Be ‘Steadfast’ and ‘Immoveable:’ An Encouragement for Men

20171113_184244[1]Last night I gathered with about 65 men to enjoy a time of fellowship and worship.  We ate, laughed, sang, listen to great teaching and enjoyed fellowshipping with one another.  It was a time with men from many churches across Southeastern North Carolina for the purpose of encouraging each other in our walk with Christ.  This time also provided encouragement for many to return home with a fire burning within their hearts to reach the men of their churches and communities.

The focus verse for the evening came from 1 Corinthians 15:58;

Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

With the emphasis on being Steadfast and Immovable.  There is so much men are struggling with they need encouragement from other men to be steadfast in their resolve to follow God.  We need each other so we can be strong and immovable when it comes for standing for the things of God.  As we looked at this we correlated it to the idols that is in our lives.

We watched a video from “33 The Series” titled ‘A Man and His Traps.’  As the video warned us we have allowed temptations and “traps” to neutralize our effectiveness as men.  Too many of us have wrecked our lives and the lives around us.  Too many of us are living in shame, guilt, and are in hiding.   We looked at four key realities about our lives and how idolatry is framed in our lives today.

20171113_192320[1]Often, we think of idolatry as being some stature or pagan worship that will evade our lives.  But idolatry is really anything that we put before God; including our own personal wants and desires.  For instance, feeling significant; always seeking approval.  Because of events early in my life this is something I was always seeking in my young life.  Even today, as a – uh..mmm… – senior adult, I still find that need creeping into my life.  What we fail to realize in our walk with God is that anything, no matter how insignificant it may seem, if it takes our focus away from God can be construed as an idol.

Recently in my reading I found myself asking, “What does it mean to walk with God?”  We can come up with a lot of answers like, “Doing His will.”  “Spending time in the Word.”  “Praying.”  All are good answers and all we should be doing; but, I will submit there is more to being in an attitude of walking with God.  Let me ask the question differently.  What does it mean, ‘to walk with a friend?’  When you are walking with a friend or spending time with them your focus is on them.  You are doing things together, talking, listening to one another.  Nothing takes your focus away from that time with your friend.  Walking with God should be taken with the same attitude.

So often we get up in the morning and we say, “Thank you Lord for another beautiful day.  Allowing me to wake up to another day You have created.”  And within a few short minutes we have wondered on to other things and we have forgotten all about God.  We have allowed the idols of the world to creep into us and shift our focus from God to the busyness of the day.

The reason I asked myself this was because I recently thought of Enoch.  You know, the man in Genesis where it said Enoch walked with God; then he was not there because God took him” (Gen. 5:24).  Apparently, Enoch walked so closely with God that God decided to just take him home.  Why do you think Enoch walked so closely with God?  I believe it was because he focused his whole life on God.  He didn’t let anything, or anyone distract him from focusing on his relationship with God.

This is what we need to do.  Keep our focus on God.  This is why we need men in our lives.  Men who are seeking God and have a focus on God in their lives.  This is why we need to gather as men from time to time.  To help us be ‘Steadfast’ and ‘Immoveable.’

We ended in the evening with a “Prayer Huddle.”  A time when we gather in a circle with our arms around each other’s shoulders; each taking a turn to speak one word of encouragement from the night, then we prayed.  What a sight that was to look around and see men with their arms on the shoulders of other men, a symbol of being locked together to be Steadfast and Immoveable as we encourage each other to stay focus on God.

Men, don’t be a man of isolation.  Gather with other men to help you be Steadfast and Immoveable in your walk with God.

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

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The Ministry of Hanging Out

Jeff Kisiah and MeThis past weekend I had the privilege to “Hang – Out” with my mentor and friend, Jeff Kisiah, Executive Director of Band of Brothers Charlotte.  Jeff taught me the concept of the Ministry of Hanging Out (MHO) when we first met many years ago.  It is something we all do, hanging out, we just don’t recognize this as an opportunity for ministry or even to include it into our ministry.  When a bunch of guys get together and do something they connect with or have a common interest we refer to this as ‘hanging out;’ but, we generally overlook the value of these times.

