Only one in 18 men in America is involved in discipleship. Now the sins of the fathers are being visited on our nation's families.
A staggering 40 percent of the "buster" generation were raised by divorced or separated parents. Now, the sins of the fathers are being visited on the next generation.
A whopping 40 percent of America's 72,000,000 children will go to bed tonight in a home without a biological father. And, only 34 percent of them are expected to live with both biological parents through age 18. We are now bearing the full brunt of our failure to disciple men.
It's a story heard too often. In 1926, when Bob was 2 years old, the youngest of four children, his father abandoned him. His mom moved the family in with two of her sisters, and these three women began the work of raising Bob and his siblings.
When he turned 6, Bob went to work with his older brother, Harry, on a bread truck and paper route before school. They would get up at 3 a.m. and had a permanent tardy slip to school.
Note: When a man fails he doesn't just ruin his own life, he usually takes down a good woman and two, three or four children with him.
When Bob became a man, he had to decide if he would repeat the sins of his father or break the cycle. He chose a different path than the father he never knew, and he became a straight arrow. Eventually, Bob had four boys of his own. He and his wife recognized they needed help to raise godly sons, so they became part of a local church.
Their church did a good job enlisting Bob to help build the church. A good worker, Bob eventually became the top lay leader. Unfortunately, his church did not disciple Bob to become a godly man. As a result, without warning, at the age of 40, when his four sons were in the 10th, seventh, fifth and third grades, Bob and his family left the church and he never returned.
That single decision put Bob's family into a tailspin from which, 38 years later, the sons have still not fully recovered: two high school dropouts, drug addiction, alcoholism, employment problems and divorce. One son died of a heroine overdose.
How could Bob's good intentions have gotten so turned around? Of course, there is no easy answer. But you can't help wonder, how might this family have turned out differently if Bob had belonged to a church with a vision for making disciples of its men?
Pat Morley especially wonders, because he is one of Bob's four sons. By the grace of God, Pat broke the cycle with his wife and two kids, but his extended family has suffered needlessly for 40 years.
THE 'PORTAL' PRIORITY
What is the first priority of your church? Evangelism? Worship? Something else? While by no means a complete list, most churches will have a slot for each of these priorities:
Unfortunately, this can be very confusing for the man in the pew. One week he hears that worship ought to be a priority. The next week he hears that he needs to be a cheerful giver. The following week he hears that committed believers go on mission trips. The week after that he is asked to attend evangelism training. The next week he learns about the compelling needs at the crisis pregnancy center. With all those priorities, is it any wonder some men are confused?
The sheer number of priorities seems so overwhelming! Where do you focus? What's the starting point? Consider a few more questions:
**How can a man worship a God he does not know?
**How can a man have genuine fellowship unless he knows why he should love his neighbor as himself?
**How can a man handle his resources wisely unless he is taught God's ways?
**How can a man serve in an effective manner if he doesn't know his gifts and that God can use him--or even that He wants to use him?
**How can a man bring about social justice if he doesn't know what is just?
**How can a man evangelize unless he knows the gospel?
As you can see, one idea sits squarely in the center of all others. The foundational, focusing priority of a thriving church is discipleship.Sheep cannot do right until they know right.
Discipleship is the "portal" priority through which all the other priorities of your church can be achieved.
DISCIPLES OF MEN
But it's not just making disciples. It's making disciples of men.
Track with us for a minute. Can you visualize any possible scenario that makes the world right without first getting the church right? If you agree, can you visualize any possible scenario that gets the church right without first making families right?
If you agree, can you visualize any scenario that makes families right without first getting marriages right? If you agree, can you visualize any scenario that makes marriages right without first getting men right?
If you agree, can you think of any way to get men right unless they become disciples of Jesus Christ? We believe it's irrefutable.
The Bible tells us, " 'Go therefore and make disciples ... baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit'" (Matt. 28:19, NKJV). Often we get this confused with, " 'Go and make workers ... browbeating them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.'"
Jesus did not say, "'Go and make workers.' " He didn't say, "'Go and make worshipers.'" And He didn't say, "'Go and make tithers.'" Our Lord said, "'Go therefore and make disciples.'"
The Bible doesn't call us to make workers, but disciples. Does God want men to work, worship and tithe? Of course. Does God want men to be better husbands, fathers and citizens? Of course.
True disciples will become workers, but out of the overflow of their growing relationship with Jesus Christ, not like a forced march.
The Bible does, however, call us to pray for workers:
" 'The harvest is so great, and the workers are so few,' [Jesus] told His disciples. 'So pray to the one in charge of the harvesting, and ask him to recruit more workers for his harvest fields'" (Matt. 9:37-38, TLB).
So we might put it this way: God calls us to pray for workers and make disciples. Too often we try to make workers and pray that someone, somehow will become a disciple.
