Thursday, June 27, 2019

Adam, Where Are You?

When speaking with other men, have you ever asked them what their fears or what they might think are the fears of other men? If they give you an honest answer, almost every man would say something along the lines of having the fear of inadequacy. It’s a true fear that cuts to the bone of every man. A fear that they might not be enough or not be able to do enough for those in his care. If its grip becomes too tight, there may be a risk of being substantially hindered by it. Nevertheless, there is possibly a good thing about it: the fact that it helps reveal to us our spiritual DNA and who we are. 

The first man, Adam, was given an assignment from the Lord to till the Garden of Eden and to protect what was placed in his care. He was given a job and gifts to be able to see his task through. Shortly after, Eve was brought to him and introduced to him by the Father to be his wife. Yet something happened in the Garden: Satan crept in. Not only did the evil one creep in to the Garden, but he successfully got Adam to sin. Maybe there’s a reason why Satan went to Eve first and not Adam, but that is not the point here. What is important is the fact that both Adam and Eve fell, and God asked “Adam, where are you?” He didn’t ask Eve where she was, because she was not the one that was tasked with keeping responsibility over the two. Adam was.

We men are tasked to be responsible over our households. Just as a CEO answers to their stakeholders when something good or bad happens in their organization, men answer to God on behalf of their family. It doesn't matter if it was an entry level worker who made a mistake that cost the company large sums of money, the CEO answers for it because it happened under their leadership. Similarly, it doesn't matter if a member of the family sinned who was not Adam; Adam was to answer for it, regardless. Perhaps Adam knew that he had not followed the task that was outlined for him. Perhaps he may have had a moment of realization that he was not adequately protecting who was placed in his care. Perhaps it is because of this very string of events that we men keep with us this stubborn fear of inadequacy to this day. For all of men to have this fear is more than coincidental; it’s unmistakably tied to our spiritual roots.

The good news is that we don’t have to be crippled by this fear. Even though we may have in us the fear of repeating Adam’s lapse, and even though we were born into the family bloodline that has such a fear grafted into our spiritual DNA, we have actually been adopted into a different family: the family of Christ. Just as an adopted child is to adopt the directives of the new house they move into, we too are behooved to follow suit in our new household. Certainly, our old lives may influence how we adhere to the new household’s rules. Perhaps our previous environment’s experiences may even tempt us to disregard our new household’s directive, but that doesn’t mean that the adoptive Father must change His household rules. We’ll unpack this more as we continue the conversation next week.

This blog has a focus on small groups, men's ministry, and youth ministry. Join us for the journey by subscribing! Please share this post if you felt this was a blessing to your ministry.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Revival Requires Men

“Nothing do Satan or hell fear more than praying men.” ~Leonard Ravenhill

                Would it be sexist to say that revival begins with men? Don’t get me wrong, I would never think of undercutting the importance and impact of women in ministry. As a matter of fact, it’s typically the case that women outnumber men in terms of overall ministry involvement within the church. According to author David Murrow, 23 percent of married women attend church without their husbands. Sociologist Christian Smith claims that among mainline Protestant Churches, 66 percent of attendees are females. If each reader was to introspectively take an inventory of their respective church, perhaps we can relate this to our own community: How many of each gender take part in the church’s prayer meetings?  How many of each gender attend the church’s Bible study classes? How many males are involved in the children or youth ministry? We needn’t go further.

If more men were to lead the charge in passionately pursuing the word of God, building up the family, and serving the local community, would your church look different? If so, then why aren’t we seeing more men step up? Certainly, one could blame the job or other commitments that take up the man’s schedule, however it remains a fact that a man will do what he really wants to do (in spite of his schedule). If a man’s favorite TV show airs at a specific time and day, he will clear his schedule for it. If his baseball league meets on certain days or has double headers and then plays late, he will clear his schedule for it. If someone was to hand him VIP tickets to the next football game for his favorite sports team, he will clear his schedule for it. Indeed, this isn’t a question of calendar availability. If instead we were to look at this through the spiritual lens, it might help us understand this topic a bit more.

It all goes back to Adam and Eve. The two of them knew that they should not have eaten from the forbidden tree, because God told them so. In other words, knowledge itself doesn’t imply obedience. They had knowledge that the tree’s fruit was not permitted to be eaten, yet they still went ahead and ate from the tree. Men may know what is needed to be done in the church. They know that they should join a small group, pray with their wife, and attend the Bible study…yet they don’t. We men may follow in the footsteps of Adam, but does that mean that we are destined to stay in this vegetative spiritual state? We’ll continue our discussion next week and pick it up from here. 

