Do Not Let Your Seminareist Get in the Way of Your Ministry to Men!

I know that Seminareist is not a formal word.  But the title is a statement a mentor once told me when I started in men’s ministry.  He reminded me that those of us who have a deep intentional intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, often forgets that most men do not have this relationship.  Decades, even centuries of men not being in a discipling relationship has resulted in men not knowing what this means.

As I have travel and met with men of various churches throughout my region and state, I do find that some churches are getting on board with developing a vibrate discipling ministry for their men.  However, there are still way too many that are not.  In the area of North Carolina that I live, I don’t have to use all the fingers on my hand to count the number of churches I have visited that has an active discipling ministry outside of the Sunday School.

men-gathering-1I recently asked a group of men who are active in their respective churches, “How do you know your church cares about or shows they have a priority toward the men?”  Not one  of them stated it was because they were involved in a discipling relationship, even though each of them were.  Their answer was centered around events for men.  A couple of men even said it is a shame our church does not have a men’s ministry, even though the church has a vibrate discipling ministry that involve many men.  Another said I have to go to another church to attend men gatherings because my church does not have a men’s ministry even though his church also has an active discipling ministry.

Men do not associate discipling groups with men’s ministry even though that should be a part of the ministry – an important part.  Men need entry points to connect with other men.  Men need entry points to develop those relationship that will move them into discipling relationships.  To get them at least involved in a Sunday School or a home study group.

It breaks my heart when I hear churches state they don’t need a formal ministry to men.  This tells me that men are not a priority.  They will argue with me this is not true.  Then I ask what are you doing to convince men they are a priority?  And all they can say is that we have a dicipling ministry.

img_20131108_184345_297If you never have events design specifically for men, if you don’t have a place for men to gather, if you don’t speak directly to your men regularly, what convinces them they are a priority?  We often talk about how men are visual.  If they cannot see a men’s ministry what makes one think there is one and that men are important to the church.

Let me challenge the pastors and men’s leaders out there, or any man who may be reading this.  Ask the men of your church, “What do we do as a church that makes you think men are a priority here?”  Then record your answers in the comments for this post.  Maybe it will change my perception of what I have been seeing and hearing.  Or maybe it will validate it.  Either way I would like to here throughout the state, nation, and world what makes men think they are a priority for their respective churches.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple every man – Mike

A Spiritual Happy Man Is in A Small Group

As we continue on the habits of a spiritual happy man let’s review the premise we established last month.  ‘The strength of a church is not proportionally related to the strength of its programs or ministries; not related to the number of members or people attending; not related to the popularity of the pastor or his ability to expand and deliver the Word of God; but, of the spiritual strength of each man who is in the church.’

Today we are going to look at the habit of men being in small groups.  Why do leaders make such a fuss to get men in small groups?  What do they see, that wants men – you – in a small group?

Man StruggleMen tend to be isolationists; we like to live our lives in isolation.  Yes, we get together and have a good time; but, when it comes to day-to-day struggles, we tend to try and work it out for ourselves.  When women have problems or concerns they move toward relationships – when men have problems or concerns they tend to move towards isolation.  We have been wired and trained from the earliest of age to believe that if we cannot deal with our own problems it is a sign of weakness.  And you know what, the Devil knows this.

Scripture tells us that “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”, (1 Peter 5:8).  Noticed that I underlined “someone.”  The scriptures does not say a group of people but someone, a person who is alone.  Lions attack sick, young, or straggling animals; they choose victims who are alone or not alert.  Peter warns us to watch out for Satan when we are suffering or struggling with an issue.  If you are feeling alone, weak, helpless, and cut off from other believers, or if you are so focused on your troubles that you forget to watch for danger, those are the times when you are especially vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.  During times of suffering, we need to seek Christian brothers for support.  Satan understands the value of isolation and attacking those by themselves.

Oftentimes you will see men who are always acting as if everything is great, fine, perfect.  We ask each other how are you doing and we answer with, “Everything is great, couldn’t be better.”  But deep down we know that we are struggling as we are seek answers and we are at a lost on what to do.

