Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Never lead with the Truth

In a world of hurt and a life full of unanswered questions, where people simply want their problems solved, never lead them with the truth, they can't handle it.

It was one of the hardest things for me to listen to after two days of solid men's ministry training. During my ride to the airport with the man leading the men's program he broke me the news, "Kurt, I have spoken with our guys and while we appreciate your training, we've decided to bring these guys the truth [the Gospel] because that's what they really need."

To say I was taken back was an understatement. Quickly I remembered asking "Why?" would put this man on the defensive so I inquired, "That's an interesting position. What would lead you and your men to this conclusion?" His response was one that I hear quite often. "Well, none of us guys are very good at building relationships, and for the most part, we were challenged by what you said to meet guys needs first. So we talked and decided to do what we know best, bring guys the truth they so desperately need."

We still had an hour's ride to the airport together so as best I could I reasoned with this man, an elder at his church, to think back on his training and remember where we went over Jesus meeting peoples needs first - then delivering them the truth. I shared, "Whether it be a blind man, a crippled beggar or someone with leprosy we never see Jesus asking someone "What are your sins?" as the very first thing He does with people, do we?" Sitting their quietly for a few seconds he responded, "No, He didn't." Yet, going to a place which was comfortable to him, this man went back to his reasoning that his guys weren't good at building relationships and truly what people need is the Gospel truth of Jesus.

It was as if all the training they had spent money for with me and Guys For Life had just vaporized.

I can remember how painful it was thinking, "These guys are nailing their own coffin in developing a men's program" as he took my carry on luggage out of the trunk of his car. Time came to a crawl and it was eerie giving the typical church guy hug as we parted. Going into the terminal I found a window watching him pull away and I prayed, 'Lord, God reach these guys in a new way and give them the freedom to stretch their faith."

Not six months after their start, this man and his men's program folded in on itself.

Starting with the truth, the full weight of the Gospel, while in our gut feels right as Christians to give to other people as the first thing we do them it's not what people who are hurting actually need at the time. As my buddy Dirk in my men's bible study constantly shares, "The more stress people are under, the less truth they can handle."

Jesus knew that about us. He knew that as we get stressed, filled with anxiety our minds can handle only basic functions [heart beating, breathing, maybe even walking] and to overload the system with immeasurable truth would crush us. Therefore, by way of great example He showed us the way - heal their wounds, listen to their hearts, lift them up and meet their needs. In so doing He reduced their stress, relieved their anxiety and in addition reached peoples hearts and minds.

Once their problems were addressed their minds had the capacity to handle the full weight of the truth and He delivered it to them.

The same is true for us. Whether it be as husbands, fathers, friends, mentors or disciples - if someone is coming to us in great need, under tremendous stress or anxiety - meet the need first, and then follow up with the truth when they can handle it.

Here's a few examples to bring it home: Matthew 8:1-4, Matthew 9:27-29, Luke 13:10-13

Till next time,

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Seven questions with Moses - a mentor to new-found fathers.

If you're like me during this season of Easter and Passover sometime late Sunday evening after all the family festivities are over, your mind will remember the countless times you saw Charlton Heston playing the role of Moses in Cecil B. Demille's Ten Commandments on network television. Seeing the transformation of Moses always impresses me as to the Lord's patient handiwork of us as sons, fathers and leaders.

Yet, how many of us would consider Moses to be a great mentor to a guy in new-found fatherhood. Could you see this stony white-haired figure taking the time to sit down and speak with a young man who just found out he's a father? A kid totally unprepared to handle the situation. Can you see Moses taking the time to counsel a man? Tattoos and low riding jeans on one side and a distinguished figure in Hebrew garb on the other. Can you see it?

No, I didn't think so. But it was worth the shot to get your mind racing and your juices flowing.

Here's why:

I'd contend that a unique portion of scripture, something Moses requested, is by far one of the greatest tools you can use in meeting with a young man facing new-found fatherhood for the very first time. Read with me:

"When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? Are they unwalled or fortified? How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.” (It was the season for the first ripe grapes.)" Number 13:17-20 (NIV)

Not convinced?

Let's unpack each request one by one:

1) See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many? What's this young man's home life like? What's the relationship with his parents, siblings and friends reveal to you? How does this young man's peer group of family and friends bear down on his decision making process?

2) What kind of land to they live in? Probe a little more. What is the cultural makeup of this young man's home, school and work life like as a whole picture? What are the societal norms he is going to come against, flow with or avoid as a result of this pregnancy. You need to know this - 72% of young men facing unplanned pregnancy rely on their friends for advice FIRST before seeking the counsel of their elders, specifically parents.

