Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Plan for Creating a Men's Discipleship Ministry

            In American evangelicalism, in this day and age discipleship has become the new “it” topic; every year over the last several years more and more books are being published discussing how to make better disciples. The question we really have to ask ourselves is “Does the culture really need a new author writing a book on how to make disciples when the Almighty God of the universe has already done so?” That does not mean there are no works that give us additional understanding to the work God has placed before us. When defining discipleship, should it be considered as a program or a lifestyle? The hope of this ministry is going to be to address that very question, and show you how to live the answer out in day to day life.
            No matter what work is being created it is always focused to a certain people group, which is known as a demographic. Just to provide clearer understanding, different genres of music go after certain demographics; country music is not out to reach a young African-American girl in the city, while orchestra music is not set out for the cowboy on the farm.  
            With understanding what a demographic is, it is my hope to reach out to men in particular. God has given men a special responsibility in this world and it has been lost sight of over the last few decades; so with that being said it is time to take back control of what is rightfully ours, leadership and headship of the home. Not in a domineering way but in a manner that is uplifting to our families and honoring to Christ. In the Genesis creation account, woman comes along side man as his help-mate, meaning that the man was to watch over her. We have dropped the ball, and the feminist movement does not help. In teaching men the Word of God and showing them the responsibilities they have been entrusted with in regards to their families there can then become a shift in culture or at least the churches portion of culture in American society. It has to begin somewhere and one small group can be that catalyst.
            There would be no age limit for those who choose to participate, because we would want the younger men to be learning the truth earlier on. It is hoped that it would have men from every type of cultural background to participate; depending upon the location of the ministry will also determine the variants of participants. At the current time, I reside in an area that is highly influenced by all of the local military, so the variants in participants is greater than a small church in the middle of Ohio (just as an example).
Scriptural Foundations
The foundation of any Christian ministry should always be the Word of God itself; and to reinforce that thought process one of the key scriptures that will be used is 2 Timothy 3:16-17, which reads, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV) While the use of the word man in this context is not referring specifically to males, it gives us great fertile ground to build a ministry upon. Paul is telling Timothy, as he leads the church in Ephesus, that Scripture is extremely important in our lives; each area Paul lists is a broad category that covers many sub-sects of our daily living.
First things first; Paul says that “All Scripture is God breathed” he is telling his young protégé these words because he wants to reinforce the authority of the Scripture old and new. After establishing the authority of the Word, he begins to lay out the path in which it is to guide us; it is profitable for teaching. What exactly does Paul mean by that? Paul is saying that in Scripture there is much to be learned, because it comes directly from God. Just as the apostle was training this young man in the importance of the Word it is our duty to train others in the understanding and implementation of the word also. Not only is it profitable for teaching, but reproof, correction, and again training in righteousness. All of these things are very similar while each being distinct. If you pay careful attention, Paul has book-ended this thought as he starts with teaching and ends with training, while sandwiched in between are reproof and correction.
To drive home further they idea of teaching men so that multiple generations will be impacted another core Scripture that will lie at the heart of this ministry is going to be from earlier in the book of second Timothy. In 2 Timothy 2:1-2, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2:1-2, ESV)
Look closely and you will see four generations of believers, not necessarily in the same familial household, but of the household of God.
The Process Laid out In 2 Timothy 2
2- Timothy
     3- Faithful Men
         4- Those taught by the faithful men

Core Ministry Values
            There are few things that can hurt a program more than not knowing what lies at the core of the system. There are four things that lie at the core of this ministry: Scripture, fellowship, prayer, and accountability. As has been demonstrated throughout the foundation of this project everything ultimately revolves around Scripture. If those involved are unwilling to allow Scripture to be their ultimate authority then there is a problem in the structure. There are to be no decisions or any type of instruction to take place that would be contrary to what is found in Scripture. This does not mean however, we are to become legalistic, in a modern time such as ours it is to be understood that there are some things that Scripture is going to be silent on and in those areas grace is to be given.
            Next, is fellowship or biblical koininia, this is more than a mere passing knowledge of someone. The type of fellowship we want to develop is being a part of someone’s life on an intimate level; that way you are living life together. This may look like getting together during the week at one another’s homes to have a meal, calling one another just to see how the other person is doing. If you each have children, it’s showing up to your friends’ child’s event to show your support.
            Even though this is listed third of core values that does not mean its weight is of any less importance of the work to be accomplished, and that value would be prayer. If we were to be concerned of listing these values in matter of importance, prayer would be tied with Scripture for the top spot. Prayer is so vitally important to any ministry because it is the way we are able to communicate with Jehovah. God has so many different ways he chooses to reveal himself to us, primarily through his word, but also through his creation (either nature or other people). The only way we have of communicating with God is through prayer.  Prayer accomplishes so much more than we could ever do on our own. It shows that there is a humble need from a child to a parent. In James 5, the apostle speaks very candidly about the power prayer plays in the role of a believer’s life; not only in an individual sense, but also corporately. These are the words of James
Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. (James 5:13-18, ESV)

