So, You’re Retired… Your Ministry Has Just Begun – Part 3

ISI 2019 LeadersFor the last couple of months, we have talked about working for many years to raise and take care of a family.  Now we are entering or preparing to enter our retirement years.  So, what do we do?

When I retired over 3 years ago, I knew I wanted to spend my time pouring my life into other men.  My desire for many years was to be involved in ministering to men.  Maybe you don’t feel that call on your life.  But rest assure that as a child of God, He is calling you to some form of ministry.  It may not be what we typically think of as ministry, but God has a plan for your life.

The first thing I would recommend for anyone retiring is to have a period of Sabbath in your life.  A time of rest.  A time to reflect and seek God on the direction He desires for you.  You could actually begin to seek that direction before you retire but you do need to take a period of time to just rest.  Do some things around the house you have been wanting to do or maybe take that extended trip you always wanted to take.  But use the first few months of your retirement to just rest.

As you approach your retirement and during your time of rest be seeking God asking Him an honest question; “God, what are You calling me to do in retirement?”  Maybe it is to volunteer at a local hospital, relief organization, or a particular ministry.  God may move you into a position you would have never thought of during your career.  Be open to hear from God.  Talk to your friends and family on what they see you possibly doing.  They may see skills and talents God has gifted you with that you have yet to recognize.

Remember the story of Moses when God told him to return to Egypt to be the leader of the Hebrews.  Moses at first did not think he could do this for a number of reasons (Exodus. 3-4).  But God gave him a helper in his brother Aaron and God went with him guiding him for the next 40 plus years in leading Israel.

Maybe God wants to use you in developing a ministry.  I know of an individual because of their connection with the military began a ministry to encourage the men and women being deployed.  Another who started a ministry to help military wives who are left behind with housing maintenance.  Another who has a significant impact in prisons, reaching men and preparing them for when they are released.

Discipleship GroupMen who are pouring their lives into the next generation.  Being a living example to the younger generation.

Even while I am old and gray, God, do not abandon me, while I proclaim your power to another generation, your strength to all who are to come.  (Psalms 71:18)

Tell a future generation the praiseworthy acts of the LORD, his might, and the wondrous works he has performed.  (Psalm 78:4)

These are just a couple of scriptures that instructs us to pour our lives into the next generation.  Either through our children and grandchildren or into others.  Paul even told the Thessalonians in his first letter to them that,

We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.  (1 Thess. 2:8)

So, as you approach retirement or enter retirement, pray that God would teach you to number your days carefully so that you may develop wisdom in your heart to minister to the next generation (Ps. 90:12).

For more information I recommended Jeff Haanen’s book An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

Establish Men to Spiritual Maturity

Mens MinistryThis is our second installment on the 4 E’s of Men’s Ministry which are the cornerstones to make sure we are touching a man in every area of his walk with Christ.  To make sure we are not only involved in “ministries by men” but, we are also involved in “ministering to men.”  Both are important but often the “ministering to men” element is overlooked and if one is more important, “ministering to men” is the one.  For when men get the spiritual part right, then they will have a longing desire to do “ministries by men.”

To remind us what are the 4 E’s we discussed in a previous article, I have listed them again.  They are;

  1. Evangelize Men to Salvation
  2. Establish Men to Spiritual Maturity
  3. Equip Men to Ministry
  4. Extend Men on Mission

In this article we will review the second cornerstone, Establish Men to Spiritual Maturity.

Many Christian men start out with passion for the things of God and then begin to coast.  They end up compromising and many finish their lives with regret.  Lonnie Berger in his book ‘Every Man A Warrior: Helping Men Succeed In Life – Walking with God, states, “I believe that most men have never been trained and equipped with the necessary skills to fight and end well.”  I often say that men have often been told how to act and behave, but never trained.  To put it simply, we are ‘Often Told but Rarely Trained.’

Disciple MakingPart of our Men’s Ministry as we minister to men should be to move men into discipling relationships.  This is more than being in church on Sunday morning and attending a Sunday School class or a Home Group Study.  All is important and every man should be attending these with their wife and families; even if they are single.  But the relationship I am talking about is placing oneself in a position so a man can pour his life into us.  Creating an environment where men feel comfortable to discuss issues and struggles they deal with every day.

Some of the most meaningful times I have experienced in the last decade of my walk with God is spending time with 2-3 other men for the purpose of digging deep into the scriptures, discussing how to apply them into my life, and allowing those men to speak into my life.

