By Jason D. Althoff
When our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ met with the disciples just prior to his ascension to his current position at the right hand of the Father, these were his parting words:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
This, our Great Commission, provides us with the ultimate measuring stick as to the effectiveness of our ministry efforts, and for the sake of our focus, men’s ministry efforts.
So, how are we doing?
According to Patrick Morley and Man in the Mirror Ministries, only 1 out of 12 men in America are actually “discipled”. When I saw this statistic, I realized the flipside to this coin was blatantly obvious: an alarming 11 out of 12 men are “not discipled”. It seems as though even in our own nation, something is missing from the philosophy of ministry in the vast majority of our churches.
In October 2008, as the newly installed director of LifeBuilders Men’s Ministry at the Terre Haute Church of God, I began to investigate how to run an effective men’s ministry. In this time, I was devoted to getting as much knowledge and reviewing as many statistics as possible. Alongside this I continued praying that the Lord would give me vision for the men. It was during a Sunday celebration service in worship that the Lord spoke one word to me: “EQUIPMENT”. At first, I did not fully grasp what the Lord was trying to say, and as I asked him to show me, it was as if the word broke up into parts in my vision. I began to see “EQUIP-MEN-T”, and then I realized the “T” meant ” †”. Upon saying it out loud to myself for my hearing, I realized what the Lord was telling me: “Equip Men With The Cross”.
It became immediately apparent to me that if the Lord’s direction was to equip men with the cross, then it is obvious that he feels that men are not currently equipped with the cross, or are not adequately “discipled”. What then, does it mean exactly to be adequately discipled? Well, thankfully, the Lord Jesus Christ gave us some words to consider, a few of those words are presented here:
- “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32)
- “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:27)
- “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” (John 15:8)
- “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)
- “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.” (Luke 6:40)
In meditating on these verses and in the context of the chapters they reside in, one will find a common theme that cannot be missed. The subject of all these verses is YOU. Jesus continually repeats this so that he is not misunderstood. Jesus’ words are speaking to us right now concerning our statistical analysis of the men of our churches.
The reality looks like this (for 11 out of 12 men):
- Men are not reading the Word of God
- Men are not carrying their own crosses
- Men are not loving one another
- Men are not bearing much fruit
- Men are trying to be above their masters
The result of all this is exactly what we have, a shortage of discipled men. The men must not only be taught the basics of the Christian faith and subsequently walk through a basic discipleship course, but they must be equipped with the cross in such a way that will bring them into the knowledge that they are responsible for their own personal discipleship on a daily basis.
When we see the numbers and realize there must be lack of commitment to discipleship as a priority of church ministry, we also realize that a very important facet of the purpose of the church is being missed – evangelism. Now this does not mean that churches do not have outreach programs or do not go on mission trips, etc. Certainly, many great things get accomplished through these ventures. Former Church of God General Overseer Dr. Paul Walker said, “Evangelism should be the central thrust of the local church.” Further, he stated that a church has to make a choice whether they are going to be “satisfied” or “sending.” The satisfied church maintains the status quo. They have a maintenance mentality and are program-prioritized, working very hard to keep all the programs going and operating just like they should. In contrast, the sending church has a transformation thrust. They are centered on Christ and are characterized by discipleship in outreach. Disciples make disciples–they reproduce. Therefore, you have a body of believers that are “independently equipped” to impact the community instead of a body of believers that are mostly dependent on a few folks who set up programs that get them involved in the community once or twice a year.
To the question of why I disciple men, I respond out of sincere and humble experience – I used to be that guy. You know the one. The guy sitting in your church, who isn’t reading his Word, letting others carry his cross, loving some and hating others, bearing out more flesh than fruit and the one feeling that he has all the answers, and for that matter, has more revelation than your pastor does, or you do – I was the guy who wasn’t discipled. I was truly and blindly “satisfied” in my approach to church as usual. This continued until the Lord broke me and I got a revelation that the burden of my personal growth lies in my own hands. And once I began to get real with myself, to go deeper in the Lord and to engage in personal discipleship, I began to see the Lord move in my life. I had a hunger and desire to serve with passion because of the discipline that was taking place in my personal walk with the Lord. It was only after this transformation that fruit began to manifest in my life and the Lord began to bring other spiritual responsibilities my way. I believe the Lord took me down this path because he wanted to give me something experientially, to produce within me a passion for men in the church today. He has equipped me to be an agent of spiritual change and I am responding to the call. How about you? Have you taken a personal inventory to consider whether you are, in fact, currently equipped and adequately discipled according to the words of Jesus? Or is the Lord calling you to get passionate about the state of the men in our churches today? If he is, how do we react to all the statistics and work to get men from the pews to the altars to the streets…?
We equip them with the cross – “Go therefore and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19)