Also in understanding that prayer is powerful, John encourages us, “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15, ESV) Keeping in mind that we are to ask things in accordance to His will, and He will hear us. It is easy to get caught up in the my ministry mentality, but we must remember this is ultimately for his glory and a closer relationship with Him.
            Last and nowhere near least is accountability. While the actual word is never used in the New Testament, that principal is laced throughout. In 1 John 1:9 we are told to confess our sins to one another. There are several other instances of similar thought peppered all throughout Scripture. In the context of accountability there is love, encouragement, and even discipline to bring about correction. Accountability does not mean that in a group setting every single person has to know your deepest darkest sins, but that there are one to two guys you have developed a relationship with and they have earned the right to pull you aside and say “Man, what are you doing? You are screwing up!” and you are not to get offended and dismayed; but to respond with “You know what; I am, and thank you enough for loving me to point it out.” That is one of the primary goals.
Goal Behaviors and Statement
            The goal of this ministry is to impact the lives of men in such a way that it begins centrifugal movement around them; ultimately having people notice the distinctive about them that would show they have a vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ himself. In essence, the men involved with this way of life (not a program) would be spoken of as Peter and John in Acts; “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13, ESV)  If those involved are pursuing a deeper relationship with Jesus there will be that evidence, Christ himself told us we will recognize men by their fruit (Matt 7:16).  
            The ministries behavior has been established in the previous paragraph, the next item that needs to be addressed is the statement.  A goal statement or a mission statement depending on how you choose to phrase the term is another very important aspect to ministry; it is not just some catchy slogan or a pithy statement. A mission statement at its core should tell anyone who comes into contact with your ministry what you are about. Not only will a good mission statement tell those outside of your ministry who you are and what you’re about; there will be times it can be just the reminder you need to keep you on course.
            Mission Statement for this men’s ministry will read as such:
Our mission is to build up men in the faith of Jesus Christ, while giving them the ability and tools necessary to be agents of change in a broken world.
Measurable Objectives
            Every endeavor that has ever been undertaken has had some sort of measurable objectives, now whether or not they have been defined is a different story. Over the period of three years, the person leading this group should be able to pointedly say I have seen these things take place.
By the end of year one
By the end of Year Two
By the end of Year Three
He should be regularly involved in group study.
He should have been able to lead a group study.
He should be able to start his own group study.
He should have a mentor.
He should become a mentor.
He should be instructing others in how to become mentors.
He should develop some sort of devotional life.
He should be in a pattern of planned study for his personal life.
He should be able to help others start and develop a process for personal study.

No matter the size of the church or ministry setting there will always be some people who will refuse to become part of a group or that type of setting for whatever reason they can come up with. While 100% participation from every man in the congregation would be greatly desired a ratio of anywhere of 60% and up participating in regular study, along with the other steps mentioned for the goals to be attained by the end of the first year, and the “program” could be considered successful. By having more than half the men in the congregation participating in this type of lifestyle it will an effect on the community as a whole. While to some the percentage might seem rather high, it is in fact a good number to prove that the impact upon a lifestyle can be worthwhile and change is truly taking place within the congregation. 

