Men’s Ministry Suggestions from Dr. Jeff Iorg

Last year’s speaker for MMR 2017 was Dr. Jeff Iorg. He has a book titled, The Case for Antioch: A Biblical Model for a Transformational Church. The main goal of the book is to encourage churches with a case study of the church in Antioch, a place where Christian churches saw many significant firsts, and from this study to learn how to be transformational in our own churches.

I bring up his book in the context of this blog because he states that to grow a healthy, transformational church you need to emphasize reaching men.

Dr. Iorg gives five suggestions.

  • Design worship services and church activities with men in mind. Dr. Iorg suggests having specific representative people in mind and when designing the service. Thinking of the representative individual ask, would this person like this, be attracted to this, or be challenged and grown by this. You probably want a teenager as one of these representatives, maybe a mom, in our church you would absolutely need a senior adult. But in every setting have a representative man included in this group. Pick a man’s man. A man who looks like the men you need to reach.
  • Train men to lead in public settings. You should start with the little stuff, things like having them lead a prayer in service, or having them help with the offering. If they never start on these small tasks you can be pretty confident they will never go further to teach a class, lead a ministry or mentor a newer believer in their walk.
  • Create a process where men train men. Whether instruction in basic Christianity like spiritual disciplines, or tougher tasks such as church conflict resolution, men learn better from men. I know someone out there will start screaming sexism or believe this is just more evidence that masculinity is broken, but I believe it is a part of God’s design. But either way you will get better results if you realize it and work with it than ignore it.
  • Develop some ministries that are just for men. Be careful on this point because in some people’s minds, things of interest to men must include things contrary to Christian behavior. There are a multitude of recreational pursuits which are of special interest to men, so find one that fits your men. I would of course suggest attending MMR2018. It is a great time of fellowship, food, recreation, and more that is designed for men.  Recognizing the need for these events is why we started this retreat.
  • Design ministries for men to impact boys. Begin the training for Biblical manhood while the young men are preteen or even younger. The world is already training them to be worldly men, so don’t delay is showing them better alternative.

Drawn from the book The Case for Antioch described above, in the chapter titled Leaders and Followers. In my edition, the section on men is on pages 151-156.


David and Staying the Course

In recent articles about King David’s Journey to the throne I have addressed:

  • The goals of men’s ministry,
  • Conflict that are likely in starting men’s ministry,
  • A realistic viewpoint of the men gathered, and
  • The key lessons to teach the men in the ministry.

Today I want to addressing the need for leadership to continually walk in a trusting relationship with the Lord and give at least one hint to make that possible.

The first time you ever placed your faith in Christ it might have been easy or tough depending on your personality.  Since that time you have probably learned to place turn your trust over to Him and His capable hands, over and over again.  It becomes easier with each step, but what is much harder, for me at least, is not taking it back from Him again.

For David there was a couple of really good opportunities to move himself into the throne on his own schedule instead of with God’s timing.  You see twice he was in a position, where he could have killed Saul. (1 Samuel 24 and 1 Samuel 26) In both instances his men were pushing him to take that opportunity.  They believed the opportunity was given to david by the Lord. He might have even lost some of their respect by refusing to slay Saul when the opportunity was right in front of him.

David in both cases stated that he would not raise his hand against God’s anointed. He viewed the opportunity to kill Saul as a test rather than God’s plan to move him into power. From the perspective of history, we know that David interpreted the situation correctly.

David, remember, did not have the luxury of the historical viewpoint, so how exactly did he know that God’s will was not to do what seemed obvious to so many others. The answer must be in David’s personal relationship with God or in His ideology about God’s will.  Or more likely the combination of these things.

As you lead men be sure to be strong in your own personal walk with God. If you are not strong in the Lord, you will be bounced from opinion to opinion by the men you lead. Men will often be happy to tell you what God’s will for you is. It gets harder to hear from God as the men get louder, so it falls on you to know God well enough to recognize His leading even among the other voices.

