Posts Tagged ‘Church Strategies’

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We are Salt of the Earth…

March 24, 2009

Salt. Not much to think about. It’s white, tasty, useful, and cheap. Did you know it is a change agent? Did you know that it is one of the most widely used change agents? Did you know that it was Christ’s secret word for us to become change agents? No?

Salt is such a basic that we rarely consider the ramifications it has in the world. It touches so many things. Let’s look at some interesting salt facts:

· Salt is a commonly occurring mineral, the technical name of which is sodium chloride. It is the sodium part of salt that is important. The body needs a certain amount of sodium to function properly.

· Sodium helps to maintain the concentration of body fluids at correct levels.

· It also plays a central role in the transmission of electrical impulses in the nerves, and helps cells to take up nutrients. Salt plays an important part in the body’s main function in energy conversion-change.

· In various ages throughout history, salt was actually more valuable than gold. In fact, it was trade for gold.

· Slaves were traded for salt, which is where we get the aphorism, “not worth their weight in salt.”

· Salt was used to spice and preserve foods.

Not bad for a chemical compound you most likely thought very little of. Jesus, however, made it a point to mention in his Sermon on the Mount accounted for in Luke and John. The exact meaning of the expression salt of the earth is disputed, in part because salt had a wide number of uses in the ancient world. There are several different possibilities for the originally intended meaning of the salt metaphor:

  • Exodus, Ezekiel, and Kings present salt as a purifying agent
  • Leviticus, Numbers, and Chronicles present it as a sign of God’s covenant.
  • The most important use of salt was as a preservative and hence the most common interpretation of the metaphor is as asserting the duty to preserve the purity of the world.
  • In the Rabbinic literature of the period salt was a metaphor for wisdom.
  • Salt was a minor but essential ingredient in fertilizer and so a few scholars such as Gundry believe that earth should be translated as soil (i.e. salt of the soil), and hence the metaphor asserts that the audience should help the world grow and prosper.
  • One interpretation of salt of the earth is that it orders the audience to take part in the world rather than withdraw from it
  • Among the ancient Hebrews salt was used as a preservative, in seasoning food, and in all animal sacrifices. Lev. 2:13; Ezek. 43:24; Mark 9:49-50. So essential was it to the sacrificial ordinance that it was the symbol of the covenant made between God and His people in connection with that sacred performance. Lev. 2:13; Num. 18:19; 2 Chron. 13:5. [1]

Am I the only one amazed at the number of uses and Scriptural references to Salt? So why bring this up in a topic labeled “Change Agent?” The answer is quite simple and can be explained using an equation like this:

If Salt = Change Agent

Then we could substitute the variable in the verse to reflect the following:

BEFORE:

Matthew 5:13-16:

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its ability, how shall its saltiness be restored? … You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

AFTER:

Matthew 5:13-16:

You are the change agent of the earth; but if the change has lost its ability, how shall its ability be restored? … You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Christ was very intentional in most everything he said. He knew the meaning behind his statements and what is so funny to me is there are numerous songs, poems, books, and dissertations debating the meaning behind the use of the phrase, “salt of the earth.”

For our discussion it is quite simple. Salt is fairly basic, but is used in a variety of ways as a change agent. It is used in our bodies to change or help convert various elements of our body into energy. Salt is used the change various things in the earth but the ironic fact is that salt doesn’t change. Once formed, it holds its taste and its abilities. Even though it can be dissolved in water, salt does not change its chemical makeup. It is still salt. That is the beauty of this change agent.

One of the most trying situations for most novices in the area of becoming a change agent is that of solvency. Rather than serving as a real change agent, most of the time, through various trials, tribulations and influences, we become stagnant, ineffective, or just plain… bland. I have seen so many people who were fired up for a mission or directive provided to them by Christ. They would leave their mountaintop visit with a vision and soon lose it to the circle of buzzards, also known as committees. (That was not a stab, a group of buzzards are called committees… ironic, but true)

As a change agent, we are to be the salt of the earth, or better put, change for the earth. Salt is composed of sodium chloride and is extremely stable, thus, unable to lose its flavor. So salt that has lost its flavor cannot ever literally refer to actual salt. The most common explanation for this is that salt in the era was quite impure, not only due to extraction methods, but also due to unscrupulous merchants mixing it with other substances. So what was Christ implying? If salt cannot lose its flavor…

The words translated lost its flavor actually translate from the Greek as became foolish, but the Aramaic for both phrases is the same, and English language translators universally accept that the verse is talking about flavor rather than intelligence. Some scholars do however feel that this may be wordplay related to the Rabbinic use of salt as a metaphor for intelligence.