For 35 years as a Christian I limped along tying to advance my walk in Christ by myself.  Never developing a relationship with other men who had permission to speak into my life – to speak truth.  To provide encouragement – genuine encouragement and not the superficial encouragement we often hear for those just outside the boundaries we set up.

Got Your BackTo Establish Men to Spiritual Maturity we need to develop an attitude of moving men into discipling relationships.  How do we do that.  Invite them to join you in working through a book on a book of the Bible.  It’s not hard.  A great book I have found to start with is by Dr. Gary Yagel called, Got Your Back.  Easy read and it is a great book to help men understand why we need other men in our lives.

As someone once said, “Discipleship is the answer to our evangelism problem.”  Men who we invite into our group does not need to be Christians.  One can use these groups to develop relationships to present the gospel in a comfortable and non-threatening environment to those who do not know Christ.

Paul made it personal by telling the Thessalonians in his first letter to them, “We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us,” (1 Th 2:8).

So, if you want to move your men’s ministry deeper to reach the men of your church and community, start by moving men into spiritual maturity by developing a discipleship ministry.  As a seasoned man recently told me after experiencing a few weeks in a discipleship group, “This is the best thing I have experienced since I became a Christian!”

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

Evangelize Men to Salvation

Mens MinistryThe 4 E’s of Men’s Ministry are the cornerstones to make sure we are touching a man in every area of his walk with Christ.  To make sure we are not only being involved in “ministries by men” but, we are also involved in “ministering to men.”  Both are important but often the “ministering to men” element is overlooked and if one is more important, “ministering to men” is the one.  For when men get the spiritual part right, then they will have a longing desire to do “ministries by men.”

To remind us what are the 4 E’s we discussed in a previous article, I have listed them again.  They are;

  1. Evangelize Men to Salvation
  2. Establish Men to Spiritual Maturity
  3. Equip Men to Ministry
  4. Extend Men on Mission

In this article let’s review the first cornerstone; Evangelize Men to Salvation.

Sam Chan in his book, Evangelism in a Skeptical World, states, “The best way to understand the term evangelism is that it is our attempt to describe what happens when someone tells {the] gospel.”  Jesus told us in Matthew 28:19, “Go… and make disciples.”  Part of making disciples is telling them of the gospel and how to live as a disciple of Christ.  Therefore, when we consider Chan’s explanation of evangelism, when we are telling the gospel then we are evangelizing.

One of the keys to helping men become the men they were created to be is helping them understand their need for Christ.  For since we are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26), we need to have our spiritual life right to become the man God expects us to be.

Men GolfingWhen we plan events, we need to always keep in mind the opportunities to tell the gospel message.  How that message is conveyed can be different depending on the venue and event.  For instance, in a gathering over a meal it could be told through someone’s testimony of them recognizing their need of Christ and surrendering.  In a participatory event such as a golf, fishing, or other activity it could be by providing material such as a gospel tract provided in a gift bag.  Or even through a devotional prior to event.

MenFishingThis cornerstone should be considered every time an event is being planned.  NEVER assumed every man who attends a church event have a personal relationship with Christ.  For many will appear to have a relationship but Jesus may one day look at them as say, “I never knew you,” (Matt. 7:23).

I am reminded of a conversation I had with a man in his 70s a few years ago who told me about his wife.  When he married her, he thought if anyone would be in heaven at death it would be her.  She was always ministering in the church in some manner.  Ten years into their marriage she woke him one night as she came to a realization of her need for Christ and she had never surrendered her life to God.  He told me that night she gave her life to Christ, and even after being one who was always working in the church, he saw a change in her.

So, never assume when you have events the men attending have accepted Christ as their savior just because they are always in church and participating in ministries.  Remember Judas, all the disciples thought he was one of them because he participated in all their activities – there may be one in your midst who, though may not be a betrayer like Judas, may not be like you in Christ.

Always plan a method to present the gospel message with the men you connect.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

 

The 4 E’s of Ministering to Men

Mens MinistryIn past articles I have discussed making sure we are “Intentional” in developing relationships with our men as we encourage them to move in discipling and ministry relationships.  We want to develop “Multiply Entry Points” and we want to “Know our men.”  All three of these are important as a church develops its ministry to men.

The 4 E’s of Men’s Ministry is just as important as these are the cornerstone to make sure we are touching a man in every area of his walk with Christ.  This helps to make sure we are not only being involved in “ministries by men” but, we are also involved in “ministering to men.”  Both are important but often the “ministering to men” element is overlooked.

