Manhood and Manna
Let me tell you a story…
In 2007, I accepted a call to pastor my home church in Fort Smith, Arkansas. This was a “turn around” situation. What had been a major church in the region a generation ago had become a church in steep decline. I remember being overwhelmed as I considered that nearly every facet of church life needed to be addressed.
About a year into my pastorate, I became extremely burdened for the men of the church. To be more specific, I felt a deep conviction that what was missing was a distinct culture of manhood that included ministry to, disciplining of, and mentoring over men. I was convinced that if this once great church was going to rise up and recover its former splendor for the glory of God, then the men of the church needed to rise up and, well, to put it plainly…lead.
But how to kick start a masculine movement? That was my barrier. I’m a pretty simple guy. And when in doubt, I just try to keep it simple. For me, it does not get any simpler than to go back to Jesus. It struck me one day that Jesus preached to the crowd, hung out with a cluster, and went deep with a core group. I also took note as I studied Jesus’ ministry of how so much of what he did was built around one very simple “thing.” What was that one thing?
Yep. Food. Being a man I am certain of this: Men are busy. Men are burdened. Men are overwhelmed at times. A lot of men don’t like church for whatever reason. But listen to me – ALL men are hungry (in more ways than one).
If there is one thing men will prioritize, one thing they will find time to do…make time to do, it is eat
So this became my starting point for biblical mentorship of men.
I know… it doesn’t sound very spiritual, but hang with me. Remember, this is all a part of the story.
So I decided to try something. I issued a call to all the men of the church to come eat lunch with me on Thursdays. I promised two things: ribs and no women. There’s got to be a spiritual tie to Genesis in there somewhere but I will move on!
As I reflected, I took note that we don’t really have much of anything left in the church anymore that is “men only” except for the restroom. We have gender integrated nearly every aspect of church life. Except that the women are REALLY good at having conferences, events, Bible studies, Mom’s Day Out, etc. just for them. Women only. Guys aren’t so good at that. And like I said, men are busy and we tend to isolate ourselves. But…men LOVE to eat.
So what happened? Very quickly and very easily, our Thursdays, men-only lunch exploded. We had men from our church and from outside our church that came each week for great food and a message from some guest that was explicitly man driven. The room was packed with testosterone. It was great!
That became my crowd event.
We then began a Saturday breakfast event. Now breakfast on Saturday is a trickier deal. Men like to sleep if they have a day off, and they really don’t want to miss family time on the weekends either. So we did it, not too early and it did not go long. We would start at 8:00 am and be gone by 9:15 am. I also knew that men who really were seeking “something more” would be the ones that would come. And that’s what we got. Not hundreds, but around 50-70. I would lead a pretty pointed challenge to the guys. A little more “preachy” and in your face.
This was my cluster event.
But now I needed to go really deep. To the core. That was my ultimate goal. But not every man is ready for that. So I didn’t push but just let it happen naturally. I will tell you that out of the two food events above, I began to organically mesh with a smaller group of men. A group where true biblical mentoring could take place.
I targeted these men in two ways. First, one-on-one regular lunch meetings. At this point it was not about the food anymore, but much more about Jesus, discipleship, and manhood, fatherhood, husbandhood, etc. Second, mission experiences. I have a tremendous heart for the Great Commission and missions. My goal was to always go on two trips per year, one international and one national. I would invite those men in my core group to join me. There is something about being “on mission” with another man that takes your walk with Christ and their walk with Christ to a whole new level.
And that’s it. That’s my story. This became the model for how I invested in men. How I mentored and brought men along. Oh, I could tell you of a few other things we did, like our informal men’s only Inferno Club (involving eating a REALLY hot hamburger in order to join), and the Men’s Only Adventure Quest I led to through the canyonlands of Utah, but I think you get the point.
My Bible tells me that Jesus fed 5,000. At another time he fed 4,000. It tells me that he broke bread with sinners and saints alike. That one of the holiest ordinances of the church is based around the breaking of bread, the Lord’s Supper. Jesus used food to break the ice, to meet a fleshy need so that he could meet a spiritual need. He spent three years with 12 men. Three years of breakfasts, lunches, and suppers.
You may not be a pastor with access to hundreds of men. You may be just one man with a few friends. But you are one man with a stomach.
So, go ye therefore and feast!