From an early age, David Cox knew what he what he wanted to do when he grew up. But God had a different plan.
“My original plan in life was to be a teacher and coach,” said Cox, now the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, Willow Springs, Missouri.
Growing up in Indiana, he had “Hoosier Fever” and was in love with basketball.
“I thought nothing else would ever grab me like that,” Cox said.
And yet, the Lord kept nudging Cox in a different direction.
When he was around 16 years old, Cox began to feel God calling him to preach. He didn’t tell anyone and wrestled internally for a few years. Then the Lord brought people into his life who approached him about it.
“One day my pastor said out of the blue, ‘I think the Lord wants you to be a pastor,’” he said. “I thought, ‘How does he know this?’”
Discovering God’s plan
But Cox had all the normal excuses — he was set on being a teacher and coach, after all. And then another pastor suggested it to him.
At 19 years old and a freshman in college, God pushed through Cox’s defenses. He began preaching in Indiana, then came to Missouri to attend Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. After he graduated in 2003, Cox continued in obedience and began pastoring at Trinity.
With his coaching and teaching aspirations long gone, he found his fulfillment in his family and in leading the south-central Missouri congregation. Nine years in, in 2012, the church’s financial outlook meant he needed to find another church to pastor full-time to support his family, or figure out a way to earn another income while transitioning into a bivocational role.
That’s when God’s plan — in His infinite wisdom — appeared to circle back around to Cox’s desire to teach and coach.
“I had a random conversation with our local superintendent about a program that would let me get my teaching certificate without going back to school,” Cox said. “I began looking into that. Then he called me out of the blue right before school started, saying, ‘We’re in a bind, can you help us?’”
Cox began helping out with in-school suspension classes, and over that year earned his teaching certificate and began teaching at Willow Springs High School. A few months later, when his oldest daughter wanted to transition from playing softball to tennis, he texted the school’s athletic director, asking how to get in touch with the new coach.
“He told me, ‘We don’t have anybody. Do you want to do it?’” Cox said. “So now I’m coaching and teaching all throughout the year in addition to pastoring.”
Cox played tennis recreationally in high school, but it was a far cry from the basketball and baseball he used to dream about coaching. But, the school was in a bind, so he gave it a try.
“I understood the game, but in the beginning camped out on YouTube learning details,” he said. “I approached it like pastoring: I had a lot of older pastors that invested in me and taught me, so I built relationships with older coaches and asked them how to teach certain things and strategies.”
While the program isn’t large — they compete in Class 1A — the tennis team broke the record for most wins in school history this past season. He coached six all-state players, and his youngest daughter — a senior — has the 11th most wins in the Missouri record books.
Bringing it all together
“It’s all been a God thing,” Cox said. “It’s been cool to see how my church has come to be a support of these teams. It was hard for them to go from having a full-time to bi-vocational pastor, but they have fallen in love with the teams and are very supportive of my coaching. I’ve had so many ministry opportunities connected to being ‘Coach Dave.’”
It’s not the route to coaching that “Coach Dave” would have chosen all those years ago, he acknowledged. But in coaching the boys’ and girls’ tennis teams — as well as serving as the assistant girls’ basketball coach — in addition to teaching special education and pastoring, he said he’s pretty satisfied with how it turned out.
“It’s been a pretty cool thing to watch how the Lord had brought it all together,” he said. “He has brought it all full circle. My original goal in life was to be a teacher and coach, and then I became a pastor, and now I’m both.”