Be Thankful – Always!

Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise.  Give thanks to Him, bless His name. – Psalm 100:4

ThanksgivingThe Thanksgiving season is upon us.  Thursday, we will be celebrating this year’s Thanksgiving Day.  Families and friends will gather in homes and other places to enjoy a hearty meal, desserts, maybe watch football, or even play a game of football as a family.  My oldest grandson told me this weekend he was going to play football with his Dad’s family this weekend while visiting in Ohio.

But so often we enter this day as just another holiday and though we talk about this holiday being a day to be thankful, we oftentimes overlook what we are thankful for.  Yesterday while in church I heard the pastor state we shouldn’t be thankful only once a year; but, our lives should be lived as a Thanksliving.  Being thankful for what God has done for us every day all year long.

So, what am I thankful about?

First, my relationship with God.  The fact that He loved me so much that He gave His only begotten Son so that I could have eternal life and have it more abundantly.  That even in my depraved state, Jesus loved me to the point of death so that I can be saved.  Without Him and the relationship I have with Him, all those I mention below would not be possible.

I am thankful for my wife.  For over 41 years she has stood beside me and have been a blessing to me, in the good times and the bad.  We have worked through them together.  She has been a wonderful Mom to our two children, she has been an adopted mom to our in-law children and treat them as if they are her own.  And of course, she is a great Memom to our grandchildren.  Always having that right snack around the house.

I am thankful for my children.  They are a delight of my eyes and a joy to my heart.  They too have blessed me beyond measure.  I have been blessed that they have stayed in the area and I can see them often.  I know many parents do not have that luxury and I am grateful that God has seen to it they have been able to stay close by.  And I am thankful for the ones God placed in my children’s path to marry.  My in-law children are as much a part of my family as my own children and I like to think of them as my own.

Proverbs tells us that “Grandchildren are the crown of the elderly” (Pro. 17:6).  Or as some translations say, “of the age” or “old men.”  I don’t consider myself none of those yet, but my grandchildren are a crown.  One of the most enjoyable times in my life now is my grandchildren climbing in my lap to share Peanut M&Ms or to watch, as one calls it, “Kirock.”  For those that don’t understand the language, that stands for Coyote of Roadrunner and Coyote.  What a joy it is to watch them grow.

I am thankful for my extended family, my brother who has been a support to me in so many ways after our Dad died when I was 14 years old.  Offering me wisdom though I didn’t listen to him when I was much younger.  A sister who died quite some time ago, who while I was growing up, always showed her love to me.  My in-laws, Joanne’s family, as they have been like brothers and a sister to me.  Joanne’s Mom as she has treated me as one of her own.

Thankful of the many friends I have, too many to count or mention individually.  Scripture tell us “the sweetness of a friend is better than self-counsel” (Prov. 27:9).  Thankful for my church family.  Thankful for my partners in ministry throughout the state of North Carolina and the nation (you know who you are).

To have all the family and friends and knowing my Savior Jesus Christ that I am thankful for would not have been possible if it had not been for my Mom and Dad, who both many years ago, have gone to be with the Lord.  Who made sure the first time I went to church was nine months before I was born.  They made sure I was in church regularly hearing the Word of God.  To that I am very grateful because all the others that I mentioned above may not have been possible.

Thank you to all of you who have been an inspiration and an encouragement to me throughout my life.

To the adventure and challenge to disciple men – Mike.

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 2

What Discipling Is Not?

In my last post, I posed a couple of questions to you; ‘What is discipling?’ and ‘What is not discipling?’  In this post, we are going to discuss what discipling is not or as I like to call it these days, disciple making.

2013-09-07 08.28.45Basically, disciple making is not participating in large study groups where one person speaks and others listen.  It is not attending various men’s conferences or even attending an activity designed for men to gather and fellowship.  Disciple making is not necessarily exhibited with a group of men gathering to read a book and then talk about it; this is a book reading club.  All of these are good and can be beneficial; but, they are not necessarily disciple making and rarely fosters a discipling relationship.

Those Sunday School classes we attend each week is not a sufficient metric to gage discipling either.  Jeff Christopherson, North American Mission Board’s Vice-President of the Send Network, in his article What Discipleship is Not states;

Small group involvement as a single discipleship metric is a mistake.  You are making a lot of assumptions when you say that someone is growing because she (he) is going to a small group.  This can be a faulty accusation because of three pivotal reasons.  The first is that the small group may not be good at making disciples.  The second is that you are assuming that the person connects with the small group.  And third, you have to take into the account the people who will not attend a small group for various reasons.

Another defective metric of disciple making is measuring one’s ability to be fluent in Bible-speak or has a good grasp or understanding of theology.  Christopherson, in the same article mentioned above states;

Jesus agreed about the importance of accurate beliefs and truth.  “…For if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”  But how is the truth setting the disciples you are making free?” (John 8:32).  Truth was never meant to be an end in itself, but truth applied to the life of a disciple has an amazing transformational affect.

A healthy diet of biblical preaching and Bible study is important to build healthy believers.  But strong interpersonal coaching and accountability are also critical to help disciples hear God and live out what they are learning.  After all, discipleship is living daily with Jesus.

Discipleship GroupI hear individuals talk about being in a discipling group and they are studying theology, I would caution one on doing this unless the individuals involved decides as a group to delve deeper into theology.  Oswald Chambers in his book, My Utmost for His Highest, states that;

It is possible to know all about doctrine and yet not know Jesus.  The soul is in danger when knowledge of doctrine outsteps intimate touch with Jesus.

A mentor of mine once told me, “Don’t let your theology get in the way of your disciple making.”

Mary Magdalene of whom Jesus exorcised seven demons out of her (Luke 8:2) in all likelihood would not have been able to debate even the least of the Pharisees on doctrine; however, she knew Jesus’ voice.  When Jesus rose from the grave Mary was distraught as she thought someone had stolen His body and didn’t know where they may have laid Him.  But Jesus called her name, “Mary,” and immediately she knew it was Jesus because she ‘knew’ Him.  It wasn’t a result of theological studies, book reads, attending conferences; but, it was because she had an intentional relationship with Jesus.  She knew His voice.

In these groups, many will come away with a better understanding of the Word of God, full of head knowledge but will not understand how to apply God’s Word into their lives.  Very few of these groups I have found do not allow one to pour their lives into another.  We must understand that disciple making is not a program, it is a ministry.  Every person will respond differently and you must be willing to allow your disciple making ministry to be flexible to meet the needs of the individual you are discipling.  Here’s a better way to think of it-in a more organic way, similar to the process Jesus used.  When God puts someone in your path who is stuck, discipleship means finding out why and then helping them solve that problem.

Recently I heard a well noted speaker state that Jesus did not say study theology (though there is nothing wrong with that) or the tenets of Calvinism; Jesus said, “Follow Me” (Mark 1:17).  A review of the scriptures will show that Jesus spent a large majority of His time pouring his life into those men he chose to be in his inner circle teaching them and being an example to them.

Now I encourage individuals to be in a small group such as a Sunday School or Home Group Study.  I feel it is essential to gather with others to study God’s Word and to perform acts of service together.  I encourage men to attend Men Conferences.  I would even encourage you to study theology as you grow in Christ to help understand the God you serve.  But don’t confuse these as disciple-making.

Disciple MakingTo put it simply, disciple making means intentionally partnering with another Christian in order to help that person obey Jesus and grow in relationship with Him—so that he or she can then help others do the same.  And this is what we will look at in the next post,

Next Post:  What is Discipling Making?

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

What Is Discipling? – Part 1

Introduction

Today the buzzword in many churches is ‘discipleship.’  Churches are beginning to see the need and understand the importance of being in the process of discipling the people they connect with through their churches.  Though churches are generally looking at discipling young and old; men and women; youth, married, divorced, single professionals, and the list could go on; here, we will be talking about men, regardless of their age or marital status.

Financial BurdenNow, let’s be honest, with men, this is hard.  A man is a hard thing to reach.  Ministering to men is one of the hardest jobs in the church.  In the book No Man Left Behind, the authors states that ministering to men is like rocket science.  Getting men into discipling relationships is one of the hardest tasks you will undertake.  Some will jump at the chance.  Some will hear about it so much they will attend but will not truly commit to the time or group.  Some will just blow it off.  Some will say I am in a discipling relationship because I attend a Sunday School class or whatever you call your Sunday morning or home study groups.  Many will not understand what a discipling relationship looks like and much less, why they need to be involved in such a group.

Discipleship GroupSo often those who begin a ‘Discipling Group’ don’t fully understand where to start or what to do.  They hear the concept and get caught in the excitement and they decide to start a group.  There are groups where men come together to read spiritually related books and talk about them.  I hear of men meeting to study deeper into theology.  There are groups of men that gather together for breakfast or some other meal time for a time of fellowship.  My question though, ‘Are these really discipling groups?’  Though there is nothing wrong with any of these and I support each of them, I still must ask myself, ‘Is this really discipling?’

What do you think?  I would like to hear from you, ‘What is discipling? What is not discipling?’  In my next two posts, I will try and answer those questions.  This will of course be from my own study and personal experience; but, I would like to hear from you.  Either though the blog, my Facebook post or LinkedIn post.

There have been many books written and lessons taught on the subject.  But I would like to know what do you think?  Let me know.  Maybe I will include some of your thoughts – anonymously I might add – in my future posts

Next post:  What Discipling is Not.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

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

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