The other aspect to consider is there are two chemicals in salt: Sodium and Chloride. The chemicals are dynamic together. In order for salt to lose its flavor, something would have to be mixed in with it, in effect, slightly contaminating it or quite simply, making it impure. The same can happen in our lives when we get out of balance. Allowing various sins and distractions into our lives can essentially introduce various “impurities” to create some instability in our spiritual formula. In a sense, it dampens our ability to become true, stable, change agents (with taste).

Part of the manifesto for this book is to help all of us called to be change agents to focus on the qualities, characteristics, abilities, practices, and beliefs of the various change agents throughout the Scriptures. They changed their surroundings by answering the call. Some lost their flavor by introducing some impurities in their lives, but we will study the ways Christ calls us back to him.

If you go through Scripture like most do, you almost live for those characters who add a little spice to your reading don’t you? I wonder if they would be so “spicy” if they were unwilling to be change agents for God.

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About the Writer:

Trent Cotton has spent a number of years in management and business consulting. After spending some time in the field, he joined the HR department, beginning in recruiting and eventually serving as the Department Head of HR for one of the major lines of business. With such a varied background, he works to bring all of these together to help churches and other Christian organizations incorporate some common business practices into their ministries to enable them to better serve the Kingdom. He currently works for SourcePointe, an HR Outsourcing Agency while continuing to own and operate Christian Management Consulting as a ministry. In his free time, he also writes a lot on Church Development as a Church Consultant.

As a husband and father of three, Trent Cotton has a passion surrounding the role Christian Men are to play in their families, communities, churches and businesses.  This particular blog is dedicated to helping men take back the role that we have lost in society.

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Enemy Behind the Line-Unforgiveness

March 20, 2009


Continuing our series on the “Enemy Behind the Line“, I wanted to spend some time on one I have struggled with and continue to struggle with: unforgiveness.  Read this Scripture Passage from Luke 15:

“The son got up and went to his father. While he was yet a long way off, his father saw him. The father was full of loving-pity for him. He ran and threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am not good enough to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to the workmen he owned, ‘Hurry! Get the best coat and put it on him. Put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. 23 Bring the calf that is fat and kill it. Let us eat and be glad. 24 For my son was dead and now he is alive again. He was lost and now he is found. Let us eat and have a good time.’

While pondering today’s Scripture Reading, I noticed one line of this story I had never really taken into account.  Of course, we all know the story of the two sons, one son who works the fields while the other one spends his inheritance on matters of the world and after finding himself with the pigs, decides to go back to his father for forgiveness.  You know this story as do I and most us focus on the wonderful correlation to how the father welcomed his son home regardless of his faults and how Christ does that to all of us when we turn back to him.

When reading this passage this morning, I was struck by one line, look below:    

The son got up and went to his father. While he was yet a long way off, his father saw him.

Notice the part I underlined.  These four words brought a totally new perspective for me to this story.  I felt the Holy Spirit inspire me to ask myself the question, “How did the father see his son from afar if he wasn’t already looking for him?”  Of course with my mind, I began racing to the mental theater in my mind now seeing a piece of the play I had not paid any attention to before.  Rather than the father simply seeing his son by happen-chance, I now see the father pacing on the hill, constantly looking for his lost son to return home and when seeing him, being filled with joy and then running to embrace him.

