Pastoring Men: A Ringside Seat
The bulls-eye of ministry to men is being on-site as an eye witness to life change. I have had a ringside seat on many occasions when I’ve watched men strengthen and love each other. Recently, in a small group I lead we listened to Jon’s long and painful story. He was still raw, afraid, and confused after having fought and lost a complex business law suit. The verdict meant bankruptcy and an uncertain future.
This sobering outcome was the culmination of six years of trying to stay afloat and reconcile with an aggrieved partner. Across the circle sat Jim, who had experienced a very similar crushing setback a few years ago. All us expressed care and concern, but Jim empathized at a deep level. Jon obviously felt safe and cared for. Then, completely unexpectedly, Kent, who had been very quiet, spoke: “Guys, I’m sitting on the other side of that table you are describing. I invested with someone who owes me a ton of money. He’s a brother and I don’t want to sue, but I have been poking him with emails and insinuating questions. I can see now that your situations were just business risks that went bad, and my situation is similar. I do no good by needling and shaming him, and allowing myself to become bitter. I owe him a phone call and an apology.”
I sat there in awe. These brothers, all growing disciples of Jesus, were applying the living word precisely to the hurts, fears and the convicted places of their lives. The living Lord was using their wisdom, gained in the smackdown arena of business, to fortify their faith and increase one another’s courage.
When we prayed, Jim’s emotions spilled over as he prayed for Jon. For long intervals he couldn’t speak as he fought back the tears. He gasped out an inarticulate but powerful intercession for his brother whose pain he was bearing. As we prayed for each other I basked in the indescribable privilege of watching the miracle of true brotherhood taking place right in my living room.
Of course, you can’t always expect a poignant fellowship like this. I don’t always live at the center of the target. However, there are wider aspects of a ministry to men that keep me striving toward that bulls-eye experience.
The widest band on my target, the most global reason to invest in men, is to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus: to make disciples, teaching them to obey everything He taught. (Matthew 28:19-20) Of course this takes place in every venue where the word, prayer, obedience and service is evidenced throughout the church and life. Inside the walls of the church I do my best to affirm and cultivate a masculine culture in every ministry. From the bell choir to the handyman volunteers I want to affirm the strong presence of men. Every ministry of the church is strengthened when men are vitally involved. Men are progressively built up and discipled as they learn and serve in a multitude of ways. Outside the walls of the church I strive to champion the placement of men in their vocations. Every kind of work can be done for the glory of God, and as the salt and light of the gospel. Every man needs to know that his work is his platform to reach the world with the Good News.
The closest circle around the bulls-eye is the sharing of my own story and journey. I find my energy, my life experience, and my spiritual gifts being consistently put to use in ministry to men. I’m a guy who happens to be a pastor. Few men identify with my pastoral role, but many connect with biking, woodworking, mechanical debacles and various adventures I’ve had. They all connect with my failures, and nod knowingly at my transparent humanness. Men’s ministry gives me freedom to teach, mentor and counsel using the full pallet of my life experience. I identify with men in the vocational struggles and fleshly temptations. Men believe I “get it” because they relate to aspects of my journey, and are then willing to be open and honest about their own challenges.
And then there’s the bull-eye! I love to disciple men. I enjoy teaching men. I never tire of sitting in that ringside seat.