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

 

 

 

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

 

 

Men’s Ministry: Program or Ministry

When a church has a formalized Men’s Ministry is it really a ministry or is it just a program in the church?  Do you look at your Men’s Ministry as a program or a ministry?  How can you tell the difference?

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This is something I struggled with when I first started working in men’s ministry: which by the way, I like to refer to it these days as ministry to men.  Early in my ministry, men’s ministry to me was centered around events such as men conferences, golf outings, fishing trips, trips to sporting events, etc.  I saw it as a time for men to get together just to fellowship and have a good time without all the amenities the world thinks you must have for a good time.

As I continued to immerse myself in books about ministering to men while developing a network with other men who have a passion – a burden – for men, I began to realize there was more to ministering to men than just coordinating events.  I realized that by just having events, technically you only have a program.  A coordinator with possibly help from others to plan and carry-out a fun time.  In reality, a social club.

Now let me make it perfectly clear, there is nothing wrong with having events – in fact, I encourage them.  Events have their place in ministering to men.  They do help to develop relationships and for men to connect with other men in the church.  However, to have a ministry there has to be more.

Jesus told us to “Go… and make disciples” (Matt. 20:19).  Ecclesiastes 4:9 tells us that “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.”   Proverbs 27:17, the scripture verse that many men’s ministries use, states that, “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.”  But the scripture we need to make as a part of our life to impact other men is 1 Thessalonians 2:8, “We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.”

praying-with-menI realized that to really have a ministry to men you must pour your life into other men and encourage men to do the same with the men in their lives.  To have a ministry you need to develop a discipling ministry that focuses on the men.  Teaching them how to be the men that God has called them to be.  Teaching them to be the husbands, dads, a co-worker, or a friend that God expects them to be.  Helping them to dive into the Word of God, getting to know God – His attitude and characteristics – in an intentional and intimate manner.

You see, if you are just planning events without giving the men an opportunity to take the next right step to develop a deeper relationship with God, then you just have a program.  If you are giving them that next right step to grow spiritually and teaching them how to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1) then you have a ministry.

I pray that your ministry to men is just that – a ministry and not a program or social club.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

Men Gatherings – Something to Think About

Men like to get together and fellowship.  Often it can be at some meal, or it can be during a planned fishing or hunting trip.  Maybe get together to attend a local or regional sporting event.  Generally we get together just to have fun and enjoy each other’s company.  Swap stories about the big one that got away or when one of our children made the big play.  We just enjoy telling stories about our adventures.  I get together with a few men each month just to fellowship; laugh at each other and learn about each others lives.  It is a great time and I thoroughly enjoy the times we have.

But I was wondering; how many times have Discipleship Groupwe done that and not realize the great opportunity we have in these gatherings.  Not just the one I attend but all those that are held each month – each week – by men everywhere.  Opportunities for us to share life with someone who needs encouragement and support.  Maybe someone who doesn’t know Christ.  What do I mean?

Well, ever thought about inviting someone to to attend one of those gatherings that may have a similar interest; such as, hunting, fishing, sports, or just a meal gathering.  Ever thought that you could use that time to get to know someone and possibly share the gospel with them through your life.  I don’t mean to preach – I mean just living your life and maybe if the opportunity presents itself to share what God has done in your life.  Let them see God through you and in you.

Maybe the next time you have a group of men gathering for a meal you invite someone to attend with you.  Or buy an extra ticket to a sporting event and invite another man to attend with you.  Next time you head out to fish or hunt, think of someone who enjoys the activity and invite them along.

Who knows… maybe God will use those opportunities to reach into someone’s life and change them forever.

Together in the adventure and challenge to disciple men – Mike