One of the Biggest Mistakes Pastors Make

I was told, early in ministry, some of the most terrible advice: “Don’t get too close to people. You can never trust them.” I now give leaders the exact opposite advice. Fall into the depth of meaningful friendships. Will you get hurt? Yes. Such is life, but it’s worth it. From personal experience I can say, it’s worth it.

I’m thankful for the words Shawn Lovejoy wrote about this on Ed Stetzer’s Exchange blog…

The #1 mistake I see pastors make is living in isolation. We don’t mean to, but we just get busy, overcommitted, overextended, exhausted, and sometimes even numb. After a long week of ministry, many of us just want to go home and binge on Netflix or self-medicate in some other way.

What’s missing in the lives of many megachurch pastors I know is genuine friendship, camaraderie, koinonia, and intimacy. We are missing relationships that are FOR us and WITH us, not just BEHIND us or UNDER us.

Jesus is our greatest example. Why did He pick the 12 apostles? Mark 3:14 tells us: “And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach…”

Even Jesus knew He needed people with Him and for Him. What do pastors really need? If there was one value I would list above all others it’s this: friends. Not acquaintances, but really great friends that we respect and admire and who understand us. We need friends who are dealing with what we’re dealing with and understand the pressure. We need friends who have walked where we will walk and have the scars to prove it, friends who will challenge us and hold us accountable. There is great pressure in the pastorate, but it doesn’t have to break us.

Ecclesiastes 4:12b says, “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Pastors, let us not break. Let us not give up. Let us finish well and finish together. Let us stick together and do life together. Let us run the race in such a way that we don’t disqualify ourselves and pray for revival together. Let us see God pour out His Spirit in our lives and in our churches.

Be a friend today. Send a text right now. Set up a coffee for next week. And feel free to invest time and emotional energy into friendships. 

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Things I'm Thankful for Today

I’m actually thankful for these things every day, but today in the U. S. is especially set aside for the purpose of saying (or blogging) thanks for such things. Gratitude is life-changing and invites the blessings of God into our lives. So let me offer my thanks to God for…

  • Being a holy, wise, perfect, immutable, unchanging, sovereign, loving, gracious, awesome Creator!
  • Giving His only Son, Jesus, who died on the cross to pay the penalty of my sins.
  • Granting me salvation and the forgiveness of my sins merely on the basis of my believing in Christ and receiving Him as my Savior.
  • My call to ministry – to touch lives, to change the world, to spread His Word.
  • Being born in a place and time in which I have the freedom to worship Him without fear of persecution.
  • My beautiful, sweet wife, for all the reasons I wrote about yesterday.
  • My precious daughter who has one of the sweetest spirits of any kid in the world, and who happens to be smarter than her Dad sometimes.
  • My cool son who is now learning to “run” on all fours and climb stuff. He belly laughed this morning – I’m thankful for that!
  • My little dog, Beau. He’s nice.
  • My parents, my brother Kevin and his wife, Robin, and their sweet kids, Emma and Carter.
  • My in-laws including Angie’s parents, the Perry clan and Josh’s crew.
  • My church family, along with my Pastor and my boss and fellow staff members.
  • The opportunity to be creative, to design stuff, to think and strategize about communications and missions.
  • All the physical stuff like food, a roof, cars, furniture and all the things we take for granted around us.
  • Creation – which shows off the awesomeness and beauty of our majestic God.
  • Lifelong friends from the places where we’ve served… and I do mean lifelong!
  • The future, from here to heaven. It’s all in God’s hands and I’m believing that He’s going to do some pretty awesome things in, around, and through us!

I know I missed things. That’s the point. There’s no end to our giving of thanks to such a giving God! We’re never more like God than when we’re giving, and “thanks” and “giving” go together. So may God help us be more thankful and more giving all year long!

In closing, hear the challenge of the apostle Paul…

Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.

[youversion]Ephesians 5:17-21[/youversion]

10 Things I’ll Miss About Life In Arkansas

We’ve made the move. It’s been crazy, hectic, stressful, and lonely. It’s been exciting, mysterious, and thrilling as well. We have much to anticipate, not because of where we are or what we’re doing, but because of Whom we serve.

Looking back is always bittersweet. I’ve spent a lot of time in the last seven days reflecting on the last few years of our lives which we’ve joyfully spent in the “natural state.” I wanted to share with you (from our past and from our future) some of my favorite aspects of life in northwest Arkansas.

