Making New Disciples
Many of the men not in church aren’t so much angry at the church as they are apathetic. It doesn’t feel relevant to their lives. If we want to be engaged in making new disciples, we have to overcome that apathy by prioritizing this deeply felt need.
By Jeremy Schurke
Director of Mirror Labs
Something I see in my peers who are in their 30s, as well as younger men in their 20s, that encourages me is that they are genuinely seeking—clamoring for something true and meaningful. Whether they realize it or not, they are at basecamp of their discipleship journeys.
Which leads us to ask, “How do we help map that journey out for them? How do we best guide men into fulfilling, whole lives in Christ?” I’ve heard Pat Morley say, “Evangelism without discipleship is cruel.” How do we put an end to the cruelty of not discipling every man we possibly can?
Yes, some men have deep church hurt that needs navigated. But many younger men aren’t so much angry with the church as they are apathetic. They can’t see what’s in it for them.Whether they realize it or not, they are at basecamp of their discipleship journeys.Click To Tweet
The church has tried renewing program after program for men, event after event—all these methods that successfully attracted men in the past, like wild game dinners or events with a former football player speaking. And often, these events do mark a great first step—a way to bring men out of the woodworks and spark initial engagement. (We refer to this as a “Create Value” step in our No Man Left Behind training.)
But if that’s where it ends, it falls way short. Because none of those one-off events or programs give men what they’re really after—the thing we were all designed for: authentic community.
Hungering for Meaningful Connections
We believe that if we want to make new disciples, some of our fundamental questions must change as they pertain to men and the church. For instance, instead of asking, “How do we get men to come to our church?” the better question is, “Why would men stay at our church?”
Based on what I’ve seen, men will stay if they find one basic thing: authentic community with other men—a body of believers where men can enjoy each other’s company, but also experience vulnerability. A place where they’re loved and cared for, not condemned and criticized. A place where they can be honest about what’s going on in their lives and get help from others who truly care about them. Isn’t that what we all really want?
True discipleship that changes men’s lives goes beyond a weekly Bible study or a men’s weekend retreat. Yes, those things provide an opportunity for men to quiet the noise of the world enough to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, which is an incredible start. But the discipleship that continues to mold us over the long haul and in our everyday lives thrives in the context of intentional relationships where vulnerability and truth intersect. To see the birth and growth of new disciples, we have to get men connected in this way.Discipleship that continues to mold us over the long haul and in our everyday lives thrives in the context of intentional relationships where vulnerability and truth intersect.Click To Tweet
That’s what we’re working hard on now as a ministry—to make sure no one remains alone, trying to white-knuckle it through his life and faith and questions. We want to produce the helpful and needed resources that lead to real changes in the life of real men—the transformation that only comes through prayerful reflection and study and intentional relationships.
Calvin wrote: “Nearly all wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists in two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” He posited that we can’t know God without knowing ourselves, and that we can’t truly know ourselves without knowing God.
Our vision statement begins with seeing every man reflect honestly. We believe that consistent, prayerful reflection is vital to our own personal development and growth. However, as men created in the image of the triune relational God, if we want to see clearly and develop fully, we must also have meaningful and intentional relationships with other men.
We recognize that we’re in a male friendship recession. Digital friendships, quarantines, remote offices, and a multitude of tech advances and distractions have exacerbated this issue in recent years.
One of our goals for 2023 is to develop resources that go against this trend and thereby model the incarnational ministry of God—resources that promote slowing down for face-to-face interactions and shared experiences.
New Resources for Making New Disciples
Thankfully, we aren’t starting from a blank sheet of paper. We already have three decades of experience creating resources designed to promote prayerful reflection and meaningful relationships. One example is our library of free Bible study videos; it’s used by thousands of men around the world in groups, where they talk about how to apply the Scriptures to their real lives and real struggles.
But we are taking all the lessons we’ve learned and keeping ourselves wide open to new ones as we innovate how we equip men.
One resource we’ve just released is the first in a line of journals for men called Ritual. Now I know what you’re thinking: Do you really think men want to journal? Based on our initial testing, we would say yes.
For one, this journal is not an empty notebook. It asks pointed questions for men about their lives, prompting real introspection. And more importantly, it’s intended to be done in tandem with someone else—like a spiritual father or another mature believer. Because it’s designed to be suitable for all men, even those who haven’t yet professed faith in Christ, Ritual is particularly helpful for making new disciples through the initiative 10,000 Spiritual Fathers that is in its pilot phase.
For example, if a 65-year-old grandfather is walking through our Ritual – Assessment journal with a 22-year-old who is fresh out of college, the older, more mature believer can deep dive into the life of the younger guy around the tangible topics that matter to him, such as starting his career, dating, marriage, health, and finances. The result is two men from two different generations in two different phases of life connecting on one journey together.
Serving All Men
The resource is simply providing the framework or structure for a more honest, purposeful relationship. And this older disciple is uniquely equipped to help the younger man because he’s been there before. He understands some of what this 22-year-old is dealing with. There is something special—something holy—to have another guy willing to ask you those deep questions about life, and really listen. That’s where meaningful relationships form and grow, and that’s where new disciples are made.There is something special—something holy—to have another guy willing to ask you those deep questions about life, and really listen.Click To Tweet
Our focus as we’re developing new resources isn’t just about young men. It’s also about renewing the passion and sense of purpose in the hearts of older, mature believers. Spiritual fathering, for instance, is as much of a benefit for the man who is serving as Spiritual Father. He’s not just giving; he’s growing and benefiting, too.
Sometimes we talk with men in the over-50 crowd who feel like they don’t have much to offer to young guys, but nothing could be farther from the truth. They have faced the peaks and valleys of life. As men who have gone before, they have hard-won experience that is invaluable. We want to help them share it.
Vibrant discipleship relationships take time to cultivate, but just as we have for over three decades, we are playing the long game at Man in the Mirror.
It’s not about numbers or fast, short-lived victories. It’s about growing deep, deep roots over time that span across generations and bring life-giving water up to a tree that bears fruit. That’s where discipleship lives. It’s deep. It’s rich. It’s life-giving.
We’re excited for 2023—developing new resources, approaches, and opportunities that serve men of all ages; supporting and strengthening the local church; and making new disciples.