This has helped me better understand something about Christ that I have always been told and an attribute that Scripture supports.  We all use the passage in Revelation about Christ knocking on the door and “letting him in to dine with us,” but isn’t it a comforting revelation for all of us who strive toward a more Christ-like life to know in our heart of hearts that when we have strayed from the right path, Christ, like the father in the parable, is pacing on a hill looking for us to return?  And it’s not like He waits for us to run to Him and throw ourselves before his feet and beg for forgiveness, the simple act of turning to Him and taking the first step almost forces the heart of Christ to run to us where we are.  Now that is a Saviour!  Unlike those we live with day in and day out who wait for us to approach them wtih an apology, and at times revel in our graveling for their forgiveness, Christ waits to run to us.

I think we all to often forget that forgiveness is part of the requirement of us.  It is very easy for me to sit and brew over something.  Although I say I have forgiven that person, in actuality, I have not.  Unfortunately, I believe this is a battle many of us have to fight.  One simple foothold Satan can use in our lives is that of unforgiveness.  It is the seed of so many thorns in our lives that will choke the Word being scattered in our lives by Christ.  It starts as a simple vine, then eventually, it will take over.  It is one of the enemies behind the line.  As a Christian man or Christian Leader, you have to uproot this weed before it is too late.

One final thought for you to ponder: Do you think it is ironic that the father in this story was pacing on a hill looking for his lost son?  I can’t see anything Christ doing as being simply ironic, but rather, divinely inspired, only because He still paces on a hill waiting for us.  The hill is called Calvary!

So if you are a father or in a leadership position, let’s try to remember to be actively looking for opportunities to forgive and embrace those who change their hearts…

If you liked this post, you might want to check out the others in this series:

Unforgiveness

Self-Reliance

The Lie

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Subscribe to Christian Men-Christian Warriors by Email
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About the Writer:

Trent Cotton has spent a number of years in management and business consulting. After spending some time in the field, he joined the HR department, beginning in recruiting and eventually serving as the Department Head of HR for one of the major lines of business. With such a varied background, he works to bring all of these together to help churches and other Christian organizations incorporate some common business practices into their ministries to enable them to better serve the Kingdom. He currently works for SourcePointe, an HR Outsourcing Agency while continuing to own and operate Christian Management Consulting as a ministry. In his free time, he also writes a lot on Church Development as a Church Consultant.

As a husband and father of three, Trent Cotton has a passion surrounding the role Christian Men are to play in their families, communities, churches and businesses.  This particular blog is dedicated to helping men take back the role that we have lost in society.

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The Enemy Behind the Lines- Self-Reliance

March 4, 2009

This series began with the first blog article entitled; “The Enemy Behind the Lines-The Lie” which focused on the lies Satan has convinced many of the men of today in believing. As a man, I believe one of the “enemies behind the lines” I have had to face is that of self-reliance. Unfortunately, it has been a lesson that has been excruciating at times, but one needing serious attention.

My grandfather always had a garden, and I have the greatest memories of being out there with him, working on the various crops. At the time, I only saw it as a way to get away from my normal, everyday routine during the summer. As I look back on it, I know now it was Christ’s way of training me for the life ahead with the mini life lessons my grandfather taught me in that garden in south Alabama. One of those lessons applies to the subject of self-reliance is Paw Paw’s simple saying regarding weeds. “It only takes one, then they take over.” Self-reliance works in much the same manner.

Self-reliance is just that, relying on one’s own abilities to accomplish one’s ambitions. How is this one of the lies or enemies behind the line? If you are truly attempting to be a Christian man, one following the path to the cross, Self-reliance is one of the first weeds you need to pluck or prune. My grandfather explained to me that one weed, although it did not seem like a major problem, would eventually germinate quicker than the real vegetation in the garden and eventually choke the life out of the plants you were actually trying to harvest. Self-reliance works in much the same manner, slowly taking over your spiritual garden and choking the life out of the vines that produce the fruits of the Spirit.

