead others? How do we create a more authentic staff or more authentic volunteers? I have a few thoughts.

Start with the soul. “How’s your soul?” “How’s your life?” Those questions are far more important than “what have you produced lately?” Most leaders are driven toward the goal of success, and in the pursuit of success, we often fall into the bad habit of seeing people as a means to getting ministry done. But the very people we use…

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God invented social media. I know that might sound like a crazy claim, but I have a biblical basis for believing this. So I’m primarily speaking to those who believe with me that God is the creator presented to us in the biblical book of Genesis.

Social media seems like a new term. Many people are just hearing it, and many others are already tired of it. It’s a trend, a fad, something that people are jumping on quickly for reasons ranging from connecting to old friends to making millions of dollars. When I say it’s a fad, I am referring to the term “social media” not to the actual concept of it.

Let’s break it down this way. The word media really just refers to information. Facts. Things that are true, or at least things that are thought to be true. Social is a word we used to refer to interactions between human beings – otherwise known as relationships. Putting it together, social media simply refers to the sharing of information through relationships.

There was a time…

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Healthy Small GroupI’m sold on small groups. There are very few ways to create an atmosphere conducive to building strong relationships than studying the Bible in the living room of a friend. I also agree with Rick Howerton about the need to consider a more organic pathway to healthy groups.

I was recently in a conversation with my coach, Danny Kirk, about what small groups look like at Grace Hills, and how we know when a group is healthy. By the end of our conversation, I had seven clearly articulated signs of group health and the kind of metric to apply to each. (And that’s the benefit of coaching!)

So here are my seven signs of a healthy small group:

1. There is a consistency in meeting and a desire to meet.

When a group is healthy, there is a desire and a delight in getting together. It doesn’t feel like “one more thing” but rather “when can we meet next?” And healthy groups are intentional about meeting if at all possible. Illness, travel, weather, and other events can get in the way, obviously, but for the most part, healthy groups get together regularly…

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I realize that we pastors are going way beyond motivational speaking in our sermons. We are sharing the gospel and leading people to the cross. But we are still speakers and communicators nonetheless, and our effectiveness and influence depend on our understanding something about the nature of speaking.

Seth Godin, a marketing guru with much to teach the church, wrote about speaking and had this to say:

Speaking in public: two errors that lead to fear…

1. You believe that you are being actively judged

2. You believe that the subject of the talk is you

When you stand up to give a speech, there’s a temptation to believe that the audience is actually interested in you.

This just isn’t true. (Or if it is, it doesn’t benefit you to think that it is).

You are not being judged, the value of what you are bringing to the audience is being judged.

And he goes on to say:

The members of the audience are interested in themselves. The audience wants to know what they can use, what they can learn, or at the very least, how they can be entertained.

Source: Seth Godin

This…

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I love that part of the story of the early church in which God allows persecution to scatter the Christians from Jerusalem like ants. The Bible says that everywhere they went, they preached the gospel (see Acts chapter 8). Phillip, in particular, headed to a city in Samaria and became the earliest cross-cultural missionary. When he preached there, the citizens listened and embraced Jesus. The Bible sums it up by saying, “So there was great joy in that city.” (Acts 8:8 NLT)

I’ve spent a lot of time lately reading Acts and other sources of early church history. I’ve found this theme to be recurring. The apostles enter a city and preach Jesus against the backdrop of creation and the story of God. People embrace Jesus and the city takes on new life.

The other reaction that happens is riots break out and people get upset, but it’s usually the established religious leadership, feeling threatened by the dethroning power of this new gospel, that stir up the crowds. As I’ve looked over the stories, from Samaria to Athens all the way…

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Don’t read what I’ve written until you watch this video…

Once you dry your eyes, think about some of the huge implications of this story for people who serve in Christian ministry, personally or vocationally.

  • Lots of teams win games (50% actually) but THIS kind of win gets celebrated virally.
  • Sometimes the role of the pros is to serve up the big moment for the big-hearted volunteer.
  • We’re all selfish, until a few of us are not, and the rest of us get swept up in the movement.
  • Popularity is being liked, but influence is using popularity for a far bigger cause.
  • Huggers are heroes. I wish I was one by nature… without the slight awkwardness of trying to be one.

I could go on, but I’d rather you go on. Either in the comments or as you share this on Facebook, offer your own observations.

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When we began planting Grace Hills, we didn’t have the quarter of a million dollars that some plants in America start out with. We had way less than that in fact, so we had to figure out how to hack some things together, and I’m convinced it’s made us stronger. We learned to do the very best we could with what we had, and we’re still doing that.

A lack of resources is merely an opportunity to be extra creative.

The Values of Excellence

The first thing we had to do was clarify our “values” concerning excellence, and we came up with five. These are not an official statement – just random thoughts that guided some of our early decisions.

  • We do things with excellence (the best we can) for God’s glory.
  • We refuse to make an idol of excellence – excellence isn’t the goal, disciples are.
  • We refuse to allow the pursuit of excellence hold us back. We won’t wait for perfect conditions before taking risks.
  • We will learn from models, valuing effectiveness over originality. We don’t need credit, we need life.
  • We will be a model, sharing our…

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Last Sunday, we wrapped up our teaching in the series Limitless Life, based on the book by Derwin Gray by the same title. The basic idea is that we are all limited by the labels we wear. Some of those labels were given to us by other people and others, we’ve applied to ourselves. But none of those limiting labels are God’s intention for us. He offers labels like “redeemed,” “child of God,” and “more than a conqueror.”

Labels CrossOne of the more painful moments for me as a Pastor was arriving home and getting a longer look at that cross. All those labels… all that shame… all that brokenness among the people who come in every Sunday smiling.

On the first Sunday of the series, we stood a wooden cross at the entryway of the auditorium and gave everyone blank labels. They wrote down the labels they’d been carrying and then stuck them on the cross on their way out. Then we spent the remainder of the series talking about the replacement labels God offers.

We watched, over the course of this series, as people joined small groups at a record pace for us,…

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There is a formula for launching a church in America. Collect lots of money. Spend lots of money getting the word out. Turn the big crowd of strangers into a church. It’s easy… if you have lots of money. But c’mon, church planters are hackers by nature right? It’s possible to get the word out in a better way, especially today.

When we began planting Grace Hills, we didn’t want to drop a ton of money on massive but impersonal means of announcing our arrival – and we didn’t have a ton of money anyway. So we used Facebook. We’re still using Facebook. And it’s working.

  • We started with two couples (including the Cox’s). We spent $0 on traditional advertising but had 35 at our first gathering in July of 2011.
  • We grew to approximately 80 within six months by word-of-mouth and while spending $0 on traditional advertising.
  • We launched with 176 on our first Sunday, mostly gathered through Facebook, word-of-mouth, and search engines.
  • Today, we’re the most “liked” church in northwest Arkansas and an estimated 75-80% of our first time guests found us on the web.

Why Social Media…

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