Recent Posts

“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

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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!

Buy A Shirt. Plant A Church.

CaptivesShirtPromo_BlogTitleIf only it were that easy!

Buy a shirt and plant a church.

Well, it’s not quite that easy. But we’re taking one step at a time as we move forward to plant Access Church! This is the first fundraiser that we’ve ever run, so we hope our friends and family will get behind this with us!

So here’s the deal:

Each shirt costs $20 ($23 for plus sizes) and the proceeds will go to help our family’s costs (moving, transportation, church planting assessments, deposits and debt retirement). When God made this call clear to me, we weren’t quite ready financially! He made it clear to us that He would make a way for us, and we’re trusting in that as we step out into this adventure!

What kind of t-shirt is this?

If you’re a fan of really soft t-shirts, you’ll love this! It’s a Bella+Canvas Ringspun Cotton tee. For right now, we only have it in one color (Heather Red). It’s unisex, and we have sizes ranging from small to 4x.

What does the shirt mean?

That story starts with a friend of mine named David. He and his family are dear friends of ours who have agreed to move to Columbus to plant Access Church with us! As we were talking one day, we were talking about what our main burden was for the city of Columbus. More specifically, David asked me, “If we don’t plant this church, what won’t happen? What will go undone? Who will go unhelped? What’s our burden?” My response, based in Isaiah 61, was simple: “Captives won’t be set free.” With chills running down his spine, he told me that those were the exact words he had spoken the night before with Margo, his wife. This was the first of many moments that we realized that God was aligning our hearts around the vision for HIS church. It’s not about us. It’s about bringing honor to God and loving and helping the people He has called us to!

How can I buy a shirt?

Head over to www.accessshirts.com and order online now!

When do I get my shirt?

These orders are pre-order only, so we’ll take orders until Friday, August 15, get them printed up, and ship them by August 29! If you live in central Arkansas, you’ll have the pleasure of having me deliver it personally! You might even get a free hug!

Can I do a bulk order?

Absolutely! Several youth pastors have asked if their group can get involved in something like this. You can take orders from your group and I’ll send you a box with your specific order total. It will be easiest to do it this way, so your group can keep all their orders together, especially if you’re not in Central Arkansas (this will save us big time on shipping costs). I would be stoked if you would get your groups involved in this! If you have any questions about that, just shoot me an email (markhcox@gmail.com).

What if you want to give and could care less about the t-shirt?

While I want everyone to own one of these, you may just want all your money to go toward the mission of our church plant. That’s great! There are a couple ways to do that:

Paypal: Log onto www.grandfamily.net/access. There you can click the PayPal link and 100% of your money will go straight to the church plant. Did I mention how thankful I am that Grand Avenue Baptist Church is one of our main supporters and is helping us keep our finances in order?!

Check: You can mail a check to Grand Avenue Baptist Church, 3900 Grand Avenue, Fort Smith, AR 72904. Make sure to put Access Church in the memo.

Thanks so much for investing in God’s mission for the Columbus! Head on over to www.accessshirts.com and grab one (or more)!

If you want to help promote this, grab this graphic below and share it on your social media profile!

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Church Planting: Our Mission

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What would it look like if a group of people decided that the rest of their lives would be spent on one thing: making disciples in a specific city. What if they really didn’t set out to start a church in the traditional sense, though? No mailers. No media blitz. No fancy promotion.

That’s silly. No one would come.

They would have to go to the people, rather than expecting the people to come to them.

I think we might be on to something.

One more question: What does it look like when a church stays laser-focused on God’s mission in that city?
They would enter every sector of society.
They would serve the city.
They would spend a lot of time just being with people.
They would meet tangible needs.
They would be moved by compassion for the people of the city.
They would point people to Jesus with every breath.

Every step of the way, they would invite people into God’s Mission!

The way our vision & mission plays out for us practically is to move into the neighborhood, to start loving and helping people practically, cultivating relationships, and identifying people who might be interested in dropping their nets to follow Jesus.

This is less about starting a church and more about being the church!

That means we won’t start by buying/renting a building.
We don’t need any projectors, lights or soundboards.
We don’t need a marketing budget.
We need a place to live and a lot of stinking food.

So what is our mission?

If life is all about worshiping Jesus, most people are missing the purpose of life! Our mission is laid out in front of us. We received our Great Commission from Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20). We are supposed to be making disciples!

It couldn’t be any clearer! But so many of us have drifted from our mission. So many churches get distracted by other [good] opportunities.

What would it look like for a church to remain focused on their mission? What if a church could somehow keep discipleship at the center of our work? My friend and I have designed a process/strategy that will always bring us back to the primary mission; that is, God’s Mission in our neighborhood and in the world!

One last question: What would a church need to do to reach this city? Is there a plan for multiplication? What if we planted a church that plants churches? What if, rather than just growing, it was part of our plan from the beginning to send missionaries back into the city?

Our plan is just that! Our vision is to plant more churches in the city, making disciples and raising up leaders!

As we get started on this journey, our family will need help making this vision a reality! We know that God has called us to go, and we believe that God is raising up Kingdom-minded people who will send us! Would you pray about becoming a partner with us in this effort to plant a church in Columbus, Ohio?

