What Hurricane Florence Taught Me

Pic 003It has been a few months since my last article.  Hurricane Florence disrupted many lives in September and the disruption will continue for many months – possibly years – for many.  Immediately after the storm past I was asked to lead a NC Baptist on Mission Disaster Relief Operational Center (DROC).  I was honored to be asked to such a task and I oversaw the site at Scotts Hill for two months.  But this is not what the article is truly about as I learned a viable lesson on the need to have men who have your back.

During times of disaster rather it be a hurricane as was the case here, health issues, financial issues, relationship issues, or any number of other disasters that comes into our lives, we can easily lose focus on our relationship with God.  Many will say in those times I find myself being drawn closer – I understand that – but there are times because of the attention the disaster demands we can find ourselves neglecting our intimate and intentional time with the Father.  This was my case.

After a week of operating the site a pastor friend came by and asked how I was doing.  I shared with him I was finding it hard to find time to steal myself away to spend with the Father in the Word and prayer.  The day began early and by the end of the day I was tired and just ready to go to bed.  Then came my Got Your Back friends.

courageous-movie-men-praying-7These are four men who I meet with weekly to talk and pray together.  These men saw the struggle I was having and though we couldn’t meet at our regular place – one suggested we meet at the DROC location.  These men were life saviors in many ways.  A couple of them were able to volunteer some of their time to help during the week so they were walking by my side.  Others were praying and checking up on me during the week.  But every week we met for an hour at the DROC to just share and pray with each other.  They also got to see some of the challenges I was addressing at the site as I often talked with people who were hurting as a result of the hurricane.

I call them my Got Your Back friends because we had been studying Gary Yagel’s book ‘Got Your Back’ for the past several weeks before the hurricane hit.  We had began developing a bond with each other as we walked through this book and began spending time in prayer with each other.  Beginning to share some of our individual struggles in our lives.  These men were my life saviors in so many ways.  They help to keep me focused not only on the task at hand but also my relationship with God.

So often we can get caught up with what we are doing for God we tend to neglect time with the Father.  I lessoned it to a Dad who is spending so much time at work because he wants to provide for his family that he actually – without realizing it – begins to neglect his family and is at a lost when they leave.  Though we know the Father will never leave us – it will affect us in our relationship with him.  This is why we need men in our lives who will encourage and pray for and with us during our struggles.  Men who will challenge us when they see us veering from the path God has set before us.

Got Your BackMy ‘Got Your Back’ friends lived the example Solomon wrote about in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10; “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.  For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.”  It is good to have such friends – brothers in Christ – who are there to lift you up in your time of need.

If you do not have such friends, I encourage you to seek them out.  Gary Yagel’s book Got Your Back is a great book to work through with a few friends to understand this concept.  All of the men in this group I am a part of have shared they have greatly benefited from the teaching to understand why it is so important to have these kinds of men in your life.  After watching how this played out for me while working a DROC site just reiterated this even more.

My question to you is; “Do you have men in your life that has Got Your Back?”  If not, seek them out.  You may not think you need men like this; but, believe me – you do.

Together in the adventure and challenge to disciple men.

– Mike

Don’t be Afraid to Start Small

Disciple MakingI was recently asked, “What if only two men show up?”  My answer.  “Start with those two.”

When I first began to work in Men’s Ministry, which today I refer to as Ministering to Men – for that is what we are really doing – I was disappointed if 100 men didn’t show up for an event.  Especially for a church who had a membership of over 2000 with about 800-1000 men connected in some way with the church.  Many times, only 20-30 men would show up for monthly activities and often the numbers were even lower.  Even when we planned events that we thought would interest men; the Boomer generation was the primary group attending and not all of them were coming.  In addition, I could not understand why the younger men did not attend.  I felt as if I had failed.

But, as I began to study the culture and what men are looking for I began to realize the way we were doing men’s ministry was not working anymore.  What we had done for the past 30-40 years no longer works.  Today, men – especially younger men – are so much busier then they have ever been before.  Recognize that;

  • Many are working long hours to provide for their families and just don’t feel like attending anything after they leave their jobs for the day – week.
  • Their children are more involved in sports than ever before. Playing 3-4 sports, practices, and games every weekend doesn’t leave much time for family, down-time to rest, and especially time to go to another event or activity.

courageous-movie-men-praying-7Men leaders are finding it is easier for men to meet in small groups in places like coffee shops, at the gym, in their offices, at restaurants over a meal, maybe in someone’s home.  Places that seems to be outside the box and not what we in the past has considered the norm.  There are many resources available for groups like these and do not require much preparation.

In addition, when you keep men discipleship groups size down to about three to four you will find the bond between men will be even stronger and in turn it will strengthen the church.  Dr. Gary Yagel in his book Got Your Back, says “If the church has any hope of strengthening its men, it must get men into relationships with other men.  It cannot continue to largely ignore the need men have for connection.”  Remember, even though Jesus picked 12 men to pour his life into and sent them out to change the world, he pulled three of those men, Peter, James, and John, even closer; allowing them to see his glory, successes, and struggles in a different perspective.  He connected with those men in a totally different way than he did the rest of the disciples.