Another tool David seemingly used though, was to anchor himself to God with certain principles. In this case, David believed that Saul had been anointed by God, was therefore under God’s care, and God had a multitude of ways to remove Saul from this earth, in His own timing. So the offshoot of all this is that David did not have to take a part in removing Saul, he just needed to keep trusting God to be God.

My point for today is to stay strong in the Lord, both in your individual relationship and your knowledge of how He works. These steps will not just protect you, but will protect the ministry as well.

David’s Key Issues

In previous notes we have discussed the goals for men’s ministry, conflict within men’s ministry and most recently group building.  This article will explore some of the possible central teachings for men.

When you study the early period of David’s group you will see certain patterns emerging. There are three key issues that catch my attention among this rough group of men that became David’s core group. These same three points would be good starting points for teaching in your men’s ministry.

First, they needed to learn to submit to the Lord, specifically in a salvation relationship.  David led under God’s leadership, but if these men did not also respect the Lord they could undo whatever David’s submission to God and leadership of the group accomplished. Around the church if there is not agreement on this most fundamental issue then all other progress is meaningless.

Second, they took responsibility for their families. You can see frequent mention that each man had his family with him, a surprising fact for a roaming group of guerrilla soldiers.  The beginning points of leading a responsible life is taking care of your family. The erosion of the family has become a societal norm, but that is exactly the reason we must not ignore it with our men.

Third, they accepted David as their leader. Perhaps the most common struggle in the church is wrestling with who is in charge, who gets to make what decisions and how individuals stake out their territory. If a man does not respect his leaders, trouble will follow, and both of the previous goals will be stopped in their tracks. Yet it is in the nature of men to wrestle with these points at any point that they do not see them clearly delineated.  Some men will go challenge leadership even when it is openly visible.

In conclusion, the main lesson I want you to get out of this article is that teaching must be intentional and goal oriented.  Your first three goals or topics may be to:

  • Give them a relationship with Jesus.
  • Help them to lead their families.
  • Require them to be under the authority of Jesus in the church, as expressed through the church leadership.

David’s Core Group

In previous notes we discussed the need for Men’s ministry to move from spiritual training to practical activity and the strong likelihood for conflict within men’s ministry, especially at the start.  This article will talk about the gathering of men after the ministry is up and running.

In 1 Samuel 22:1-2 you see David begin to attract men to his side.

1So David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam; and when his brothers and all his father’s household heard of it, they went down there to him. 2Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain over them. Now there were about four hundred men with him.

They came largely from two sources.  Those who were running from Saul, having their lives endangered by their association with David and those who were in some form of trouble.

These two groups are rather similar to those attracted to churches today.

Some of the people who come arrive because they have history with Christianity and are seeking to continue this pattern of life.  This might be good history or bad history.  Sometimes church members are moving from a church that made them mad. They show up at the new church with a chip already on their shoulder, and because of that history will want to shape the church in response to their past hurts.

This is similar to David’s older brothers who had once accused him of being a glory hound, and likely still held negative feelings toward him.  Undoubtedly, they were frustrated that their families were in danger because of their relationship with David. These brothers might have had a hard time accepting David’s leadership.

The second category of people who show up at church are those who have distresses, debts and discontents that drove them to change their life. You can look at these people as bringing a lot of problems with them or bringing a bunch of potential with them.  I strongly suggest you keep both in sight.

Comfortable church members may try to push out these unpolished new converts, but when they do so they are revealing their own ungodliness. The habits, language and patterns of these new believers may have a negative influence on the whole group. Nevertheless, God delights in growing His work with the least likely of people.

In general, the people who show up ready to change their life are easier to deal with than those who show up wanting to change the church. But you are responsible to work with both groups. A good, obvious rule of thumb is: God has given you the people you have and He expects you to work with them.

David Starting Conflicts

I have already discussed the two introductions we have to David in 1 Samuel 16 and 17.  You can look back to learn more about the balance needed in Men’s ministry between spiritual life and practical accomplishment.