Here's a key idea: If your church focuses on getting its men to do works rather than making disciples, it will burn them out--like Pat's dad. You will lose all your steam.
What is a disciple? How do you make one? Technically, of course, a disciple is a pupil or student. A disciple of Jesus is someone called, equipped and sent--called to trust in Jesus, equipped to be like Jesus and sent to work for Jesus.
Discipling men is a plan that has been tried before. The method of Jesus was to focus on 12 men who in turn discipled their families and the world. He won the world by winning 12 ordinary men. The church is central to God's plan, and discipling men is central to the mission of the church.
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
In the last decade, many churches launched men's ministries only to see them disintegrate over time. Often, the reason is that these ministries have a few successful, charismatic leaders and an event focus. When the leaders get tired and move away or the events lose their appeal, the ministries begin to dwindle.
David met with one church whose five great leaders were ready to give up because they were discouraged and weary. Their do-it-themselves mentality wasn't making many disciples.
Other churches have a purpose-driven ministry based around recruiting men to the amazing adventure of following Christ. They are constantly selling the vision, not events, and so expand their leadership team.
Men in these churches believe that they can be involved in something bigger than themselvessomething worth giving their lives for. These churches are developing sustainable ministries to men that are changing their communities and the world.
At a church in Alabama, one man caught the vision for making disciples of men. He started a small group. After a couple of years, the men started to "get it." Their lives changed.
Other men in the church took notice. Slowly those other men became interested in discovering why. In seven years his ministry grew from one group to seven groups with 128 men. So what?
He said: "My church needs about 150 leaders to function properly. One hundred of those leaders come from our small groups. Seventy-five of those men--half of our church's leadership--started out as nominal Christians who would not have otherwise become church leaders. In other words, half of our church's leadership positions would either be unfilled or filled with the wrong people if not for our men's discipleship ministry."
WHAT CAN I DO?
Every pastor worth his salt wants the same things: vitality in worship, warmth in fellowship, generosity in stewardship, zeal in service, compassion in social justice, fervor in evangelism and seriousness in discipleship--all in a sanctuary that's bulging beyond capacity.
Unfortunately, studies show the opposite is true. Approximately 80 percent of America's churches are ineffective.
Frederick Taylor, the father of Scientific Management, said, "Your system is perfectly designed to produce the result you are getting." Of course, he meant that if you are manufacturing cars and every third car is missing a front right fender, your system is perfectly designed to produce that result. But it's also true of your church. Your discipleship program is perfectly designed to produce the kind of men you have sitting in your pews--like Pat's father from the story above.
If you do what you've always done, you will be what you've always been. Benjamin Franklin said, "Insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over, and expect a different result." What could you do differently to make disciples of the men in your church? The best method of making disciples is the one you will actually use! Here are some suggestions.
SEVEN METHODS FOR MAKING DISCIPLES
1. Preaching and teaching: The age-old starting point for making disciples is the preaching and teaching of God's Word. Don't underestimate the power to make disciples from the pulpit by calling men to something great. God has called some to be pastors and teachers "for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ" (Eph. 4:12, NKJV). Pastors, make sure your people walk out thinking, Isn't God awesome!
2. Small groups: A man read Pat's book The Man in the Mirror and accepted the challenge to start an accountability group. That group grew to eight men, then split into four groups. After seven years, about 75 other groups exist with an estimated 900 men. They have hired a men's minister to lead these groups and develop men. Small groups can be a dynamic way to build a disciple-making ministry to men.
Most meaningful change takes place in the context of small-group relationships. As men tell one another their "stories," the truth of Christ's gospel gets meaty and fleshy. We understand the gospel in a whole new way when we see it working its way into another man's life!
3. Private study: Do your men lack power? In Matthew 22:29 Jesus said, " 'You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.'" Personally, we have never known a single man whose life has changed in any significant way apart from the regular study of God's Word. Encourage your men to read God's Word for themselves. For the last 17 years Pat has read The One Year Bible through each year--we recommend it highly. Encourage men to have a private study time in which they memorize meaningful verses, pray, sing and meditate on God's Word.
4. Christian literature: In 1656, Puritan Richard Baxter said: "See that in every family there are some useful moving books, besides the Bible. If they have none, persuade them to buy some: if they be not able to buy them, give them some if you can. If you are not able yourself, get some gentlemen, or other rich persons, that are ready to do good works, to do it." We see it over and over: A man will get hold of a book, and God will use the book to get hold of the man. Give a guy a book!
5. Seminars and conferences: A man said, "Wow, that seminar changed my life!" This was quite discouraging to his pastor. He thought, Gosh, that speaker didn't say anything to my men that I haven't been saying for years! And he's right! God can only reap through a seminar in proportion to what the pastor has sown through his weekly work. One reaps where another sows--all to God for His glory. God's design is "that both he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together" (John 4:36). All said, seminars can be high-impact moments in men's lives.