I have learned the importance of having numerous “on ramps” for enlisting men into the battle for men souls.  Oftentimes we have events that really interest the men in our churches but that is all they are – events.  It is an “on-ramp” that has been closed and we must wait for the next “on-ramp” to hopefully get men on a path of discipleship.

Recently, I was at an event with over 60 men in attendance.  They had fun, ate, and listen to a short message.  This was a great “on-ramp” opportunity for men to invite other men who are not connected to the church or sitting on the fringes.  These men could then witness the importance of men rubbing shoulders (Proverbs 27:17) encouraging them to get involved in a discipling relationship.  But oftentimes we don’t use these opportunities and the “on-ramp” is essentially closed.

Sometimes we go to the other extreme.  Too many times the “on-ramp” we give men only provide entry points on the “deep end” of the discipleship continuum such as;

  • In-Depth Bible Studies
  • Leadership Training Modules
  • High Commitment Venues

I was in a meeting recently where someone was sharing he didn’t understand why they couldn’t get men to come to the Bible Studies.  Well, it could be the “on-ramp” is too steep or too sharp of a curve.  Often men need to develop relationships with the men who are involved in those studies before he feels comfortable to attend.

Then we get frustrated when the men “on the fringe” who remain disinterested or disconnected.  What do I mean by men “on the fringe?”  These are men who are connected with the church but are not involved in any discipleship ministry or any ministry for that matter.  Men who come because their children or wife are involved, or they come to “punch the clock.”  You know them, every church has men like this.  You can probably think of two or three right now.  These are men who need another man to come along side of them and encourage them.  The best way to do that is to have times when men can just “hang-out” and get to know each other – opportunities that interest them and when invited will have a common interest with other men.

We must provide a balance in our approach and offer entry points on the “wide end” of the discipleship continuum for those men.  We want to develop relationships with the men talked about above and help them take the next right step toward a relationship in Christ.

God has worked uniquely in the lives of men through these times of men just “hanging-out.”  Some examples you can use are;

  • College / High School Ballgames: If you can’t attend the games think about having viewing parties for the big games.
  • Hiking trips, Wilderness outings and/or Camping Trips
  • Motorcycle or Bicycle rides
  • Racing events: Think about a viewing party for this also if you cannot attend.
  • Fishing adventures: Maybe attend a boat show.
  • Hunting: Maybe attend an outdoor exposition held in your area.
  • Golf Outings/Tournaments: consider hosting one.
  • Attend a Classic Car Show or even host one.

One many don’t think about is Drive Time Fellowship.  There may be many events or activities you participate that requires drive time.  I used to take a group of men to Atlanta once a year for a men’s conference and they would tell me the most enjoyable time of the trip was the fellowship during the drive.

These suggestions are a part of “The Ministry of Hanging Out.”  Now that I got you thinking you could probably think of more activities.  In our Ministry to Men we need to learn and understand the importance of just hanging-out with other men.  You want men to get into discipling relationships, you first need to develop relationships.  And you develop relationships by “hanging-out.”

My life verse is 1 Thessalonians 2:8 when Paul writes;

“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.”

We need to be in the habit of sharing our lives with other men.  Meeting them where they are at and not where we want them to be and letting them see we really do care for them and desire to share life with them.  This will help in developing those opportunities to share the gospel and encourage men to come to Christ or grow deeper in their walk with Christ and move them to that place they need to be.

Start practicing “The Ministry of Hanging Out” as you minister to men and encourage your men to start seeing this as an opportunity to reach men.  As you do, you will begin to see changes in the lives of men you encounter.

Together in the adventure and challenge to disciple men – Mike

What Is Discipling? – Part 3

In the first two posts we talked about the Disciple Makingidea of Disciple Making and what is not disciple making.  In this post we will look at what is disciple making.  To be honest, it is one simple concept.  One idea we need to embrace and make it a lifestyle in our walk with Christ.  One method all Christians can do if they will just do it.  What is that concept, idea, or method?  To pour one’s life into another.  Paul said it best in 1 Thessalonians 2:8;

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. (CSB) (bold is mine)

How do you do that?  By spending time with the person you are discipling.  When you look at the life of Jesus, he spent time with the men he chose to share his life with.  They did life together.  In John 10:27 Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.”   In my last post I described the scene of Mary Magdalene being distraught because she thought individuals had stolen the body of Jesus from the grave and she did not know what to do.  When Jesus called her name, “Mary,” she immediately knew it was Him.  Why?  Because she had developed an intentional relationship with Jesus.  She knew His voice.

