by Doug Maclennan
Interact Magazine 1997
Volume 8 Number 2
A short time ago it was reported in the press that a national strategy to halt Australia’s alarming record of plant and animal extinctions is in danger of failing. Environmentalists and others are extremely concerned about the dying out of certain exotic species of birds and animals, yet there is no voice in the community concerned about the lack of men in millions of homes across the nation who know how to lead and nurture a family and give leadership.
Despite the extraordinary benefits God in His mercy has given to the people of this fair land, where freedom of speech is enjoyed, where we have a stable political and social structure, we see alarming signs of a nation under threat. Lamentably, Australia has the 4th highest suicide rate per capita in the world for the age group 15 to 24 years old and the highest for the age group 15 to 19; 42% of all marriages end in divorce; 1 million Australians are out of work, with approximately one third of the population on some form of social welfare in the face of a national debt of approximately $200 billion. A Kids Helpline operates across the country, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, receiving 250,000 calls per year from teenagers who need to talk issues through with someone who will listen and may be able to help. A survey in March this year by the Australian Institute of Criminology showed that homes in Australia are more dangerous than the streets. Almost two thirds of homicides and sexual assaults in Australia occur in the home, as do more than one third of assaults. There is something terribly wrong in Australian homes.
Economically, we are a nation under threat, but it is becoming disturbingly clear that the greatest threat is the destabilising effect of sweeping social and cultural change, the destruction and fragmentation of Australian families which is impacting every aspect of our lives. In this melee of unprecedented change, with redefinition of the family, the changing roles of men and women, increased divorce rates, decreased levels of job security and the uncertainty of the future, men are not coping and are failing to give the godly leadership our nation needs. How can they be helped? Where can they find direction and purpose in their personal lives and how can they help stop the drift toward a godless society?
Amidst this enormous social and cultural change, the traditional roles of men as leaders, breadwinners and providers continue to shift. Change threatens people. Christian men are not excluded from the destructive forces of uncertainty and change but they too need to be helped to grow in godliness and to be salt and light to a world in need of the life-transforming friendship of Jesus Christ. More than at any other time, men in Australia need to be nurtured and cared for and encouraged to keep going in the midst of a bewildering and confusing world. They need to know that there is a way forward, that there is hope and a satisfying and fulfilling life to be lived and enjoyed as God intended.
The answer for men in the 90’s is to have their minds firmly anchored in the truth of God’s Word as they live in a close personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is only in a relationship with Christ, with the support and encouragement of other Christian brothers, that they are able to be God’s men – real men – who are empowered to be the men God wants them to be to their wives, to their children and families and to the world. Change the man, change a family; change a family, change a nation. A man must manage his household well (1 Timothy 2:12-3:7). God expects men to respond to their God-given role as spiritual leaders (Genesis 1:26-28, 2:18-25, 3:14-24); Ephesians 5:21-33; Colossians 3:18-24) and not back away from their responsibilities (Colossians 3:12-17).
The Importance of the Local Church
In God’s economy the local church is central to His purposes. Ministers and leaders need to soberly reflect on the importance of the local church as a focal point for a ministry to men, as welcome havens of support, hope and encouragement. The local church is uniquely placed for men to develop close relationships and friendships with other men through church activities and contact with other families through their family members. They are centres where God’s Word can be taught, where men can be trained and equipped to share the gospel of Christ with uinsaved men and be the men God wants them to be.
Men’s Ministry – Getting Started
Ministers need to begin to share with their key men their vision of establishing a vibrant men’s ministry, spending time in God’s Word and in prayer with them to seek God;s guidance and enabling in moving forward. In this period leading up to establishing a men’s ministry, there will be a need for ministers/pastors to give attention in their regular preaching to the potential for godly men to be spiritual leaders in their homes and churches.
It is always helpful to establish objectives as a means of providing direction. Individual churches will establish different sets of objectives to suit their own particular circumstances and the overall thrust and strategy of their individual ministries.
The focus of a men’s ministry should be that:
Christian men through the regular study of God’s Word and prayer, might grow in spiritual maturity and in their personal relationship with, and commitment to, Christ (Colossians 2:7, Romans 8:28-29);
Christian men might grow in their love for one another (John 13:34,35, Hebrews 10:24,25), encourage and support each other and give God-honouring spiritual leadership in their marriages, family, home, church and work, and be Christ’s disciples in the world;
Christian men might in love and obedience reach out to unsaved men with the gospel of Christ (Luke 19:10).
A men’s ministry should encourage men to include the following in their daily lives:
daily personal bible study and prayer
gathering the family together for Bible study and prayer
regular fellowship and prayer with other Christian men
regular involvement in the life of the church
building relationships with non-Christian men
evangelistic outreach to non-Christian men.
Keeping It Moving
Other important issues need to be given priority to maintain a vibrant and effective men’s ministry.
Prayer is God’s appointed way of doing His work. We need to devote ourselves to it (Colossians 4:2) if God’s work is to get done in His way and in His time. His Word commands us to ‘Pray at all times in the Spirit’ (Ephesians 6:18,19); ‘always to pray and not lose heart’ (Luke 18:1). In contemplating, launching and sustaining a men’s ministry we need to be men devoted to believing prayer to know God’s heart to seek His wisdom and guidance.
Ministers Are the Key
If ministers in the local church do not ‘champion’ men’s ministry and support the men involved in driving it, the ministry will not be as effective as it might be. Equally, if the men do not support and encourage their minister, having regard to the full range of his responsibilities, the ministry will limp along. If a men’s ministry is not dynamic it will have a negative impact on the entire ministry of the church.
Planned occasions when men can get together on a regular basis are important to develop the close, supportive friendships which are vital to sustain a fruitful men’s ministry. The activities need to be planned as part of a formal program but men also need to be encouraged to be involved at the informal, personal level, at a meal, a breakfast or a recreational outing of some sort (eg. golf, tennis).
Encouragement is a vital ingredient in keeping the momentum going (Heb.10:24,25). men need lots of it! Without it they get discouraged. The Bible teaches that all our speech should be edifying, uplifting, inspiring and encouraging (Eph.4:29-32). Australians are notorious knockers and Christian men need to be alert to the destructive impact this cultural form of communication can have. Men also need to encourage and support their ministers, and ministers need to encourage and support their men, both working together as a team of brothers in Christ to establish and maintain a ministry to men. God will honour such efforts, men will grow in Christ and others will come to know Him.
Men need to be able to share issues of deep personal concern, but be sure that what they do share is kept in confidence. Building trust between men takes time and when it exists it needs to be prized, honoured and guarded. It is fundamental to the continuing strength of a men’s ministry.
Monitor the Pace
Men, particularly men with families, are busy. They are constantly pressed to manage their time and prioritise their responsibilities to meet the demands of family, church and work. Ministers and leaders need to keep a watchful eye to see how men are coping and seek to support, counsel and guide them through busy and stressful periods to ensure they do not lose heart or feel guilty if they need to back off from some activities from time to time.
Australia is in urgent need of strong men, real men, godly men at every level of society, those men who can lead and nurture a family and uphold all that is good and wholesome in the sight of God. The church of Jesus Christ has a vital and unique role to play in helping men be what God expects them to be. The challenge is squarely before ministers and key leaders in local churches throughout Australia to establish a strong, vibrant men’s ministry in each church. God will honour all that is done in His name.
Doug MacLennan, a business man in Sydney, is a member of the St. Ives Anglican Church. He is a member of the Katoomba Men’s Convention and one of its consultants for men’s ministry.
© Doug MacLennan (1 July 1997)