Category: Ministry to Men

The Howdy that Saved a Life

Almost every Sunday, I encourage New Lifers to find someone they have never met and introduce themselves. It is probably the most important thing we do as a church family besides the Sacraments and the Scriptures. A few Sundays ago, a New Lifer turned around and met a man for the first time and probably saved his life.

This man had planned to take his own life by driving off a cliff later in the day, but decided to come to New Life beforehand to give God one more chance. When the New Lifer met him at the end of the gathering, he was obviously distraught. Instead of ignoring the man’s pain, the New Lifer prayed with him and introduced him to one of our pastors who took him to an office and met with him for about 90 minutes.

He was a totally different person after that time and assured us he was content to live now and would resume seeing his therapist, which he did, because we checked. All of this, because a New Lifer turned and said hello. Sometimes ministry to people is so simple – look at them, listen to them and care about their stories.

Several times in Paul’s letters to the churches, he encouraged them to greet one another with a holy kiss. The kissing part does not go over so well in Colorado, but the greeting part sure does. If church is an assembly of believers who belong to the same family, then sincere greetings should be a big part of the family gatherings every week. If not, we will become the cold “sit, listen and leave” church.

Not every handshake and introduction will save a life, but every close friend I have today started with one of us introducing ourselves and asking some questions. For some, this is super scary, for others it is not. No matter the nervousness, it is a powerful part of the local church becoming a close family and is proof to a distraught world that there is a place for them in God’s healing home.

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Fake Trophies

My two kids have dozens of medals and trophies and they have never won a championship of any kind. They have played soccer, basketball, volleyball, baseball and Taekwondo and have rarely ever played a game or competed in a match where the score was kept and a winner and a loser determined at the end.

By the time I was 13, I knew firsthand the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. I remember missing a jump shot in a 1st grade basketball game that would have won my team the game. That moment of failure did not scar me, instead it made me shoot hundreds of jump shots on a basketball rim that was nailed to a pine tree in my back yard. I wanted to get better, so the next time I was in the position to win or lose, I would hit the shot.

I understand the dark underbelly of competition and the ugliness it can unleash in parents and coaches. But I am afraid we are raising a generation of kids who are convinced by enormous evidence that winning and losing doesn’t matter, when in fact, it does. I believe our kids have very little motivation to get better, to practice, to overcome because everyone gets the same trophy – a fake trophy.

Meanwhile, we are left scratching our heads when the 20-somethings are still living in our basements with no plan to ever leave or achieve. I believe one of the big reasons our young men drift aimlessly through a decade of apathy is because they have not learned how to compete, the value of being challenged, and the lessons learned only through abject failure. The worst thing we can do for our children is to always make life easy for them.

Between 1940 and 1970, we sent people to space, invented computers, created suburbia and revolutionized automobile technology. The people of this age were a generation that had survived a world war, been challenged in combat, and had grandparents that had survived the Great Depression. Competition was a celebrated part of the culture. Heroes were honored and grace was given to the defeated. Losers learned tough lessons and winners had to practice harder to stay on top. It was an age of hard work, innovation, and persistence in the face of great challenges.

We can still recapture some of these values and we can start by not handing out any more fake trophies. We cannot allow our kids to quit a sport, a subject, or even a relationship just because it is too hard and they may fail. A handful of trophies earned is much better than the many given for just showing up.

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NFL Coaches, Disrespect, and the Men of our Church

Two NFL coaches who could not amicably shake hands after a close game made headlines recently. ┬áJim Harbaugh is the coach of the San Francisco 49ers and Jim Schwartz is the coach of the Detroit Lions and their two teams played each other in a close game that finished in pretty dramatic fashion, ending the Lion’s perfect season. Harbaugh is seen on camera right after the game ended, shouting and jumping, celebrating a win for his team.

Moments later, the two head coaches met in the middle of the field to shake hands, but Harbaugh, caught up in the exuberant moment, shook Schwartz’s hand really hard and patted him on the back with the force of a mule kick.┬áThe Detroit coach took exception and the two got into a heated argument before being separated.

As I watched, I thought about Emerson Eggerich and his book, Love and Respect. I usually don’t think of marriage books during NFL games, but I was tired and had eaten a spicy chicken sandwich for lunch. In his book, my friend talks about the greatest need for men is respect and the greatest need for women is love. When Harbaugh broke post-game protocol with the rough handshake and shove, it was a sign of disrespect, whether that was his intention or not.

