Equipping Men to Lead in Discipleship
By: Rody Chesser
According to a 2003 Congregational life survey, the typical American congregation consists of 61% female, and 39% male attendance. Midweek activities tend to draw 70 to 80% female participants. Have you ever experienced this? Look around on Sunday and see how many more women there are than men. Where are the men?
This phenomenon is affecting the next generation because according to a Lifeway Research survey 70% of boys raised going to church will abandon it during their teens and twenties. Many of these young men will never return. Unless something happens the church in America will dwindle to nothing. If we cannot keep our own sons in church, how will we ever reach anyone else?
Most men have a hard time seeing the value in gathering together with a local congregation. A poll by George Barna found that five out of six American men call themselves Christians but only two out of six attend church on any given Sunday.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
For one thing, many of these men who call themselves Christians are not. They are lost but had some kind of Christian background. The reason they see no value in Church is the same reason they see little value in reading the Bible – they cannot understand it!
1 Corinthians 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Many pulpits have abandoned the preaching of the gospel and have taken up pithy little ‘sermonettes’ that try to boost self-esteem. The number of church members that are lost is on the rise and over time they just quit coming altogether.
Another tragedy is that churches have lost sight of the mission of Jesus Christ to seek and to save that which was lost and have taken to running programs designed to draw in children. Instead of actively seeking to evangelize men, these churches try to appeal to carnal parents and draw their children to the churches programs. These programs start off with the intention of meeting the parents through the children, but few are ever really reached in this manner.
Many American pulpits are filled with ‘soft’ men. This is definitely not appealing to masculine men. Men are rough and rugged. They work and play hard. When a soft man speaks Sundays on issues that these men’s wives read about in their ladies magazines, men are simply not interested.
For years, men have sit back and let the women lead when it comes to the things of the church. In many churches the majority of children’s teachers are women. Even when men help their wives, they seem to take a back seat and let the women do the teaching. Many adult Bible classes are taught by women. However, the Bible clearly teaches:
1 Timothy 2:12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
ARE WE AGAINST WOMEN?
Of course not and we are not saying that we do not disciple women. We do disciple, encourage, equip and train women. Women have a HUGE responsibility in their homes with their children and with other ladies. The Bible says:
Titus 2:3-5 The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; 4 That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
We thank God for godly women and like Deborah many women have taken the lead when no man would do it. If, however we are going to be faithful to God’s Word, we must see the men lead in discipleship.
WHERE ARE THE MEN?
Some men are playing. It seems that adolescence is crippling us as a nation. Men don’t want to grow up and take responsibility. They are fishing, hunting, watching games being played on TV, riding ATV’s, playing basketball, playing video games, attending sporting events, and a thousand other activities on the Lord’s day. They are not interested in honoring God. They have ‘worked’ hard all week and they are enjoying ‘their’ weekend. But the Bible says:
1 Timothy 2:8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
Some men are working. They are trying to get ahead and so they spend every waking minute trying to ‘get ahead’. They reason that they are doing a good thing so they can provide well for their families and give them the things they never had. However, the Lord Jesus says:
Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
The Bible also tells us:
Psalms 127:1-2 Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. 2 It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
Some men are attending, but have just quit. Many of these are older men who simply show up, sit, listen and leave. They have no influence in the lives of others. They reason that they have done their part and their children are raised and gone. Now, they can relax. But the Bible says:
Titus 2:1-2 But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: 2 That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.
Why are the older men not taking a younger man under their wing and encouraging him? Why are they not being diligent to pass on a multi-generational vision to the next generation?
Many men don’t read. When it comes to church and a devotional life there are many aspects of reading and studying that men simply check out on. They make the excuse that they don’t have time to read the Bible. They don’t understand it well and therefore they could never teach someone else. They leave the Bible teaching to the preacher. However, the Bible says:
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
HOW DO WE GET WHERE WE NEED TO BE?
Getting men to go to church is not enough. We must train them to lead in discipleship. Men were designed by God to lead their homes and families. If a man will not lead by following Jesus, the majority of his family will probably not follow Jesus either. We must equip men to be the leaders that God has called them to be.
First, we must evangelize men. According to a Baptist press article, if a child is the first in their home to become a Christian there is a 3% chance of the rest of the family becoming Christians. If a mother is the first person in a home to become a Christian there is a 17% of the rest of the home becoming Christians. However, if a father is the first person in the home to become a Christian, there is a 94% chance of the rest of the family becoming Christians! We must evangelize men! If we reach the men, we get the rest of the family along with them because the men can lead!
Next, we must disciple the men. Men need to be trained to follow Jesus. They need to know how to read and study the Bible. They need to know how to pray. They need to learn what it means to die to self and take up the cross and follow Jesus. They need to know how to share their faith in Christ with others.
This is going to involve relationships, time, reading and study. There is no other way. We are commanded to read the Word of God. Paul told the young preacher, Timothy:
1 Timothy 4:13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
If men are to be disciple, they must walk with a man who is more mature in his faith. They must pray together and study together. They must discuss the Word of God and what God is teaching them. They must implement the Word in their lives.
Thirdly, we need to challenge men with God-sized tasks. A man is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. A man is to take the responsibility to bring up his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. A man is to take the gospel into his work and his world. We are training Christian soldiers! The Bible says:
2 Timothy 2:3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
Fussing about the color of the carpet or discussing whether we sit on pews or chairs are not God sized challenges for men! Putting the Bible in a man’s hands and telling him to train up his children to know Jesus is! Wearing out some shoe leather in the neighborhood to let our neighbors have an opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ is a God-sized task! Telling a man to put down the toys and love his wife and lead his children is a God sized task. A God-sized task is to see a man gather up his family and cross an ocean with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Men, need to be told to grow up and stop thinking they are the captains of their own destiny. A man will never be taller than when he is on his knees in prayer to God beseeching him for grace to love and lead. 1 Corinthians 16:13 Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.
There were two men among the Israelites that we must learn from. Caleb and Joshua knew what it was to trust God. As men in their prime, they stood alone against the other spies and the multitude of Israel and begged the people to trust God.
Numbers 14:6-9 And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes: 7 And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land, which we passed through to search it, is an exceeding good land. 8 If the LORD delight in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey. 9 Only rebel not ye against the LORD, neither fear ye the people of the land; for they are bread for us: their defence is departed from them, and the LORD is with us: fear them not.
After they had wandered in the wilderness for forty years, Caleb asked for the inheritance that God had promised him forty years earlier. He was eighty-five years old when he said:
Joshua 14:12 Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said.
Men don’t retire from the service of their God! They continue to serve with the strength God provides. Joshua at the end of his campaign against the Canaanites said to his fellow Israelites:
Joshua 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
Joshua would continue to lead his house after him as he served the Lord! These men did not play. They did not let their work get in the way of their worship, but they saw their work as a part of their worship. These men took the responsibility placed upon them by God to disciple their families seriously. They were soldiers. They endured hardness. They were men!
Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
To serve the King of kings.
Rise up, O men of God!
The kingdom tarries long.
Bring in the day of brotherhood
And end the night of wrong.
Rise up, O men of God!
The church for you doth wait,
Her strength unequal to her task;
Rise up and make her great!
Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where His feet have trod.
As brothers of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O men of God!
William P. Merrill