So, want are the 4 E’s?  I will be taking take each one and discussing in future articles .

The 4 E’s are;

  1. Evangelize Men to Salvation
  2. Establish Men to Spiritual Maturity
  3. Equip Men to Ministry
  4. Extend Men on Mission

Just like spokes in a wheel, each one is required to develop a balanced approach to ‘ministering to men’ and ‘ministering by men.’  If any are missing, then the men of the church are not fully engaged in the work of Christ.

Men’s Ministry is so much more than having breakfast gatherings and various events.  It is also about men pouring their lives into other men.  Paul said it best when he told the Thessalonians in Chapter 2 verse 8 in his first letter to the Thessalonians,

We care so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you have become so dear to us. (CSB)

Disciple MakingOver a decade ago I began to experience this as men began pouring their life into me.  They prayed with me.  They shared scripture with me.  They gave me biblical insight on how a man is to act.   Instead of just telling me how to act, they trained me how to act.  Many of the problem’s men have today can be resolved if men will get into the Word and allow other men to come alongside of them to pour into their lives.

Jesus pulled 12 men unto himself for the purpose of pouring His life into them.  He pulled three of those men – Peter, James, and John – even closer.  He never sent anyone out by themselves.  He sent them out at least by two.

If Jesus – the God-Man – felt the need for men to be surrounded by men what makes us believe we can do this life alone?  If he sent them out by twos, what makes us think we can do life alone?

We will be discussing this in the coming articles on why we need to incorporate the 4 E’s into our Men’s Ministry and how these with the philosophy to be Intentional, creating Multiple Entry Points, and Knowing Our Men fit together.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

 

Spiritual Stop Signs

As we begin a New Year, I was reminded of an event a few years ago.

It had been a busy Saturday as I had been in a meeting most of the day and I was ready to get home.  The drive home was about three and half-hours.

After traveling about a hour the female voice on my GPS, my wife in a box as my wife calls her, informed me there was an accident on I-40.  This would cause about a 20 minutes delay if I stayed on the current route.  However, another route was found that would route me around the accident – if I wanted to take it press ‘Accept.’  Well, I wanted to get home as quickly as possible, so I pressed ‘Accept.’

After traveling the new route for a few minutes, the lady on the GPS stated she had found a faster route, did I want to accept.  Well, what do you think!  I want to get home, so why wouldn’t I take a route that is faster, so once again I pressed ‘Accept’ for the faster route.

The GPS lady then proceeded to instruct me to turn down a road that went into the country in areas I probably have never been in the state – beautiful farm country.  Then she wanted me to turn on another country road.  Then another.  Then another.

stop-signAfter several miles of turning down these country roads I started to get a little frustrated and I said aloud, “Where are you taking me!”  It was then I notice this big red octagonal sign that said STOP! that seemed to pop up out of the ground like in one of those video games.  I was so close I didn’t have time to react.  I did one of those quick left-to-right looks to see if another car was coming as I blew right through the stop sign at about 50 miles per hour.  As I looked in the review mirror to see if the local Deputy Sheriff was watching, I thanked God He had not allowed someone to be coming through the intersection at the same time.

That’s when God reminded me, He puts Stop Signs in our lives from time to time.  A familiar passage to many of us came to mind, Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.”  Sometimes in life when we are on a path that may seem strange and uncertain maybe that is a warning to us that we need to slow down and possibly even stop and listen to God.

I was reminded that God is constantly changing our visions and direction in the different seasons of our lives just like the GPS did that day on my trip home.  Sometimes we are in such a rush to get to the next adventure, like I was to get home that day, we fail to see the warnings signs that God is giving us to STOP, “Be still and know that I am God.”

If we rush through those spiritual stop signs it could lead to disastrous consequences, just like that physical stop sign I ran through on that country road.  Fortunately, the only consequence for me was the quickening of the pitter-patter of my heartbeat for a few moments.  But it could have been much worse.  Not only for myself, but for my family and the individual and their family if I had hit someone.

When we run through God’s spiritual stop signs the consequences could also affect those around us, not just us.

god-stop-signIf you feel uncertain or flustered with events in your life maybe God is holding up a spiritual Stop Sign.  If decisions are hard and you cannot get a sense of direction maybe God is holding up a spiritual Stop Sign.  Maybe there has been a change in life, loss of a job, new job, sickness, death of a love one, even retirement, maybe God is holding up a spiritual Stop Sign.

