Archives For Brandon Cox

The Abiding Church

Nate Sweeney has walked through a plethora of leadership issues in his young life, transitioning a church from its long-standing traditions into a church that communicates the gospel clearly to a new generation, with a new name, a new leadership structure, and a new style of ministry. Though he understands how to relate to the culture, Nate’s heart is really for the church to do what it was always intended to do – abide in Jesus. 

In The Abiding Church, Nate offers encouragement, a challenge, and some practical wisdom for church leaders who need a fresh fire in their bones. He balances the idea of growth with the idea of intimacy with Jesus. Healthy churches grow, but healthy churches are more than just smarter or bigger – they’re more committed to the gospel and keep Christ at the center of their attention.

In Nate’s words to church leaders…

At the end of your life you will look back and realize you did a lot of things for God. You had good days and bad. You had victories and failures. You obeyed His word and sinned against Him. All of this should be…

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Storm Trooper WorldSometimes someone comes to Grace Hills from a larger church because they’re “looking for something smaller.” My reply is always the same. “You’re welcome here, but I hope we let you down.” It’s not that we’ve set out to be a “big” church or a megachurch. But we also haven’t set out on this journey merely to settle at any given point. Therefore…

We will attempt big things for a big God. We will go “all in,” choosing to take risks in faith over playing it safe.

That’s our second of ten core values at Grace Hills, and it’s something we have to remind ourselves of often. It’s easy to give into our autopilot and merely coast along on yesterday’s success stories, but we want to think bigger.

Anytime we talk about the need for churches to grow larger, people come along quickly with objections.

  • You don’t have to be big to matter to God…
  • Large doesn’t mean healthy…
  • People are more than numbers…
  • We should be multiplying instead of adding…

All of these responses are true when properly understood, but none of them become an excuse for settling while more people die without Jesus. The…

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Home RunToday marks the release of the movie, Home Run, the touching tale of a baseball player who has seen success on the diamond and failure in his personal life due to his difficult family experiences and his addiction to alcohol. We love the movie because of its message of hope and its open reference to Celebrate Recovery, a ministry born in the hearts of John Baker and Rick Warren at Saddleback Church. Celebrate Recovery becomes the mechanism of change in all-star player Cory Brand’s life.

Sean O’Connell, a reviewer with the secular publication, The Washington Post, gave the movie three out of four stars and challenges readers to give it a look. O’Connell observes, “What might have been a woeful by-the-numbers, come-from-behind story benefits from welcome doses of sentimentality and rustic flavor.” And further…

Before the athlete is forced to face the music for his destructive on-field actions, Brand’s savvy agent, Helene (Vivica A. Fox), comes up with a public relations solution. She enrolls her high-profile client in an off-the-beaten-path 12-step program in his home town near Tulsa, where he agrees to coach the underachieving Little League squad and…

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The BibleI want the church – your church and my church – to grow. I’m encouraged when I see the church effectively demonstrating the love of God and communicating the good news of Jesus to a culture with an ever-evolving language. I’m concerned when I see the church struggling to connect with people who are far from God. This concern is grounded both in my understanding of Jesus’ challenge to be fruitful and my conviction that millions are spiritually dead and hopeless until they trust in Jesus. But fruit-bearing is only half of the equation.

I do not have a green thumb. I’ve purchased a number of plants over the years and have managed to watch most of them die grueling deaths, mostly from dehydration. But I do have enough common sense to know how vital roots are to the life and vitality of any garden variety plant. And typically, the deeper the roots, the fresher the fruits. Jesus even used this as an illustration of the Christian life.

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you…

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I’ve started to write this post quite a few times, and each time, I’ve deleted it. It’s hard to know what to say when someone you admire and love goes through something as tragic as what Rick and Kay Warren have endured the last few days. Their son, Matthew, ended his own life at the age of 27 after battling severe mental illness for many years. I have heard Rick speak of this behind closed office doors, asking for prayer and pouring his heart out concerning his love for his son and his trust in his God in spite of not understanding all the reasons why Matthew suffered so terribly.

I believe that Rick and Kay, their other two children, and all of their loved ones will battle an array of emotions for quite some time. But I also believe that the message of hope that Pastor Rick has shared for the last…

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Lots of BicyclistsMinistry is a marathon. This is true for church leaders, for volunteers, and for the church body itself. When we drive and push people to sprint all the time, burnout is inevitable. You can grow a large church by constantly creating mountain peak experiences and pushing for the top. But you will create a healthy church only as you discover the appropriate cycle of moving forward at an aggressive pace, and taking moments to breathe.

