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

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

A Spiritual Happy Man Is in A Small Group

As we continue on the habits of a spiritual happy man let’s review the premise we established last month.  ‘The strength of a church is not proportionally related to the strength of its programs or ministries; not related to the number of members or people attending; not related to the popularity of the pastor or his ability to expand and deliver the Word of God; but, of the spiritual strength of each man who is in the church.’

Today we are going to look at the habit of men being in small groups.  Why do leaders make such a fuss to get men in small groups?  What do they see, that wants men – you – in a small group?

Man StruggleMen tend to be isolationists; we like to live our lives in isolation.  Yes, we get together and have a good time; but, when it comes to day-to-day struggles, we tend to try and work it out for ourselves.  When women have problems or concerns they move toward relationships – when men have problems or concerns they tend to move towards isolation.  We have been wired and trained from the earliest of age to believe that if we cannot deal with our own problems it is a sign of weakness.  And you know what, the Devil knows this.

Scripture tells us that “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”, (1 Peter 5:8).  Noticed that I underlined “someone.”  The scriptures does not say a group of people but someone, a person who is alone.  Lions attack sick, young, or straggling animals; they choose victims who are alone or not alert.  Peter warns us to watch out for Satan when we are suffering or struggling with an issue.  If you are feeling alone, weak, helpless, and cut off from other believers, or if you are so focused on your troubles that you forget to watch for danger, those are the times when you are especially vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.  During times of suffering, we need to seek Christian brothers for support.  Satan understands the value of isolation and attacking those by themselves.

Oftentimes you will see men who are always acting as if everything is great, fine, perfect.  We ask each other how are you doing and we answer with, “Everything is great, couldn’t be better.”  But deep down we know that we are struggling as we are seek answers and we are at a lost on what to do.

Jesus built a small group when he chose those twelve men to walk alongside him; men who he poured his life into for three years.  He started the mindset of a small group and the purpose of the small group.  So, we see that God in is His infinite wisdom recognized that He has more options to help you when you are in a small group.  Think about it – when you are isolated, who has more options?  The Devil, a predator like a lion seeking to devour you.

Discipleship GroupSo, you ask what can a small group do for me?  Well, we can start with scripture.  Paul wrote to the Galatians, Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.  Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ,” (Gal. 6:1-2).  No brother in Christ should ever think that he is totally independent and does not need help from others, and no one should feel excused from the task of helping others.

Solomon in his wisdom wrote, Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!,” (Ecc. 4:9-10).  Then in verse 12 Solomon wrote, And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand hima threefold cord is not quickly broken.”  Men we need each other.  Notice in verse 12 Solomon said “a man might prevail.”  This does not mean he will.  It just means he might win some battles; but, he will not win them all, or even close.  Men, as all humans, are built and designed for companionship, not isolation, for relationships, not loneliness.  We are not here on earth to serve ourselves; but, to serve God and others.  Don’t isolate yourself and try to go it alone.  Seek companions; seek a small group.

Hebrews 10:24-25, let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  Yes, I know that we typically use this scripture to encourage the saints to gather together for worship on Sunday mornings.  But the scripture does not really differentiate the difference of Sunday mornings or just gathering together.  Look what the writer says, “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” and “encouraging one another.”

courageous-movie-men-praying-7Let me share one more scripture that is very familiar in ministries to men, Proverbs 27:17; oftentimes we use this verse, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  There is truth here, but the only way this can be applied in our lives is to spend time with other men.  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.

So, what makes a really good small group for men?  Two or more men who want to walk more closely with God (I recommend groups of no more than four to five for accountability purposes), a leader who is passionate for his men and prays for them regularly; and a respect for the process of relationships.  In other words, kind of like the Vegas slogan, “What is said here, stays here!”

Let me encourage you, if you do not have such men in your life; find one or a group of men.  You will be blessed to have such men 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.”  The only way this can happen is 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.  To put on that whole armor of God that Paul speaks of in Ephesians Chapter 6.

We need men who will stand shoulder to shoulder with us every day.  When you see pictures depicting ancient times with men readying for battle, how are those men standing in formation?  Or if you watch movies such as Troy, or Braveheart as the men are getting ready to charge, how are those men standing?  Shoulder to Shoulder.

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?  Will you let other men pour their lives into you?  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 – men within your church and men outside your church.  Developing relationships that will sharpen each of us to be the man God desires for us all and imparting the Gospel of God into each other’s lives.