The Confidence to Care
Many men want to help others grow but aren’t sure how. Whether they feel unprepared or inadequate, the result is the same: they’re stuck. We’re helping them get unstuck, because when they get the confidence to care, lives change forever.
By the Man in the Mirror Team
At Man in the Mirror, we get the privilege of hearing men’ stories of how Christ has transformed them and the impact it’s had on everyone and everything around them.
What we notice is that more often than not, near the center of these stories are other, more mature men who came alongside them and led the way.
But we also hear from men who say they desire to help others grow but aren’t sure how or where to start. Whether they feel hesitant, unprepared, or inadequate, the end result is the same: they’re stuck.
We want to help them get unstuck. We know that when we help a man have the skills, resources, and confidence to care about another’s wellbeing and invest in him personally, both lives are changed forever.
A Time-Tested StrategyCould the power of the gospel be spread by men who are simply following Jesus and saying to others, “Come along with me and let’s follow Jesus together”?Click To Tweet
Revivals have happened in various ways throughout the history of the church. Sometimes they are brought on by persecution and dispersion, like in the book of Acts. Sometimes they start as small prayer groups that grow into a massive movement. Sometimes they start in tents or in stadiums as powerful preachers speak to crowds of unbelievers.
Could the next revival—the next Great Awakening—not start in the hearts of men who are right now, today, sitting in churches across the country, wondering how they can reach the next generation of men?
Could it be sparked by a movement of regular men, like us, who are looking around for another man to invest our lives in?
Could they then, in turn, do the same, as we invest in someone new?
Could the power of the gospel be spread by men who are simply following Jesus and saying to others, “Come along with me and let’s follow Jesus together”?
This is not a new strategy; it’s the one Jesus used 2,000 years ago. It’s the strategy that Elijah used with Elisha, and that Paul used with Timothy and Titus.
And it just might be easier than you think. It’s caring enough to invest in a younger man and live life with them.
The Power of Caring
Craig and Greg (pictured) are two men from our team of Man in the Mirror Area Directors in Arizona. These guys are out there every day supporting pastors and leaders and helping men grow in their faith.
But their shared passion and calling aren’t all they have in common. Both of these men know the devastation that comes from living as spiritual orphans—and the incredible freedom that comes from living as spiritual sons and fathers.
Here’s some of their story in their own words.
When I was a child, my parents sent my brothers and me to Sunday School. They literally dropped us off, never attending themselves, and then returned to pick us up. I remember feeling like it wasn’t even important enough for them to go with us, and so, when they left the decision up to me to continue going or not, I bolted. That was the extent of my experience with Christianity growing up.
The truth is I had a very tumultuous upbringing. As a teenager, I ran away from home twice. I remember how I, using the entrance key I had as the school photographer, was living out of my high school’s dark room.
As soon as I was of legal age, I left home a final time, vowing never to return. I was angry, prideful, and disillusioned. I started drinking heavily, even though I knew full well it wouldn’t ultimately satisfy my desire for purpose and meaning.
One day, while on a trip with my best friend Jeff, at age 19, I admitted to him the overwhelming emptiness I felt.
“Jeff,” I said, “I wish I had the kind of peace you have.”
He looked me straight in the eye and said, “You can,” and then proceeded to tell me how. That day, I heard the gospel for the first time. During the hours that followed, I repented of every sin I could think of, and asked Jesus to take over my chaotic life.
By 9:00 a.m. the following day, after driving 13 hours and 800 miles, I found myself standing in a church for the first time since I was a kid. That’s when my miracle of discipleship began.
A pastor named I. Carl Koons was waiting for me on the other side of the door in a tiny little Nazarene Church. We had never met, nor did I know the difference between a Nazarene Church or a Mormon Church! But God knew just what I needed.At 9:00 a.m. the following day, after driving 13 hours and 800 miles, my miracle of discipleship began.Click To Tweet
Pastor Koons loved me, accepted me, and believed in me. He taught me how to change the oil in my car, how to intentionally make good decisions as a young man, and how to worship God—not just with my head, but for real.
After two decades, I finally discovered how much God cared about me and others.
As Greg was being discipled by Pastor Koons, I was being introduced to Christianity. At five years old, I remember my parents became Christians. From then on, we went to church every Sunday.
But to me, it all seemed very performance and appearance based. I had no clear vision of who God is, and it didn’t feel like Christianity was “working” in our lives.
So as I got older and went into high school and then college, I didn’t want anything to do with church.
For me, after Pastor Koons, a second powerful discipleship influence came into my life when I was 40 years old—a man by the name of Richard Henry. Rich invited me to be a prayer partner, which turned out to be a long-standing weekly time together in his home. He taught me new biblical disciplines, as well as leadership principles.
Several years into this new season of growth, I felt unmistakably called and made the decision to pursue vocational pastoral ministry. Enrolling in seminary at the ripe age of 49, I was a late bloomer, education-wise.
When I graduated, God blessed me with a job as a community life pastor, where I had the privilege to focus on men’s discipleship. It is through this context that my path eventually crossed with Craig’s.
As Greg was pursuing ministry, I was becoming a husband and father. I’d met Kristy, a believer, and we married when I was just 21 years old. My dad had been absent a lot when I was growing up, and although I loved Kristy, it quickly became apparent that I had no idea how to be a man for her or how to die to myself.
