The Culture We Live in Today: What Happen?

When I began in the ministry of ministering to men I came across two statistics that has directed me in many of my conversations.

answering todays cultureThe first is that out of 10 men in the church, nine will have children that will leave the church when they are grown. This was noted in the North American Mission Board magazine article “Swim with the Sharks (and Survive)” in 2004.  The other is that out of 10 men in the church, only one man will have a biblical worldview. This was from the survey through The Barna Research “Most Adults Feel Accepted by God but Lack a Biblical Worldview in 2005.”

Though both of these were written over a decade ago, there is no reason to believe this has improved. In fact, it has probably worsen.

As I gave consideration to these statistics, I had to ask myself how did this happen?

When I look back on my life I was raised in the church. I knew nothing but the church while growing up.  I thought everyone – at least in the United States – went to church.  I am one who can say I was in church nine months before I was born.

When I started having children of my own I made sure they were in church.  They attended all the children and youth activities and ministries the church had to offer.  I did exactly what my parents did – I made sure my children were in church.

As I continued to give consideration to these statistics I was reminded of Deuteronomy 6:5-7,

“Love the LORD your God with all you heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

I had to ask myself.  Did I do this?  The answer is NO!  I did not.  Not one time did I gather my children and wife around the table and read from the Bible.  Never did I speak spiritual insight or wisdom into my children.  It is only by the grace of God my children came to know Christ as their Savior and are active in their respective churches today.

parents reading bibleAs I continued with this thought, it occurred to me this is why today we see so many who identify themselves as ‘Dones.’  Those who are done with church.  If I was to do a survey and the men were totally honest, I believe we would find I was not the exception but rather the rule.

So, I am submitting to you we the parents, going back many decades even centuries, are to blame for the falling away we see in church attendance today; thereby, the cultural that is manifesting itself within the public today.  Both in the young and old.

If you are not spending time with your family reading the Bible together and praying together, I want to encourage you to start.  For our children need to see that the Word of God and spending time with the Father is an important part of our life.

And maybe – just maybe – with God’s help – we can begin to turn the hearts of our children back to God  (Joshua 24:23).

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

Spiritual Stop Signs

As we begin a New Year, I was reminded of an event a few years ago.

It had been a busy Saturday as I had been in a meeting most of the day and I was ready to get home.  The drive home was about three and half-hours.

After traveling about a hour the female voice on my GPS, my wife in a box as my wife calls her, informed me there was an accident on I-40.  This would cause about a 20 minutes delay if I stayed on the current route.  However, another route was found that would route me around the accident – if I wanted to take it press ‘Accept.’  Well, I wanted to get home as quickly as possible, so I pressed ‘Accept.’

After traveling the new route for a few minutes, the lady on the GPS stated she had found a faster route, did I want to accept.  Well, what do you think!  I want to get home, so why wouldn’t I take a route that is faster, so once again I pressed ‘Accept’ for the faster route.

The GPS lady then proceeded to instruct me to turn down a road that went into the country in areas I probably have never been in the state – beautiful farm country.  Then she wanted me to turn on another country road.  Then another.  Then another.

stop-signAfter several miles of turning down these country roads I started to get a little frustrated and I said aloud, “Where are you taking me!”  It was then I notice this big red octagonal sign that said STOP! that seemed to pop up out of the ground like in one of those video games.  I was so close I didn’t have time to react.  I did one of those quick left-to-right looks to see if another car was coming as I blew right through the stop sign at about 50 miles per hour.  As I looked in the review mirror to see if the local Deputy Sheriff was watching, I thanked God He had not allowed someone to be coming through the intersection at the same time.

That’s when God reminded me, He puts Stop Signs in our lives from time to time.  A familiar passage to many of us came to mind, Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Sometimes in life when we are on a path that may seem strange and uncertain maybe that is a warning to us that we need to slow down and possibly even stop and listen to God.

I was reminded that God is constantly changing our visions and direction in the different seasons of our lives just like the GPS did that day on my trip home.  Sometimes we are in such a rush to get to the next adventure, like I was to get home that day, we fail to see the warnings signs that God is giving us to STOP, “Be still and know that I am God.”