Jesus built a small group when he chose those twelve men to walk alongside him; men who he poured his life into for three years.  He started the mindset of a small group and the purpose of the small group.  So, we see that God in is His infinite wisdom recognized that He has more options to help you when you are in a small group.  Think about it – when you are isolated, who has more options?  The Devil, a predator like a lion seeking to devour you.

Discipleship GroupSo, you ask what can a small group do for me?  Well, we can start with scripture.  Paul wrote to the Galatians, Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” (Gal. 6:1-2).  No brother in Christ should ever think that he is totally independent and does not need help from others, and no one should feel excused from the task of helping others.

Solomon in his wisdom wrote, Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!,” (Ecc. 4:9-10).  Then in verse 12 Solomon wrote, And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand hima threefold cord is not quickly broken.”  Men we need each other.  Notice in verse 12 Solomon said “a man might prevail.”  This does not mean he will.  It just means he might win some battles; but, he will not win them all, or even close.  Men, as all humans, are built and designed for companionship, not isolation, for relationships, not loneliness.  We are not here on earth to serve ourselves; but, to serve God and others.  Don’t isolate yourself and try to go it alone.  Seek companions; seek a small group.

Hebrews 10:24-25, let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  Yes, I know that we typically use this scripture to encourage the saints to gather together for worship on Sunday mornings.  But the scripture does not really differentiate the difference of Sunday mornings or just gathering together.  Look what the writer says, “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” and “encouraging one another.”

courageous-movie-men-praying-7Let me share one more scripture that is very familiar in ministries to men, Proverbs 27:17; oftentimes we use this verse, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  There is truth here, but the only way this can be applied in our lives is to spend time with other men.  Other men, who we will give permission to challenge us when they see us missing the mark; holding us accountable in our walk with Christ.

So, what makes a really good small group for men?  Two or more men who want to walk more closely with God (I recommend groups of no more than four to five for accountability purposes), a leader who is passionate for his men and prays for them regularly; and a respect for the process of relationships.  In other words, kind of like the Vegas slogan, “What is said here, stays here!”

Let me encourage you, if you do not have such men in your life; find one or a group of men.  You will be blessed to have such men who will challenge you, be a listening ear when you need to talk, and more importantly, pray for you.  “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  The only way this can happen is to have someone in your life that will sharpen you, to knock off those rough edges and smooth the edge so you can be ready to fight the battle that lays before us every day.  To put on that whole armor of God that Paul speaks of in Ephesians Chapter 6.

We need men who will stand shoulder to shoulder with us every day.  When you see pictures depicting ancient times with men readying for battle, how are those men standing in formation?  Or if you watch movies such as Troy, or Braveheart as the men are getting ready to charge, how are those men standing?  Shoulder to Shoulder.

Will you be a man who will stand shoulder to shoulder with another man in this battle?  Will you pour your life into other men?  Will you let other men pour their lives into you?  Do you want to change families in your church?  Do you want to change your church to be more of an impact to your community?  Then start by sharing life with other men – men within your church and men outside your church.  Developing relationships that will sharpen each of us to be the man God desires for us all and imparting the Gospel of God into each other’s lives.

Stop Signs in Life

It was about a three and half hour trip home and I was ready to get home after being in a meeting most of the day.  After I had been traveling about an 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 me to be delayed about 20 minutes if I stayed on the current route.  However, there was another route 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 a little way 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 anotherstop-sign country road.  Then another.  Then another.  After 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 popped 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 55 miles per hour.  As I Looked in the review mirror to see if the local Deputy Sheriff was watching, I thanked God that 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 recently reminded that God is constantly changing our visions and direction in the different seasons of our lives.  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 led to disastrous consequences, just like that physical stop sign I ran 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.

If you feel uncertain or flustered with events ingod-stop-sign 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, beware of the spiritual Stop Signs in life where you may need to be still and know that God is God.  Don’t blow past them in your haste to get something accomplished like I did on that country road that day.  The consequences could be disastrous.

