Four Small Changes to Men’s Ministry, Part 2

casualmanLast time, I mentioned the first two (of four) changes that if made to Men’s Ministry can make a huge difference. You can read the full article here.  As a review, they are:

First, change the name of the Men’s Ministry to Head of Household ministry.
“Men’s Ministry” connotes male issues, individuality and segregation, along with isolation. “Head of Household Ministry” keeps the focus on relationships and the head of household’s role in ministering through his relationships at home.

Second, teach heads of household (and then remind them over and over and over and over again) that the gospel makes them adequate to fulfill their role.
The gospel by virtue of what it is: the divinely powerful message of salvation (i.e. justification, sanctification, glorification), is alone sufficient in the hands o

f all men, including ordinary men, and made effectual by the Holy Spirit to do the work of transformation in the lives of people.

Third, stay focused on equipping men to apply the gospel in their own lives and in the lives of others.
Relationships that move wives and children toward Christ are an overflow of the transformation that God is accomplishing in the heart of the head of household (HOH). Paul says that the love of Christ compelled him (2 Cor. 5:14). In other words, his ministry was an overflow of Christ’s love working in him rather than his mustering up the will-power to do it himself.

Are HOHs experiencing transformation that overflows into service? Tragically, men can know their Bible, and even lead their households using biblical principles but still not know Jesus , love Jesus, or know the fundamentals of how to “put on Christ” everyday. Consider that many hearts are lost while the HOH is busy growing in greater knowledge of the Bible but failing in his relationships.

Equipping HOHs to apply the gospel involves teaching them skills such as how to discern the heart (i.e. motives, desires) behind their actions, how to identify and put off idolatrous desires that rule the heart, how to put on Christ, and how to repent of sin on a daily basis. Becoming more proficient in doing these things is maturity.

For example, at my church’s monthly Head of Household Meetings, we do not teach on other subjects such as finances, sex, work, eschatology, etc., etc. (That is not to say that those subjects are unimportant. However, they are usually abstracted from the gospel and easily become the sole focus overshadowing the more important, ongoing, daily heart work which requires constant attention. The secondary issues can be addressed more individually as need arises.) We have one topic: the gospel and it applied to heart and life to the glory of God. Sometimes this comes in the form of our pastor teaching. In other cases, it comes through testimony and mutual building up of brothers.

This ardent focus provides absolute clarity in the minds of us as elders and the HOHs about the nature and priority of our work.

Forth, the leaders of the church need to provide accountability.
The covenantal leaders of the local church (Elders) need to lovingly, graciously, and patiently hold the covenantal leaders of the home (HOHs) accountable to fulfill their calling of applying the gospel in their home. This involves much more than group meetings. It involves relationships between the elders and the HOHs where trust is built and intimate knowledge can be shared.

I am reminded of 1 Peter 5:5 where Peter, after talking about the shepherd role of elders adds, “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders…” (NASB) Who were these “younger men”? Given the historical context it would be a stretch not to believe that they were predominately HOHs.

It is easier to teach a class than it is to have a deeper conversation.

Some might conclude that this is just too hard to do, or that it’ll never work for them. Perhaps there is a better, i.e. easier, more efficient way? (There isn’t).

This is a challenge. How do we meet it?

There are a number of practical ideas that I could offer here. However, I don’t think the problem really is knowing what to do. The following question cuts to the heart of the issue. Think of the costs of not doing this. For some, we will not have to think beyond people we know who are in trouble that could have perhaps been avoided if they were in accountability relationships.

This requires personal evaluation. What do our daily choices reveal about what (or who) is most important to us? Are we willing to meet the challenge and trust that God’s Holy Spirit is going to work through us—weak and feeble though our efforts be? We ourselves need the reminder of where the power is (point #2)! We also need the overflow (#3 above) that enables us to make the necessary sacrifices.

Church leaders who pay the price of equipping heads of household enjoy a tremendous return on investment in a healthy crop of men (1 Tim. 3:1-7) who rise to leadership in the church and who are able to help younger heads of household faithfully live their covenantal role in the home. Further, heads of household who rise to the level of maturity in this role are qualified for eldership.

Four Small Changes to Men’s Ministry that Make a Huge Difference

Four Small Changes to Men’s Ministry that Make a Huge Difference

mens ministryEquipping men to be leaders in the church and home is challenging. Just ask any men’s ministry leader! But by changing four things about men’s ministry, we can better meet the challenge. Here’s how.