If we rush through those spiritual stop signs it could lead to disastrous consequences, just like that physical stop sign I ran through on that country road.  Fortunately, the only consequence for me was the quickening of the pitter-patter of my heartbeat for a few moments.  But it could have been much worse.  Not only for myself, but for my family and the individual and their family if I had hit someone.

When we run through God’s spiritual stop signs the consequences could also affect those around us, not just us.

god-stop-signIf you feel uncertain or flustered with events in your life maybe God is holding up a spiritual Stop Sign.  If decisions are hard and you cannot get a sense of direction maybe God is holding up a spiritual Stop Sign.  Maybe there has been a change in life, loss of a job, new job, sickness, death of a love one, even retirement, maybe God is holding up a spiritual Stop Sign.

God desires for us to sometimes STOP so we can reflect on where he has taken us, review what He has taught us, what we have learned while on that path, and hear clearly what God has for us as we continue in His will.

So, as we begin this New Year of 2019, we need to beware of the spiritual Stop Signs God places in our lives where we need to be still and know that God is God.  Don’t blow past those Spiritual Stop Signs in your haste to get something accomplished like I did on that country road that day.  God may be trying to talk to you and if you don’t stop, the consequences could be disastrous.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike.

Lessons For Men from the Christmas Story: The Boldness of Joseph

Joseph of Bethlehem“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife.”  – Matthew 1:18-24

Culturally, Joseph did not have to take Mary as his wife after he discovered she was pregnant.  In fact, the scriptures tell us he was a just man and was thinking of divorcing her quietly.  However, an angel of the Lord met him in his dreams and told him what was happening and instructed him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife.  Joseph did what the Lord directed him to do.

How many of us are afraid and neglect to do what God is instructing us to do?  As we approach the day we celebrate the birth of Christ, think about the boldness Joseph displayed in his culture.  He didn’t have to take Mary according to his culture – but he did.  How many of us men will have the boldness of Joseph to do what God is instructing us to do in His Word regardless of what our culture says.?

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

What Hurricane Florence Taught Me

Pic 003It has been a few months since my last article.  Hurricane Florence disrupted many lives in September and the disruption will continue for many months – possibly years – for many.  Immediately after the storm past I was asked to lead a NC Baptist on Mission Disaster Relief Operational Center (DROC).  I was honored to be asked to such a task and I oversaw the site at Scotts Hill for two months.  But this is not what the article is truly about as I learned a viable lesson on the need to have men who have your back.

During times of disaster rather it be a hurricane as was the case here, health issues, financial issues, relationship issues, or any number of other disasters that comes into our lives, we can easily lose focus on our relationship with God.  Many will say in those times I find myself being drawn closer – I understand that – but there are times because of the attention the disaster demands we can find ourselves neglecting our intimate and intentional time with the Father.  This was my case.

After a week of operating the site a pastor friend came by and asked how I was doing.  I shared with him I was finding it hard to find time to steal myself away to spend with the Father in the Word and prayer.  The day began early and by the end of the day I was tired and just ready to go to bed.  Then came my Got Your Back friends.

courageous-movie-men-praying-7These are four men who I meet with weekly to talk and pray together.  These men saw the struggle I was having and though we couldn’t meet at our regular place – one suggested we meet at the DROC location.  These men were life saviors in many ways.  A couple of them were able to volunteer some of their time to help during the week so they were walking by my side.  Others were praying and checking up on me during the week.  But every week we met for an hour at the DROC to just share and pray with each other.  They also got to see some of the challenges I was addressing at the site as I often talked with people who were hurting as a result of the hurricane.

I call them my Got Your Back friends because we had been studying Gary Yagel’s book ‘Got Your Back’ for the past several weeks before the hurricane hit.  We had began developing a bond with each other as we walked through this book and began spending time in prayer with each other.  Beginning to share some of our individual struggles in our lives.  These men were my life saviors in so many ways.  They help to keep me focused not only on the task at hand but also my relationship with God.