3) Is it good or bad? Probing even more. Discover the potholes, the battles this young man is going to face internally and externally. No plant can grow in bad soil, as well a child, a young mother and father will also have a hard time growing if the soil is not good. Do what you can to exploit that soil in his life which is good.

4) What kind of towns do they live in? Drilling down - How is this young man's very own home and direct neighborhood impact for the positive or negative a decision to stand by the woman he's responsible for and child he's a father too? What will you have to help him unpack to prepare for these uncovered realities?

5) Are they unwalled or fortified? Can you identify the strongest opponent in this man's life? Who will come against him and his desires? Does he feel beholden to someone? Is there an influence in this man's life that you can see that would have a negative impact on this man taking a stand?

6) How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees in it or not? Are there people or other organizations this man is part of that bring him joy, lift him up and encourage him that could be leveraged to help him and help you encourage him to doing what's right? Have you uncovered anything in this man's immediate circle, personal or otherwise, that can help promote positive growth?

7) Do your best to bring back some fruit of the land. (personally my favorite request of the seven) Moses asks the spies to bring back fruit (I.E. God's greater good) and prove to those watching of God's promise being true. As for you, what can you uncover in this young man's life that is GOOD? Something about him personally that you can build on. Something that as I like to say, 'Honors the man'. Affirm him, let him know if he's here with you, there's something good deep down inside of him and you'd like to help him dig it out.

Seven powerful requests of Moses that you can use to get a 'lay of the land' in a young man's life.

I hope these suggestions have been of great help to you in your ability to reach and love men through this season of their lives, their child's lives and the women they are responsible for.

Till next time,

Monday, April 4, 2011

You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears...

Looking at this wonderful painting by Rapheal of Paul addressing the crowds in Athens I can see the parallel between what Paul is facing with a mixed crowd of philosophers - and us today - as mentors in men's lives - it's also a mixed crowd.

Click the image [then return to this blog] and see how well Rapheal captured what Paul encountered. Notice the range of response to what he's saying. Even the men in the center of the image seemingly not interested, talking to themselves, have a deeply significant meaning in what Raphel is trying to stress about this account of Paul in the book of Acts 17:16-34 [please read the biblical account before continuing with this blog].

What Paul is addressing - a crowd of mixed beliefs - is not much different than what we encounter mentoring and discipling young men in new found fatherhood.

Here's the parallel:
  1. Paul comes to Athens a city chock full of idols and is majorly bothered.
  2. Rather than go on a witch hunt he takes time to build relationships with Jews, Greeks [who fear God] and anybody who'll talk to him for a couple of days [in other words, like Jesus amongst sinners and tax collectors, he gets to know people intimately].
  3. As a result some of the locals get wind of what's he is sharing and ask A) What is this new teaching? and B) You are bringing us new thoughts. What do they mean?
  4. Having gained their rapport Paul then shares with them the Gospel through the prism of their critical thinking process.
  5. At the conclusion of Paul's great presentation of Jesus Christ A) some guys blew him off B) Others wanted more C) Some went as far to follow Paul and then believe him and the Gospel of hope in Christ Jesus.
When it comes to a highly successful men's ministry reaching men in new-found fatherhood take a look:
  1. Many men come forward to serve faithfully after seeing a world in decay destroy the role of fatherhood.
  2. Letting go of their personal pride, they take time to learn, gut-check their motivations for serving God and spend a great deal of time building relationships with younger men [whom make huge mistakes] then in their and heart mind forgive them and love them trough their development process as Dad's.
  3. Many young men respond literally by saying, "I've never heard these type of thoughts you're bringing me, this is new. I'd like to learn more..."
  4. With an open door, after serving a man's literal needs, they deliver the hope that has personally rescued them - the hope of Jesus Christ.
  5. When they do, you know, some guys blow them off and leave. Yet some say they still want to learn more - but the best thing is - some guys make a real heart connection with their mentor, follow his leading and believe in Jesus Christ as their savior - turning their life around.
What a privilege it is to mimic Paul [1 Cor. 4:16] and actually see that what he preached about the Gospel of Jesus Christ is absolutely true.

I know it might be a strange idea coming to you ears [and eyes] but try it my friends. Imitate Paul who is following Jesus Christ and I promise you the same results.
  • Some will sneer and blow you off.
  • Some will want more.
  • Some will come to believe in Jesus and turn their life around.
What have you got to lose? A sixty-six percent closing ratio is more than good. Amen?

Till next time,