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What Works, What Doesn't, and Why It Matters Now More than Ever
By Patrick Morley, Jim Vincent
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2009 Patrick Morley
All rights reserved.
IS PASTORING MEN WORTH THE EFFORT?
Much has been made about the "men problem." You can hear about it on Oprah. You can read about it in Time. You can watch the destruction it creates with Dr. Phil.
School teachers can barely educate on the heels of it. Social services are overwhelmed because of it. Employers are stumped by it. Law enforcement feels the brunt of it. Many jails and prisons are full because of it. Politicians don't know what to do with it. Candidates avoid it.
Authors and academics have assembled alarming statistics to prove it. Health care professionals publish convincing reports to document the human cost of it. Cable shows rant at it. Talk radio personalities have all the answers for it. Movies glamorize it. Television commercials mock it.
The "men problem." Divorce courts are at capacity because of it. Families are ripped apart by it. Wives soak their pillows with tears as a result of it. Children grow up in poverty as a consequence of it. Teenagers experiment with drugs and sex to cope with it.
A lot of money gets spent to treat the symptoms of it. We open teenage pregnancy centers, establish substance abuse centers, increase budgets for social services, build homes for battered women, authorize more jail space, put extra beds in our homeless shelters, increase the number of law enforcement officers, and fit our schools with metal detectors to deal with it.
Everyone is concerned about it. Many address the consequences of it. Yet very few people are doing anything that will change the root of it.
"It" is among the most pervasive social, economic, political, and spiritual problems of all time.
Men have become one of our largest neglected people groups. As a result, they are prone to get caught up in the rat race, lead unexamined lives, and become cultural (rather than biblical) Christians.
CHECK OUT THE COLLATERAL DAMAGE
The collateral damage on marriages and families is staggering:
Of men who married between 1970 and 1974, just 46.2 percent were still married after thirty years.
Of the seventy-two million children in America under the age of eighteen, 33 percent will go to bed tonight in a home without a biological father.
Children in female-headed families are five times more likely to live in poverty, repeat a grade, and have emotional problems compared to families where a father is present.
We have become a nation of spiritual widows and practical orphans (James 1:27). These are real people—real casualties. As one police officer said, "Statistics are tragedies with the tears wiped away."
Today's average man is like a deer caught in the headlights of a Hummer. He doesn't fully understand—and so can't apply—what God has to say about a man's identity, purpose, relationships, marriage, sex, fathering, work, money, ministry, time, emotions, integrity, and dozens of other subjects.
As a result, most men are tired. They often have a lingering feeling something isn't quite right about their lives. Often their lives are coming unglued. And it is common for them to feel like nobody really cares. Even in the church, men are being left behind. The situation is so significant that the next chapter will explore this in depth.
Yet men routinely "bluff" when asked, "How are you doing?" Pastors observe this all the time. For that reason, I think we should be just as concerned about the men who have not become statistics as those who have.
It's not as though these men want to struggle or fail. But their capabilities are not equal to their intentions. As Denzel Washington, playing a recovering alcoholic ex-military bodyguard in a Latin American country, said in Man on Fire, "You're either trained or you're not trained." Spiritually, most men are not.
Reaching these men is one of the great strategic opportunities—and needs— of our time. Instead of the "men problem," some quarters need to start seeing the "men opportunity." Pastors are the logical choice. Pastors bring grace to the equation. They see men not so much for what they are, but for what they can become in Christ. Pastors are the ones whom God has called to instruct, encourage, correct, challenge, inspire, and call men to "act like a man." This is a significant yet solvable problem. There is no human or spiritual reason why we can't get this done. Of course, "it" will take time and dedication.
The purpose of this book is to equip you to more effectively pastor all of your men. God's vision is that every man in your church becomes a disciple of Jesus. Men's ministry needs to be redefined so that it is "all-inclusive." This is a book about why and how to disciple every man in your church.
Most pastors also desperately need more lay leaders. Another opportunity in discipling men is that some will grow into leadership. For example, a friend of mine started a small group with seven men in his Birmingham, Alabama, church. During the next seven years, his ministry grew to seven groups totaling 128 men. At that time his church needed about 150 leaders to function properly. One hundred of those leaders came through his small groups. But what's especially intriguing is that approximately seventy-five of those men—fully half of the church's leadership!—started in his groups as cultural Christians who would (probably) not have otherwise stepped up to become church leaders.
You would not be holding this book in your hands unless pastoring men was important to you. But if I were to ask you, "Are you effective in pastoring your men?" like most pastors you would probably say, "No." I have discovered that even pastors who rank among the most successful at pastoring their men are hesitant to say, "Yes, I'm effective."