In the following chapters we can continue to learn something about men’s ministry from a careful study of David’s life.  While David at this point knew he had been anointed by Samuel to be king, he may not have understood that moving through some serious difficulties and blessings was also necessary preparation for being a leader of men.

One of the toughest aspects of leadership is who do you work with and trust?  Current leadership may need to be replaced. Friendships can be the greatest catalyst to strengthen a ministry, but perhaps just as often they lead to its greatest challenges. A leader must be ready to train up other leaders, and most likely will be accused of favoring their friends in the process.

So what happened next to David?  First he is favored by Saul and given every advantage and opportunity. Then when he is successful Saul becomes jealous and contentious toward him.  Apparently Saul was not the right person to trust.

Saul even offered to marry his eldest daughter, Merab to David as a reward for his accomplishment.  But in the middle of these accolades, Saul also tried to kill David with a spear while he played his harp to comfort the king.

Another daughter was successfully offered to David, Michal. This arrangement did nothing to reconcile David and Saul, and Michal in many ways was a hindrance to him instead of a blessing.

However, on the positive side David did find a helpful friendship with Jonathan, Saul’s son. Perhaps it was natural these two men had a strong friendship because they were both valiant warriors who had led Israel to miraculous victories.  Jonathan, more than Saul, should have seen David as a competitor for the future throne. But instead of fighting him he proved his loyalty over and over again.

So what do we learn from men’s ministry in these episodes of David’s life?

  • Expect some conflict when starting a ministry. If not right at the start, then when things begin to happen. Even successes can give rise to surprisingly hostile attacks from people you thought were on your side.
  • Men’s ministry will always include bumping up against the ego of men. Although an angry man’s ego may want to start a fire, a leader who models humbleness will act as a fire extinguisher.
  • Look for the quality of character in people more than their ability, position, or accolades. When you find the person with the right heart train them in leadership. The right ministry team will make all the difference in the world.

So when forming a men’s ministry you will need to endure some conflict.  It is in the nature of men for these conflicts to arise, and they can be surprisingly severe. But if you are serious about reaching men do not back down, but press ahead calmly and humbly.

David as a Men’s Leader

Have you ever noticed that David is introduced twice in the Bible?

The first time we meet David is in 1 Samuel 16 when Samuel is instructed to anoint a new king because Saul has been rejected.  After being anointed, David is almost immediately summoned to the royal court.  The court was looking for a musician who could comfort Saul when tormented by an evil spirit. In this passage David was described as a man of valor, a warrior, and even was made Saul’s armor bearer, but his primary role was as a musician.

The second time we meet David is in 1 Samuel 17 when Goliath is paralyzing the armies of Israel with fear. David is described in this later passage as a youth. In this passage Saul doesn’t seem to be aware of who David is, as evidenced by his asking for details of the young man after he slays Goliath. Of course, you already know who won in this confrontation.

The reason for the two introductions may be as simple as the two passages are recorded out of order. First as a young man David slayed Goliath then later Saul looked for a man who was a musician and happily it was the same David.

But I tend to believe there are no accidents in Scripture.  Perhaps instead we are given the two sides of David’s life separately to help us better understand who he was and why he was such a capable leader of men.

First there is David the musician, who writes praise songs for God, whom he knows well. If this first introduction is given first because of its importance, then the lesson is that relationship with God is of primary importance.  There are several lessons we can learn from David that might be important to men today.

  • David was boldly expressive in worship. David was accustomed to not just having his faith, but joyfully expressing it in song. When given opportunity to help others with worship he was willing.
  • David was comfortable being alone with God. This likely included both speaking to God and hearing from God. Looking at his psalms, you can see that David respected God’s presence and expected God’s answers.
  • David was obedient and willing to serve. When called to assist Saul in whatever way he was called upon to do so. There seemed to be no ego holding back his humble service.
  • David respected God’s calling and anointing, both as it applied to his own life and to the lives of others. Since he was already anointed as the next king, we might have expected him to take the throne by force, but instead he waited on God’s timing and leading.

The second side of David’s life is a leader and warrior as portrayed by slaying Goliath.  There are some noteworthy aspects of this side of David.