A Spiritual Happy Man Reads His Bible Regularly

“The real strength of the church is not the amount of its work but the quality of its faith.  One man who truly knows his bible is worth more to the church’s real strength than a crowd of workers who do not.” – P.T. Forsyth, British Theologian of the early 20th Century.

man-reading-bible31As we begin these series about a spiritual happy man lets establish this premise.  The strength of a church is not proportionally related to the strength of its programs or ministries; not related to the number of members or people attending; not related to the popularity of the pastor or his ability to expand and deliver the Word of God; but, of the spiritual strength of each man who is in the church.

Beginning with this month and for the next several months we are going to look at the spiritual happy man.  What do we need to do – habits we need to develop – to ensure that we are moving toward spiritual happiness and growing in our relationship with our Lord.  The first thing we need to do is to encourage each other and the men in our churches to learn to read.  Let’s face it, as a rule, men don’t like to read.  We don’t even read instructions when we purchase a new product.  I must confess that when I was recently setting up a new printer in my office I had to force myself to read the instructions.  We just try to ‘wing-it’ so we can show we don’t need anyone telling us what to do.

Often when I talk with men I tell them there are three things I want them to do; 1st, Read; 2nd, Read; and 3rd, Read.  I believe we will all agree that men are not avid readers and when it comes to the word of God, the Bible, we tend to justify in our minds why we do not have time to read or why we don’t need to read.  But reading the Bible is valuable to every man.  Why?  Because it is true.

In Proverbs 30:5, we are told that “Every word of God proves true” and God “is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.”  Jesus said, If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7).  Jesus’ words though can only abide in us if we read the Bible regularly.  God told Joshua regarding the Book of the Law that “You shall meditate on it day and night,” (Joshua 1:8).  The Psalmist writes that a blessed man delight “in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:1-2).  And of course, we are instructed by the Psalmist in Psalm 119:11 to store up the word in our hearts so that we might not sin against God.  The Bible is full of encouragement for us to read, meditate, and hide the Word of God in our hearts.

imagesThe Bible is also how God speaks to us to instruct and teach us.  Isaiah writes, For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:10-11).  Paul wrote to Timothy and told him that All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Men need to understand that our lives will never change in any significant way apart from the regular study of God’s Word.  I have found that I have a bond with men who have made the Bible their final authority.  We need to fix our eyes on Jesus by looking in His Word regularly and allowing His Word to penetrate deeply into our very being.  The single significant contribution we can make to another man is to help him understand the path to finding peace and comfort is through Jesus and the reading of His Word.

So, what is our goal?   In Hebrews we read these words, Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus (Heb.12:1-2a).  The phrase here that stands out to me is for us to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely.”  How many of us are still clinging to a sin that is weighing us down and preventing us to endure the race?  Keeping us from reading and studying the Bible like we should.

When I find active sin in my life that I have not confused I am less likely to be interested in reading God’s Word.  When I finally come to my senses, recognize the sin, confess it, and ask forgiveness; I tend to be more active in my reading and allowing God to speak to me.  In John 1:6 we find this to be true as the Bible tells us, If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  Sin will keep us from the Word of God and will keep us from having a desire to practice the truth.

Another goal is to let the Holy Spirit teach us all things.  John 14:26 tells us, “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.  As more and more of the word becomes infused into our lives we will find it easier to recognize false teachings which we are told to be aware.  You will also find times when in conversation the Holy Spirit will bring back remembrance of scriptures you have read.  When this occurs to you, you will find it powerful and encouraging.  But it will only happen by reading the Word of God – the Bible – regularly.

downloadI should not need to tell you the importance of a private devotion.  We need to encourage every man in our groups to have a private time to read, meditate, and reflect on the Word of God.  A time that is quiet and away from the busyness of the day.  The Center for Bible Engagement states that in their research they find there is no significant difference in people who read their Bibles 2-3 times a week than those who do not read their Bibles at all.  Studies indicate we need to read at least four days a week.  People who read the Bible at least 4 times a week look at the significance of the word differently than those who don’t.

Here are some suggestions to encourage you to become more active in reading and listening to the Word of God.

