Two Are Better Than One: Walking Together

Two are better than oneFor the past few posts we have been looking at Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12.

9Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.  10For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up…. 12And if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken. (CSB)

In the first post regarding this scripture I shared with you this is a good description for men to apply Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (ESV), into their lives to encouragement men as they develop an intentional relationship with God.

In the previous post we looked at verse 9 encouraging men to work together.  In this post we will look at verse 10 encouraging men to walk together.

In the last decade one of the things I enjoy doing, is to pour my life into other men.  1 Thessalonians 2:8 shows the example of this as Paul and his companions spoke of their passion towards the people of Thessalonica;

8We 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.

Ten years ago, while I was going through some health trails of my own I was invited to join a small group of men on Saturday morning from my church.  I discovered this group of men were men who not only loved the Lord but had a strong desire to pour their lives into other men.

  • Men who encourage other men as they are going through their own struggles of life.
  • Men who share their own battles and how they walk through those struggles.
  • Men who taught God’s word.
  • Men who encourage scripture memorization.
  • Men who would hold me accountable. Ask me some hard questions about integrity, bible reading, my devotion time.
  • Men who would pray with me and be available whenever necessary.

This had a dramatic effect on my life.  This drew me closure in my walk with God, more than anything else I had ever done in the church.  It helped me to develop an intimate and intentional relationship with God.  More so than I had ever known.  And because of that time in my life, God gave me a passion – a burden – to minister to men.

Today I meet with men regularly.  As an example, I meet with one group of men once a week early in the morning at a local McDonald’s restaurant before they head off to work.  We talk about their past week; their rewards and their struggles.  I ask them what they are reading, in the bible and in general.  I ask them about their devotion time.  We study God’s word.  We pray.  This is Walking Together as men deal with the issues of life and the culture of the world we live in.  Encouraging men by letting them know they are not alone and there is someone there that can help pull them out of the pit if they fall.

We men have a knack of trying to do life on our own.  But when you look at scriptures you see that is not how Jesus showed us.  Jesus pulled 12 men close to him to teach and encourage.  He pulled three of those men – Peter, James, and John – even closure to pour His life into those men.

Jesus modeled what it really means to disciple – to mentor.  To go after the real issues that affect an individual’s relationship with God and others.  And the only way you can do that is to develop an intentional relationship with others.

Jesus taught his followers to make disciples, not converts.  The way a believer moves from one to the other is through the intentional discipleship of their character, knowledge, vision, and skills.  While evangelism brings people to Christ, discipleship brings people to “full growth in Christ” so they can be “equipped for every good work” (Eph 4:15, 2 Tim 3:17).

When Jesus pulled those 12 men into his circle He knew what we all know: men are like icebergs – we only see the tip; but, there’s a much deeper spiritual drama unfolding below the waterline.

Men in the church today face the same challenges and frustrations as men outside of the church.  That should not be.  For example, in the book ‘No Man Left Behind’ it states that for every ten men in the church;

  • Nine will have children who leave the church.
  • Eight will find their jobs dissatisfying.
  • Six will pay the monthly minimum on their credit card bills.
  • Five will have a major problem with pornography.
  • Four will get divorced – affecting one million children each year.
  • Only one will have a biblical world-view.
  • And, all ten will struggle to balance work and family.

Men, we need each other.  As I talk with men, without exception, every one of them will tell me they struggle the most when they are alone.  Every one of us need a man who can walk alongside of us.  This is what discipleship is all about.

When we talk to men we find that though they may not be showing it on the outside, we find that many men are hurting.  Something is holding them back from feeling fully alive.  They inevitably mention one or more of seven inner aches and pains that most men feel when they are trying to do this journey on their own:

  • I just feel like I’m in this alone.
  • I don’t feel like God cares about me personally – not really.
  • I don’t feel like my life has a purpose – it feels random.
  • I have these destructive behaviors that keep dragging me down.
  • My soul feels dry.
  • My most important relationship is not healthy.
  • I don’t feel like I’m doing anything that will make a difference and leave the world in a better place.

So, what do we do about it.  What do we do to help these men and how will it impact the church?

We will discuss that next time as we look at verse 12 of Ecclesiastes 4.  It will be the third action that we need to apply in our lives as we encourage men in their walk with Christ – the action of watchcare.

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

Are Your Eyes Dry?

This week I am studying Psalm 51 in preparation for the class I teach on SundayPsalm 51 mornings.  If you read your Bible you will recognize this is a prayer for restoration.  A prayer that King David uttered to God after the prophet Nathan confronted him with his adulterous sin with Bathsheba and his murderous plot regarding her husband Uriah.

Though we may not have committed adultery or murdered someone, we all can say at some point in our lives we have had lustful thoughts and thoughts of anger.  Jesus told us that if we have lust in our hearts then it was as good as adultery (Matt. 5:27-28) and if we spoke and acted in anger toward someone, we have as good as murdered them (Matt. 5: 21-22).

