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Because We’re Not A “Church” Yet

notachurchyet_2The big question that everyone has been asking me for the last six months is this: “Do you have a building yet?”

The second most frequent question has been: “So when are you going to be a REAL church?”

For the record, I’m not mad or anything. But I am concerned about our picture of what “church” is. Let’s start with a re-orientation.

What is the church? Maybe a better question is WHO is the church? The church is a group of people who are called out by God to live on mission for His glory!

If the church is a who, then what is that building that we go to on Sunday mornings? I don’t mean to get into a semantics battle, but I think our understanding of God’s mission is at stake! So what is it that happens on Sunday mornings? And are we living out God’s call for our lives throughout the week?

Maybe the scarier question is this: Are we BEING the church throughout the week? If not, what exactly is happening on Sunday mornings?

Is it possible that we can attend a service on Sunday morning, but never really do church?

I think so.

Are we living out the gospel? Are we taking Jesus’ words seriously? Does the church need a building to thrive? Whether you’re a church planter that just moved to a new city, a student who follows Jesus, or a mom who’s trying to figure out how to teach her kids about God, the answer is the same for all of us!

If you are a Christian, are you on mission with God? Not “is your CHURCH” on mission with God. You ARE the church. Are you on mission?

Today is the day to:
– Love that neighbor.
– Pray with your kids.
– Invite that student to sit with you at lunch.
– Take the conversation deeper with your co-worker.
– Be generous to those around you.
– Start the bible study.
– Embrace a local ministry and commit to serve in it this year.

How is God calling you to step up and step out to embrace His mission today? Don’t wait for the next initiative that your church starts up. Because if you’re like me, “it’s not a church yet.”

WE ARE THE CHURCH.

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

1 Peter 2:9-10

Cox Family Update // October 2014

Cox Fam-3040

It has been a wild ride ever since we left Arkansas! We lived out of suitcases for a little while as our life was packed up in a truck. We had some great help getting unloaded though! I’m super thankful for the people who came by to help us get settled!

As soon as we got a sense of normal in the house, though, we had to pull out the suitcases again to be part of a church planting assessment in Northern Ohio. The grandparents watched the two older boys while Cohen got to experience the adventure with us.

The assessment was intense. We were tested, grilled, and had a meeting with a psychologist (to my surprise, he didn’t tell me I was a nut job). We spent 4 days in Northern Ohio with a brilliant group of church planters, with whom we hope to re-connect down the road!

Now we’re starting to get a sense of routine and we have had such a fun time getting to know the people in our community! We’ve really enjoyed the neighbors! Everyone has kids and everyone loves to hang out outside in the afternoons/evenings. I don’t know who’s having more fun: Christi and me or the Kipton and Caden!

We’ve also been honored to spend time with several other people from different parts of our lives: former students, high school and college friends who live in the area, and a bunch of very welcoming pastors! We’ve really been able to make some good connections. I didn’t realize we would be this busy this early in, but it has been the good kind of busy.

As we move forward, we’ve got a lot of exciting ideas for this last quarter to BE the church while Access is in it’s incubation stage! I’d love to be able to share updates and stories with you! From here on out, almost all of our updates are going to be happening through our email newsletter system. It’s easy to get signed up. Just fill out the form below and you’ll get our emails as soon as we send them off and I promise not to send more than one email per week! This will be the primary place for us to share stories, prayer requests, updates and opportunities to get involved!

Thanks so much for keeping up with us! Please continue to pray for us as we hit the ground running! We appreciate your support greatly!

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Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words so I can boldly explain God’s mysterious plan that the Good News is for Jews and Gentiles alike.

Ephesians 6:18-19

To Our Friends In Arkansas

It’s October 10 (10/10).

So I thought it was appropriate to write this post today.

We miss you. For real. We talk about you every day, multiple times. We look at your pictures and remember the times that we had together. And I haven’t experienced a single Wednesday night where it felt normal not to be teaching.

You had such an amazing impact on us.

Those of you who were around in 2007 know what it was like to see a couple of newlyweds show up from far away. And you welcomed us in like we were family. You had us over to eat and swim. You invited us over on holidays when we weren’t able to make it home. You supported our youth ministry and supported us. We will never, ever forget that.