So, don’t be afraid to start small with just a few people in the group.  In fact, this group could be the catalyst to see more groups to start over time.  As these men begin to see the benefit and begin talking and sharing how God is using the group to help them grow, it will inspire other men to be part of a group.

I am currently meeting with a few men with the hope we will roll out to other men who will be led by the men in this group when the time is right.  The tendency for us is that we want to see tremendous results now.  But the reality is, it takes five to ten years to develop an effective ministry to men in the local church.  I realize most men don’t have the patience.  It took me a few years to realize it wasn’t me or that the men were not interested.  We just had to understand the problem and find a different approach.  So, keep at it.  God will reward your efforts.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

Be Intentional With Relationships

Rocket ScienceRemember when you taught someone how to perform a task and you would tell them, “This is not rocket science?”  Well, after working in men’s ministry, coordinating events for men, discipling men, facilitating men small groups, and meeting one on one with men, let me tell you – ministering to men IS ROCKET SCIENCE!  I don’t say that to discourage you put to let you know that I know the frustration many of you may have as you seek to get your men involved in the ministries designed to bring men into a deeper walk with Christ.

Recently I was talking to someone who had, a few weeks earlier, started a small group and I could tell in his voice there was a little frustration.  This was the first time he had ever attempted to lead a group of men.  I encouraged him to just be obedient to the calling God had placed on his life and let God do the work.  Continue to pour his life into these men, praying for them and being there for them.  Even if only one man shows up, that would be who God would want you to share life with at that moment.  Paul said it best to the people of Thessalonica when he wrote in his second letter to the Thessalonians, “Being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (2 Thess. 2:8).

Discipleship GroupSo often we think we need to have a deep bible study when we get our men together but sometimes we need to just do life and allow God to open the opportunities for us to share the gospel or a word of encouragement.  I meet with a group of men once a month to have breakfast just to talk and let them share what is happening in their life, getting to know them, and opening myself up to them; not really having any agenda.  There is another group I meet with once a week as we study through the disciplines of a godly man.  All for the purpose to develop relationships and to impact the Gospel of Christ in their lives by either just sharing life or speaking the Word directly into their life.

When I first began to work in Men’s Ministry I thought we had to have big events and get as many men to attend as possible.  My reasoning was if we had these events and if we could get men to attend, men’s lives would begin to change.  However, I quickly learned this is only a small piece of the puzzle.  There is nothing wrong with big events and they do have a place; but, these events should be used to begin connecting with men.  From these events you should always be looking for ways to encourage men to take the next step; to become involved in a intentional discipling relationship.

Working with men is all about developing those relationships for the purpose to disciple.  Even putting yourself out there to share some of your life’s successes and failures.  Men need to see you as being just as fallible as they are.  They need to see that you have overcome situations in your life and your trust is rooted in your relationship with Christ.  When men see you as one of them, then they will begin to open-up.  It doesn’t happen overnight – it takes time.

Often we use Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” in our respective men’s ministries.  There is truth here, but the only way this can be applied in our lives is to spend time with other men who have a passion to grow deeper in a relationship with God.  Other men, who we will give permission to challenge us when they see us missing the mark; holding us accountable in our walk with Christ.  This can only occur if we are intentional about developing discipling relationships.

Let me encourage you, if you do not have such a man in your life; find one.  You will be blessed to have that man who will challenge you, be a listening ear when you need to talk, and more importantly, pray for you.  “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  To have someone in your life that will sharpen you, to knock off those rough edges and smooth the edge so you can be ready to fight the battle that lays before us every day.

There is a battle for men’s souls happening all around us.  And we need men who will stand shoulder to shoulder with us every day.  Will you be a man who will stand shoulder to shoulder with another man in this battle?  Will you pour your life into other men?  Do you want to change families in your church?  Do you want to change your church to be more of an impact to your community?  Then start by sharing life with other men – the Gospel of Christ – developing intentional relationships that will sharpen each of us to be the man God desires for us all.

Together in the adventure and challenge to disciple men – Mike

 

Getting Men Involved in Men’s Ministry

20180407_135802[1]This past weekend I attended the North Carolina Baptist on Mission (NCBM) Mission Conference.  While there I assisted in leading breakout sessions on Men’s Ministry or Ministry to Men as I like to refer to it these days.

The attendees to the breakout sessions were asked to complete an information card with a couple of questions.  One of the questions was asking for their biggest struggle or challenge they faced in ministering to the men of their church.  The area most of the attendees stated their biggest challenge did not surprise me as this is what I often hear.  Their biggest challenge?  ‘How can we get more men involved including the younger men?’  This is a great question.

20180407_120229[1]This is a common issue with most churches who desire to have a vibrant ministry to men.  There are three areas that churches lack as they seek to reach the men of the church.  When I began in ministering to men a number of years ago my mentor share these with me and he regularly reminds me of them.  As I visit churches and talk with men’s leaders I see these ‘lack of actions’ in the majority of churches.  So, what are they?