Disrespect is many times dangerous and often lethal. There are many men in prison today who committed awful crimes simply because someone did something that dishonored them or made them look bad in front of others. Disrespect is the gateway to some of the worst possible emotions locked up in a man.

I am writing this as a reminder to myself to make sure I honor and respect the men God has called me to pastor. What can I do to show more respect to our men and thereby earn the right to help shape them into better Christ followers?

1. Ask for their advice. Nothing shows more respect than asking someone for their opinion on important matters.

2. Listen to what they say. Asking for their advice is no good if we never actually use it. Men can smell patronization quicker than their own dirty socks.

3. Empower them to lead. Men want to know that pastors trust them with serious spiritual leadership and not just see them as a walking checkbook or potential volunteer.

4. Go to their world. Show up at their business to visit and talk as much as you want them to show up at the church buildings. Hang out and ask questions about what’s important to them.

5. Talk to them every Sunday and not just on Father’s Day. Use sermon language that is engaging to them and relevant to their world. Let them know you see them and believe in what God is doing in them.

Men are hungry for God and for the most part, want to grow as Christ followers. They just need a little honor to move them off the starting line. It’s not more complicated than that and I mean that with all due respect.

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Reflections from a weekend in the mountains

I spent this past weekend at a spectacular mountain retreat center near Winter Park, Colorado with over 200 men who help me lead and pastor our church. We ate together, prayed together, worshipped together and discussed several big ideas. Oh yeah, we also watched LSU beat Florida like a 2-year old at Wal-Mart. But, I digress.

Friday night was a detox night for all of us. We spent a couple of hours with just song and Spirit guiding us. It was really refreshing to unwind, completely untangled from any agenda, service plans, or time restraints.

Saturday morning, we unpacked a definition of pastor. We used Eugene Peterson’s beautiful explanation: “To pay attention and call attention to what God is doing in people and between people.” We talked about “paying attention” and being alert as leaders of our homes and leaders within the fellowship.

Saturday night, we explored the steps all of us take toward sonship with the Prodigal Son story from Luke 15 as our backdrop. My five steps to sonship are:

1. I had no idea.

2. God knows me.

3. I belong to Him.

4. I have nothing to prove.

5. I will treat others the way He treats me.

Sunday morning, was really special as we gathered around the sacraments of bread and juice and remembered that we are “more than just conquerors”. We are rulers and governors of the land that has been assigned to us.

I loved the time with old friends and enjoyed meeting some new ones. Good days are ahead for the people of New Life and I am thrilled to be a part.

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Marinating vs. Microwaving

Jesus was brilliant. I know I sound like Captain Obvious, but Jesus knew how to build something that would last for millenniums. He invested three years in 12 men and then left them right when the church was about to be birthed. The 11 that remained as followers plus a small group of committed women then changed the world.

Why is this idea so hard for modern church leaders to grasp? Why do we continue to use Western marketing principles that ultimately fail instead of using the simple methods of Jesus, which are rock solid?

I am building a ministry to men at New Life and I have decided to spend the next three years building a group of leaders emphasizing relationships and not events or classes. We will have some events and some classes, but we will focus most of our effort on living our lives in authentic community. We are going to go deep before we grow wide.

Most people looking from the outside may think we are not that successful because I cannot point to big attendance numbers as proof. Please pray for me that I will not give in to the temptation to simply get a big crowd to come to an event. My goal at the end of the three years is to have around 200 men from every generation who will help me pastor the 5000 or so men who call New Life home. My goal is not to get the 5000 to show up at some meeting.

Crowds do not multiply, but disciples do. The challenge will be to marinate and not succumb to the microwave mentality that plagues the American church world. We want instant “success” like we want instant rice. We want to be on Top 100 lists even though Jesus would have never made it himself.

Only 120 were in the Upper Room and they were tired, scared and immature. Then they changed the culture of the evil Greco-Roman world in which they lived. They had depth because they had been built from the inside out. The crowds ultimately abandoned Jesus, but those who were in relationship with him stood firm.

I am returning to the ancient because it is the hope for the postmodern world in which I pastor and lead. Come marinate in deep relationships with me. Let’s go deep before we grow wide. Let’s change the world one friendship at a time.

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