Self-reliance calls for accountability only to oneself, not to God. It submits only to the authority of self-ambition and rebukes any correction offered by Christ. Self-reliance slowly takes the divinity of Christ off of the thrown in our own Holy of Holies and replaces it with our own image. Rather than worshiping the one true God, we begin worshiping our own creations and furthermore, we begin to expect others to do the same. If one who is Self-reliant ever finds their circle of friends, their family, or their co-workers are not praising their endeavors, it becomes a major bone of contention and could even result in a major stumbling block in any of those relationships. Christ, in numerous parables, relates the Kingdom of God to that of a field and often speaks of the vegetation versus the weeds war. James 3:16 puts it another way, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition [Self-reliance ] exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” As James says, “every vile practice” is the eventual result of selfish ambition or self-reliance.

Personally, I never had any idea just how deeply rooted this issue of self-reliance was for me. In 2007, I rededicated my life to Christ and said a prayer that changed my life’s course. In the silence of the night, I prayed, “Christ, break me and mold me.” What I really meant was, “Christ, break me and mold me, but only the way I want you to.” Fortunately, Christ doesn’t work that way. Once the prayer left my lips, the work Christ had begun in me was kicked into high gear. The heat, used to mold me to conform to the image of Christ, was turned up about 250 degrees and my little castle of cards began to fall, one story at a time.

At the time, I was a Vice President of Human Resources for a major bank in the Southeast. In my late twenties, a lot of “power” and “influence” was not the best thing for me. Submitting to Christ meant I had to begin “unsubmitting” to myself. Although I had the same sense of false humility that most Christians seemed to have, Christ was calling me to something deeper. Within only a couple of weeks, I was released from my position at the bank and so began a 90 day journey jobless. For such a long time, I introduced myself as Trent Cotton, Vice President of HR for *** Bank. So much of my identity was wrapped in the person I had made myself to be, not in whom Christ had made and called me to be.

So when my job was eliminated, I initially thought, “Not a big deal, I am marketable, everyone will want me.” After about 90 days, I soon realized I was not all I cracked up to be. I prayed for days to understand what was happening, why was I not getting anything. While searching for answers, I heard a lesson based on this verse:

37 And He will say, Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge, 38 Who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you, let them be your protection! 39 See now that I, I am He, and there is no god beside Me… Deuteronomy 32: 37-39

This particular verse shows the warnings against a Self-reliant spirit. What are the consequences? For me, Christ watched as the perfect storm in my life soon consumed me and chipped away at the self-reliance I had acquired over the years. When I cried out to Christ for help in my plight, I could almost hear, “And where is your god? Aren’t you the all-powerful god that can do anything? See now that I, I am He and there is NO god beside Me …”

As I looked back, I could see where my self-reliant defiance against the authority of Christ in my life had ruined so many aspects of my life. I saw the character others saw in me and was pretty displeased, borderline embarrassed by what I saw. While I was preaching to be a great Christian man, I did not have enough confidence in the one who saved me to guide me, mold me, and yes, save me. In my mind, all of those tasks fell under my authority and jurisdiction. Essentially, I wanted to be saved by Christ, but wanted him to be this little figure in the corner of my life that I could bring out every Sunday and talk about as if I truly knew of his grace and divinity, but then place him back in the closet of reason and doubt during the week. Fortunately, his grace saved me from living a life believing that lie.

So, how do you tell if you are Self-reliant ? Let’s look at some questions to ask yourself:

  • When I am not noticed for the work I do, is it hard for me not to throw an internal fit?
  • When I have a major project, do I rely totally on my own abilities rather than praying for specific guidance?
  • Am I hard to teach?
  • Am I unwilling to listen to correction from someone, even if it is on how to become closer to Christ?
  • Do I shrink away from accountability?
  • Do I only go to Christ when all chaos has broken loose?

If you answered yes to any of these, chances are, you have a weed of Self-reliance in your spirit. Just like my grandfather said, only one can be enough to start a complete takeover of your spiritual gifts. Self-Reliance prohibits self-control, joy without limits, patience in others… and the list goes on. Self-Reliance takes Christ out of the situation and focuses more on us being the God of our universe. It can lead to false hope, false beliefs and most importantly, false relationships.

