(Photo: Brandon Cox)
As editor and online facilitator of a website that includes a global community of 80,000 pastors and church leaders registered with the site, Pastor Brandon Cox has read his share of criticisms of today’s Christian Church.
And he’s tired of it.
Two years ago, Cox was recruited by Pastor Rick Warren’s team at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., to help with its already well-developed global online community of pastors. His mission: take the church’s website which is dedicated to equip pastors, Pastors.com, to the next level.
In doing so, in “connecting our community to itself” and growing the number of church leaders, Cox has read enough books, blog posts, tweets, Facebook comments, and emails to learn that the Church is its own worst critic.
To counter all the negativity, he recently wrote a blog post titled, “What’s Right With the Church in 2011.”
Cox lists several positive trends about the modern church, but first writes: “I’m exposed to a very wide variety of thinking within the modern church. I read blogs by the reformed, the missional, the fundamental, the emerging, the evangelical, and the conservative points of view. I read books about theology, church growth, business, leadership, culture, and life.
“So I hear it all. And I’ve noticed that for a couple thousand years now, the church has had this tendency to be quick to point out what is wrong with the church, but slow to affirm what is right.”
Cox moved back to his home state of Arkansas several months ago to plant a church and be its pastor. However, he remains the editor of Pastors.com. He told The Christian Post that the complaint he probably hears most often is that the Church is anemic when it comes to discipleship. “Usually, the reference is made to a lack of depth, or a lack of time spent in one-on-one discipleship,” he said.
“We are an opinionated church culture. We have all kinds of feelings about how the church is doing too much or too little of the things we feel most positively or negatively about,” said Cox, who is also author of Twitter for Ministry.
“I'm a fan of creativity in ministry, but it seems as soon as we discover what we believe to be the secret of an effective ministry, or the one way Jesus and/or the apostles did ministry, we immediately begin to belittle every other approach that doesn't look like ours,” he said. “Many books I read touting a particular ministry philosophy choose to begin with an introduction that is really a critique of everything else.”
In his blog post, Cox asks, “Is the church failing?” Then answers, “Well, in the sense that we’re off balance, yes. But we’re always off balance. The church is a lot like a pendulum trying to find its center point while the forces surrounding it continue to move it to one side or the other. But have we failed? No. We can’t. We are guaranteed victory. We’re on the winning side.”
Among the positive trends on his list is the fact that the Church today is “growing in its awareness of the real problems within the culture.” Included in his praise is mention of organizations like World Vision and Samaritan’s Purse that are tackling global poverty in “amazing ways.”
Cox lists and describes a total of five positives for the Church, including trends toward churches going back to Gospel teaching, a church planting movement, and less debate on the subject of worship music style. He also sees the Church “slowly learning to relate to the culture as Jesus would.”
In addition to being tired of all the criticism, Cox said his inspiration for the post also came from a book he had read back in the 70s. The book, Look Up Brother, by W.A. Criswell was also a positive affirmation.
“In a time when Criswell's denomination, Southern Baptist Convention, was embroiled in controversy over theological liberalism, Criswell, too, became fed up with the heavy negative rhetoric and wrote an entire book about some things that were right about the church in his day,” he explained.
In true community facilitator fashion, Cox concludes his post by asking readers, "What else needs to be affirmed about the church today?"