We had five kids within 10 years, and I was gone a lot for work. When I was home with my family, I felt angry and out of control, stemming from my frustration from not knowing how to be a husband or how to be a father. I’d been set up to fail, and that’s what I was doing.
Finally, Kristy told me, “I married you to be the spiritual leader, not just a financial provider. You need to get it together or we’re done.”
Desperate and at the end of my rope, I went to a close friend who I knew was in a Bible study at church and asked him if he could help me. I assumed his level of involvement meant he had a deep, passionate faith, and held the answers I needed.I felt angry and out of control, not knowing how to be a husband or how to be a father. I’d been set up to fail, and that’s what I was doing.Click To Tweet
I was shocked when instead, he told me, “No, I can’t help you.”
So I went to a second guy at church, and he also said no. I was left trying to figure it all out on my own.
The beginning of me finding true help was when I finally became determined to seek God first. I began praying about my family, my priorities, and my work.
And then He answered me by taking away my job. Not exactly the answer I’d been looking for!
Laid off and scared, I eventually showed up at the church office for guidance from a pastor.
Out walked Greg. He listened as I talked, and at the end, he didn’t give me a counselor card or a resource; he assumed the role of my mentor.
We didn’t label it as discipleship, but the truth is that from then on, he did not let me out of his sight. I didn’t know why, but he refused to give me up, or give up on me.
The Miracle of Discipleship
I recognized right away that Craig needed someone to listen. To care. To invest in him. He needed someone to help make his faith merge with his reality.
We began to build a friendship of trust and camaraderie. Within that relationship, Craig respected me when I kept it real and gave it to him straight—but with compassion, experience, and spiritual insight. I was transparent with him, kept his confidences, and gave him grace.
By this time, our church had established a robust weekly gathering for men, and he began to attend.
Greg and I discussed marriage, raising kids, faith, and our own wounds. And then at the weekly men’s gathering on Wednesday nights, we were working through some of the same stuff in our studies.
Being able to talk openly and process things with other guys—I’d never had that before. I began to realize that everything I was going through—my pain, and hurt, and work addiction, and sin—these guys could relate. It was powerful to suddenly find I wasn’t the only one.
I wasn’t alone anymore.He needed someone to help make his faith merge with his reality.Click To Tweet
Early on, I recognized that Craig exhibited leadership skills, as well as an interest in men’s ministry, so I invited him to intern with me on staff.
I thought of it as a “paid discipleship opportunity” of sorts, where his financial needs could be partially met, while I could pour into his life more.
Later, when I was intentionally building a leadership team for men’s discipleship, I invited Craig to join.
As our team began to come together, we all realized a lot of men were just like me—showing up to church but not doing well and not being discipled. So we started researching how to do this better. Through a longtime financial partner of Man in the Mirror in our area named Larry, we came across this ministry.
In 2013, the closest Area Director to our region held a No Man Left Behind training conference in Phoenix. I signed up with 12 other guys from our leadership team, and it was transformative for our ministry to men.
I wanted other churches to experience it, too, so I started the process of becoming a Man in the Mirror Area Director for our community. Then at the end of a six-month period, I got scared about the self-funded model and took a high-paying salary job instead.
I look back on that decision—how I didn’t consult with my wife and made it purely about finances. “Old Craig would’ve done this,” I thought, but as Greg says, I was going through a heart transplant still.
So I worked in packaging sales for 2 ½ years, and I hated it. I’d had the opportunity to engage in kingdom work with men and traded it for selling packaging. I was in turmoil. But I was still too weak to trust God completely with this area of my life.
One morning, I pulled into the office parking lot and prayed, “If you want me to go work for Man in the Mirror after all this time, have them call me today.”
Three hours later, I got an email from them that read, “Are you still interested?” It was incredible. And yet, I said, “God, I told you I wanted a phone call!”
But I made two calls next—one to my wife and one to Greg. Both of them said essentially the same thing: “Craig, you’re an idiot. We already knew this is your next step and so did you.” I immediately restarted the hiring process, and the rest is history.
Seeing Craig doing work he was so passionate about was definitely another turning point for him.
And then about three years ago, my own turning point came. My pastoral role at the church ended abruptly, and I was unsure of my next step.
As I watched Greg experience the fear and uncertainty of starting again after having invested so much, I very calmly thought to myself: “I know exactly where God has been bringing him. Man in the Mirror is where he’s going to be.”
Craig became the one to encourage me, and he told me that my passions and skills would be a perfect fit for the role of Area Director. He was right!
Today, I love doing ministry with Craig, helping churches disciple men in Arizona.
Just as God designed it, we are far stronger together. My single greatest passion is helping other men experience that, too—to become stronger together and more fulfilled in Jesus.
Now, when I look back at those two men who turned down my cries for help, I know it wasn’t that they didn’t care; it was that they weren’t equipped or trained to disciple someone else.
I’m constantly in prayer now that I’d be ready for any man who is ready to make a change and needs me to be there for him, in or outside the church.
But I also know that I can’t do it all. The fact is, there are way too many hurting men out there, in need of direction and friendship.
I want every man, everywhere, to have open access to a Pastor Koons, or a Rich, or a Greg. I want him to be invested in like I was by someone with the know-how, burden, and commitment to care deeply for him, disciple him, and father him.
I don’t want any man to ever hear the words, “No, I can’t help you,” again.