  1. Get a Read the Bible in a Year bible. This Bible is laid out in a manner that will allow you to read a portion of scriptures over 365 days.  If you do this don’t beat yourself up if you skip a day.  Just make a commitment to catch up.
  2. Buy an audio of the Bible. If you are one who is on the road a lot like I was you can listen to the Bible.  But beware this does not take the place of deliberate reading of the word; but, at least you will be hearing the Word of God.
  3. Make a commitment to read five minutes a day five days a week for 30 days. See if this does not create a habit to read the bible.
  4. Read a chapter a day in the New Testament. If you read one chapter every day for five days a week you will read all of the New Testament in one year.  If you read five chapters a day, five days a week you will read the whole bible in about 11 months.

We need to be encouraging our men to read every day.  Ask each man in your small groups what are they reading and how did the Word speak to them since your last meeting.  Hold each other accountable.  When our men make reading the Bible a spiritual habit, allowing God to speak to us and teach, we will find ourselves wanting more of the things of God.

Men Need Other Men

This scene from the movie Facing the Giants, to me, is one of the most inspirational scenes I have seen.  No matter how many times I have seen this it always stirs my heart.

After Brock basically wrote off any chance of winning their next game in front of the whole team, Coach gave Brock a challenge to do the death crawl further then normal.

At first Brock seemed to be just appeasing the coach.  Saying “I can go to the 50 without anyone on my back.”  Coach said, “I think you can do it with Jeremy on your back.”  Asking Brock if he would give his very best, Brock at first said “Yeh.”  But the Coach continue to ask if he would give his very best and finally Brock said “Yes, I will give you my very best.”

Before the coach let Brock start his crawl he blinded folded him.  Coach said he didn’t want him to give up when he reached a certain point.  By blindfolding Brock, it caused him to listen to the coach and not allow sight to dictate when he would quit.  Men this is what we need to do.  We need be blindfolded to what is happening around us that will keep us from keeping our eyes on Christ.  For once our eyes are off of Christ, we will revert back to a man living a defeated life.

Throughout the whole crawl the coach was right there supporting Brock and encouraging him.  Letting him know when he was getting off track and needed to go a little more to the left.  As Brock went further and further he stated complaining that it hurt and it was tough.

“Coach, it hard.  It hurts,” Brock said numerous times.

Now the Coach is on his knees right next to Brock continuing to encourage and saying, “I know it’s hard – I know it hurts.  But you have got to keep going.  Brock don’t give up”

When Brock was finished with the crawl he was not at the 30 yard line… 50 yard line – he was in the end-zone.

This is a prime example of why men need other men in their lives.  To push them when the going gets tough.  To encourage them when they don’t think they can continue.  To be right there beside them when they are hurting and life is hard.  To help in their time of trouble.

Do you think Brock would have made it to the end-zone if the coach had not been there encouraging him to keep going?  I don’t think so.  He would have stopped as soon as the hurting began and it was getting tough to keep going.

This is the epitome of Ecclesiastes 4:9-10; “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up.”

Finally, the Coach laid down on the field right in front of Brock’s face and continued to encourage him.  Telling him, “Brock, you are the most influential person on this football team.  God has gifted you with the ability to lead.  If you walk around defeated so will everyone else.”

Men…You are the most influential person in your families lives.  God has gifted you with the ability to lead.  If you walk around defeated so will they and so will your wife and children when it comes to their spiritual lives.  You also are an influence to other men.

Will it be easy?  No.  No one said it would be easy.

As men we have a unique God gifted opportunity to affect the next generation coming behind us and to encourage the current generation.

Men you need to give you very best to God.  To help you do that, you need to allow another man into your life to encourage you – even when it hurts – keep moving – don’t quit.  Give your very best.  Yes … sometimes it may hurt so bad that it burns deep within your soul and you feel you cannot make it.  But don’t stop – don’t quit – give your very best to our Lord.

Men… you need to examine your life to see where you are.  We need to examine ourselves – often.  Plato is quoted as saying: “The life which is unexamined is not worth living.”  Even scripture tells us we need to do this.