Men GolfingWe need to be intentional with the relationships we develop with the men that God bring into our lives.   Learn to do life by enjoying a ball game together, hunting or fishing together, having lunch or any number of activities that allow you to spend time getting to know each other.  When you do this you build trust that allows each other to open up and talk about struggles in life.  Share your own experiences and how God work you through those experiences.  Get to know your men.  If we are to be imitators of Christ as Paul teaches (1 Corinthians 11:1), then as Jesus knew His men, we should know our men.  Help them to know the ‘voice’ of Christ.

Practice the ministry of “Hanging Out” with your men. MenFishing Discipling is all about being with men one-on-one, life on life.  In any discipling relationship, including discipling among Christians, this means following a specific track that is reliable, personal, and has value and application.

To change a man’s character and behavior, we must first change the way he thinks.  The process of transformation, in becoming an obedient follower of Jesus starts with our thoughts.  Jesus said in Matthew 15:18; “But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart.”  And what comes from the heart is what a man thinks.  What a man thinks becomes his value, his values determine his character, and he acts out his character through his behavior.

Jeff Kisiah and MeAs one disciples another, it will help the man to see himself the way God sees him.  It helps him to discover, or in some cases rediscover, his identity in Christ.  When a man truly understands who he is in Christ, it changes his behavior.  Discipling is about heart transformation, not behavior modification.  And the only way this happens is by allowing God to work through you as we are called to “Go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19) as one man pours his life into another man.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

 

 

 

What Is Discipling? – Part 2

What Discipling Is Not?

In my last post, I posed a couple of questions to you; ‘What is discipling?’ and ‘What is not discipling?’  In this post, we are going to discuss what discipling is not or as I like to call it these days, disciple making.

2013-09-07 08.28.45Basically, disciple making is not participating in large study groups where one person speaks and others listen.  It is not attending various men’s conferences or even attending an activity designed for men to gather and fellowship.  Disciple making is not necessarily exhibited with a group of men gathering to read a book and then talk about it; this is a book reading club.  All of these are good and can be beneficial; but, they are not necessarily disciple making and rarely fosters a discipling relationship.

Those Sunday School classes we attend each week is not a sufficient metric to gage discipling either.  Jeff Christopherson, North American Mission Board’s Vice-President of the Send Network, in his article What Discipleship is Not states;

Small group involvement as a single discipleship metric is a mistake.  You are making a lot of assumptions when you say that someone is growing because she (he) is going to a small group.  This can be a faulty accusation because of three pivotal reasons.  The first is that the small group may not be good at making disciples.  The second is that you are assuming that the person connects with the small group.  And third, you have to take into the account the people who will not attend a small group for various reasons.

Another defective metric of disciple making is measuring one’s ability to be fluent in Bible-speak or has a good grasp or understanding of theology.  Christopherson, in the same article mentioned above states;

Jesus agreed about the importance of accurate beliefs and truth.  “…For if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”  But how is the truth setting the disciples you are making free?” (John 8:32).  Truth was never meant to be an end in itself, but truth applied to the life of a disciple has an amazing transformational affect.

A healthy diet of biblical preaching and Bible study is important to build healthy believers.  But strong interpersonal coaching and accountability are also critical to help disciples hear God and live out what they are learning.  After all, discipleship is living daily with Jesus.

Discipleship GroupI hear individuals talk about being in a discipling group and they are studying theology, I would caution one on doing this unless the individuals involved decides as a group to delve deeper into theology.  Oswald Chambers in his book, My Utmost for His Highest, states that;

It is possible to know all about doctrine and yet not know Jesus.  The soul is in danger when knowledge of doctrine outsteps intimate touch with Jesus.

