From the time I was 19 until I was 33 years old I was in the US Navy and surrounded primarily by men. It was no wonder that when I got saved, at about age 30, I sought out Christian men to disciple me. I didn’t know the Christian lingo back then so that really meant, “Help me to understand what just happened and what I am supposed to do now.”
Promise Keepers was in full effect back then and we went to giant conferences, had weekly meetings at church and generally chatted about Christ centered things. I was introduced to concepts like sexual purity, not partying like a rock star and not cussing like a sailor. Yay! I was also introduced to pure, unconditional love, my sins washed white as snow and the unimaginable joy of Heaven. (I choose the latter while admittedly struggling with the former.)
The influence and caring of those men was key to my early Christian walk and I am forever grateful for them. Over the last 23 years and through the course of my intermittently hot, warm and cold walk with Christ the influence of Christian men has been crucial to my survival.
Why can’t I just be an awesome Christian man without other men being all up in my business? Why does isolation from them equate to a walk down a slippery slope? I suspect it’s like Paul said in Romans 7, I want to be pure and holy, “But I see another law at work in my body, warring against the law of my mind and holding me captive to the law of sin that dwells within me.” He goes on to say that Jesus delivers him. Based on the entirety of his comments I take that to mean that Jesus’ work has washed his sins away.
Jesus modeled this fellowship with other men in that while he had many disciples he had 12 that He primarily hung out with and they relied on one another. I’ve previously written, “In Mark 6 Jesus sends out the 12 in pairs of two. In Luke 10 Jesus sends out 72 men in pairs. The apostles often traveled in pairs and we see them relying on one another throughout the New Testament. Moses had Aaron. When David was home alone, not surrounded by other men, he didn’t do so well.”
Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” James tells us, “…confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Proverbs is full of advice about Godly friendships including, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” 27:17, “A righteous man is cautious in friendship” 12:26, and “A friend loves at all times…”17:17.”
My answer to this comes in the form of a men’s group formed through Christian Leadership Concepts (CLC). CLC is a nationwide, interdenominational, men’s ministry that, “…challenges men to an uncommon pursuit of Christ. We facilitate small groups of committed believers who refuse to be satisfied with the status quo and desire a deeper relationship with Christ.”
Eleven of us have committed to a 2 year journey to walk out our lives together, to dive into the scriptures and to read and discuss a collection of books we are working through. Between us I think we represent 10 or 11 different churches. We meet weekly from 6-8am on Wednesday mornings and walk through this process. During the week we call each other and participate in group texts offering mutual encouragement, prayer requests and funny things we find online. I’ve personally, and deservedly, been encouraged to refrain from late night group texting, sorry Bryan.
I got this phone call yesterday, “Jimmy my boy! I just landed in New Jersey and wanted to give you a call to see how you’re doing.” I am being prayed for, encouraged and befriended. As I reread that it sounds a little hokey but I don’t care. I’m grateful. One guy sometimes sets his phone alarm to pray for me three times a day! Brothers, this kind of encouragement in your life can be a game changer.
While I strongly recommend the CLC program I have been involved in other men’s groups and I think the important thing is that every Christian man is involved with a group of men. Jesus models it and the examples of this principle run throughout the Bible.
We are in a battle with an enemy who is constantly on the prowl seeking to destroy us. He knows our weaknesses and seeks to cut us from the pack like a lion isolating an injured water buffalo and ruin our lives. While we cannot be snatched from the Lord’s hand many are led away by their own desires. (I recall the vampires I saw in comic books as a child who could only come in if you let them.) We open the door to the enemy through our thoughts, what we look at, what we listen to and who we spend our time with.
Having men in your lives who know our struggles is invaluable. We call it “opening the kimono”, it ain’t pretty and it’s embarrassing. As a matter of fact, right before our group was set to kick off with a fellowship and “opening the kimono” session I called my friend, and the President of CLC, and said, “These guys aren’t ready for what I’ve got to say. I don’t want to become their project they need to fix.” He assured me they could handle it and that my story wasn’t as unique as I might imagine. He was right. We’re men, there’s nothing new.
A couple short months into our weekly meetings we are growing closer, studying, encouraging and forming new friendships. While, on one hand, I’m still a dumpster fire of a Christian man on the other hand I have peace knowing that my righteousness is because of Jesus, I am not condemned and I am being transformed by the power of the gospel, even after being saved for over 20 years.
If your church doesn’t have a men’s group that meets regularly and deals with the real stuff you need one. If you need help joining one or putting one together let me know. It could save your life.