Lamentations 3:40 tells us; Let us examine and probe our ways, and let us return to the LORD.  Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 13:5; Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.

We need to ask ourselves; “Do we have an intimate relationship with God?  Am I spending time with him each day in scripture and meditation?  Am I praying like I should?  Are we applying the teaching of our Lord into our everyday lives?”

If you are not in the faith, Christ is your only answer.  Only he can remove the darkness, and allow in the light to begin the transformation of your life.  Others of you may need to examine where you are in your relationship with God.  There may be something you need to repent of and return to the Lord.

Just like the coach said to Brock I am going to tell you, Don’t tell me that you cannot give more to God than what you have been doing.  God has gifted you with the ability of leadership; to be discipled and to disciple others.  Men your church needs you.  Your family needs you.  Your Pastor needs you.

Allow other men into your life to encourage and walk beside you or you could become like that man in Ecclesiastes 4: 10 who didn’t have another to lift him up.

Support Our Men and Women in Blue

I am saddened by the events of the past couple of weeks as I am sure many of you are.  Because of the events I have made it a goal to go out of my way to personally thank any law enforcement officer I come across.

Praying with PoliceThese men and women put their lives on the line every day when they put on that uniform and begin their day.  Families don’t know, and it has become more real to them in the past few weeks, if the hug or kiss may be the last one they may give or receive when their love ones walk out the door.  Wives wonder if they will be left to raise a family on their own.  Children when they reach an age that they understand what dad is doing wonder if their Dad will come home.

Many of us who do not have a family member working in law enforcement do not understand the anxiety and anxious moments spouses may feel when the phone rings while their significant other is at work.  These men and women in blue and their families need our prayers and support.  I have heard stories over the past week of people paying for officer’s meals and praying with them.  This blesses my heart and encourages me to know there are people who truly care about out men and women in blue.  It encourages me to do the same if I have the opportunity.  Maybe you too can extend your wallet to cover a meal or pray with an officer.

These are not bad people.  They have chosen a noble profession.  One that puts their life on the line.  Every people group has a bad apple or two that shows up from time to time.  Even in my garden this morning I had to remove a bad tomato from the bush before it contaminated the rest of the tomatoes.  Every business has to weed out bad performers periodically.  But that doesn’t make the whole group bad.

Make it a point to place these men and women on your prayer lists and pray for them regularly.  Go out of your way to tell them how much you appreciate their service to the community.  Give them a hug or a firm handshake.  Pray with them.  I am sure they will appreciate it and I am sure you will feel blessed by doing so.

Scripture tells us that “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, onP4Pe will lift up his fellow.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up” (Ecc. 4:9-10).  Well our brothers and sisters in blue have fallen – not because of their actions but because of others – we need to be there to lift them up.  Don’t let them be alone and not have another to lift them up.

Show your support.  Not because you may need their help one day; but, because they deserve to be respected and honored for their service.

Do For Others as Christ Has Done For Us

John 13:15 “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

This is a short statement made by Jesus after he had humbly took off his clothes, put on a servant’s robe and washed the feet of the disciples during Passover on the night before His death.

The interesting thing that many of us miss here is that Jesus had just humbly bowed down and washed the feet of Peter who would deny Him three times later that night and more interesting, Judas’ feet who would betray Jesus in just a few hours.  Both – because Jesus is God in the flesh – He knew beforehand what each were going to do.

Jesus provided an example to us that even if individuals are treating us poorly.  Even denying us or turning against us we should still treat them as Jesus did Peter and Judas on that fateful night.  Jesus could have easily said when He came to those two, “Sorry, you are going to deny me” and “You are going to betray me” but he didn’t.  Jesus treated them the same as he did the other 10 disciples that night.

So when people speak badly of you, curse at you, or betray your confidence, think of what Jesus did.  He still showed mercy and compassion to those who turned against Him and humbly bowed and washed their feet because of His love and desire to have fellowship with each of them. Therefore, we should take His example and do as He has done for us.

Do for others as Christ has done for us.