As a Christian man, we are to be Christ-Like. I cannot think of one passage in Scripture where Christ was Self-reliant. In fact, he openly prayed for guidance and gave thanks openly for the miracles God had proven through him. In the garden, Christ went to God the Father for guidance and support before walking to the cross. Of all things, Christ was not self-reliant and neither should we be. If you find yourself battling a spirit of self-reliance, here are a couple of suggestions on how to combat it:

  • Constant, intentional, daily prayer
  • Ask for an accountability partner and be humble and willing enough to listen-you might want to consider asking a fellow Christian Warrior
  • Pray for humility and to be broken
  • Try to listen more than you speak. If you truly have a problem with self-reliance (like I did) this will be torture at times, but will help keep things in check
  • Daily assess how you did and look for ways Christ could have been exalted rather than you exalting yourself.

Gentlemen, Self-reliance can destroy all types of relationships, even marriages if you don’t pluck that weed to its root and quickly. Remember, it only takes one weed of self-reliance to take over. Be the warrior and eliminate the enemy’s chance to destroy from behind the line.

If you liked this post, you might want to check out the others in this series:

Unforgiveness

Self-Reliance

The Lie

Have new posts delivered right to your email, click here.
Subscribe to Christian Men-Christian Warriors by Email
Share/Save/Bookmark

Subscribe//

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About the Writer:

Trent Cotton has spent a number of years in management and business consulting. After spending some time in the field, he joined the HR department, beginning in recruiting and eventually serving as the Department Head of HR for one of the major lines of business. With such a varied background, he works to bring all of these together to help churches and other Christian organizations incorporate some common business practices into their ministries to enable them to better serve the Kingdom. He currently works for SourcePointe, an HR Outsourcing Agency while continuing to own and operate Christian Management Consulting as a ministry. In his free time, he also writes a lot on Church Development as a Church Consultant.

As a husband and father of three, Trent Cotton has a passion surrounding the role Christian Men are to play in their families, communities, churches and businesses.  This particular blog is dedicated to helping men take back the role that we have lost in society.

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Christian Leadership-Rebellion

January 8, 2009

Rebellion, it is a strong word in these modern times. I find it ironic, however, to know that most of the historical events that have received recognition have been the result of a rebellion. Some, like the American Revolution, were violent against a government or tyranny. Others were merely against an institution like that of Martin Luther. Rebellion, whether it is violent or nonviolent, evokes a strong conviction within most people today.

So what is “rebellion”? If you were to accurately define the word by looking online or in a dictionary, you would find multiple definitions. I came across two of them that I really liked:

Ø To resist or defy an authority or a generally accepted convention.

Ø To feel or express strong unwillingness or revulsion.

Although these are great definitions, my absolute favorite definition was actually the inspiration for the logo for this book. It is from the Chinese language and consists of two characters and these are the characters we will refer to when discussing the Christian Leadership Rebellion.

策 反= to incite defection; to instigate rebellion within the enemy camp

If any Christian were to truly look at Scriptures, they would find Christianity itself was considered a rebellion. In fact, many of the Christian disciples and early believers were labeled as rebels. They were rebels to Rome for not bending their knee to Caesar as Lord. They were rebels to the Jewish authority, claiming that Christ was the Messiah. In fact, Celsus, a Greek Philosopher and known opponent of Christianity, labeled the early Christians as a rebel faction among the Jews-who once rebelled against their enslavers Egypt.

So why in this day in age is the word “rebellion” avoided in today’s Christian discussion circuit? Why does the word “rebellion” or “rebel” no longer associate itself with Christians today? If there were a time for Christians to be considered “rebels”, it would be now. The degree of spiritual warfare always seems strongest by the era it is attacking. I would have to say, however, as a Christian leader in the workplace, in my home, and in my church, I must say the enemy has recently upped his game with new tools. He is on the prowl using technology to help sink his claws into his prey. He has become a master at making Americans just too “busy” to successfully make time for their relationship with Christ. We have some of the core Christian values being attacked in our courtrooms with little or no resistance. As a father, I find myself defending our faith to our children against the things they see on channels like Nickelodeon (even when we monitor the shows they watch).

