What is the mystery to discipling men?
Darren Edwards, of Ignite Church, Lincoln, outlines some key elements.
Life on the forefront can be testing at the best of times. As blokes, we have a host of competing paradigms that we have to deal with. For example, how can you be a manly man when the world’s way of expressing ‘blokeyness’ is to trash talk women? But as a believer, we’re called to honour our wives!
I’m currently planting churches in Lincoln, and one of the biggest struggles that I’ve had to overcome is finding a way to disciple men. Today I’m sitting with a friend and disciple, Grant, who came to know Jesus just over a year ago, and we’re going to try to express what has worked in discipleship.
Grant heads up our men’s ministry at Ignite Church and as a new believer is fresh in his thinking about how men can connect in a new way, both to each other and to God.
One of the key essentials for man-to-man discipleship among new believers is this notion of being a man’s man. I remember getting an e-mail from a senior minister telling me that now that I’m a pastor I can’t carry on being a lad’s lad. The difference between being a man’s man and a lad’s lad is this notion of respect, or as Grant would put it, reverence.
The guys here like that I’m competitive, loud, strong and boisterous whilst remaining being above reproach. Being respectful of my wife and family earns big points among the men here, and calls them to live a bigger life for Jesus.
Another aspect of long-term discipleship is being able to handle failure or disappointment in a calm and understanding manner.
Being composed under stress shows the lads that a loud and angry voice isn’t a battle winner. Instead, a composed and devoted prayer life can work wonders. Sometimes the lads just need someone to tell them to breathe deeply before making any decisions. Other times they need a bit of ‘bromance’ with a back rub and cold drink.
We have a lot of conversations in the van, or as we’re walking somewhere. Grant remembers one time, sitting in the van outside his house when I offered guidance without being heavy-handed, prescriptive or judgmental. I guess I would say that I was leading him through an issue rather than managing him. As Jesus once told his lads, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”
Finally, one of the key aspects to what we’re doing here is how we bring young lads into manhood.
At all of our men’s gatherings and events, I’ve been encouraging our blokes to bring their 15+ sons along. This way they get to see how men interact with one another. They see how we honour our wives, how we honour each other, and how we honour the Lord with our actions and words.
We recently attended the conference that Life Church in Bradford hosts for men. Grant came away from the weekend saying that he was blessed by seeing the way that my own son, Liam, interacted with the other men in our group and with God during our time away. His exact words were: “He might be one of the youth but this weekend he carried himself like one of the men!”
We need to start thinking about discipling our men before they hit the majority of the issues they are going to face in their walk.
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