When I was about eight years old, my mother began taking me to church. I went to Sunday School, started memorizing the books of the Bible and I learned how to look up passages by chapter and verse. Up until that point, I had no exposure to Christianity other than looking at pictures in the giant coffee table Bible that sat in our living room. I didn’t mind going to church. I would say that I even enjoyed learning about these things that I had never encountered before. It lasted about a year and then I would not return to church for a long time.
I began to think about the fact that I was getting up every Sunday morning to go to church, but my Dad did not. I was dressing up and heading to Sunday School, but my older brothers wanted nothing to do with it. I remember thinking it over very clearly one day and deciding that if church wasn’t important to my Dad and my brothers, it would not be important to me. I told my mom that I would not return to church and I did not.
My story demonstrates several realities. One is that men have great influence in the spiritual lives of their families. If it matters to Dad, it will matter to everyone. It is part of the influence that God has granted to men. If you want to reach the family, the most effective way is to reach men. The other important reality is that men are deeply disconnected from the church. Most men do not see a commitment to the local church as something vital to their life. Even the men that attend church are often going through the motions out of some sense of obligation. They are not devoted in any significant way. Therefore, the majority of the church is made up of women who also do most of the serving.
How can we reach men?
Certainly, a life transforming encounter with Jesus Christ is the most important factor in this equation. That is what happened to me, but lets look a little closer at what the church must do to provide an environment where men might be open to Christ and be a place to thrive once they find him. There are many things that we could consider in this regard, but here are two anchor points that are essential across the board. We see these two anchor points revealed in many places, but one demonstrable place is in the experience of men returning from war.
The United States has been embroiled in war in the Middle East for almost twenty years. Something that has been alarming in the soldiers returning from overseas is the increasing rate of PTSD-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A brief, but fantastic resource on this is the book Tribe by Sebastian Junger. In it, he speaks about how even though war is being fought more at a distance from the enemy with less face to face combat and that fewer soldiers see actual combat in modern war, PTSD rates rose dramatically. You would think that it would be less and yet when our vets return, they are struggling. In fact, they often look at their time on the battlefield as the greatest time of their life, even though it may have been very difficult. The reason is that in war, men get two things they need. They get a band of brothers and they get an important mission to live for. When they return to civilian life, it often seems empty because their platoon is gone and a 9-5 job behind a screen doesn’t seem all that significant.
Brotherhood and Mission are life giving experiences that men have in the military but lack in modern civilian life. All men whether they have been in the service or not feel this void even though most don’t recognize it’s source. Men were born with a deep need and desire for a brotherhood that engages in a great mission together.
This is an incredible opportunity for the church.
Jesus created the church for the purpose of brotherhood. Unfortunately, we have dumbed it down to mean anonymously sitting in a large worship service and maybe going to a small group Bible Study. ALL people need something more than that and men definitely need more than that. The Apostle John declares that the mark of a genuine Believer is that he is willing to lay down his life for his brother (1 John 3:11-16). Guys identify with that and long for friends like that. They desire brotherhood…real brotherhood in which men challenge, support and serve each other. The local church was made to meet that need, but it must think more deeply about how to connect men in significant ways….as brothers. Do that…and men will engage!
Beyond that, these brothers have a God-given desire to live for an important mission stamped on their DNA. The church can offer a life altering mission to change lives, but most men don’t see a place for them in their local church. Handing out church bulletins or holding babies in the nursery doesn’t inspire most men. They feel like they are a square peg and the church has nothing but round holes. The local church must find ways to tap into the masculine strengths and abilities and passions of it’s men. Help them to discover how they can turn those things into something that really matters to move the kingdom forward. Men want to be about change and impact and pushing for greater goals. The church needs to adopt that kind of language and create those kinds of opportunities to connect men.
Brotherhood and Mission at the Forge
The Forge is a ministry that is uniquely designed to start men down the two roads of brotherhood and mission. Everything we do happens in a small group of up to twelve men. During our events, men have the opportunity to learn, to challenge, to be challenged, to work and live together. A weekend together at the Forge is like a microwave for brotherhood. And, that brotherhood is exhorted to discover and pursue their God given mission. We believe that every man has some important things to fight for in his life and we are committed to helping them get on that mission and have victory.
Imagine a group of twelve men returning to your church who are connected like brothers and fueled up to live on mission for Christ there. Jesus called twelve men together to be brothers and go on a great mission. They turned the world upside down. I believe twelve guys equipped through the Forge can turn your church and it’s community upside down for the glory of God.