Men’s ministry

Can I just deal with the congregation members that aren’t sinners?

You’d think a Bible study on heaven would just be plain refreshing — if done right.

Sometimes the people that are supposed to be smart are the dumbest of all.

Now, I understand that that’s really harsh. It’s also true.

We had our men’s monthly Bible study this past weekend. I had taken a request and we studied heaven and hell. I started by doing a comparison of what other cultures believe about the afterlife and asked why nearly every culture and belief system has some version of heaven and hell. It afforded a nice discussion on the natural knowledge of God, which then opened us up to asking, “Well, if that’s what they believe, what does the Bible say?”

It was meant to be a fairly simple Bible study: Here’s what the Bible says. That’s all – nothing huge. In between hell and heaven, I made the point of saying that according to the Bible we belong in hell. So how do we get out? “Therefore there is no longer any condemnation for those that believe!” So we also got a strong dose of justification in there.

Except… toward the beginning of the section on hell…

“Pastor, the Old Testament doesn’t have hell.” (more…)

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Bible. Bacon. Good.

Men sat around talking about beauty aids. And by beauty aids, I mean beer. Just another Saturday morning at my congregation.

Well, not really. This was new for all of us. Saturday was our first monthly men’s Bible breakfast. The idea is fairly simple: Offer breakfast. Lots of good, terribly food. Have some fun. Have a practical Bible study. Go home fed and nourished in body and soul.

I arrived at the church kitchen, ready to cook my contribution of hash browns, at about seven-thirty. That’s a good hour before we’re supposed to start eating; I figured I’d be the first one there. No dice — I was the fifth one there! Four other men (one of them a teenager) eager to get this party started, already getting going with bacon and pancakes and making sure the eggs will be good to go.

I set up the computer and projector in the center of a U of tables and paused the slideshow on the first image:

The men who were making breakfast were… intrigued. Especially when I told them that the Bible study would concern that picture.  (more…)

Sunday morning, and not present in the body

Early on in my ministry here, I threw a softball to my council to see how they would react to a little responsibility. I knew that a large chunk of my council were very concerned that I take care of the shut-ins (those members who for health reasons are unable to attend normal Sunday morning worship). I knew that I should be able to visit them in their homes on a monthly basis, barring emergencies (and I have indeed kept that schedule). However, as I presented this to the council, I told them, “They have the desire to worship with other Christians more often than once a month. We can serve them better. What are some options? Bring me some ideas.”

It felt like this: They knew they were other people, but they only worshiped alone. We can do better for them!

Now, my intention was to get a group of elders started – some men to visit each shut-in once a month on weeks that I wasn’t making my visits. However, I wanted them to come up with whatever idea they came up with so they could own it. Well, I didn’t get my wish of an elder. I got something… unique.

An early idea that they proposed was to simply record the worship service and deliver the recordings. A fantastic idea many congregations implement, but it wasn’t really practical for us. Our shut-ins have a wide gamut of technology; over here is a couple that still haven’t made it to the VCR level, while over here is another shut-in who Skypes with her great-grandchildren. We considered by mp3 players for each shut-in and training them how to use them.

Despite the stereotype, there are plenty of old geezers who can geeze on the internet breezily!

Then one of the councilmen had an ingenious idea: no matter what level of technology they were at, every single person had a phone of one type or another. Why not have them call a phone number and listen to Sunday morning worship live?

As I considered, I found a lot to like with this plan. When watching television or any recorded media, we tend to be docile. We’re not interacting with what we see; we’re merely sponging it in. But a telephone – now here’s something different! We’re used to interacting! And it’s live – it’s not merely a recording, but something that’s happening right then. A person doesn’t prepare for watching a recording; a person might prepare if they have to get up in the morning to listen in.

So, we pursued the options. Ideally, we’d find a way to patch our microphone system directly into the phone line for the hour-or-so every Sunday morning. No dice; at least not in any inexpensive way. We did find an inexpensive service for conference calls, though. It would mean I’d have to wear a Bluetooth during the service. That would take some getting used to and necessitate I use the lapel mic instead of the one that hung off my ear, but I could handle that. The system was easy to use for both our tech staff to set up as well as the shut-ins at home. Let’s give it a go!

I don’t look nearly so dynamic as this guy. Nor as well-groomed. Nor as cheesy, I hope.

Yesterday was the third week straight of this new program. Our tech staff (generally confirmands and recent confirmands) have gotten the hang of it; the hardest part is them talking on the phone to welcome the callers. I’ve heard from our shut-ins that they’re loving the program. They’re feeling like they’re part of the congregation again! They not be present in the body, but they are listening and participating!

I’ve made a big deal since getting here that we’re family. Here we simply see one of the ways that plays out: even if you can’t be here in body, you’re still a member of the family. The congregation has accepted the Bluetooth; I’ve not heard a single negative about it in a congregation that can get pretty darn vocal about change. I’ve heard nothing but positive from the shut-ins.

There’s one unexpected side-effect from all this; not only are the shut-ins able to join us for worship, but they’re fellowshipping! I’ve encouraged them to call in at least ten minutes before the service starts so we can sort out any bugs if they pop up. During the time before the service starts, they’re talking to each other on the phone. They’re sharing each other’s’ lives – granted, it’s not in a deep way, but it’s more than they’re used to! They’re encouraging each other and enjoying being part of the family – not in a mental or spiritual way, but now also in a way they can experience firsthand.

The system isn’t perfect. Not by a long shot. Because I wear the Bluetooth, when it comes to singing, the shut-ins only hear me and not the rest of the congregation. That’s… disconcerting. I wouldn’t want to hear me singing solos for all the music! We need to find a way to fix it, but this is an inconvenience and certainly not a deal breaker!

And the neat thing about all this? I simply made a need known. I said, “Hey, let’s see if we can serve this one portion of the congregation better.” And the men took this and ran with it. They thought of the solution. They compared ways to reach the solution. They made sure it happened. I made a problem known and released the men to fix it.

They succeeded.

I need to do this more often. I need to simply let the men go on a mission they believe in. I plan to practice that with some events coming up, but this success shows me that it can be done in this congregation with these people.

And the result is that even more of the congregation is blessed. Awesome!

Good job church council!

The End of the Week

It was a long week. We’re talking fourteen-hour days of ministry that usually ended with me not only physically exhausted but also emotionally exhausted. My youngest child decided now would be an awesome time to stop sleeping through the night. My day off was very far from restful. I didn’t get done what I wanted to get done. Oh, and this was supposed to be the lightest week of the month. Grand.

I’m working on the sermon. Really.

So you might understand that I was looking at the weekend with some trepidation. I saw a men’s Bible breakfast our church had been invited to; our men are not a group known for their exuberance for Bible study. We had an extended council meeting planned; council meetings may be the regularly-scheduled item that raises my blood pressure the highest. We had Sunday worship and Bible study, which is uplifting yet exhausting. Sunday afternoon our congregation hosted a Christian singer-songwriter, and I had no clue what turnout for that would be. After a long week, what would happen on this weekend?

Holy crap God knows how to make a guy smile. (more…)

Family Shepherds

Baucham never once advocates that men wear robes like this for their family devotions. This is a good thing.

Family Shepherds
by Voddie Baucham Jr.

The subtitle on this slim volume immediately caught my attention: “Calling and equipping men to lead their homes.” I see a great need for men to once more take up the reigns that they’ve set down due to apathy and bad examples. Men have been called by God to lead their families. It’s not the school’s place to teach the truths of God’s Word to children. It’s not the pastor’s job. The father of each family has the primary responsibility to teach his children and lead his wife into the Bible.

In his introduction, Baucham writes:

There’s a generation of men who sense God’s Spirit calling them to something more – but without reformation, they have no idea what “more” looks like. My goal in this book is to offer what I hope to be helpful, biblical, gospel-centered truths that will prepare us to that end. May God use this to spur on the needed reformation. We must forsake our extrabiblical (and sometimes outright unbiblical) paradigms in favor of biblical ones. … I want to help men overcome a legacy of passivity, incompetence, and indifference.

Does he succeed in his goal? (more…)

Remember Your Leaders

Hebrews 13:7-8, 17-21 7 Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

17 Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

18 Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. 19 I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.

20 May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Remember your leaders.

  1. Imitate them.
  2. Submit to them. (more…)

Man Alive

Man Alive
by Patrick Morley

Most men lead hollow lives. And they hate it. They work in jobs that offer them no long-lasting fulfillment. Their relationships are surface. They don’t have any deep friendships like they see celebrated in the movies. No, men are dying inside.

Man Alive proposes to transform “your 7 primal needs into a powerful spiritual life.” The book offers a chapter for each need (along with an introductory and concluding chapter). Does it succeed?

Well, yes and no. Dave Ramsey has a quote on the front cover: “You need to hear the truth and brother-to-brother encouragement that Patrick Morley delivers in Man Alive!” Either Ramsey doesn’t read a lot of men’s ministry books or he’s overselling.

The book makes a good survey of a bunch of problems facing men. Morley does a fine job presenting God’s answers, and how churches can help provide answers. There’s honestly a lot of good stuff in here. My struggle as I read it lay in that I’ve been doing a fair amount of work in men’s ministry, and this book is aimed at men who haven’t. I’m not the target audience, and it showed. I wanted each chapter to go far deeper, and this book isn’t aimed to do that.

(more…)

What Adventures May Come

Today I visited a member of the congregation. It was the anniversary of his wife’s death. He ached to be with her again. And as we talked, he told me that he wasn’t allowed to go where he wanted anymore. He longed to be somewhere that no one had ever been before. He told me about exploring as a boy and how he wished he could be victorious again.

I told him how he was more than a conqueror through Christ. I shared with him the battle that had been won. He was victorious.

But that’s not what he wanted to hear.

I turned to something else. We talked about heaven.

I told him, “Benny, heaven’s so big that you’ll be able to explore a place that no one’s ever been before — every day. At the end of the day, you’ll come home, and your wife will be waiting.”

His eyes lit up. Suddenly heaven was something worth looking forward to.

Heaven is not sitting around plucking harps. Yes, in heaven we will praise God in all we do. Yes, we will be sinless. Yes, we will be in our physical bodies made perfect. But there will be more. We will serve God. We will finally fully be what God created us to be.

And men were made to have adventures.

What adventures await us in heaven? God knows. And I can’t wait to see what he’s got lined up.

Be Dangerous.

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

 

Be dangerous.

  1. You are invading hostile territory.
  2. Trust your general.

 

Grace, mercy, and peace to you, dear people of God, and especially today to you, Zach and Demitri.

Today is a big day. Today, you become dangerous. Today, you are declaring war. You have spent years learning about your weapon, the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. You have learned all about it. You’re not experts yet, but you’ve got the basics. Today you’re getting out of boot camp and joining the war effort. You chose as your class verse Psalm 23:4. It says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” And that is your rallying cry as you move to the battlefront. Today, I tell you: Be dangerous! To do that, recognize that you are invading hostile territory. Also, trust your general.

First, you’re invading hostile territory. You’ve been stationed in the valley of the shadow of death. You’ve been stationed at a dangerous, dangerous place. No one escapes unscathed. Death casts a long shadow. It is very, very cold, and there is no one who can hide from it. You’re surrounded by dying people. Unless Jesus comes back first, every person you know will die. You will see your friends die – unless you die first. You will see them in a coffin. You will see your parents in their coffins. You will visit the graves of your brothers and sisters. And you will witness all this, unless death visits you first. You battle in a place where death casts a long shadow. You are soldiers, fighting until the end. And you will see your fellow soldiers taken off the field of battle.

You will see more things than just death. You’ll see everything leading up to death. You need to recognize what a terrible world we live in. It’s so tainted with sin, every single thing we humans touch dies. Love dies. Friendships die. (more…)

Tamed Men

Remember that friend who sent me a random book? He sent me another. And that sent me to another book. A good chunk of this post will be informed by these two books.

Take a look at your church. How many men are there? I’m not asking how many people have the capacity to grow some form of facial hair. How many men are there? People that you could look at and say that they were men of honor, men of grit? Do our churches encourage men to be men, or do we encourage males to behave?

Now, it’s true: God has given his Law, and he intends that we follow it. I’m not debating this. As Christians, we rejoice in the third use of the Law that shows us how we can thank God. So, please, don’t think I’m slamming the Law.

There’s a difference between rejoicing in life and behaving. There’s a difference between listening to God’s Law and being tamed. Men have not been called to be tamed. We have not been called to put on collars and behave like good kitties. We’ve been called to follow our Savior. We’ve been called to pattern our lives after him. And, as C. S. Lewis says of Aslan, “He’s not a tame lion.” (more…)