There are numerous opinions on key factors in church growth amongst pastors. Pastor Jeremy Cox of Mankato, Minnesota believes in connection. Our rally cry is, “Get Connected, Stay Connected, Live Connected.” This includes our connection to God, connection to the lost and connection to the church. “When we connect with people,” Pastor Cox continues, “we reach people and can be the light and salt that God has called us to be. In the normal Apostolic life and activity, we can meet, connect and win people to Jesus Christ.”
In 1964, Bro. Jack Tanner, a pastor in a small neighboring town, felt the call to start a church in Mankato. Services were begun on Saturday evenings in an old school building, which rented for $50 per month. Merlyn and Leila Bjorklund and their family, along with other members of the Bjorklund family, moved to Mankato to assist in this church building effort. Since that time, the church grew out of several different locations and purchased our current building in 1975. “We are excited that we have outgrown this location and are looking forward to what God may provide as we move forward.”
For the past eight years, the average attendance has gone from somewhere in the vicinity of 50 to an average of 136 in 2012.
Priorities in the Realm of Evangelism
Pastor Cox believes that there is the role of leadership, as far as teaching and training those in the congregation to witness, to share their faith, to teach home Bible studies and share their testimony. Pastor Cox also tries to lead by example, as much as possible, and to teach home Bible studies and connect with people and win people to the Lord personally.
Outreach and Evangelism Methods
Personal evangelism is by far the most successful. “We do community projects and community events each summer. Also, we do Vacation Bible School and homeless outreach, which includes feeding the homeless in conjunction with the Salvation Army. We do advertising in local public areas. We use our transportation ministry to go in and bring children and families to church. We send out our transportation ministry team to visit these families. Our best evangelism is people reaching people. We do have events and activities throughout the year, including special services, Trunk or Treat, Life Enrichment Classes, things that make it easy and comfortable for people to come and be a part of what we’re doing. We try to lead up to times of reaping and harvest, where we will have special revival services. We do times of training with our Love for the Truth conference each year. We are attempting to give people an opportunity to connect to the church. Once we get them connected to the church, the natural process of God working on their heart begins to take place.”
There are numerous ministries at ????, including Audiovisual, Bible Study, Calendar, Children’s Church, Decorating Committee, FOCAS Singles, Homeless Outreach, Hospitality, Jail, Ladies, Men’s, Music, Pastoral Prayer Team, Sunday School Department, Transportation, T.R.U.T.H. Discipleship Class, Usher/Greeter, Guest Follow-up, and A.C.T.N.O.W. Youth.
The church team leaders meet once a month, and Pastor Cox meets with them individually as needed. “We have our annual Vision Planning meeting, where we talk about the previous year. Each department leader gives their vision for the year, and we coordinate with the vision of the pastor and put together some of our goals and what we would like to see, as in growth of the church in both the body and in revival, reaching new souls.” Pastor Cox has a monthly training class with the young ministers in the church and a brand new class called INCREASE, which is leadership development training that is open to everyone in the church, providing them the opportunity to learn the needed skills that can lead them into ministry and greater ministry down the road.
“A high percentage of our people are involved in some form of ministry,” says Pastor Cox. “Many are not only involved in one ministry but multiple ministries. We promote and encourage involvement by giving people starting points, understanding their levels of ministry and that everyone is not ready to do every ministry. However, there is something for everyone to do who is willing to get in and work to promote the Kingdom of God in their life, their family and our community. This also encourages them to grow and progress in God so that they can be used in greater ministry in the future.”
The current facility is a church building that was built in 1896. It was originally a Welsh Presbyterian Church and was one of the last churches used in this part of the country where they actually held services in the Welsh language. It seats about 150 people and does have a very unique history. During the influenza outbreak in 1918, which resulted in millions of deaths, the church was used by the Red Cross. Nurses used the church not only to prepare food and medicine for the sick but also cared for adults and children who were brought to the building. There are some unique pictures that were taken on the front steps of the church building of a group of Red Cross nurses with the big Red Cross flag in the doorway.
Looking toward the future and trying to stay with the vision that God is giving them, the church in Mankato kicked off a capital stewardship campaign, and is now in the middle of a great financial miracle. In that campaign, the three-level goal led to a miracle goal of $300,000. “When the commitments were all collected, we found ourselves with over $400,000 committed to the future that God has for us in this city,” said Pastor Cox. “As of today, we are well ahead of schedule regarding those monies coming in. We are thanking God for that miracle.” Currently, the church is following the direction of God as to whether or not they are going to purchase land or if a building may open up for them in the future.
Philosophy of Ministry
Pastor Cox’s philosophy of ministry is to “love people to the point that we will connect our lives to theirs — to step into their story and lead them to a better life in Christ.” Pastor Cox emphasizes that passion is a strong ingredient for successful ministry, and he looks for it in all of his leaders. “The best operation,” Pastor Cox remarks, “of our church is to have people doing what they are passionate about.” He continues, “Compassion causes us to initiate the connection of our lives to theirs. Passion keeps us connected to them through the inevitable ups and downs of building a relationship and teaching them a Bible study. Compassion drives us toward the needs of those all around us. Passion pushes us to become the Good Samaritan in their lives and see it through to the end. Not just to meet the physical or emotional needs of their lives but the spiritual needs of their soul. Compassion will cause us to weep. Passion will push us to work.”
“We spend a lot of time on evangelism. Almost every Sunday morning, preaching is dedicated to evangelistic preaching.” However, Pastor Cox thoroughly enjoys teaching, especially series teaching. And he really loves preaching and teaching about Heaven.
Pastor Cox grew up in the town of Lansing, Illinois, about 30 minutes south of Chicago. He was raised in a preacher’s home. His father, Terry Cox, was also his mentor in life and ministry. His mother is one of the greatest examples of the Apostolic life that Pastor Cox knows. He received the Holy Ghost and was baptized when he was eight years old during a youth revival. He did feel the call to pastor at a very young age, and that call never left his life. Pastor Cox went to Indiana Bible College for one year, after graduating from high school.
He first started preaching as a teenager in youth group, and was about 13 or 14 years old when he started doing sermonettes during their youth week services. He preached several times in his home church as a teenager, before going to Bible school.
Pastor Cox, 32, and his wife, Christina, have three children – Zachary, 9, Sariah, 6 and Kaylann, 3 – and a fourth child on the way. He has worked on the sectional youth committee, held the office of District Youth President and currently holds the office of Presbyter of Section 1, Minnesota District.
Pastor Cox is the youngest of three brothers, all of whom are now pastoring UPC churches. His older brothers, Jason and Anthony, have always been a huge influence in his life and ministry. They led the way and made it easier for him to be successful in ministry. Still today there are no voices that Pastor Cox cares more about than theirs. He also has some dear friends that grew up in ministry with him and launched out into their callings together. Adam Solorio started a church in Casey, IL and David Brown started a church in Rock Island, IL. “These are two great men of God who have an undying passion to win the lost and keep the faith. My ministry is greatly influenced by their love for the Kingdom of God.”
Pastor Cox mentions that Minnesota District is also vastly under-evangelized. There are an overwhelming amount of cities with 30, 40, and even 50 thousand people that have no UPCI church! “Our major cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are also vastly unreached,” he says. “Anyone who wants to get to ministry right now should pray about Minnesota!”
By Andrew Herbst