Frank Cox, with his wife, Mary, first came to North Metro Baptist Church in 1980 when it was known as Pleasant Hill Baptist Church at a different location. Since then he has led the congregation in exponential growth in all areas. JESSICA NICOLE PHOTOGRAPHY/Special
LAWRENCEVILLE — A pastor’s longevity is key to a church’s health and its overall impact for the Kingdom. Undoubtedly, Frank Cox’s 40 years leading North Metro Baptist Church can serve as one of those prime examples.
Cox arrived as the 24-year-old pastor of Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Duluth in the fall of 1980. The Georgia Bulldogs were on their way to a national championship. Pac-Man was in the process of becoming the best-selling arcade game of all time. Ronald Reagan was days away from being elected president.
Gwinnett County didn’t escape that time of change. The largely rural community was on its way to experiencing an almost overwhelming era of growth that challenged many of its longtime residents, including those at Pleasant Hill Church.
“I have been a growth pastor and I saw all the growth in the county and I came,” Cox told the Gwinnett Daily Post. “And my first three to five years were just rough. Everything in the county was changing, all these people were moving in to this sleepy rural county. It brought tension all over the county, but especially to the church because people in the church thought, ‘Everything is changing, but this is one place I can keep from changing.’
“I had to face the battle of changing the mindset of what was then Pleasant Hill Baptist Church and it wasn’t pleasant on the hill, I can tell you that.”
Milestones through the decades
A change came soon enough, though. In addition to difficulties leading the church, Cox’s wife died. However, during that time the church also began to listen more to its young pastor. In 1995 growth and the opportunity to reach more with the gospel manifested in a move to Lawrenceville and new name with North Metro First Baptist Church.
Today, North Metro has recorded many milestones throughout Cox’s tenure, including:
- More than 4,500 baptisms
- 201 people called into full-time Christian service
- $11,925,424 given to missions
- 800 weddings performed
- Membership growth from 639 at Pleasant Hill to currently 5,374
- 4,000 sermons preached.
Matching the number of years, the church recently celebrated Cox’s leadership over 40 days with a variety of small group gatherings for him and his wife, Mary. The weekend of Nov. 7-8 included a “drive-by” parade on Saturday and a Sunday service featuring numerous guests. Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee President and CEO Ronnie Floyd offered his congratulations by video, as did former and current North Metro staff members. Sunday also brought several presentations and friends speaking on North Metro’s stage:
- Ike Reighard, Larry Wynn, and Bucky Kennedy shared stories and observations.
- President Emir Caner of Truett McConnell University gave an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity to Cox, a TMU graduate.
- Georgia Baptist Mission Board Executive Director W. Thomas Hammond Jr., presented a congratulatory plaque.
- New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary President Jamie Dew delivered the morning message and gave Cox, an NOBTS graduate, a framed certificate of appreciation.
- Representatives of Collins Hill High School – where Cox has been the football chaplain for 25 years – gave their thanks.
- Cox’s children – Stephen, Jonathan, and Kristen – delivered heartfelt speeches of appreciation to the church and their parents.
- Letters of recommendation were presented from Governor Brian Kemp, Senator David Perdue, and Congressman Rob Woodall.
On a state and denominational level, Cox has led North Metro to give $8,584,134 to the Cooperative Program with total missions giving approaching $12 million. The Annie Armstrong Offering and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering each have received more than $500,000 from the church in that time. North Metro’s budget has expanded from $125,000 in 1980 to $4,759,985 last year.
Numerous leadership roles include Southern Baptist Convention 1st vice president, 10 years on the SBC Executive Committee, two-time president of the Georgia Baptist Convention, three terms on the GBC Executive Committee, GBC Administration Committee member, TMU Board of Trustees, and trustee, Board chairman, and Executive Board member of New Orleans Seminary.
The results of longevity
“I’ve been blessed and can’t think of a greater ministry,” Cox told The Christian Index. “I never expected to be here 40 years. I didn’t plan it. But, it’s gone by extremely fast.”
And while time has flown, Cox pointed out benefits that simply don’t come with a short-term pastorate.
“Longevity produces great results. The people follow the pastor’s leading. They love you and trust your character. Everything a pastor says he’d love to experience with his congregation, you get it from a stay as long as I’ve had. My people are encouragers and generous; they love the Lord.”
The connection between a pastor and the church is important, but cannot be healthy if that does not extend to his children, Cox explained.
“The highlight for Mary and I was when our kids shared,” he said. “They love North Metro as much as we do. They thanked the church for loving them. Over the years, they had heard from other pastors’ kids who couldn’t say that. It was a great tribute to the church, that they didn’t see them as ‘the preacher’s kids’ but treated them like normal.
“When my kids come home to visit, they don’t just mean our house. They mean coming to church.”
At the close of the service Nov. 9, the Coxes thanked those who attended or viewed online. North Metro’s pastor then thanked individuals personally from the platform for their impact on his life, from the Louisiana family that accepted him as one of their own when he was a NOBTS student to friends in the ministry today.
“Thank ya’ll for meaning everything to us,” he said.
A sought-after speaker, Cox has preached at many state convention meetings, evangelism conferences, and pastors’ conferences as well as colleges, universities, and seminaries. He is the author of “Trusting God’s Heart” and “Legacy: One Life to Live” and has contributed to many devotional books. He and Mary have three children and five grandchildren.
The Nov. 9 celebration can be seen here.