So often we can get caught up with what we are doing for God we tend to neglect time with the Father.  I lessoned it to a Dad who is spending so much time at work because he wants to provide for his family that he actually – without realizing it – begins to neglect his family and is at a lost when they leave.  Though we know the Father will never leave us – it will affect us in our relationship with him.  This is why we need men in our lives who will encourage and pray for and with us during our struggles.  Men who will challenge us when they see us veering from the path God has set before us.

Got Your BackMy ‘Got Your Back’ friends lived the example Solomon wrote about in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10; “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.  For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.”  It is good to have such friends – brothers in Christ – who are there to lift you up in your time of need.

If you do not have such friends, I encourage you to seek them out.  Gary Yagel’s book Got Your Back is a great book to work through with a few friends to understand this concept.  All of the men in this group I am a part of have shared they have greatly benefited from the teaching to understand why it is so important to have these kinds of men in your life.  After watching how this played out for me while working a DROC site just reiterated this even more.

My question to you is; “Do you have men in your life that has Got Your Back?”  If not, seek them out.  You may not think you need men like this; but, believe me – you do.

Together in the adventure and challenge to disciple men.

– Mike

Volunteers Needed

Pic 003Five weeks ago, Hurricane Florence came ashore in North Caroline causing devastation with 1000s of homes being flooded or receiving severe wind damage.  Immediately after the storm passed many organizations began gearing up to provide relief and start recovery of those effected by the storm.  Many of us have been working tirelessly since then providing services such as feeding; removing contents and damage sheetrock, insulation, flooring, cabinets, etc; removing vegetation debris; and administrative support.  Many volunteers have stepped up coming from as far away as Oklahoma, Indiana, and New Jersey to assist in this massive effect.  Now less than two weeks ago Hurricane Michael came ashore in the Panhandle of Florida causing more devastation.  Our volunteer base is being stretched because of these two hurricanes.

Pic 001Therefore, I want to encourage you to find an organization assisting the many that are hurting and volunteer your time.  Maybe you are saying I cannot do physical labor anymore.  Understand, but there could be administrative duties you can help with.  Maybe you can just be a friendly face someone needs to see as they come asking for assistance.  Many are comforted just by having someone to talk with and who will pray with them.  Some organizations need volunteers to make meals for the volunteers and provide other support.

Pic 002I want to encourage you to find an organization and consider volunteering a day or even a few hours.  If you own a business, consider encouraging your employees to volunteer by giving them a paid day to do so like some businesses have done.  Volunteers are going to be needed for many months and even years to help the many affected by these storms to bring some sort of normalcy back into their lives.

Don’t be Afraid to Start Small

Disciple MakingI was recently asked, “What if only two men show up?”  My answer.  “Start with those two.”

When I first began to work in Men’s Ministry, which today I refer to as Ministering to Men – for that is what we are really doing – I was disappointed if 100 men didn’t show up for an event.  Especially for a church who had a membership of over 2000 with about 800-1000 men connected in some way with the church.  Many times, only 20-30 men would show up for monthly activities and often the numbers were even lower.  Even when we planned events that we thought would interest men; the Boomer generation was the primary group attending and not all of them were coming.  In addition, I could not understand why the younger men did not attend.  I felt as if I had failed.

But, as I began to study the culture and what men are looking for I began to realize the way we were doing men’s ministry was not working anymore.  What we had done for the past 30-40 years no longer works.  Today, men – especially younger men – are so much busier then they have ever been before.  Recognize that;

  • Many are working long hours to provide for their families and just don’t feel like attending anything after they leave their jobs for the day – week.
  • Their children are more involved in sports than ever before. Playing 3-4 sports, practices, and games every weekend doesn’t leave much time for family, down-time to rest, and especially time to go to another event or activity.

courageous-movie-men-praying-7Men leaders are finding it is easier for men to meet in small groups in places like coffee shops, at the gym, in their offices, at restaurants over a meal, maybe in someone’s home.  Places that seems to be outside the box and not what we in the past has considered the norm.  There are many resources available for groups like these and do not require much preparation.