  1. Lack of Intentionality. Failing to target the men of the church.  Many churches desire to have a ministry to men, but they do not target the men or think about how to involve the men in everything they do.  What does it mean to target men?  The pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church puts it this way, “We unashamedly target men in our church, in our messages, in our… well, almost everything.”  Statistics tells us that if you get the man, you get everyone else within his sphere of influence – especially his family.  With the younger men their lives have become so busy in this day they have very little time to attend another activity, so you have to think outside the box.  Which leads to the second point.
  2. Lack of Multiple Entry Points. Often, we think in terms of a Saturday Morning Breakfast, Tuesday Night Supper, or a Bible Study.  But what are you doing to reach the men whose children attend VBS, the church’s Pre-school, youth ministries, men who are involved in the Welcoming Team or ushering or singing in the choir.  Are you encouraging Sunday School Teachers or Home Groups Fellowships to develop something for the men attending?  I have heard of a Lead Usher using business cards to place a verse on one side and a few points about the verse on the other side.  He then gives these cards to the men helping the next Sunday, using the cards as a short devotion, then praying with the men before they begin the morning.  Just five minutes and he is ministering to men.  Or the Sunday School teacher that plans outings with just his men in the class developing relationships to disciple.  There are many ways to create entry points for men to be ministered though the various ministries of the church, we just need to look beyond what we have considered the normal venue for ministering to men.  Which to do this takes us to the next point.
  3. Knowing Your Players. My mentor was a basketball coach for many years thereby using this term.  But you understand what I am saying.  Get to know your men.  Not all men will be drawn to a particular event or study but maybe if it is something they are interested in they will come.  You know the famous line from the movie Field of Dreams, “Build it and they will come.”  Conduct a survey with the men of your church.  Go to baptistsonmission.org/Church-Programs/Men-s-Ministry/Resources-and-Events for a ‘Simple Interest Men’s Survey.’  Or use it to create your own.  Just don’t make it too complex.  Then use the information from the surveys to get to Know Your Players and then create opportunities for Entry Points for your men.

There you are, the three common lack of actions most every church is not doing.  When you get your ministry team together begin thinking in these terms.  As you put these actions in play I believe you will begin to see more men involved, especially your younger men.

Together in the adventure and challenge to disciple men – Mike

Two Are Better Than One: Watching 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 previous posts we have looked at verse 9 encouraging men to work together; and verse 10, encouraging men to walk together.   This post we will look at verse 12 that gives an indication of our third action and that is men ought to be watching together or in the action of watchcare.  Watching out for each other as we work and walk together in our daily activities and spiritual growth.

Verse 12 of Ecclesiastes 4 states;

12if someone overpowers one person, two can resist him.  A cord of three strands is not easily broken.

Back in the day when Solomon wrote this, it was dangerous to travel alone.  They traveled in groups for fellowship and safety.  We can say the same in today’s culture.  It is dangerous out there.  The enemy is lurking around, waiting for the opportunity to trip us up.  To cause us to fall into that pit spoken of in verse 10.  And if you do not have someone walking alongside of you and watching with you – you can end up being a statistic of another brother who fell in a pit with no one to help pull you out.

But if you have someone to walk along side of you that we can confide in and who can encourage us as we navigate this world, you will have a better chance to resist anything the enemy may try to overpower you with.

As I read the New Testament, I see men ministering alongside other men.  Jesus sent the disciples out in twos (Luke 10:1).  The apostles had each other.  Paul had Barnabas and then Silas.  Barnabas had Paul and then Mark.  Paul poured his life into Timothy.  If these men who we like to put on a pedestal as examples of Christ Followers had men walking alongside of them, watching with them and providing accountability for their actions, what makes us think that we men don’t need this today?

When we meet with men in our discipleship groups we need to ask hard questions and we should expect hard questions to be asked of us.  Questions such as; “Have you read the Bible this week?  What did you read and what did God reveal to you?  How were you tempted this week and how did you respond?  How is it going with your wife?  Do you feel you are in the center of God’s will for your life?  What are you struggling with in secret?  Are your priorities in the right order?  Is the ‘visible you’ the ‘real you’ and are you consistent in your relationships?”

Hard questions.  Asking the hard questions is an accountability tool but it is also men showing brotherly love to other men – watching out for each other to ensure we do not allow ourselves to step off into a lifestyle that will hinder our relationship with God and with others.

Do you ask hard questions to the men you have relationships with?  Do you allow men to ask you hard questions?  If we are serious about sharpening each other as iron sharpens iron, then we will allow these questions to be asked.  We will allow other men to ‘call us out’ when we are moving in a direction with our life that will hinder our walk with God and our relationship with others.

The interesting idea about verse twelve is the use of a cord or rope.  As twine is woven to make a cord it becomes stronger as each twine is woven around and through another.  The more twine woven the stronger the cord becomes.  Thereby the verse says two may be able resist; but, three is not easily broken.

So, I encourage men to look for men who will ask these questions and others as necessary.  You will be amazed how this will help you to stay true to God’s word if you are honest with your answers.  Get in a group of two to three guys that holds you accountable and provide a watch care for you.

Next post will be the conclusion of this series.

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

 

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.

 

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.