By Dr. Pete Alwinson
“Men: You can’t live with them and you can’t shoot them.” This bumper sticker glared back at me, as I pulled up to a stop light in Orlando one day. “Now that’s one ticked off lady” was my first thought. My second thought was: “I wonder what her story is. What did she experience from men? Neglect? Abuse? Anger? Who hurt her? Dad, brother, neighbor boy, boyfriend, husband, grandfather?” Could have been one or two, or all.
For many women, this bumper sticker expresses their true emotions and constitutes absolute, unalterable, infinite, infallible truth: men are to blame for the problems in their lives. Changing a line from my friend Pat Morley, many women only know enough about men to be disappointed in them. The fact is many women are full of rage toward the men in their lives, and therefore, men in general.
Justifiably so. Flip through a newspaper any day of the year and you’ll find that most of the perpetrators of family and societal crimes and misdemeanors are men. Men statistically commit more crimes of all types than women. Men are the causes of so many problems in American culture that if we help men we help our country. Transform men and you’ll transform the world. I believe that a church will never grow beyond the spirituality of its men. Look around at churches that are effectively carrying out the Great Commission and you’ll see many men deeply involved in that church, men who are growing spiritually and providing leadership.
Advantages of Ministry to Men
It’s time for us as a denomination to move more consciously and deliberately into discipling men. Here are some advantages for pastors and churches, which emphasize developing their men:
We glorify God by developing men: The early Church Father Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is a man fully alive.” That is true of men and women of course, but in our world seems especially potent with men. When a man understands his actions and their motivations, but by God’s grace doesn’t remain stuck in his unproductive ways, that gets his attention. Many men would love to move out of their immaturity and immorality, but they don’t know how. Since their own fathers did not consciously develop them, they don’t know how to live and relate as a mature man, much less know what defines a man. Often they get their idea of manhood from a dysfunctional earthly father, movies, TV characters or friends. A Christian man, however, can care for and befriend another man and point him to a gracious and good Father. When men “get it” in their soul that Christ connects them to the Father and the Father wants to build His sons, these undeveloped men grow like wildfire, bringing glory to God in their homes, communities, churches and world. After speaking at a men’s gathering recently, I talked with who shared his story: a work addiction, an affair, financial success, a near divorce, brokenness, repentance, and now investment in lives. This man illustrates the glory of God! I want my sons to meet him to let the glory seep into them.
We fulfill our mission: Which of course is the Great Commission. When a local church knows how to reach out to and develop men, it will gain huge momentum in reaching men inside and outside our churches. Eventually, their wives and children and extended family follow. Churches that understand the strains and stresses of men in their community can come up with their own ways to reach men. We can pursue the Great Commission without a programmatic approach to men’s ministry. In fact, to reach men, you must have a relational approach. Churches can each develop their own special niche in reaching men and helping churches grow.
Discipling men flows out of and helps us fulfill our Biblical polity. I love being a Presbyterian pastor in a denomination that takes seriously the development of elders. As a church planter, the first thing I did in our church was start a men’s discipleship group and begin to pour energy into men. I have developed all of our elders and deacons over the years, and in the process, become friends and co-laborers with those men with whom I would serve. Instead of experiencing adversarial relationships with elders as many pastors experience, my experience here has been enjoyable (though not perfect, of course). Developing men is what we, as the PCA, ought to be experts in doing. Developing men is central to our heritage and our biblical and theological convictions. We must develop men to follow Jesus’ model and revelation of true manhood, in head and heart.
Developing men encourages, supports and retains pastors. A friend who serves in a national ministry to churches tells me that 2,000 pastors a month leave the ministry, and many never return. Pastors regularly experience relational overload and production demand fatigue (every seven days, a new sermon needs to be at least as good as the week before). Leadership demands more than our training provided. Sin is our business, but so many people today come from broken homes and are dysfunctional. They bring their issues into congregational life and pastors have to deal with those VDP (Very Draining People, as Gordon MacDonald titled them). Pastors are in more pain than they let on and than their congregation knows. We’re public people who are critiqued, criticized and demanded of as much or more as we are loved, encouraged and supported. I’ll tell you what has helped me stay in the church I started for seventeen years: the men I discipled and trained who became my friends, officers, and mighty men who stood by me through the normal (but often challenging) times of being a pastor. Pastors who make developing men central to their ministry will find that they will be able to weather the storms of ministry better.
An assured productive use of time. When churches develop men, they will reap good results, and a pastor is assured that his investment will pay off for the church and kingdom goals.
How do we build men’s ministry in our local churches? Pastors ought to focus on developing men by delegating some of the normal pastor work to other staff and gifted members. Intentional effort from the top is crucial. In terms of church wide men’s ministry, I know of no better strategic model than that advocated by Man in the Mirror, founded by long time PCA member Patrick Morley (see the next article). Many of the top management of MIM are PCA members and graduates of Reformed seminaries. Developing a strategic alliance with MIM would be a great idea.
I think the greatest days of the PCA are ahead. More than ever our culture needs men who have been consciously developed and developed well. A man will never reach true manhood without a personal relationship with the living God, through Jesus Christ, who models perfect manhood and deity. So, let’s do it! Let’s develop men, reach families, build churches, win the lost, and change the world. Let’s take men’s ministry to heart.
Dr. Pete Alwinson is Senior Pastor at Willow Creek Church, PCA in the Central Florida Presbytery.