When asked why he was so tentative, one successful pastor said, "I know too much. I know that even though we've made progress with a man by taking him through our basic discipleship course, then officer training, and now he's a leader—I still see areas in his life that need work—as in my own, or I hear about someone who had a negative experience with him and I say to myself, 'Hmmm, he's not quite there.'"
Most church leaders we talk to are profoundly dissatisfied with the number of men in their churches who are effective disciples. But the majority of churches that have tried to implement men's discipleship initiatives have not been able to sustain them. They need better information, models, methods, and processes grounded in research, field testing, and biblical authority. That's why I wrote this book.
This is not a book about how to get a men's group going in your church. This is not a book about changing the décor of your sanctuary. This is not a book about starting a "separate" men's ministry that reaches a fraction of your men. Those are secondary concerns.
Since 1973 I have been "pastoring men," and here are three promises I want to make. By the end of this book you will know:
The state of your men—how they are doing, what they want, what keeps them from getting what they want, and what they need (chapters 2–5)
The essential factors to successfully disciple men (chapters 7 and 8)
A concrete, sustainable strategy to help you organize your passion for men's discipleship without a lot of new programming. As you will see, you are probably already doing most of what needs to be done (chapter 9)
Also, I've included an alphabetized reference section of (mostly) one-page summaries on seventy subjects that every man needs to know, giving you a masculine perspective that you can work into your sermons, teachings, counseling, and writing (Chapter 11).
Helping pastors disciple their men is my passion for personal reasons. In 1926, when my dad was two, the youngest of four children, his father deserted his family.
The stress got the best of my grandmother. She had a stroke, so she and her four young children moved in with two of her unmarried sisters (my great-aunts). Together, those three women raised my dad and his siblings. They did a great job, but they were dirt poor.
In those days, long before government programs, the community closed ranks when some of "their people" were in need. The one sister who worked was an elevator operator at the local bank; knowing the situation, the employer paid her a generous salary of $50 a week (roughly $15 an hour in today's dollars). She bought groceries each day on her way home. The grocer told her, "Nina, you take whatever you need, and pay whatever you can."
When my dad turned six he went to work with his older brother, Harry. They had two jobs. They rose every morning at 3:00 a.m. to deliver milk and then worked a paper route. The school gave them a permanent tardy slip.
My dad never knew the warmth of a father's embrace. He never felt the scratch of a dad's whiskers. He never overheard his dad whistling or singing while he worked, never smelled his work clothes, never heard him joke around or read a bedtime story, never tossed a ball, never felt a dad tussle his hair, never heard him say, "I love you, son" or "I'm proud of you, son," and never had a father's approval or guidance.
When Dad became a man he had to decide if he would repeat or break the cycle. As the oldest of four boys, I'm grateful my dad wanted to break the cycle. But fathering was unexampled to him. So our family joined a church because Dad and Mom wanted to get some moral and religious instruction for their four sons.
Our church had a vision to put my dad to work and, because of his strong work ethic, he responded to the challenge. By age forty, my dad was the top layman in the church. I suppose that's what he thought it must mean to be a "good Christian."
Of course, there is a lot of work to do in the church, but our church did not also have a vision to disciple my dad to be a godly man, father, and husband—the real reason he joined. He did the best he could, but he was left to "guess" at how to father my brothers and me.
Something happened in the church that hurt my mother's feelings, and my dad was burned out, so we quit church when I was in the tenth grade and my youngest brother was in the third grade.
Our family was soon hit by a force from which we have still not fully recovered. I quit high school in the middle of my senior year. My brother Robert followed in my footsteps. He eventually died of a heroin overdose. My other two brothers have had a variety of employment, substance, and marriage issues.
My dad just never saw it coming. If he could have seen around the bend, I'm sure he would have done things differently. If he was still alive I know he would say, "I take full responsibility. That was my decision." And I respect that. Every man does need to take responsibility for his own life.
But I would like to suggest that the church is culpable. The church knew (or should have known) what was around the bend. The church should have had a vision to disciple my Dad. But it didn't.
Fortunately, God is the Redeemer, and this story took another turn—I fell in love with Patsy. She went forward at a Billy Graham Crusade to publicly profess her faith at the age of eleven, and has never wavered. God graciously grafted the gospel back into my family line through Patsy's family line—Patsy led me to Christ.
Then God allowed me the joy of leading my brother Robert to Christ before he died. Another brother has also professed Christ, and so has my only niece on this side of the family. Dad and Mom also both came to Christ (or came back—I'm not sure). Neither one of them ever got over their bitterness toward the church, but they both affirmed their faith in Jesus on their deathbeds.