The Process of Building the Ministry
            In order to reach these numbers there has to be a starting point. The starting point is going to be a core group of men in the church, whether it is the leaders (deacons, and elders) of the church setting the example, or just a group of Jesus loving men that believe they can change the world one family at a time. Depending upon the size of the congregation starting with one to two small men’s groups that meet regularly (either weekly or bi-weekly) and encouraging friendships to grow through those groups will be an interagal part of the ministry being successful. As the group dynamics change and more men in the church become more interested in joining the process there should be the evolution of groups breaking apart and starting the process all over again, and again and again, indefinitely.
            The small group meetings should entail several different things; first and foremost the group does not set the tone for the style of meeting that is going to be taking place. The person who is going to be leading the group decides the style, topic, and etc. of what will be taking place in the small group setting. There are five components of these meetings that must take place each time the group is gathered together in order for the process to function properly and run smoothly; because with this routine the men will begin to know the natural order of the meeting. The five components that must be included in each meeting are as follows:
1.      Fellowship/Time for conversation
2.      Prayer/Praise request
3.      Time of Prayer
4.      Presentation of the Prepared Lesson
5.      Concluding prayer
*(Optional) the dispersing of any materials for review for the next gathering if needed
            It is also encouraged that each man finds a mentor in the faith either in the congregation or some other aspect of his life for him to glean things from. Each person that is entering into this mentoring relationship should set a standard that both parties agree to meet throughout their official mentor/mentee relationship. Upon entering this relationship there is the understanding that there is an obligation to upheld by each party and if one party does not up hold their end there are repercussions. They should meet with some type of regular frequency, not necessarily as often as the small groups do unless both parties feel it is needed at the beginning of the relationship. As the relationship progress you should hope to have more general conversations on the telephone and other types of correspondence such as social media if each party is involved in such outlets; proving that there is true growth taking place in the relationship and it is not merely a business style transaction that takes place on a certain schedule.
Included in their meeting time should be some aspect of accountability, prayer, and general conversation. If at any point either party is no longer holding up their end of the relationship it needs to be discussed, between them as to why and if need be bring in a third party to help bring resolution to the situation. If there is to be no resolution to be reached between the two men the official nature of the relationship is to be dissolved, while hopefully keeping the friendship aspect of the relationship that had been established intact.
Even though it may seem odd to list the foundation of a structured devotional life after becoming part of a small group and finding a mentor it actually serves a purpose. The Christian life is not one that can be lived out on its own. By establishing these relationships there becomes the opportunity to learn Scripture in a community setting allowing what is being learned to be absorbed better than just reading words on page and having not interaction with them.  If the men involved in the group already have a practice in place, then see if there is away to make it more powerful, impactful, and a priority.
Teaching men how to pray effectively for their loved ones and those around them is a powerful when wielded with respect and the profound understanding of what it can accomplish. Prayer is not the only thing that needs to be a key aspect of a man’s life Scripture reading should be one of the most important things he does with his day. When teaching a man (or woman) how to read Scripture you want to make sure that it is not set out as a chore, but a privilege; since there are people in certain countries in the world that are not allowed to on a Bible, much less multiple translations. The instruction that takes place in Scripture reading needs to teach him how to read the Bible inductively. Far too often when the average, nominal Christian picks up that Bible to read it they read something but have no idea what it really means. By teaching him how to properly read the Bible, it will start to come alive and no longer be drudgery but a delight.
The Heart of the Matter
            What lies at the heart of most ministries that allows it function like a well oiled machine are all of the small parts. There are things like what will be studied, are we going to use semesters or quarters, who is going to lead the small groups, is there any budget for this ministry or will funds have to be raised some other way?  All of these questions and several others have to be addressed or else you do not have a ministry; you have a very intense thought process without any ability the put it into action.
            Again, we come back to the size of the church this ministry is being formed in; that makes a very big difference in how things are handled. Below is chart showing the number of person’s and suggested budget depending upon church size:

Small Church <150 members="" o:p="">
Large Church >150 members
People needed for ministry to function
4 (+)

Suggested Budget (printed materials for study, books, and other misc. items.

Other aspects of the ministry that need to be set up are the materials to be studied and the calendar style to be utilized. One of the best ways to set up the calendar is to use the quarter system; it will allow us to adjust the intensity of materials to be studied. For example with the summer and winter quarters the studies can focus on materials that are little more vacation friendly by keeping the amount of studying needing to be done away from the group setting minimal. The next best thing that can be accomplished is to plan out at least a year if not two ahead of time what you hope to cover in the group studies.

Year One
Year Two
Inductive Bible Study
Church History
Book of the Bible_NT
Book of the Bible_OT
Systematic Theology
Christian Living Book
Biographies of Pastors/Theologians

The vision for this ministry is that after a man has been involved for several years he will be well rounded, and capable of reproducing what he has learned. Depending upon the involvement and the number of men in the church from the beginning of the ministry will alter how success is measured.
            This process has been very satisfying, and I feel that there has been a very well balanced and biblically sound program that turns into a lifestyle. This ministry is based partially off of ministries I have participated in over the last decade and using all of the best aspects of these, gatherings. I feel that the five essentials for producing disciples has been fairly well incorporated, and will be integrated in the ministry smoothly.

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