This psalm should be a reminder to all of us that we need to  pray the prayer of Psalm 51 from time to time.  Asking God to have abundant compassion on us.  To blot out our rebellion and completely wash our guilt away and cleanse us from our sin.  Though those of us who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ who gave himself to die on the cross for our sins; who rose on the third day and has now ascended into the heavens and is sitting on the right hand of God; have been washed in the blood of the lamb and He, God the Father, will remember our sins not more; we still need to remind ourselves of our wickedness and that we need God to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

For as the scripture teach us, none of us is good nor are we righteous (Rom. 3:10).  We need God to wash us clean, whiter than snow, to create in us a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit.  For no matter who we are we will from time to time lose our way and need to be drawn back into the presence of our God.  We need to have the joy of our salvation restored.

This week I did something I have not done in many years.

Keith Green
Click on the picture to listen to My Eyes Are Dry

I pulled out my guitar to fiddle with a little and I came across a song I use to sing when I was younger.  It was written by Keith Green, considered one of the early founders of the contemporary Christian music movement.  The song’s title is My Eyes Are Dry.  The lyrics to the song is written below and you can click on his picture to listen to the song on YouTube.

It is a song of restoration and a song that has ministered to me many times when I was younger and did today has I remembered the song and sung it.

Sometimes my eyes become dry as I lose my compassion for people who are hurting.  My heart becomes hard and I need it to be softened.  Sometimes my prayers become cold as we go though the motions and repeat the same old prayer day in and day out and we do not allow God to speak directly into our lives.  We need the Word of God and the Holy Spirit as God speaks to us through His Word.  Our eyes need to be wet from the tears as we feel compassion to those who are suffering.  We need our hearts to be soften.  We need are prayers to become alive in conversation to the Father.  We need to be washed anew in the wine of the blood of Christ.  We need God to create in us a clean heart, a steadfast spirit, restoring the joy of our salvation.  We need God to open our mouths so we can declare his praise, to sacrifice to Him a broken spirit for He will not despise a broken and humbled heart.

I ask you to examine yourself.  This is biblical as Lamentations 3:40 tell us;

Examine and probe our ways, and turn back to the Lord.

You may find yourself in a place that you need to say this prayer of Psalm 51, sing this song My Eyes Are Dry as you worship and praise God.  I pray that God will capture your heart once again if you have allowed your eyes to become dry, your faith to become old, your heart to become hard, or if your prayers have become cold.  Let yourself be washed anew in the wine of His blood.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

Lyrics to My Eyes Are Dry.

My eyes are dry
My faith is old
My heart is hard
My prayers are cold
And I know how I ought to be
Alive to you and dead to me
But what can be done for an old heart like mine
Soften it up with oil and wine
The oil is You
Your Spirit of love
Please wash me anew in the wine of your blood.

 

 

Ministering to Men is More Than Having Events.

If you are having events for your men just to be having events – Stop It!

men-playingThat probably got someone’s attention.  Now let me explain.  I am not suggesting for you to not have events for your men, in fact I would encourage it.  But don’t have events just to be having events.  Use those events to help your men to take the next right step in their spiritual growth.  Use it to promote a deeper study into the Word of God, to join a small group with other men to share what you are learning from your reading of the Word.  Maybe even use it to encourage men to join couples classes many churches have to encourage growth in God as a couple.

In an earlier post I stated that a life verse of mine is 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).

Discipleship GroupThat is what ministering to men is all about, sharing the gospel and your own life with other men.  It is discipling men into a intimate and intentional relationship with Jesus Christ.

Use the events to allow men who are in a small group or a discipleship group to share how this has benefited them in their spiritual growth.  Maybe have a time when you can let men experience a sample of what that is like by arranging men to gather in groups of three to four and praying together or sharing their thoughts on a topic that may have been discussed by a speaker.  Then do something I was taught and that is to have a prayer huddle.  2013-09-07-08-28-20What a great feeling that is as men gather together with their arms around each others shoulders much like we did when we played sports and spend time in prayer.  Use your events wisely.  Use them to speak into the man’s life – encouraging him.

I have developed an attitude that when I hear a team planning a men’s event, I always ask what are you going to do to help the men take the next right step.  Understand that all of the men will not take the step but no one will if you do not

Have your events, do some fun stuff but remember the goal is to share the gospel and to pour your life into those men.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

Are you Reaching the Young Men in Your Church?

lightstock_262190_small_krisIn my lifetime Ministering to Men have changed greatly.  In my early years as an adult most churches men’s ministry was about getting together and doing service work and having a social.  Today, as you look around those attending a men’s ministry event whether it is some type of spiritual gathering or a social gathering it is generally composed of older men.  Churches are having a hard time in reaching across generational boundaries.

Kris Dolberry, who leads Ministry to Men at LifeWay and serves as Executive Editor of Stand Firm, a daily devotional magazine for men, wrote an article called 5 Questions Your Church Must Answer To Reach Young Men.  

The article is very insightful and will help you to evaluate what your church may be doing to reach across those generational boundaries.  I encourage to read his article and share it with your team.  Click here or the title of his article above to read.

I’m not going to speak anymore about this in this post but allow Kris and his experience share his thoughts through his writings.  I would be very interested to hear what you thought as you read his article and what churches could do to reach all across generational boundaries.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike