What follows is from a message that I shared this past Monday evening with a men’s ministry from another church. It was a real blessing to be with them and I’m grateful both to them and to God for the opportunity.
Make sure to check out two posts that I wrote, both related to the topic of ministry to men…
I once served a church that had the sweetest group of widows who would sit in the same section of the sanctuary during worship, week after week. These precious women were a great source of encouragement and fellowship to one another. Very often, after worship, they would have lunch together. They were inseparable. I was profoundly grateful that they had one another.
I was also profoundly shocked when I eventually learned that each one of these women was married. They weren’t widows at all! The truth was that their husbands would have nothing at all to do with the church.
Over the last 18 years of ministry I have seen the need for the church’s ministry to men. And… I’ve seen a lot of versions of what’s called, “Men’s Ministry” as an effort to meet those needs. Among these efforts are activities such as…
- A once-a-month Saturday morning pancake breakfast
- A once-a-month Monday evening spaghetti dinner
- Occasional service projects on the church property – fixing fences, raking yards, etc.
There is absolutely a place for these fellowship times together. No question about it. But that’s what they are: times of light, fairly superficial fellowship. What most of these sorts of events have in common, in my limited experience, are a very brief opening prayer or blessing, a shallow devotional, and lots of stories about the Korean War (which are usually much more interesting than the devotional).
Again, there is a place for these times together. There’s nothing inherently wrong with them. But let’s face it… these opportunities don’t necessarily produce growing disciples.
I believe that as a ministry of the church, Ministry to Men ought to be about the Great Commission: Making Disciples for Jesus Christ.
But more often than not, at least in United Methodist circles - (and other circles as well, from all that I’ve read) – men’s ministries often focus more on making worker-bees out of their men rather than making disciples.
Pat Morley tells the all too familiar (and depressing) story of his father’s experience. When Morley was young, his family joined a local church. His father was immediately enlisted to serve on committee after committee and became one of the church’s worker bees. After a number of years, according to Morley, his father burned out, left the church, not to return for a long, long time. I bet you know of similar stories from your experience.
Such a story reminds me of the words of Jesus in John 15. We are to abide in Christ and his words are to abide in us because apart from him we can nothing of significance for him or his Kingdom. Apart from him we have no energy and no stamina. Apart from him we don’t even have a reserve tank to keep us fueled.
I’ve been seeking to do intentional and focused ministry to men for almost 10 years now. I’ve also read everything I can get my hands on from folks that have been doing it longer than I have. There’s a lot of great wisdom out there.
But here’s what I finally figured out almost a decade ago (back to my earlier point): Men need to be discipled… weekly. (This isn’t a new law that I’m creating, but I do believe it’s an effective principle that I’ve learned from experience.) Morley came to the same conclusion. He realized that before men are “sent” to serve, they first need to be called and discipled. I would also add that the discipling process never ends, even when men are eventually encouraged to serve. (That’s the importance of the “abiding” principle from John 15.)
To be sure, there is a place for the pancakes, the spaghetti, the service projects, the campouts, singing Kumbaya, going to sporting events, and all the rest. But none of those can or should take the place of gathering together each week for the intentional discipling purpose of growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Just as a church that focuses on entertainment and activities will not produce deep disciples in Christ, neither will a ministry to men, as a ministry of that church.
Paul says in Romans 12:2…
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Our lives become transformed by renewing our minds.
Listen carefully to the words of Jesus in the Great Commission…
Matthew 28:19-20 – Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Where do you go to renew your mind? Where do you go to learn what Christ commanded so that we might obey and teach others to do the same? God’s Word.
There must be a priority of God’s Word in men’s ministry.
Stay tuned for part two of Ministry to Men: Some Reflections.