Two Are Better Than One: Working Together

Two are better than oneIn my previous post I shared that many Men’s Ministries use Proverb 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (ESV) as their scripture verse for the ministry.  Though this is true, we need to understand how this is done, how does one man sharpen another?  It is not done just because you attend church together, sitting next to each other in a church service or at a men’s conference.  We need to understand how to sharpen each other and I believe Ecclesiastes 4:9-10,12 helps us understand how men need to go about sharpening each other.  We read this from those verses;

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)

I have come to appreciate this text in Ecclesiastes more for what ministering to men should be all about.  In the previous post I shared there are three actions I see that we can glean from this text for us to apply in our lives to help us minister to men.

In this post we are going to look at the first of these actions which is working together.  Look at verse 9 again,

9Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.

In the New American Standard Bible, the last few words of this verse read, “good return for their labor.”  We see in this verse the attitude of working with another and not working alone.  As we work together we increase our output, our efficiency, our effectiveness in accomplishing the task we are about.

Working with others has advantages.  God designed us for companionship, not isolation and not loneliness.  We men sometimes prefer isolation.  I know I do.  I enjoy my time alone and to be perfectly honest with you, I like working alone.  I feel like I can get more accomplished when I am by myself.  But that is not really true.

Working together we not only have a good reward for our efforts; but, we also begin to develop relationships with those we are working with.  Working together gives us an opportunity to get to know the people God has place in our lives.  By getting to know these individuals, winning their trust, you will earn the privilege to speak into their lives as God leads.

Working together also helps us to recognize the work God is doing.  We have the joy of seeing God’s hand as He is transforming men into His image.  Those who are more mature in Christ can also be an example to those who are new in their walk.  They can provide encouragement.

A few months ago, I had the privilege to travel to Big Pines Key, Florida with about 15 others to help in the recovery effort from Hurricane Irma.  Though it was a blessing to help the people in Florida there was even an additional blessing to work alongside other men.  We walked into some sad and devastated areas that most would not know where to start.  But because there were men working together we encouraged each other and got right to work on the property and house we were assigned and within a few short hours had the property and the outside of the house cleaned up to allow reconstruction.

What we did in Florida was a massive undertaking, I know that, but there are tasks and mission opportunities in our communities that men need to be working together to encourage each other to complete.  To advance the kingdom of God and bring needed help to those in our communities that cannot do it on their own.  Sometimes just getting together to fellowship with each other over a meal, or watching a sporting event, or some other activity can go a long way to help create those relationships.

We see this throughout scripture.  Jesus sent the disciples out in twos.  The apostles worked together in at least groups of two.  Always ministering and supporting each other wherever they went.  This is the example men need to take and apply to their own lives.  Working alone can and will allow you to be an easy target for the enemy.  So do not do it wherever possible.

Men need to be building relationships, so they can be there when men need encouragement and together we can advance the kingdom of God by working alongside each other to help those who are in need.

Through work activities men can encourage and support other men who may be struggling and as you develop relationships with these men we move to the next action we see in this text.

Next time we will look at the second action we need to apply to our lives; Walking Together.

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

 

Two Are Better Than One

Two are better than oneWow!  We are in a New Year and already at the start of the second month.  Where does the time go?  Seems that we just start one new year and then Wham!, another is upon us.  This year is starting off with a bang.  Many of us has dealt with the flu or some other sickness during January.  The first two weeks of this year had me down as I ran a fever for eight straight days.  That will zap the strength right out of you and it takes a while to get your stamina back.  But I am back and ready to see what God is going to do in 2018.

Since I have been involved in ministering to men, I have had the opportunity to meet with men throughout Southeast North Carolina and across the state regularly.  There are many men who are doing great work for our Lord and growing daily in a relationship with God.  However, there are a large number of men who are struggling with life issues.

One of my struggles, according to my wife, is that she tells me that my filter is wearing out.  That sometimes I speak before I think about what I am going to say.  Well that may be true.  But, you know, I like being surprised just like everyone else.  I may make light of our struggles, but I am like every other man when I say that I too struggle with issues.

Over the next few posts I want to share with you how men in our churches can be impacting other men in their local body of believers.  How they can be an encourager and help men who are struggling with life issues.

When we ask most churches, what are they doing with their men or what does their Men’s Ministries consist of, we find that it is centered around gathering events or mission opportunities.  That is all well and good and I certainly encourage these activities; but, we need to understand that ministering to men is much more.  Many times, Men’s Ministries uses Proverb 27:17 as their scripture verse;

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (ESV).

Though Proverbs 27:17 is true, that one man does sharpens another, there is a text in Ecclesiastes I believe helps us to understand how men need to go about sharpening each other.  The text is found in Chapter 4 verses 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)

Read this text again.  Verse 9 and the beginning of verse 10 is a word of encouragement; but then, at the end of verse 10 we see a warning, “but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.”  Then verse 12 provides us another word of encouragement.

Over the last decade I have come to appreciate this text in Ecclesiastes more for what ministering to men should be all about.  The next several posts we will unpack this text and discuss the three actions I see for us to apply in our lives to help us minister to men we encounter.

I will give you a hint and tell you we will find it all deals with relationships.  Rather men want to admit it or not – men respond to ‘manly’ relationships.  As Tim, the Tool Man Taylor would say, “Auugghhh?”  Men are somewhat isolationist when it comes to their feelings; they rarely share their feelings, even to their wives.  And they certainly are not going to share with another man unless they know they can trust the individual completely.

Men, if they are left to their own devices, will run like water taking the path of lease resistance, even if it is wrong.  That’s why men need strong relationships in their lives.

Next time we will look at the first action we need to apply.

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

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

20171113_192303[1]

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