First, change the name from “Men’s Ministry” to “Head of Household Ministry”.
The problem with much men’s ministry is that it focuses too much on, well, the men and their individual walk with God. You might think, “AND WHAT is wrong with that?” Let’s step back.

The ultimate goal of all ministry is the recreation of God’s glory in the hearts of His people. Said another way, the goal is making Christians true worshippers of God which in practical terms means that we increasingly defeat idolatry in our hearts by finding our ultimate joy and satisfaction in him alone at all times. This is the result of our hearts being continually transformed by the gospel which is sanctification. Helping men do this is of course an excellent and necessary goal. But there’s more.

“Men” have been singled out by God to have a vital leadership role in the home (and the church) in accomplishing this goal. Fulfilling this responsibility requires much more than the typical fare that is dished out in men’s ministry.
Men are heads of household. This is a covenantal role which in part means that God holds men accountable for a specific task: to oversee the transformation work in their wives and children extending out into the church and through the church to the community and world.

The original version of the Westminster Confession of Faith included an introduction that was written not to “men” or “ordained preachers”, but to “Heads of Families” imploring the fathers to teach these things to their wives and children. Why? Because the Westminster Divines knew how vital this covenantal role really was in God’s redemptive plan.

Consider further that single men are heads of their own household even though it may only be a household of one. Perhaps they have a child -not all that unusual anymore? Perhaps they envision marriage? If so, they are heads of household in training and are/should be involved in relationships where this equipping can help them. Even teen boys, as future heads of household need the opportunity to learn and aspire to the examples of godly heads of household.  Single Moms, as spiritual heads of household, need equipping as well, except their equipping and accountability will look a bit different. (That, though, is a topic for another day.)

Changing the name from “Men’s Ministry” to “Head of Household Ministry”, and actually beginning to refer to men as heads of household in normal conversation, are small but profound ways of raising the bar of expectation to where God puts it.

Second, teach them (and then remind them over and over and over and over again) that the gospel makes them adequate to fulfill their role.
Many men run—at increasing speed—away from leadership because their definition of leadership is based largely on a scholastic leadership model, not the shepherding, i.e. relational model which comes out of the gospel and that is clearly assumed and taught in Scripture (Acts 20:17-36; 1 Cor. 4:15-17; 1 Tim. 3:1-7; 1 Pet. 5:1-5). No wonder then that many men shy away from leadership because they do not perceive themselves as having enough knowledge or being a good speaker. 

Compare the scholastic model with its emphasis on a higher, “more mature level” of knowledge and rhetorical skill to 1 Cor. 1:17-2:5 where Paul speaks simply, plainly—and thus powerfully—so that people will see only the power of the cross. The message of the gospel itself is powerful whether people swoon when they hear it or not. Do we really believe that? Do we teach that? Or does God’s Word NOT return void (Isa. 55:11) ONLY when it is spoken by a pastor or well-respected teacher?

When one stops and really things about it, it is a great struggle and it tests our sincerity when we proclaim (with gusto of course) that the gospel, the Word of God, is “sufficient”. Do we as leaders and do we as heads of household really believe that the gospel is sufficient? Do we teach heads of households about how the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture has direct bearing on their role? Or is this just something for those with “know” more, like seminary graduates?

The message of the cross is intended for life, to be spoken by all (Eph. 4:15-16), most especially by church shepherds (Eph. 4:11-12) and home shepherds (Eph. 5:22-6:4).

Let’s remember that the people to whom the New Testament was first written were not seminary graduates, or the highest social strata, but slaves; uneducated people…and they were expected to live it. This is because it is a gospel for the people to be applied sufficiently and authoritatively in their relationships. When Galatians 6:1 tells us to restore one caught in sin, does Paul only mean ordained pastors? Certainly heads of household, perhaps more than any other individual, need to know how to restore a brother or sister, as they are surrounded by them every day at home before they ever go to work! They need gospel confidence to do this.

Equipping heads of household is a matter of helping them know this gospel: to live it and to teach it. The gospel, not their skills and/or abilities, makes them adequate. As they grow in their own living of the gospel, they become more effective communicators of it.

Continue to Part 2