God desires for us to sometimes STOP so we can reflect on where he has taken us, review what He has taught us, what we have learned while on that path, and hear clearly what God has for us as we continue in His will.

So, as we begin this New Year of 2019, we need to beware of the spiritual Stop Signs God places in our lives where we need to be still and know that God is God.  Don’t blow past those Spiritual Stop Signs in your haste to get something accomplished like I did on that country road that day.  God may be trying to talk to you and if you don’t stop, the consequences could be disastrous.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike.

Lessons For Men from the Christmas Story: The Boldness of Joseph

Joseph of Bethlehem“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife.”  – Matthew 1:18-24

Culturally, Joseph did not have to take Mary as his wife after he discovered she was pregnant.  In fact, the scriptures tell us he was a just man and was thinking of divorcing her quietly.  However, an angel of the Lord met him in his dreams and told him what was happening and instructed him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife.  Joseph did what the Lord directed him to do.

How many of us are afraid and neglect to do what God is instructing us to do?  As we approach the day we celebrate the birth of Christ, think about the boldness Joseph displayed in his culture.  He didn’t have to take Mary according to his culture – but he did.  How many of us men will have the boldness of Joseph to do what God is instructing us to do in His Word regardless of what our culture says.?

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

What Hurricane Florence Taught Me

Pic 003It has been a few months since my last article.  Hurricane Florence disrupted many lives in September and the disruption will continue for many months – possibly years – for many.  Immediately after the storm past I was asked to lead a NC Baptist on Mission Disaster Relief Operational Center (DROC).  I was honored to be asked to such a task and I oversaw the site at Scotts Hill for two months.  But this is not what the article is truly about as I learned a viable lesson on the need to have men who have your back.

During times of disaster rather it be a hurricane as was the case here, health issues, financial issues, relationship issues, or any number of other disasters that comes into our lives, we can easily lose focus on our relationship with God.  Many will say in those times I find myself being drawn closer – I understand that – but there are times because of the attention the disaster demands we can find ourselves neglecting our intimate and intentional time with the Father.  This was my case.

After a week of operating the site a pastor friend came by and asked how I was doing.  I shared with him I was finding it hard to find time to steal myself away to spend with the Father in the Word and prayer.  The day began early and by the end of the day I was tired and just ready to go to bed.  Then came my Got Your Back friends.

courageous-movie-men-praying-7These are four men who I meet with weekly to talk and pray together.  These men saw the struggle I was having and though we couldn’t meet at our regular place – one suggested we meet at the DROC location.  These men were life saviors in many ways.  A couple of them were able to volunteer some of their time to help during the week so they were walking by my side.  Others were praying and checking up on me during the week.  But every week we met for an hour at the DROC to just share and pray with each other.  They also got to see some of the challenges I was addressing at the site as I often talked with people who were hurting as a result of the hurricane.

I call them my Got Your Back friends because we had been studying Gary Yagel’s book ‘Got Your Back’ for the past several weeks before the hurricane hit.  We had began developing a bond with each other as we walked through this book and began spending time in prayer with each other.  Beginning to share some of our individual struggles in our lives.  These men were my life saviors in so many ways.  They help to keep me focused not only on the task at hand but also my relationship with God.

So often we can get caught up with what we are doing for God we tend to neglect time with the Father.  I lessoned it to a Dad who is spending so much time at work because he wants to provide for his family that he actually – without realizing it – begins to neglect his family and is at a lost when they leave.  Though we know the Father will never leave us – it will affect us in our relationship with him.  This is why we need men in our lives who will encourage and pray for and with us during our struggles.  Men who will challenge us when they see us veering from the path God has set before us.

Got Your BackMy ‘Got Your Back’ friends lived the example Solomon wrote about in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10; “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.  For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.”  It is good to have such friends – brothers in Christ – who are there to lift you up in your time of need.

If you do not have such friends, I encourage you to seek them out.  Gary Yagel’s book Got Your Back is a great book to work through with a few friends to understand this concept.  All of the men in this group I am a part of have shared they have greatly benefited from the teaching to understand why it is so important to have these kinds of men in your life.  After watching how this played out for me while working a DROC site just reiterated this even more.

My question to you is; “Do you have men in your life that has Got Your Back?”  If not, seek them out.  You may not think you need men like this; but, believe me – you do.

Together in the adventure and challenge to disciple men.

– Mike