  • David was willing to speak out and act, even when everyone else would not. He used his courage to move forward and to move others forward.
  • David was aware of himself, his capabilities and limitations. He was able to quickly recount his past victories, but refused to fight as a king in the king’s armor.
  • David heard and made intentional decisions in regard to opposition. His brothers did their best to chase him off, but David refused to be dissuaded from his course.
  • David sought to understand the entire picture of risk and reward. He spoke to several people seeking to know what the king would do for the man who slayed Goliath.

A good men’s ministry has to address both aspects of manhood we find in David’s life.  First and foremost we need to hold one another accountable in our daily relationship.  But in so doing there has to be some practical application of our men’s faith in kingdom building. There will need to be some purpose, goal, battle, or accomplishment beyond just personal knowledge and disciplines.

David had both sides of this tricky balance, and becomes a great leader of men over the next many chapters.

Of Bungees and Biceps

This past week a small group of people from my church went to help a church start in another town. They were bridge-building in the community by volunteering at a school event. After a very long day watching kids ride a bungee/trampoline amusement ride, I wanted to try it. I was surprised how easy it was, so I was encouraged to do more. A back flip went over relatively easy, but when I came down the bungee twisted my left arm around and something inside popped.

It was painful, but only for a few seconds. In addition the arm still had a full range of motion. These two facts convinced me that nothing was seriously wrong. But when it came time for clean up, I couldn’t do anything with that arm. The real clincher was when wife pointed out that my arm had a brand new shape. There was a ball up by the shoulder and a visible hollow down by the elbow.

My wife did a little research. This shape is descriptive of a broken tendon on the elbow end of the bicep. This injury is relatively painless. The bicep has other muscles that compensate when it is missing, explaining why I have full movement. Unfortunately this injury also leaves the person with only nominal strength. Until the bicep is surgically reattached the arm will not be right. Because of this, when testing myself, I can do everything I try. But when I attempt real life work, I can’t.

Why would I tell you all of this on a website discussing men’s ministry? Well, I’m glad you asked.

My arm with the bicep detached reminds me of churches where men are absent or inactive. They can do all the things that other churches do. The women of the church will step up and do the planning, leading and working when the men do not. But the activities and events will be missing something. At the very least they will be missing men; both working the events, and responding to the events. The rest of what they are missing will be intangible. The people may feel at a deep level something is wrong, or at least not all it could be, but it would be difficult to say why. These congregations are missing the strengths men bring to a leadership team.

I believe God has designed men to be leaders. This begins by men being the leaders in their own households, but should continue under the leadership of God in the church. This isn’t to say that women cannot take on leadership in the church, because God will call whomever He chooses. Yet when a vast majority of a church’s lay workers are female, it is more likely because of the absence of men than the choices of God’s call.

I have watched God change my church. We have more men in attendance than we have had in years. The men’s fellowship generally has more present than the ladies. And although we still have a majority of women leading ministry teams, the scales are slowly moving. We even have deacons serving again. I will admit that the changes are scary. Leading men is different than leading women. Conflict arises from the men rising up to work who previously remained in the shadows. Furthermore these men seem more likely to hold me accountable as pastor, than the women had been inclined to do. But through it all I trust God, and His design. Through it all we have been richly blessed.

If you want to see similar sorts of changes take place in your church then please consider bringing a group of guys to the men’s retreat. Invest your time as pastor directly into these men. The church will survive without you for that week. The church will survive without them for that week. When you all return, you will have started building the camaraderie that is the foundation for men’s fellowship. That fellowship will empower some of them to seek discipleship. Then that discipleship will turn some of them into leaders. It is a long road, but the best response to a long road is to start as soon as possible.

Today I had imaging done on my arm. Tomorrow I will see an orthopedic surgeon, whom I expect will confirm my suspicions, and I hope will schedule a surgery to fix it. You can pray for me in this process. I will pray for you too. I will pray that you see how important men are to God’s kingdom and why men’s ministry requires the pastor’s special attention.