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Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Men's Ministry Challenge: Immerse Yourself Into a Small Group

Over the years, I’ve been a part of small groups in different capacities (I’ve been a member, co-leader, host, spiritual anchor, leader, coach, etc.). Shortly after I became a Christian, I joined my first men’s group and I didn’t know what to expect. Shortly after our first few meetings, I quickly found out that it was actually cool to be open and honest with other men (and looking back, I don’t know if ever I had an opportunity in my life to be vulnerable and truthful with any other man up until that point). Because of not being able to talk with a male role model through some of the most formative years of my life, I was still trying to figure out who I was into my twenties.

Yet being a part of this small group made things different. Meeting at one of the group members’ home, our group talked about fatherhood, family concerns, health concerns, temptations, spiritual victories, and other kinds of topics that men would typically refrain from uttering in the church lobby after Sunday service. We shared incredible meals together and we served the community together. We even decided to try fasting for the first time together, and the memory of our over-the-top excessively abundant victory feast that took place after a mere 24 hour fast still brings a smile to my face this day. Among other men of God, I discovered who the Lord was, how I could learn to listen to the Holy Spirit, and how to serve Jesus in response.

Learning how to be a Christian man has a few similarities to learning a foreign language. You might retain a portion of a lesson’s content if you only hear a lesson from a teacher on how to speak the language. But moving to the foreign country, immersing yourself in the environment, and wrestling with the language and culture is a completely different story. The rate at which you learn the language is increased exponentially. In a similar fashion, principles of what it means to be a Christian man could be communicated from the pulpit, however learning to live out life as a man of God is astronomically benefited when a man is immersed into a culture of living life among other Christian men.

Without knowing what it means to be a Christian man, we might liken ourselves to a person in a foreign country without knowing the local language: one who tries to communicate to others by miming or using broken words to communicate. But until we truly immerse ourselves in the culture of Christianity and forge an understanding of the spiritual talents that we can gain under Christ, then we’re missing out on the opportunity to achieve spiritual greatness for the glory of God among our brethren.

This blog has a focus on small groups, men's ministry, and youth ministry. Join us for the journey by subscribing! Please share this post if you felt this was a blessing to your ministry.

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Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Listen to Me

While being a small group leader, many lighthearted memories are made and positive conversations take place. However, at times serious discussions can arise, whether within the group or along the sidelines. As we leaders show the other person(s) how we listen, it sets the tone for the rest of the group and encourages others to follow in the same manner. Active listening is a practice that helps us let the other person know that we are not only listening to them, but that we show them that we care. Within a small group, active listening involves:

Eye ContactWithout eye contact, we tell the other person that they are not worthy of our time. Without eye contact, a phone call would have sufficed. Small groups on the other hand provide a special opportunity to come face to face and bless each other with our undivided attention. Yes, someone else may be standing next to you to get your attention or interrupt your current conversation, or yes, your cell phone may have buzzed with a new text. Nevertheless, resist the urge to look at that phone until your conversation has finished with who you are engaging with first.

Body LanguageWhen speaking with someone (whether standing or sitting), making it a point to pay attention to posture may help communicate your openness to hearing what is being said. For example, folded arms while sitting may reflect a sign of self-protection or frustration, whereas keeping both hands in your pockets while standing may reflect a sign of timidity or nervousness. Whether or not you are self-protecting, frustrated, nervous, or otherwise; that's not the point. The point is how the other individual(s) are interpreting your body language. Appearing open and vulnerable may be a component to helping other group members feel at ease.

Verbal Response
Some of us have heard the recommendation to repeat back what the person said in order to help communicate that you have listened. While this is generally a good practice, it could become robotic if the small group leader does this each time a group member contributes to the conversation. Instead, in the small group setting, it might be easier to pursue the practice of making sure everyone’s contribution is validated. In other words, if the group members are speaking with one another freely and going back and forth with each other, then the leader would not necessarily need to chime in to validate their contributions (they are doing that well enough themselves). However, if someone says a statement or makes a contributing point to the conversation and no other member of the group adds to it, then it would be proper for the leader to acknowledge that group member’s contribution by rephrasing their response, adding to it, or even just simply saying thank you. I know I’ve been a part of groups where I made a statement and the group blazed on without stopping a beat. While I had originally thought it was a good point to make, the group’s lack of response to my comment would leave me wondering if what I said was worth consideration and if I should contribute again. By responding and acknowledging, the group leader is helping establish an atmosphere for the group where thoughts are welcomed and encouraged, and that they will be heard.

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