A mentor of mine once told me, “Don’t let your theology get in the way of your disciple making.”

Mary Magdalene of whom Jesus exorcised seven demons out of her (Luke 8:2) in all likelihood would not have been able to debate even the least of the Pharisees on doctrine; however, she knew Jesus’ voice.  When Jesus rose from the grave Mary was distraught as she thought someone had stolen His body and didn’t know where they may have laid Him.  But Jesus called her name, “Mary,” and immediately she knew it was Jesus because she ‘knew’ Him.  It wasn’t a result of theological studies, book reads, attending conferences; but, it was because she had an intentional relationship with Jesus.  She knew His voice.

In these groups, many will come away with a better understanding of the Word of God, full of head knowledge but will not understand how to apply God’s Word into their lives.  Very few of these groups I have found do not allow one to pour their lives into another.  We must understand that disciple making is not a program, it is a ministry.  Every person will respond differently and you must be willing to allow your disciple making ministry to be flexible to meet the needs of the individual you are discipling.  Here’s a better way to think of it-in a more organic way, similar to the process Jesus used.  When God puts someone in your path who is stuck, discipleship means finding out why and then helping them solve that problem.

Recently I heard a well noted speaker state that Jesus did not say study theology (though there is nothing wrong with that) or the tenets of Calvinism; Jesus said, “Follow Me” (Mark 1:17).  A review of the scriptures will show that Jesus spent a large majority of His time pouring his life into those men he chose to be in his inner circle teaching them and being an example to them.

Now I encourage individuals to be in a small group such as a Sunday School or Home Group Study.  I feel it is essential to gather with others to study God’s Word and to perform acts of service together.  I encourage men to attend Men Conferences.  I would even encourage you to study theology as you grow in Christ to help understand the God you serve.  But don’t confuse these as disciple-making.

Disciple MakingTo put it simply, disciple making means intentionally partnering with another Christian in order to help that person obey Jesus and grow in relationship with Him—so that he or she can then help others do the same.  And this is what we will look at in the next post,

Next Post:  What is Discipling Making?

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

What Is Discipling? – Part 1

Introduction

Today the buzzword in many churches is ‘discipleship.’  Churches are beginning to see the need and understand the importance of being in the process of discipling the people they connect with through their churches.  Though churches are generally looking at discipling young and old; men and women; youth, married, divorced, single professionals, and the list could go on; here, we will be talking about men, regardless of their age or marital status.

Financial BurdenNow, let’s be honest, with men, this is hard.  A man is a hard thing to reach.  Ministering to men is one of the hardest jobs in the church.  In the book No Man Left Behind, the authors states that ministering to men is like rocket science.  Getting men into discipling relationships is one of the hardest tasks you will undertake.  Some will jump at the chance.  Some will hear about it so much they will attend but will not truly commit to the time or group.  Some will just blow it off.  Some will say I am in a discipling relationship because I attend a Sunday School class or whatever you call your Sunday morning or home study groups.  Many will not understand what a discipling relationship looks like and much less, why they need to be involved in such a group.

Discipleship GroupSo often those who begin a ‘Discipling Group’ don’t fully understand where to start or what to do.  They hear the concept and get caught in the excitement and they decide to start a group.  There are groups where men come together to read spiritually related books and talk about them.  I hear of men meeting to study deeper into theology.  There are groups of men that gather together for breakfast or some other meal time for a time of fellowship.  My question though, ‘Are these really discipling groups?’  Though there is nothing wrong with any of these and I support each of them, I still must ask myself, ‘Is this really discipling?’

What do you think?  I would like to hear from you, ‘What is discipling? What is not discipling?’  In my next two posts, I will try and answer those questions.  This will of course be from my own study and personal experience; but, I would like to hear from you.  Either though the blog, my Facebook post or LinkedIn post.

There have been many books written and lessons taught on the subject.  But I would like to know what do you think?  Let me know.  Maybe I will include some of your thoughts – anonymously I might add – in my future posts

Next post:  What Discipling is Not.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike