Pat Morley, founder of the ministry to men called, Man in the Mirror, has said something along these lines: “However many men are in your church, that’s how many men are in your men’s ministry.”
It has taken me awhile to fully understand and even embrace that idea. However, I have come to slowly wrap my mind around that idea and now completely agree with it. For many churches, the men’s ministry consists of those dear brothers who attend a monthly Saturday morning breakfast and quick devotion followed by spending the rest of the day doing “chores” around the church (for which, that church is greatly blessed). I know that I had, for many years, a similar view of what constitutes a men’s ministry.
Ministry to men, however, ought to be thought of more comprehensively than that. There are certainly components which, in my opinion, should be present and operative in a men’s ministry, yet a one-dimensional definition of men’s ministry is counter-productive and, ultimately, will not yield very much good and lasting fruit for the kingdom.
Southside’s ministry to men ought to run the gamut of activities and programs… all designed to help build up men in their faith and to equip them to be a blessing to others, in every sphere of their lives.
Small Group Study in Community
Yet, in spite of all that I just said on not wanting to too strictly define or limit what makes up a men’s ministry, I still passionately contend that our men’s weekly discipleship groups at Southside are foundational to all our other men’s ministries.
These weekly discipleship groups, which we call The Baxter Boys, began as a little band of men who met in the living room of my house, just a bit over nine years ago. (Click here and here to learn about our namesake, Richard Baxter.) These weekly gatherings are where our men can be instructed, encouraged, equipped, enriched, edified, and even convicted through the ministry of God’s Spirit and Word working in the midst of Christian community. (Click here to learn more about the primacy of God’s Word in such settings.)
In the Baxter Boys weekly fellowship, our men learn about the things of God – how know him better, love him more, follow him more faithfully, and how to become more and more like him. We do this in the context of community and accountability. Curiously, such a setting has been described as a sterile environment and even irrelevant to real life. I suppose it could be seen as that. I guess it may even be practiced in such a way. Yet, one would have a hard time making that case to many of our men who have had their minds renewed and their lives transformed in and through such a ministry setting.
Throughout the year we used a three-pronged approach that consists of Word, Doctrine, and Life. By Word, I mean a straightforward study through a book in the Bible. When we study Doctrine, we are isolating a particular affirmation of our faith and focusing on it for a period of time, such as the person and work of Jesus Christ. Finally, by Life, I mean a practical, rubber-hits-the-road approach to living in this world as Christian men, whether it’s as husbands, fathers, or in the workplace. Obviously, there is overlap for all three. For example, we don’t (and, I would contend, can’t) study Doctrine or Life without studying the Word. They all connect and interrelate.
Accountability and Encouragement in Community
The Baxter Boys discipleship ministry includes accountability, yet not in the same way as smaller and more intimate groups experience it. Accountability in this fellowship is experienced more through mutually encouraging one another to attend and participate in the life of the groups. And yet, struggles, even failures, are shared. It’s a setting where brothers build one another up in a common faith, lift up one another in prayer, and celebrate victories and successes. Though it lacks the intimacy of smaller accountability groups of 2-4 men, our groups still, to quote John Wesley, “watch over one another in love.”
Leadership Development in Community
Our men also learn leadership in and through our weekly discipleship groups. As our men get more and more grounded in God’s Word, they begin to feel God’s Spirit moving and calling them to serve him in a wide variety of leadership settings, such as in their homes and workplaces, teaching Sunday school classes, working with inner-city mercy ministries, mentoring boys without a father in the home, administrative committees in the church, just to name a few. God has promised that regularly renewing our minds with his Word will bring about such transformation.
Leadership is also manifested in the lives of our men as they seek to pass the baton of faith on to other men. Through study, prayer, and fellowship, God’s Spirit draws them out of their comfort zones and encourages them to invite other men to join us. Many men also begin to pour their lives into the lives of other men through various forms of mentoring and discipling.
Unity in Diversity
One last aspect that makes our weekly fellowship so meaningful is that it is made up of men from a variety of church affiliations. True ecumenism is found when brothers from a variety of denominational backgrounds can gather together and affirm one Lord, one Spirit, one baptism, one faith, all grounded in one Word.
If this sounds like something you would like to become a part of, please do not hesitate to come and join our fellowship!
We meet on Monday nights in Southside’s Family Life Center from 7:00pm to 8:30pm.
We meet on Wednesday mornings in Southside’s Family Life Center from 6:30am to 7:30am.
If you have any questions, I encourage you to call me at 396-2676 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blessings in Christ,
(April 16, 2010)