I love this quote by Benjamin Franklin, “Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God.” Today, we are fighting the same enemy of old. He uses the same lie he used in Genesis. As a Christian leader, whether it be in your office, in your community or in your home, you are in a battle. It is time for a rebellion! True Christian leadership in this modern era will be considered a rebellion. The tyranny we face is not from government, but from our enemy and his vices. During the course of this journey, we will discuss this definition of rebellion: rebellion within the enemy camp. This type of rebellion is the most applicable for our current state.

One of the most notable rebellions recently highlighted in 2006. Director Zack Synder made a movie that rocked the box office depicting some of the accounts of the Battle of Thermopyhlae in the hit movie 300. In case you do not know the story of this battle, I would urge you to do some research on it since we will be referencing this battle and the Spartan warriors throughout the book. The first section of this book will focus on the line in the sand the Spartans drew and how this decision changed history. We will focus on some of the characteristics, behaviors, and training that made them different from their enemy and discuss how we, as Christian leaders, can implement some tactics to use in our enemy’s camp.

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Subscribe to Christian Men-Christian Warriors by Email
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About the Writer:

Trent Cotton has spent a number of years in management and business consulting. After spending some time in the field, he joined the HR department, beginning in recruiting and eventually serving as the Department Head of HR for one of the major lines of business. With such a varied background, he works to bring all of these together to help churches and other Christian organizations incorporate some common business practices into their ministries to enable them to better serve the Kingdom. He currently works for SourcePointe, an HR Outsourcing Agency while continuing to own and operate Christian Management Consulting as a ministry. In his free time, he also writes a lot on Church Development as a Church Consultant.

As a husband and father of three, Trent Cotton has a passion surrounding the role Christian Men are to play in their families, communities, churches and businesses.  This particular blog is dedicated to helping men take back the role that we have lost in society.

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Small Groups-The Heart of the Church

November 13, 2008

Recently, I have been in a number of discussions involving Small Groups in our church as well as how they’ve worked out in other churches. Through some prayer and thought, there was a model that struck me as a perfect analogy.  Consider for a moment the chart below depicting the human circulatory system.

conmapf2

I am one who considers all things God made to be intentional and with purpose.  Considering the amount of focus and attention He paid to His new creation, Adam, I can’t help but to think this design was a map for other creations He had in mind.  Consider this equation or formula:

circluatory

So, that would mean the following could be true:church-is

small-group-1

Take a moment to consider that the heart, the center of the circulatory system, is nothing without the simple red blood cell.  Go back to your elementary learning days and remember that it takes a lot of cells to make a muscle, and a lot of muscles to make an organ and etc.  Well, the heart is the muscle, comprised of millions of red blood cells-the building blocks if you will.  Sidebar: Just those statements make it hard for me to understand how anyone can underestimate or reason out a truly divine and heavenly God.  I digress.

Let’s just assume or speculate for a second that God, in His providential wisdom, designed the human body as He wanted to see the church (His body) designed.  After all, are we not made in the image and likeness of God?  So with this in mind, if the church is the “heart” of the circulating of the Gospel as commissioned in Christ’s Great Commission, should we not look at what should actually comprise the church?  You guessed it!  The Christian Small Group!

So, starting from the fundamental, cellular level of the church, let’s look at the small group.  What is part of it?  What goes into it?  We will get into the schematics of the small groups in this new series.  For all of you who have some experience in small groups (good and bad) please vote on the poll below.  I invite your comments.

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About the Writer:

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Trent Cotton has spent a number of years in management and business consulting. After spending some time in the field, he joined the HR department, beginning in recruiting and eventually serving as the Department Head of HR for one of the major lines of business. With such a varied background, he works to bring all of these together to help churches and other Christian organizations incorporate some common business practices into their ministries to enable them to better serve the Kingdom. He currently works for SourcePointe, an HR Outsourcing Agency while continuing to own and operate Christian Management Consulting as a ministry. In his free time, he also writes a lot on Church Development as a Church Consultant.

As a husband and father of three, Trent Cotton has a passion surrounding the role Christian Men are to play in their families, communities, churches and businesses.  This particular blog is dedicated to helping men take back the role that we have lost in society.