Grand Avenue Baptist Church (Fort Smith, AR) has committed to be our sending church! We are so thankful for their investment in the Kingdom! They will be receiving all of the donations for a while, as we get started. If you’d like to help us get started, you can visit our page on their website at www.grandfamily.net/access. There is a PayPal link there where you can donate. It will go straight into their account and their amazing finance team will be handling all of our finances as we start (did I mention how thankful I am for them?!). Thank you so much for considering investing in this Kingdom work!

Student Ministry Worship

Sorry for the poor recording. We’re pretty low tech. But it just seemed like there was a special spirit in the air when this song was sung by our students. Interesting to note, it was the last song sung in the 2013-2014 school year.

Update On The Cox Family

Preschool_CanvasIn March, I announced that my family would be leaving our current ministry role at Indian Springs Baptist Church to plant a brand new church in Columbus, Ohio. Most people have some idea of what it looks like to leave one position for another, but I’ve found that a lot of my friends and family don’t have context for what it looks like to prepare to be church planters. Here’s what we’ve been up to lately.

1. We’ve been really busy with the student ministry. Graduation season is always really busy as our students are graduating high school and college. Also, all of our services in the summer are student-led, which makes it sound super easy on the youth pastor (it’s not). But it’s so worth it! I love that we’re spending our last precious months investing in our students, so that they can be equipped to do the work of the ministry. I like that picture better than me soaking up my last few moments on the stage.

I’ve had a couple people talk to me about when we’re going to “check out.” I just have a fundamental belief that God has us here on purpose and that the people in front of us are the ones we’ll serve. We’re not gone yet, so don’t expect us to check out. Even when we’re living in Columbus, we expect to keep in touch with everyone via social media. We said we were in it for the long haul, and we weren’t kidding.

2. I’m carving out as much time as possible for fund raising. We’ve been blessed with a huge financial partner (can’t wait to tell you that story)! But we still have a lot of work to do on fundraising. My goal is to raise an entire year’s worth of money before we ever move to Columbus. This will include our family’s living expenses and ministry budget. That may sound crazy to you, but we believe that our God is with us and will provide for us!

Thankfully, we won’t need many funds at all for our first year’s ministry budget. This will be another blog post for another day (again, another part of the story I can’t wait to tell), but we just have a desire to spend a lot of time with the people in our neighborhoods, schools, and community gathering places. This means we’ll be spending a lot of time around dinner tables and coffee shops. We won’t need a facility bigger than our house for a little while. Still, this requires the work of connecting with people who have a heart to expand God’s Kingdom through the work of church planting! It’s a lot of work, but I’m loving it! God has been doing a lot recently to show us that He’s got this!

3. We’re having our third child any day now! This is the point where you’re probably shaking your head and questioning our timing. “You’re going to walk away from a steady salary and plant a church a couple months after you have a baby? Are you crazy?!” My friends will readily tell you that crazy is just one of my shining characteristics.

Seriously, though, it is crazy. We know that. To help you understand, this is not our timing. God has done some crazy things over the last 6-12 months to make it extremely clear that this is His plan for us. Yes, we’re nervous. Yes, our parents are freaking out a bit. But you know what? God is faithful and He’s a better parent than I can even try to be. On the practical level, my wife is in the late stages of pregnancy and is ready to have a kid! We’re doing everything we can to get ready to welcome this baby into our home (cleaning off the old bassinet, pulling out the newborn clothes, trying to help our older kids to understand that this baby isn’t a punching bag, etc.).

4. I’m writing again. A couple years ago, I started a writing project and I dropped it. I grew discouraged with my lack of time to write and just filed all of that content away. Recently, I’ve felt a strong burst of inspiration to pick it back up. In fact, I’ve been writing furiously the last couple weeks or so and think I might be able to wrap it up by the end of the summer! Simply put, this book is about what it takes for the current generation of teenagers to step up and become next generation leaders. I’m convinced that there are a few disciplines that pastors, teachers, coaches, small group leaders, and parents can embrace that will help students realize their potential in the Kingdom. I’ve done some research around this topic and can’t wait to finish it! I’m hoping it will be a great resource for the church!

5. I’m selling t-shirts. Random, right? Well, I joined the team at Ink Custom Tees as an Account Executive. My work travels with me, which means I’ll be selling shirts in Ohio to help make ends meet. I’m thankful for some of you friends out there that have already put an order in for t-shirts (thanks Mandy, Casey and John!) and hope to be able to get churches, schools, businesses and non-profits connected with really great shirts! All proceeds will go to feed hungry children. Mine.

As of right now, we ship out in less than 4 months. We hope you’ll continue praying for us! We have lots of ground to cover, but we believe that the Lord has already covered it! We’re just walking the path that He has laid out for us!

One Last Thing Part 2: “Punishment or Preparation?”

In this message, I cap off the series, the school year, and my role as lead teacher at the Student Ministry of Indian Springs. In last week’s message, we looked at the life of Elijah (his prediction of a drought and time with the Widow at Zarephath).

In this week’s message, we answer the question, “Why did God choose to use Elijah here?” The key to this question lies in Elijah’s trust in God from the first moment that we meet him. It all stems from where your heart is, for our actions proceed from our heart, mind and soul.

“God Is Enough” (Stand-Alone Sermon)

Scott Workman, our summer intern, gives a message about the sufficiency of Christ, and how we try to fill our need for Him with other things. The following quote inspired the message: “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God made known through Jesus Christ.” – Blais Pascal