Both of my children can never remember a time when they didn't love Christ. They are now both married to fantastic Christian spouses and serving the Lord. I wish my father was still alive so I could tell him, "Dad, we did break the cycle. It should have only taken one generation and it took two, but we did break the cycle."
My Dad and I have the same DNA, so what was the difference? Why did I succeed where he failed? The difference was that I belonged to a church that had a vision to disciple me to be a godly man, husband, and father, while my Dad did not. Church is where I learned how to study the Bible for myself, how to study together with others, and how to share my faith and lead someone to Christ.
The reason I am so passionate about equipping pastors and churches to disciple men is this: I know that in every church there are men just like my Dad. These are men with good hearts and good intentions who have come to church for all the right reasons. How tragic when they fall away.
I also believe that in most churches there are men like my grandfather—men who are not only going to pull the plug on church, but on their families too. And they have no idea of the forces of destruction they're about to set in motion — that more than eighty years later, like me, their children's children may still be trying to recover from that fateful decision.
At the Man in the Mirror ministry, we see it every day in the broken homes and shattered lives of families who have lost a husband, father, and provider.
Obviously I will never know what it might have been like to grow up in a family with a dad who was discipled to be a godly man, husband, and father. My hope and prayer is that by learning and applying the skills in this book, you will feel equipped to more effectively pastor men like my dad and the grandfather I never knew. And men like me who sincerely want to break the cycle but can't do it without your help. May the young boys growing up in your church today never have to one day repeat a story like mine.
THE ANSWER: THE DISCIPLE-MAKING CHURCH
Scientists keep looking for a holy grail that unifies the cosmos—a "theory of everything." Pastors don't have to keep looking. We have a unifying theory. Jesus taught us the holy grail for unifying His church. It's making disciples. Discipleship is the core mission Jesus gave His bride. Making disciples is the irrefutable biblical mission of your church.
Discipleship is the process by which men become civilized. The institutional church is God's appointed means—the "first responders"—to help men become disciples. However, the church (in general) has not been making disciples at a proper pace. According to one survey, only 16 percent of church-attending adults are involved in organized discipleship classes, and twice as many women as men. (Discipleship, of course, is a lot more than attending classes; we will examine discipleship closely in Chapters 5 and 6.)
One day a highly placed executive in one of America's largest evangelical denominations told me, "In our denomination, we are not making disciples. And that's because our pastors have never been discipled."
Later, my wife and I went to dinner with the chancellor of a seminary and his wife. I told him what the denominational leader (from a different denomination) had said. He lamented, "Well, I'm not surprised. We find that when our students arrive, they have never been discipled. And we have no plans to disciple them while they're here." (Since that time he has initiated a pilot program with full-time staffing to disciple their students.)
So people who have never been discipled go to seminary where they are not discipled, and then they are sent to churches where their main responsibility is to—what? Make disciples.
Talk about an elephant in the living room! As a result, many pastors feel ill-equipped to disciple their men. They don't feel like they understand what their men are going through or how to help them. The unhappy result is that men don't get what they need from their church, and the church doesn't get what it needs from their men. That's why I wrote this book—to give you the confidence and tools you need to disciple your men. This is not an approach to make the world more comfortable, but different.
If you project out twenty or fifty years, can you visualize any way of ever getting the world right if men are wrong? The "men problem" is the root cause behind virtually every problem that ails us. It's an untreated cancer that keeps producing more and worse tumors.
One day a major donor said, "Pat, I can't support your ministry anymore."
I said, "That's fine, but tell me why."
He said, "My heart is really in prison ministry and teenage crisis pregnancy centers."
I laughed out loud. I said, "By all means please support that important work. But why do you think so many young men end up in prison? And why do you think a young teenaged girl would hop into bed with a boy?" (We dialogued more and he did continue his support.)
Let's treat the symptoms, of course, but let those who can—pastors—also treat the disease. A disciple-making church offers the only systemic solution to what ails us. As someone has said, "The church has many critics, but no rivals."
We need a fresh, research-based, pastor-led, biblical, field-tested approach that results in lasting change—one that is "actionable."
WE NEED A FRESH APPROACH
There have always been men's movements. The contemporary secular and Christian men's movements both started circa 1990. The secular men's movement went "blip" and promptly disappeared.
The problem with the secular men's movement was that it had no answer for "Tuesday." Men were lured into the woods on Saturday where they painted themselves up like Indians, beat on tom-toms, talked to trees, and cried out in existential pain. By Sunday they felt relief. But on Monday they had to return to civilization, and by Tuesday the futility and pain had returned.
Excerpted from Pastoring Men by Patrick Morley, Jim Vincent. Copyright © 2009 Patrick Morley. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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