All the way through, we had amazing youth workers that served our students selflessly. I didn’t tell you enough, but I bragged on you to other youth pastors often! I can’t tell you how many of their jaws dropped when they heard that you guys stuck with a small group for six or seven years through middle school and high school! You guys are all stars and our students were greatly impacted because of you! You have left and are leaving a strong legacy! Thank you so much for that!

I’m so thankful to have been able to work with Tom and the rest of the staff at Indian Springs. You guys took a chance on me and were always patient with me as I learned the system and grew up in that church. I’ll never forget following Daren’s footsteps and feeling very inadequate. And he never once told me how to do things or that I needed to change my style; not a single time. He only encouraged me and that stuck with me.

And we were spoiled with the absolute best students in the world! Whether it was serving our community or just hanging out together, you guys were always on-board, respectful and fun. It was always a highlight of my week to spend time with you. Obviously, Beach Camp was the high point because we got to spend so much time together. I’m not saying we didn’t need a nap when it was over, but those were some beautiful moments that have been sealed in our hearts forever. You loved us and our boys. We can never thank you enough for that.

Indian Springs is full of gracious people who want nothing more than to love God and love their neighbor. You are a testimony to your community and to us! As we left to plant Access Church, you blessed us with gifts and financial support. You will never know how much that meant to us! We are so very thankful for you and your generosity! We love you and look forward to the day we can see you again!

Grace and peace, Indian Springs. We love and miss you very much!

Kipton & Caden // 2013

At the end of every year, I like to compile all the videos from the past twelve months into a project that outlines what the last year looked like. It’s always crazy looking back to see what the kids looked like! They’re always so much younger than I would have thought (further demonstration that time does, in fact, fly)!

We’ve had a crazy year, so I literally just finished the 2013 video of our boys (which means Cohen isn’t a part of this one). At any rate, here are some of our memories from 2013!

Song: “Atlantic” by Sleeping At Last

Kipton & Caden // 2012

Here are a few of our favorite memories from 2012!

Song: “Beach Song” by Seryn

Kipton in 2011

Here are some of our favorite family memories from 2011! It’s crazy to think that we only had one kid!

Song: “Daydream” by Tycho

“God Is Able” (Stand-Alone Sermon)

For the fall kick-off, this was a timely lesson for everyone. The story of Joshua is an inspiring one. Whether you’re starting school or starting a church, God is able to make His plans come to fruition in your life!

Say Cheese!

What happens when you ask people if you can take their picture, but just leave the camera rolling?

“Set The Captives Free” T-Shirts

I am super thankful for all our friends buying shirts and sharing the link to help support our church plant! It’s the last week of the sale (we end it Friday), so I thought I’d make it a little more fun! For everyone who shares the link to buy our shirts (http://accessshirts.com), you’ll get your name thrown in a hat once. If you BUY a shirt, you get your name thrown in a hat twice! The winner will get a $20 Starbucks Gift Card and an extra “Set The Captives Free” t-shirt! Tag me in your shares and let’s see who wins!

Church Planting: Our Vision

Vision1_BlogTitle

Our vision is to guide people to experience life in Jesus Christ!

This vision statement fits us perfectly for a couple reasons:

1. “Access” is the name of our church because it has been one of the greatest burdens on my heart for the people that God is reaching out to (both in the church and outside the church). In our day, it can feel like God is far away or unreachable. We see the atrocities of evil gaining ground around the world and in our own lives. Sometimes, it just seems like God isn’t available…or accessible. That’s why it means so much to me that, when Jesus breathed His last breath, the veil was torn in the temple. That’s not just some minor detail. Jesus, by allowing them to tear His flesh, tore down the walls between God and man! Jesus gave us access to Himself! This is at the heart of the gospel, and it will be at the heart of our message!

