Archives For Brandon Cox

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…

Continue Reading

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…

Continue Reading

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…

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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…

    Continue Reading

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,…

Continue Reading

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…

Continue Reading

FoundationsAt Grace Hills, one of the most important things we ever talk about is our Code – our Core Values. We talk about these values in every membership class and in most staff meetings. They’ve done more to guide our growth than anything else we’ve written down.

Recently I began reflecting on where our church’s staff needs to go as a team and it occurred to me that while our church, as a whole, understands who we are because of our Code, our staff may not have a strong identity as a team because I’ve never clearly and succinctly articulated my own values for those who join our ministry in a leadership role.

So I wrote out the ten values I hold most dear when it comes to church staff members. And they are…

Grace Hills Staff Values

  1. Jesus is the One who fuels genuine passion, so we stay close to Jesus, we honor Jesus in all we do, and we make time with Jesus first priority.
  2. Integrity is required for leadership, so we honor our covenant and remain accountable to our leaders, and put our families before ministry.
  3. We lead by serving…

    Continue Reading

Adrian Rogers outlined sermons using four phrases:

  • Hey You! (Get the audience’s attention)
  • Look! (Examine the Scriptures)
  • See! (Explain the passage)
  • Do! (Make application)

Andy Stanley is famous for one-point preaching, but really breaks his messages into five movements:

  • Me (How do I struggle with this?)
  • We (How do we all struggle with this?)
  • God (What does the Bible say about this?)
  • You (What should you do about this?)
  • We (How can we all live this out together?)

And I’m not sure who came up with it, but another well-known system is:

  • Hook (Get attention)
  • Book (Examine the Word)
  • Look (Expound the passage)
  • Took (Make an appeal)

The Puritans jumped right into point one of 27ish as they preached for several hours and there are plenty of other outlining methods as well. I’ve changed my system several times over the years, which I think is important to keep us out of a rut. Lately, I’ve been outlining my messages around three movements..

WHERE WE ARE

In the first part of the message, I speak about the problem or issue that the message addresses, hopefully in a way that motivates my hearers to identify with the problem personally as in, “Oh yeah, I struggle with that too!”

WHAT GOD SAYS

In the…

Continue Reading

Epic GraceMost of the books that I read on the subject of grace tackle it from a theological point-of-view in which the subject of grace is systematically defined and expounded upon. And I love books that comprehensively address grace, a topic with which it seems I’m never familiar enough. But sometimes, I like to read a book that builds on the foundation of a healthy theology of grace but focuses on grace lived out.

Kurt Bubna’s book Epic Grace is just that. It’s sort of a memoir that involves teaching through story. Kurt’s stories often made me laugh and always made me think. And the basis of the book is that grace is so big, so epic, that it’s the one and only thing that will get us through the thickest and thinnest experiences of our lives.

And whether Kurt intended his book to come across this way or not, I love the un-systematic nature of it. Every chapter covers an aspect of grace, or a related subject, illustrating the underlying principles from Scripture and from his own experience. It’s the kind of book that makes me want to hear Kurt read it out…

Continue Reading