Losing the Church
By Brett Clemmer
We’ve talked a bit about the opportunity facing men’s leaders today. Many men need the gospel and the church now more than ever.
There is anecdotal evidence that some churches’ online services have reached many more viewers weekly than their services ever did. Some men’s groups (including our own Orlando-based Bible Study groups) have reported to us that their numbers grew on Zoom meetings, with guys who could only make it occasionally being more regular as the logistics have become easier.
While these reports are encouraging, there is an inherent danger right now that is equally present. Some men who have been distant from fellowship and community for three to four months are growing comfortable in that isolation.As the habits of regular attendance have been broken, and accountability is virtually non-existent for online church “attendance,” the risk is that men who adjust to this new normal will be gone for good.Click To Tweet
Is there a pent-up desire to return to worshiping at a physical church building with other believers? Probably—for those who were faithful, engaged, and invested. But for those on the fringes of the life of the church—for those whose faith was nominal, or whose church attendance was a mere routine of life—they have now seen what it’s like to not be a part of a church. And frankly, for those on the fringe, they are asking the question: “Is the inconvenience of church really worth it?”
I know, some of you are aghast! Inconvenience???
But church is inconvenient for those on the periphery. If you are not engaged in meaningful relationships, if you are not hungry to grow spiritually, if you do not have a bigger picture of the impact of God’s people in the world—in short, if you are not a growing disciple—then church is another day of work, albeit a different kind of work. You have to be there on time, dress a certain way, and talk a certain way. Most of your interactions are polite at best. The parking lot can be a pain, and the standing, sitting, singing, and teaching is more tolerated—out of some vague sense of obligation or to keep the family peace—than desired.
If this were true for you, would you go back? In the absence of authentic connections, a sense of mission, or a challenge, it’s not hard to imagine how sleeping in or playing golf could take priority.
Bad habits are easy to start and tough to break.
If I sound like I’m sounding the alarm, let me make it clear, I AM SOUNDING THE ALARM! Many men are out there floating, enjoying a new weekend routine, getting accustomed to not talking to other Christians regularly, and distracted by the new realities of working from home, shopping in a mask, and watching the social crisis unfold on their TVs and phones. Their lives are being consumed by new things.
We must interrupt this new habit-forming process. Men’s leaders need to be intentional about reaching out to men on the fringe. What might it look like if every man in your church had a mature Christian man who was reaching out to him regularly?
Plan to make this a reality in your church NOW.
If you don’t already have one, find or make a list of every man in your church. Based on your best guess as a team, use a rating system for their connectedness (prior to church closing) to the church body: 1 for those with little or no connection; 2 for those with some, but not much connection; 3 for men who are very involved; and 4 for leaders.
Create a plan for how you will engage the 1s and 2s, those men at the highest risk for not returning to church. Enlist the help of the 4s, and maybe even some of the 3s. The plan might be something like:
- Start a men’s Facebook group for your church and invite all the guys to participate. Use it to communicate regularly, collect prayer requests, give updates, post conversation-starters throughout the week, discuss the sermons, etc. If you attend a large church, you may find it more conducive to start more than one group.
- Start or strengthen men’s small groups that are meeting on Zoom or gathering safely (for example, meeting outside, staying socially distanced and/or masked, each person bringing his own food, etc.). Make it a goal to get every single man connected in a virtual or live group and pursue them diligently. *
- Start small prayer groups via text. Get a leader to invite a small group of guys onto the group text. Send a reminder out weekly. Share some encouragement. Call those who express issues that need to be discussed more deeply.
- Partner guys in crisis—those with marriage trouble, the newly-unemployed, those with physical or mental health challenges, etc.— with a spiritually-mature man who will stay in touch with them, daily if necessary, and pass along any crisis information to the pastoral team for follow up.
*If you don’t currently have any small groups or studies in place, we recommend a list of Man in the Mirror resources at the end of this article that you can start using right away.
Once you have prioritized the 1s and 2s, take some time to review the 3s and 4s. Have any of those men disappeared?
Leaders and men who were heavily involved in the life of the church are not immune to the difficulties Christians are experiencing right now. They may be struggling with anxiety, depression, isolation, or feeling overwhelmed. Commit yourself to this truth: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). Who can you be a brother to right now? Reach out to him personally within the next week.
One of our Man in the Mirror team members shared that at home, they were excitedly gathering to watch online services, preparing their own communion, worshiping, and staying connected to the body… for the first four weeks. Soon, however, it got easier and easier to put it off, disengage, and before they knew it, they were five weeks behind in the current teaching series and dreading the restart of children’s church, where they were used to volunteering.
Even this couple who’d been in a small group, active in service, and regularly attending weekend services was finding it hard to not slip into a new normal that didn’t include church. It is going to take discipline for them to re-prioritize discipleship and community.
Like this team member, there are men in your ministry who are exhausted from working from home, keeping the kids engaged, and keeping all the plates spinning for the last three months; the very real risk is that church will be the plate that feels easiest to drop. Be there for those men.
If that resonates with you on a different level—if you feel YOU are slipping away—then engage. Resist the urge to withdraw. Reach out to a few men today. Ask them to pray with you. Invite them to start a group study.THE BIG IDEA: Even if you can’t or aren’t gathering in the church building, don’t let men lose their connection to the church body.Click To Tweet
“And 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.” – Hebrews 10:24-25
Recommended Small-Group Resources You Can Begin Using This Week
GO: Journey to Biblical Manhood. This four-week video study is ideal for all men, and it includes downloadable workbooks with discussion questions and daily devotions that men can do in between weekly meetings. Topics include relationships, grace, the fight to be independent, guarding against temptation, and more.
The Christian Man. This book by Patrick Morley is available for less than $3 each in our Books by the Box program. Each chapter includes discussion questions, and corresponding videos are available for free. There is also a companion workbook designed for one-on-one mentoring called The Coaching Guide that can be completed in pairs. Topics include marriage, fathering, friendship, work, culture, life balance, and more.
Man Alive. This book study, applicable to all men, has resonated especially with hurting men and men on the fringe. It consists of eight chapters, focused on seven felt needs that men experience, such as the need to feel like he doesn’t have to do life alone, and the need to break free from destructive behaviors.
The Man in the Mirror Bible Study. These video-based Bible study series are available for free online and include downloadable handouts with discussion questions.
How God Makes Men. This 10-chapter book study takes a look at 10 men from the Bible, including Joseph, David, Job, and Peter, and explores key principles we can apply to our own lives. Topics include suffering, surrender, outreach, correction, and more. How God Makes Men is available for less than $3 each in our Books by the Box program.
Rewired. This six-week study on the book of Galatians is designed to be entry-level for men and get them into discussion about moving from performance to passionate faith. Each week includes a key verse, a passage from Scripture, an exercise, and discussion questions.
The Playbook: A Game Plan for Every Season. This short, six-week study helps men explore both the challenges and the opportunities God has for you in every season of life, whether in a time of success, crisis, reflection, renewal, or suffering. Each week includes a key verse, a reading passage, reflection questions and short exercises to complete on your own, and discussion questions to complete as a group.
Rock Solid Men: Strong Foundations. This entry-level, six-week study explores 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, as well as introduces the spiritual disciplines. Each week includes a reading passage, a key verse, discussion questions, and a Rock Solid Challenge centered around one of the disciplines.
Dads That Make a Difference. This six-week study examines the biblical basis of fathering and equips men with practical wisdom about how to provide children with an enhanced sense of protection, identity, and confidence, while pointing their hearts to Christ.