Building Brothers - Helping Church Leaders Build a Spiritual Home for Men

What Does It Mean to Pursue God?

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About ten years ago a team of men and I started the initial process of trying to communicate the principle of “pursuing God.” One of the major difficulties we faced while writing on this topic was the common terms we tend to use when describing the spiritual disciplines-terms such as “daily quiet time.” Why do you think this was so difficult? Because the language we use in the church is inherently “obligation” language. We would write about “being in the Word,” about prayer, etc., and there was “obligation” in everything we wrote. We finally began to understand that we couldn’t communicate what God had put on our hearts if we used this language. If we were going to communicate effectively we had to begin to speak about our relationship with God in a different way.

We saw that God was calling us to a passionate relationship with him. It wasn’t about a list of disciplines that must be followed to know him. We needed to use relational terms to effectively communicate. The question we needed to answer was What are the key elements of any healthy relationship?

Elements of a Healthy Relationship

The diagram above illustrates what I believe are the five elements in any healthy relationship. These elements are necessary whether we are talking about a relationship with God or with another person. In our relationship with God, the process starts with a level of commitment to him and moves into communication, confrontation, covenanting, and co-laboring. Let me briefly summarize these five elements before we take a deeper look at each of them in the rest of this chapter and in the next three chapters.

Commitment to God

How can you have a relationship if there’s no commitment? You can have an “accommodation,” but not a relationship. Whether in marriage, business, or the church, there must be commitment to work toward a healthy relationship.

Having a commitment to God starts with a choice but is sustained by continuing to grasp the opportunity to pursue him. Have you accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord? Salvation is only the beginning of the process that threads throughout our entire lives. If you are God’s son, then it’s time to grasp the opportunity to pursue him in relationship. Are you continuing to choose to follow Jesus? Matthew 4:19-20 recounts the calling of Christ’s first followers, ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.”

Communication with God

Communication with God is the second key element in having a relationship with God and pursuing him. I cannot think of any relationship in my life that will exist for very long without good, effective communication. In our relationship with God, it is the Word, worship, meditation, and prayer that allow us to communicate with him. Are you grasping the opportunity to walk in his presence?

Confrontation with God

Let’s refer back to a statement we made previously in this book: The depth of our relationships, whether with God or with others, will be determined by the level of conflict we are willing to journey through. The commitment to journey through conflict with God is the third important building block of our relationship with him. I want to suggest to you that you won’t have a growing, healthy relationship unless you work through conflict. An unwillingness or avoidance to work through conflict limits, or even stops, the process of going deeper into relationship.

Covenanting with God

The fourth element is covenanting with God. Ongoing relationship depends on some kind of agreement or covenant determining how we are going to interact with one another. We usually informally work through the process of relationship without realizing we are building trust or a covenant with each other. We covenant with each other that “If you respond a certain way, I’m going to respond back in a certain way.” I believe every relationship at some level has a covenant. We need to be more aware of this in our relationship with God.

Co-laboring with God

There’s a product that comes out of every relationship. The last element, co-laboring or co-creating with God, is the goal and result of a deepening relationship with Christ. Living at this co-laboring, co-creating level allows us to function as spiritual fathers.

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Servant Leadership

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A person’s history of serving is the main qualifier Christ gave in selecting leaders (Matthew 20:25-26). Could it be that those in church leadership need to return to Christ’s basic standard for choosing leadership in order to address the crisis in the church today?

In manufacturing, if you find the right process and add the right raw materials, the right product should come out. Based on this knowledge, those of us in leadership hope that if we share the right message in a classroom or sanctuary, or use the right discipling program, men’s lives will be changed and godly leaders will be the result. But was this Jesus’ model? His model was one of reproduction, where he lived what he wanted to be reproduced in his disciples. In every way, he became the Living Word. While his disciples walked with him over a three-year period, his words, actions, and character were formed in them. After his resurrection, the disciples became, in a very real sense, Christ to the church.

What the church needs now is a change in the way it views leadership – that is, apart from selfish ambition or pride. Biblical leadership must be viewed through the lens of Christlike servanthood. Men must step forward and accept the call to leadership with their eyes fixed on Christ and a desire to serve others. To accomplish this, men must come together in relationship with one another, as Christ did with his disciples, and model what it means to pursue God and live for him.

It has been said that we teach what we know but we reproduce what we are. As leaders, we must be willing to allow God to reproduce his life in us so we can be used to reproduce his heart in others. Only when the Holy Spirit has reproduced a passion for God in us can we be fully used as messengers of God’s love to others.