Continue reading 10 Things I’ll Miss About Life In Arkansas

Merry Christmas To You All

christmas lights

I wanted to pass along the letter that we’re mailing out to everyone in our church family, just in case someone misses it…

Dear Family and Friends,

We want to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

It’s so hard to believe that 2009 has slipped away so quickly. We continue to feel so blessed under God’s care and are so happy that He has placed us into such a wonderful church family!

The year has brought about some major developments in our family’s life. Angie moved from being a Therapist to teaching Bible in a Christian school, which also meant a change in school for Ella as well. The biggest development, of course, is that we’re now expecting little Samuel David to be born in April of next year.

Within the church, we’ve seen the launch of our food pantry and growth in different areas of the church’s life. We stand amazed at the willingness of people to get involved in seeing lives touched and changed. It’s also been a great privilege to meet new people and welcome them into Bethel this year.

We count it such a joy to serve alongside each of you and can’t wait to see the great things God will do in, around, and through us in the upcoming year

May God bless each and every one of you!

Creative Commons License photo credit: alicepopkorn

Don’t Miss the Joy of Loving People

I became a Pastor in February of 1997, almost 12 years ago. In that 12 years, I’ve learned a lot about the Scriptures, about theology, and about the methodologies of ministry. But one of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned is to really love people. In one of my early pastorates, I received some advice that, had I taken it, would have in some respects stripped joy all but completely from my life. I was told never to get close to anyone. Always remember that “they” might turn on you. Never trust, never have close friends. I’m so glad I refused that advice.

Even in a leadership situation where I was hurt by many of the words of other people, God also taught me to love people without condition. When Angie and I moved to Kentucky, we fell in love with many people. We enjoyed almost eight wonderful years at Scottsville Road Baptist Church because we loved the people, and they loved us back. It made parting difficult, but God taught us so much there.

Now, living in northwest Arkansas and serving Bethel Baptist Church, we feel overwhelmed and blessed with some of the best friends we’ve ever had and one of the most loving churches in the entire world. This morning, I was reading a sermon by W. A. Criswell on love and he had these words to share…

However, eloquent we may be, however gifted, however wonderfully blessed of God with nine and ten talents, if our spirit is crude and rude and rough, if our heart is not filled with the milk of human kindness, if we’re not actuated and motivated by a wonderful care and concern for God’s fellow creatures, our eloquence is like sounding brass and clanging cymbal. Our gifts of the spirit are nothing and our very philanthropies fall to the ground.

I want to challenge every Pastor, every leader, every fellow human being reading this post to remember to love people. Open up, take the risk, make a connection, trust someone, show affection and appreciation, and lavish upon yourself the joy of loving others, beginning with Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas from the Cox Family

The Cox Family at Silver Dollar CityDear Family and Friends,

It seems impossible that three years have passed since we moved our family to northwest Arkansas. . We feel so overwhelmed when we think about all with which God has blessed us since coming home to Bethel.

Ella started the first grade and seems to be coming out of her shell a “little” bit-(she gets that from her daddy). One of our greatest gifts this year was Ella making the decision to place her trust in Christ and accept Him as Savor. We look forward to her baptism in January. Angie continues her work as a therapist with children and families. She faces unique challenges everyday with children and families that have been wounded by this world and it’s a constant reminder that there are hurting people all around us-in need of redemption. In addition to loving ministry as Bethel’s Pastor, Brandon has also taken up the hobby of graphic and web design. In Angie’s words, he “plays on his computer.”

Many of you are aware that we are continually praying and seeking God’s plan for our family- in particular “growing” our family. This year has not been without its difficulties; however a cute little furry dog name Beau was added to the Cox household and he has been sweet comfort for a little girl’s heart who has prayed daily for a brother or sister. Please keep us in your prayers that we will know and embrace the Father’s will for us as a family.

This year we will travel to St. Louis to be with Angie’s family for the Holiday. We look forward to her mom’s great cooking, singing Christmas carols around the piano (yes they really do that) and reading the Christmas story on Christmas morning! We won’t get to travel to Kentucky this year, and we will dearly miss our family and friends there.

This is a season to rejoice-to celebrate God’s great gift to us-Emmanuel! We pray for God’s blessing to be upon each of you this Christmas and throughout the coming new year.

We love you all-

Brandon, Angie, & Ella Grace Cox