Built to Last: Discipling Men in Your Church
For most men, only in the local church will they find consistent opportunities to grow in their faith in relationship with others. Is your ministry ready for them? Here are three sustainability principles for discipling men in your church.
By the Man in the Mirror Team
In the 90s, almost unimaginable numbers of men were attending Promise Keepers stadium rallies. Promise Keepers created a new Christian culture among men. These events responded in a culturally relevant way to men who knew there must be more to their Christian faith. Many men felt supernaturally transformed by attending a single stadium event. It was truly a unique work of the Holy Spirit.
The difficulty with all mountain-top experiences, of course, is that you must return to the valley.
But the descent from the mountain top to daily life isn’t a disappointment to avoid. Rather, the movement of men’s discipleship from the mountain-top experience to the halls of the local church, at tables in coffee shops, and in living rooms with neighbors is a necessary paradigm shift.
The local church community is the best place in which to sustain men’s ministry for the long term. Why? Because for most men, only there will they find consistent, dependable opportunities to grow in their faith in relationship with others.
So how can you make sure your ministry is built to last? Here are three principles that can help your church sustain a disciple-making ministry to men.The movement of men’s discipleship from the mountain-top experience to the halls of the local church, at tables in coffee shops, and in living rooms with neighbors is a necessary paradigm shift.Click To Tweet
Meet Men Where They Are
Men need to be reached where they are spiritually. Are the opportunities you’re making available for discipling men in your church giving them what they need in the context of what they want?
A man who has little spiritual interest won’t be interested in a 40-week Bible study, and a mature Christian needs more than a softball team and Super Bowl party. A man who just lost his job or a loved one needs comfort—not teaching or fun activities.
Use these five categories to think about the men you are trying to reach:
- Natural men. Men with little or no spiritual interest. They come when they have to—for holidays, weddings and funerals—or because they are keeping the peace with their wife.
- Cultural Christians. These are men with one foot inside and one foot outside the church. Perhaps they grew up in the church and church is just a part of their weekly routine, so they go through the motions. Or maybe church provides a social gathering place or gives them a place to ensure their kids get some moral instruction. They are present, but not engaged or interested in spiritual growth.
- Biblical Christians. These men are disciples of Jesus or want to be. They are interested in spiritual growth and want to lead their families well. These men are the ones who join small groups and classes, and often serve throughout the church. These are the easiest men to reach because they want to grow in their faith.
- Servant leaders. These men are actively engaged in helping others grow in their faith. They are a subset of your Biblical Christians, more advanced in their faith and looking for opportunities to serve, teach, mentor, and lead.
- Hurting men. This is a subset of the previous four groups. These men are experiencing an acute or ongoing crisis or need that must be addressed so that they can continue on their spiritual journey. Whether they are struggling with an addiction, grieving, financially burdened, or facing a health or marriage crisis, the gospel can be brought to bear in a meaningful way as it informs our love and care for them.
For the church to be successful in serving all men, the opportunities for connection and learning must address the varied needs of men in all five of these groups—while helping them grow in their faith.
Care About the Dones and Nones
Last week, a Man in the Mirror team member learned a childhood friend had been found dead of a heroin overdose; he was 35 years old.
“I was thinking on my drive into work this morning,” she said, “maybe there is a church a half mile from his house that had a thriving men’s ministry. But what good is it to him if no one there goes and gets him?”
We don’t want to help you build a better clubhouse for your men; we want to help you disciple them so that they are transformed by Christ and want to go get others.
Patrick Morley writes:
It seems fair to suggest the church today is prevalent but not powerful. Spiritual obesity has become a crisis. There are so many spiritual overeaters who have been gorging on good teaching for years, but they haven’t been following the Jesus way of discipling others as they have been discipled. Of course, disciples not making disciples is an oxymoron. But nevertheless, in my opinion it is the chief problem holding back churches from being faithful to their mission. It is also the chief opportunity. The reality is that most of us don’t need more food; we need more exercise.
Are you focused solely on feeding men, or are you also challenging them to exercise?
Do your men believe that they can and are called to make a difference in the lives of other men?
Are you encouraging them to engage in a personal ministry where they can serve out of the overflow of their relationship with Christ and their brothers?Spiritual obesity has become a crisis. Most of us don’t need more food; we need more exercise.Click To Tweet
As the number of those who identify as “nones” (no religious affiliation) or “dones” (those who have left the church or their faith altogether) increase—particularly among men in their 20s and 30s—the church’s love and concern for these men should also increase, with disciples determined to go to them and build relationships.
Stay Focused on the Best Goal
In the life of a busy local church, a lot of work needs done. There are baptisms, funerals, Sunday school classes, budget meetings, landscaping needs, nursery and childcare shifts, A/V requirements, hospital visits, youth group meetings, and more.
While these are all good and necessary things, competing priorities often leave leaders feeling pressured, discouraged, overwhelmed, or ineffective. Unintentionally, we may start trying to make more workers instead of disciples.
Keep your eyes on what matters most. Here are some tips to help you:
1. Long Term, Low Pressure. It takes a long time to make a disciple. We must give men permission to stand around the rim of what we are doing and observe. Men come along at different speeds. Allow them to “buy in” at their own pace, and at their own level of involvement.
When you’re focused on discipling men in your church, you may realize you care more about their spiritual growth than they do. Don’t get frustrated with them for this; as the leader, that’s how it’s supposed to be! Instead, encourage men and lift them up.
As Patrick Morley puts it: “If Ephesians 2:8-9 is correct that faith is a gift from God, then why badger a man to trust Jesus? There’s no need, and it doesn’t work anyway. Instead of pleading with him to become a Christian, plead with our God to give him the gift of faith, and then make yourself available for an intentional, spiritual friendship when grace starts moving his heart to long for the gift.”
2. Show Men Christ vs. Fix Their Behavior. A man at the weekly Bible study put his faith in Christ, but he was slow to let Christ influence some aspects of his behavior. Eventually, one leader suggested that the leadership team take him to lunch and confront him about it. But after some discussion, they agreed to focus on showing him Christ rather than his behavior. It was the right way forward.
We can point men to Christ, but the Holy Spirit must change their lives.
Brett Clemmer says it like this to men: “Don’t escape the cultural ‘rat race’ of the world just to get caught up in a spiritual one. You can trust the Holy Spirit to make you more like Christ.”
Christianity is not about behavior modification; it’s about heart transformation. Keep showing the men in your ministry Christ through example, Scripture, and sound teaching. Let Him transform them from the inside out.
3. Relationship-Based vs. Task-Oriented. The foundation of effective ministry is building relationships. Without real and deep friendships, men will feel no sense of community with one another. If we only gather men together to “do” rather than “be,” there will be no glue to hold them together when the event or project ends. Events may attract men, but authentic relationships make them stick.The foundation of effective ministry is building relationships.Click To Tweet
The Metrics That Matter
As a leader, if you are focused on helping men get connected to God’s word and to other men, you are making a difference now and for eternity.
THE BIG IDEA: Be the place where all men can find opportunities to grow in their faith in relationship with others.
Measure the impact of your ministry not by the amount of work you get done or the number of men that show up for a meeting or an event. Rather, measure your impact in new relationships, engaged fathers, committed husbands, and changed lives.
Discipleship changes everything.