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Church Leadership Growth Path

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Have you experienced a pathway in the church that is designed to move a man from spiritual immaturity to spiritual maturity-from spiritual childhood to spiritual fatherhood? Most of us have not. How can we develop that path and what should it look like?

Here you can see a graphic representation of this growth path, with a progressive process at the bottom of the diagram going from left to right. The first column illustrates the importance of the affirmation that the building of men into biblical, godly leaders is foundational to the church. The second column states there must be a core of male leaders living out the pursuit of God so that they can lead the rest of the men of the church into that pursuit. The third column indicates that we must know who the men of our church are and where they are at in regard to their interests and needs. The fourth column communicates the importance of challenging men to accept their calling to influence others and see the positive potential impact they can have. The fifth column conveys the significance of helping men see their giftedness and understand the importance of giving their gifts back to God. In the last column we see that it is crucial to find where God is working and join him there.

Above the church pathway in the diagram is the “Leadership Loop,” illustrating the reproductive cycle that must accompany the pathway. The terms “Leadership Loop” and “reproduction” are virtually synonymous. A leadership core is essential, but if these leaders don’t reproduce themselves in additional future generations of leaders they will wear out and leadership in the church will become extinct. The leadership core must be willing to be the firstfruits, the DNA of leadership that multiplies in the rest of the men of the church. Do you agree this is imperative for the church?

What Needs to Happen?

  • There needs to be a consensus that the building of men into mature leaders is foundational to the church.
  • We need to identify leaders who are willing to pioneer the process. It will require their pastors, including the senior pastor, participating and reproducing with these pioneers who are becoming what they want their men to become.
  • These pioneers must watch for, and identify, the plan that God is revealing to them. At some point they must invite the rest of the men of the church to taste what they are experiencing and join them in the process.
  • They must be continually asking the question: What is keeping our men from pursuing God? The answers to this question will help them remove the barriers that keep men from pursuing God
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What Is the Father Vacuum

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The father vacuum is the result of the wounds left by our fathers. When we are threatened or hurt, we question our value and competence. This vacuum: a space devoid of anything-is always trying to fill itself with something. Many of us try to fill it with things that stroke our egos and make us feel worthy and valuable. The void makes us susceptible to addictive behaviors; so we are drawn to alcohol, drugs, sex, work, power, money, etc.

I believe each one of us has a father vacuum to a degree. Some have fathers who have tried to model God’s love, and therefore the vacuum is small. For others, whose fathers were absent, distant, or abusive, the vacuum is large. Whatever the size, this vacuum must be filled by our Father God. When we allow him to appropriately fill this void, we can begin to experience self-worth, healing, and freedom. If we do not, the issues with our earthly fathers will continue to block us from enjoying a full and intimate relationship with our heavenly Father, as well as with the people we love.

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The Masculine Environment

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Effective ministry to men is the process of developing relationships that become a platform for change. This requires a safe masculine environment that encourages trust, open-ended questions, application of God’s truth, and prayer.

At a training seminar, I asked the men present, “Is the church a masculine or a feminine place?” They immediately answered, “It is a feminine place.” When asked further how that affected them, they shared that it made them hesitant, timid, and restrained.

The majority of the pastors I interact with have never heard this message from the men in their churches. In contrast, what they usually hear is a vocal group of women asking why the church is such a male-dominated institution. Yet, while men have not voiced their discomfort, how have we missed their silence?

At the height of the Christian men’s movement in the 1990s, when we felt that we were seeing a spiritual awakening, men were actually leaving the church in unprecedented numbers. Conscientious, positive, purposeful men were finding more value and purpose outside the church than in it. How, then, can we call men back to the church to find purpose in their relationship with God?

Early in the 1990s we began to see that providing a safe masculine environment was an essential factor in motivating men to open up to God’s transforming power. Based on observation, we have found six basic principles concerning the nature of men that must be respected in order to create a masculine environment:

  1. Men respond when their need for space is honored.
  2. Men listen when the speaker communicates through questions and answers.
  3. Men are goal and challenge oriented. They must be challenged with achievable, bite-size goals and sense an order of progression (one step at a time) in order to achieve those goals.
  4. Men are linear in their thinking and tend to focus on either facts or emotions.
  5. Men value rules over relationships. They will enter into and develop relationships where structure and freedom are in balance.
  6. Men will commit with passion when they are allowed to appropriately express anger and when they learn to express other emotions in a masculine way.

If we desire to see men step back into and engage the church, as well as lead others into the pursuit of God, then we must begin to create a safe masculine context within the local church. When this happens, men will have a place to come home to. They will begin to open their hearts, connect on a deeper level, and ultimately change.

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