2. We sense that discipleship has been overlooked in recent years. To be fair, it’s been overlooked in my own life up until a few years ago. Nevertheless, it is the heart of the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20. We are called to make disciples! Our vision statement simply states that we’re all about guiding people to experience life in Jesus Christ. This is the essence of discipleship, especially if we pay attention to the multiplicative element of it all (making disciples who make disciples who make disciples…). If you think deep enough into this equation, you get to a really fun part of our vision. Our vision (and mission) is to make disciples. Eventually, we’d like to see a group of those disciples take ownership of a community on their own. In other words, we want to be a church that plants churches! From the outset, our goal is to plant more than one church in Ohio. But let’s start simply: one should be enough work for now!

These two elements work hand-in-hand. Discipleship and Access. Helping people know Jesus more (which is to help them help others to know Jesus more). At the end of the day, we’re all seeking comfort and significance somewhere. My desire is for my family and I to find that in Jesus, and then to walk with the people that God puts in our path, for the purpose of guiding them to experience life in Jesus Christ!

What does that mean?

It means that we won’t start by launching a church service. We’ll move into the neighborhood and start hanging out with people…wherever they are in life.

Grilling out.
Front yard hang-outs.
Neighborhood get-togethers.
Families doing life together.

They may not be interested in church, but we can walk with them where they are. That’s how we’ll start the church and that’s what we’ll continue to do the church. What I mean by that is this: we’re not going to stop walking with people when “our church gets started.”

That is church to us. Doing life with people.
Wherever they are in life.

So, when we say that we want our people to go out and love their neighbors, that means the senior pastor does it, too. Not just to get people in the doors. This is what it will look like for us to be the church. As we walk with people, some of them will stand out as people who are willing to walk the greater journey with us. My utmost desire is to disciple those people, so that they may, in turn, disciple their friends and family. We will always get on the ground level in peoples’ lives. And if we’re running a million people, we will still invite people to do life with our family.

Don’t get me wrong. We’re not against gatherings or anything. We will gather to study God’s Word, and we’ll have a blast when we do it! But the people who need something like that will need a slower on-ramp to something like that. There’s a process at work here.

If we were sitting in a coffee shop, I might grab a napkin and a sharpie and describe it to you this way…

AccessPlan_Napkin_Insta1. SEEDS: We strike up friendships with those in our path.  This stage is all about beginning slowly by getting to know these new friends. This may make people nervous, but we’re not even trying to share the gospel with them yet. At this stage, we’re planting seeds, loving our neighbors, and getting to know our community.

2. WATER: At this stage in our relationships, we’re inviting people to be a part of something bigger. At the beginning stages, that looks like being part of a periodic Bible study in our home. We’ll dig into some deeper conversations, but only in the context of knowing them and being known. When seeds have been scattered, they will be watered to inspire growth. This is where people will begin to discover Jesus at a deeper level and (hopefully) desire to be a part of a church.

3. HARVEST: Eventually, we’ll walk with certain individuals who have surrendered their life to Jesus. They have been discipled and are ready to begin discipling others. At this point, we’ll walk with them through these same steps. To be extremely clear: this process is only a win if this person reaches out to people in his core of influence to disciple them as well. Our desire for people is to grow in the Lord and that only happens in the context of serving, being discipled and making disciples.

Now, I’m smart enough to know it won’t always be easy. In fact, if you’re proactively spending time with people in the first stage, you know that it gets messy. There’s not really a manual for this, because this process looks different for everyone. I’ve never experienced a discipleship process that looked like another one. In most cases, you have to walk with people through some really tough situations.

I remember, as a teenager, hanging with a guy named “John John” (or at least that’s what we called him). He spent more time smoking weed than I did sleeping. He started coming to our church and opened up about his struggle. He confessed that he wanted to stop, so we all agreed to be there for him. We told him that he could call us whenever he felt the urge to smoke. And he did…a lot! As teenagers do, we grew tired of the constant phone calls and expected him to get it together a lot sooner than is humanly possible. I learned a lot from John John that carries into this very moment.

Some people aren’t on the fast-track to surrendering their life to Jesus. And that’s ok. We will walk the long road with them.
When they struggle, we won’t abandon them.
When they fall, we won’t turn our backs.
When they need us, we’ll be there.

Because when Peter took his eyes off Jesus in the ocean, Jesus was right there to catch him. Our God is merciful and compassionate! And He offers us abundant life in Him! He gave us access!

And that’s what our church is all about!