There is plenty of discussion about whether churches should be all things to all people, or keep it simple and do a few things well. I definitely lean toward simplicity. We try to balance the five purposes of worship, evangelism (mission), fellowship, discipleship, and ministry and we try to do little else. Our structure doesn’t have much of a hierarchy to it and leaders are free to lead without being micromanaged.

We like to focus on the mission. But this doesn’t mean we never push hard for growth. Too many souls hang in the eternal balance for us to get lazy and coast along in mediocrity. And while balance is an elusive target, rhythm is possible. How do you find your rhythm?

Focus on…

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Windshield TimeIn the American church, we tend to think of leadership development as a classroom and curriculum-based process, but Jesus had a better idea: spend time with people. Jesus allowed His life to rub off on His chosen leaders and to pour His wisdom into them, and we can do the same. Sometimes it’s a matter of spotting the natural opportunities that come along while at other times, its an intentionally-planned conversation.

Here are some simple ways to make leadership development a part of your life…

  1. Schedule three to five informal meetings per week – coffee, lunch, etc. – with people into whom you want to invest.
  2. Take potential leaders on trips with you. I’ve heard great leaders talk about the mentoring power of never traveling alone. My Worship Pastor calls it “windshield time.”
  3. If you’re a Pastor, take a partner as you do pastoral care – hospital visits, etc. Just the time in the car on the way is a great opportunity.
  4. Buy and send books to leaders. I’ve received and given books that have shaped who I am.
  5. Check in with a phone call. Have a list of potential leaders into whom you’re pouring,…

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The Saddleback Internet Campus leadership team put together this great video challenging people to consider hosting an Easter party to watch the online service with friends. What a tremendous evangelism idea.

How could your church use this idea this Easter? What creative means do you use to reach more people at Easter?

And if you’re interested in hosting a party using Saddleback’s online service, click here.

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Stop Asking Jesus Into Your HeartAccording to J. D. Greear, yes! And J. D. is an expert on the subject, having asked Jesus into his heart thousands of times.

I remember leading a fifteen-year-old student through the gospel, which he knew quite well already, and then in receiving Christ by faith. He knew in his head, felt in his heart, and decided in his will to trust Jesus, repenting of his sin. I welcomed him into God’s family, congratulating him on his new faith in Jesus.

His mother held up her hand to stop me and then turned to her son with a question that disturbed me, “Son, did you feel any flutter in your heart? Do you feel any different?” His smile faded into a look of bewilderment. Since he had felt no such physical disruption, she said he’d need to do it again sometime until he felt differently. When I left that church, he was nineteen and had never had the confidence to declare his faith through baptism. After all, he was searching for an emotion that might never come.

In our evangelical culture, phrases like “just ask Jesus into your…

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One of our core values at Grace Hills is, “We stay fast, fluid, and flexible. There are no sacred cows. We embrace the pain of change for the win of seeing more people meeting Jesus.” I wrote that one knowing that of all of our other core values, it would probably be the hardest to honor over the long haul. It addresses the crossroads where theology meets psychology, where truth, mission, and fear intermingle. Change is hard.

The American evangelical church is in a rather desperate condition. You’ve heard that America is a “Christian” nation and that Christianity is dominant. Perhaps it’s the popular religion, but far fewer people are attending church than we realize. And we’re only planting one fourth of the number of new churches needed to keep pace with America’s current population growth and rate of decline in existing churches.

So churches absolutely must change and adapt if they will remain relevant to the culture. I realize many Christian leaders don’t like that terminology, so let me clarify that God’s Word, the gospel, Jesus, and…

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History of Oak Ridge Baptist Church from Oak Ridge on Vimeo.

Oak Ridge Baptist Church (ORBC) began as a community outreach on South Division Street in 1962. The church experienced some initial success but lost its way. After 25 years of plateau and decline, the church went through a near-death experience in 1998. In late 1999 the leadership made a decision to radically change the operating practices and philosophy of the church. They recaptured the vision and the mission of the church. Since that time ORBC has experienced incredible growth!


Dream ConferenceNow you can learn from Oak Ridge at their upcoming DREAM Church Conference!

Friday, March 1st from 9:00am-4:30pm

Do you have a passion to reach people for Christ? Do you dream about what your church could be?

We did and in the last 13 years we have

  • Increased our average weekend attendance over 3700%
  • Connected over 45% of our members into weekly ministries
  • Mobilized 50% of our adult crowd to serve at a 1 day Extreme School Makeover
  • Transitioned from Sunday School to Small Groups with 75% weekly participation
  • BAPTIZED 1200!

What God did for us He can do for you!

At…

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