In addition, when you keep men discipleship groups size down to about three to four you will find the bond between men will be even stronger and in turn it will strengthen the church.  Dr. Gary Yagel in his book Got Your Back, says “If the church has any hope of strengthening its men, it must get men into relationships with other men.  It cannot continue to largely ignore the need men have for connection.”  Remember, even though Jesus picked 12 men to pour his life into and sent them out to change the world, he pulled three of those men, Peter, James, and John, even closer; allowing them to see his glory, successes, and struggles in a different perspective.  He connected with those men in a totally different way than he did the rest of the disciples.

So, don’t be afraid to start small with just a few people in the group.  In fact, this group could be the catalyst to see more groups to start over time.  As these men begin to see the benefit and begin talking and sharing how God is using the group to help them grow, it will inspire other men to be part of a group.

I am currently meeting with a few men with the hope we will roll out to other men who will be led by the men in this group when the time is right.  The tendency for us is that we want to see tremendous results now.  But the reality is, it takes five to ten years to develop an effective ministry to men in the local church.  I realize most men don’t have the patience.  It took me a few years to realize it wasn’t me or that the men were not interested.  We just had to understand the problem and find a different approach.  So, keep at it.  God will reward your efforts.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

Reaching Men: Going Beyond the Normal Saturday Morning Breakfast

Discipleship GroupFor the past couple of months, I have written about planning for the coming church year and asking the question, “Where are the Men?”  This month as you continue planning let’s look at some ways that we can reach men that are connected with our churches but are not attending any of the men only events.

When we begin to think holistically about the men of our churches, we find men everywhere; not only are they involved in men only activities, but they are working as Sunday School Teachers, working with children, working with the youth, ushering, singing in the choir, playing in the band, deacons, elders, working in Disaster Relief/Recovery, recreational leagues and the list could go on.  We have men, who are on the fringes of the church.  Their children are attending our preschools, VBS, AWANAs, Ranger Ministries, Summer Camps, and this list could probably continue.  But the question is; “How do we minister to these men?”

We need to think outside the box of our typical ministry to men and begin to understand these men may not be able to have time to work on projects; but, many of them are looking for meaningful relationships with other men who are willing to pour their life into them.  Many of them don’t even know what they are looking for; but, they know cropped-2013-09-07-08-28-20.jpgthere is something missing.  I am reminded of 1 Thessalonian 2:8 where Paul said, “We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.”  The phrase to understand and make it a part of your ministry to men is “to share not only the gospel of God but also our own lives” (bold for emphasis).  Let me give you a few examples of how we can do that.

  • A lead Usher who makes cards with a verse on one side and points about the verse on the other side and gives it to those helping on Sunday morning. Spend five minutes talking about the verse and then praying with the men.  This could be expanded to men who are members of the choir or praise band, parking cars, teaching, etc.  That is ministering to men.
  • A Sunday School Teacher who plans events for the men of his group to attend ballgames, racing events, fishing, etc. to develop relationships so he can pour his life into the men and they can see he works through life issues just like them.
  • A church who gives a book out to all the men of the church dealing with men life issues. Encourage a time for any man who desires to meet and walk through the book once again helping them see he is not the only one who struggles with life issues.
  • A man who reaches out to 2-3 men and invites them to meet with him regularly to walk through a book or read and talk about a book in the Bible.
  • Begin a mentoring ministry where seasoned men can put their name on a list for younger men to connect with to help them grow.
  • Create events for dads of preschoolers, VBS or other children ministry attendees to attend an event with their child and provide the dads an opportunity to join a group that may help him be the dad and husband God desires for them to be.

But most of all we need to create a welcoming atmosphere for men.  They need to feel no pressure or judgements, remember they are people and not projects.  We need to understand that everything our church does that touches any man is ministering to men.  Everything!  There is an old saying in the business world, “Your system is perfectly designed to produce the results you are getting.”  Therefore, our ministry to men are perfectly designed to produce the type of men we have sitting in the pews of our churches.

Together in the adventure and challenge to disciple men – Mike