6. Informal discussions: Some of the richest times of our lives are hang time with buddies and heroes. Hanging out, going to lunch, riding motorcycles and rapping theology with a friend--God often orchestrates teachable moments to build into one another's lives. A lot of discipleship just happens as men "do life" together. Help men catch the vision that every encounter is a God-ordained opportunity.
7. Leadership training: Pat's father-in-law says, "Amateurs teach amateurs to be amateurs." We agree. If you are serious about making disciples, you really should get some training.
Discipleship is hard work, but it's worth it. The problem is that it takes a long time to make a disciple, and it's trench work. Perhaps that's why only one in 18 men in America is involved in discipleship. Imagine if you fielded two baseball teams and only one man knew the rules. It would be chaos, which explains a lot about the state of men today.
Pastor, God has entrusted you with the souls of men. Disciple the men in your church. It's tough. It takes a long time. It's not glamorous. It's often thankless. Yet nothing is closer to the heart of Jesus, and you can make a difference.
David Delk knows a man who started a small-group ministry with his pastor's permission in a church of 1,200 people. He eventually grew the ministry to 115 people--after six years of work!
Then his pastor caught the vision for small groups. He announced that during the first week in the fall they were going to start meeting on Wednesday nights in small groups. On the very first night 780 people were in small groups. Never underestimate the power of the senior pastor to rally men to a great cause!
The hearts of our children depend on what you will do for the hearts of their fathers. Are you persuaded? This is a battle for the eternal destiny of men's souls. We cannot, we must not, and, by God's grace, we will not fail.
A Man-Made Church ModelTen practical secrets for attracting and retaining guys in your congregation.
I. CREATE MOMENTUM
1. Pastor Prayer Group: Organize a group of men to pray for your pastor every Sunday morning before the services begin. Principle: Show men how to support the senior pastor as he disciples men.
2. The Bill Gates Idea: Come up with a dynamic purpose statement that gets men excited about getting involved. What do your men want? Friendships, growth, better marriages, godly kids, worship, service, and so on. Principle: The power of purpose and the need for resonance. Don't disguise the incredible adventure of following Christ behind boring bulletin announcements.
3. A 'Care Call' Team: Form a "call team" of trained men responsible for 10 guys each. Have them establish a regular phone or e-mail relationship that communicates, "I care." Principle: Most men don't feel like anyone really cares about them personally. (Remember the old sales adage: "Go. If you can't go, call. If you can't call, write.")
4. Word of Wife: Use a "Word of Wife" campaign to have her get him interested in your ministry. Methodically make an appeal to all women's groups and studies. Use e-mails to wives too (make it clear that you intended to send it to them for informational purposes). Principle: The Mordecai Principle--send the person to ask who is most likely to get a yes or least likely to get a no. Not manipulation, but rather illustrating the value of men's ministry to all the constituencies in your congregation.II. CAPTURE MOMENTUM
5. The World's Biggest Small Group: Help your senior pastor facilitate a kickoff gathering at the beginning of each semester for four weeks. Then, funnel these guys into small groups (one church gets 100+ guys out for the four weeks, then funnels them into their 47 small groups). The larger setting is a safe first step for guys and allows them a chance to develop relationships before entering a group. Principle: Give men the opportunity to come along at their own speed and find their own level of involvement.
6. Work Teams: Increase ownership and involvement. When a guy comes up with a ministry idea, put him in charge of a "work team" and turn him loose to make something happen. Principle: Men who love God can't be happy until they find a way to serve Him.
7. A Great Bible Teacher: Don't overlook the obvious. Men will get up early to hear good male-context, application-oriented Bible study. If you don't have one, consider video curriculum like the one from Pat Morley and Man in the Mirror.III. SUSTAIN MOMENTUM
8. Mom's Night Out: Offer child-care and children's programs concurrent with your men's activities. Remember, if she's happy, he's happy. "You get over there, now, and take the kids." Principle: Don't call men away from their families just to tell them they need to spend more time with their families.
9. The Prayer Chair: Change a man's life by putting a chair in the middle of a circle, have him share his need or struggle, then pray for him. Principle: A man needs a good cry with God every now and then, and not just the guy in the chair.
10. Leadership Teams: Recruit new leaders by constantly "evangelizing" men about your purpose. Train leaders for vacancies in the church by getting cultural Christians in small groups where they come to authentic faith and get turned on. Principle: Everything boils down to leadership. If you don't double the number of men who have "bought in" to your vision each year, your ministry will stagnate.
David Delk, former COO of Man in the Mirror and longtime friend of Patrick Morley, was named president of the organization in May, 2003. A noted author and speaker, Delk recently released The Dad in the Mirror (Zondervan), co-authored with Morley.