Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the responsibilities involved in beginning or growing a ministry which meets the needs of the men in your church and community? Is that where you find yourself today? Perhaps you are a district coordinator or a member of a regional men's ministry team which has been tasked with assisting the churches in your area with establishing vital ministries which can address the needs of their men. Then again, you may be part of a national team which has as its goal to build a life-changing ministry to men across the country or around the globe. Each of these assignments is distinct and has a set of problems which differ from the others, but they share some important struggles as well. No matter your role, the job is immense and challenging. It is more than you – or even you and a select team – can accomplish. Don't believe me on this? OK then, go try it by yourself for a few years. Try it without wisdom, and vision, and the insights which only God can provide. At the end of just two years, come back and we'll talk, we'll compare note and see how you're doing.
With so very much to do, and so many places where we could begin, how will we ever get the job started and where will we find the time and energy to follow it through to completion? I have some liberating and refreshing news to share with you. There are some strategic gambits which – if used consistently – will give us peace of mind and also the best chance of success. But before we begin let's journey back two-thousand years and evaluate a mind-blowing task which was assigned to another team. You know the story so well by now that you may need to take a few steps back to see it in a fresh light. A small group of men, and perhaps some women are standing on a hill not far from Jerusalem. Their leader is about to leave, but before doing so, he wants to share with them one of the reasons he has invested so much time with them, and in them. Got the picture? The leader ready to depart for a while and the people are milling about and anxiously waiting for some words of inspiration. The leader is standing there and visually and mentally assessing the team – rehearsing in his own mind the unique strengths and weaknesses of each person, and contemplating the individual and combined commitment and capability of the group. If you were the leader, what would you say? If you were a follower, what would you want to hear? I can tell you this: No matter which side of the equation you found yourself on that day, you probably wouldn't have uttered the words "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations ..." Let's pause right there for a moment and return to the thoughts I used to invite you into this discussion. What is your job today? Is it local, regional, national, or even international? No matter where you serve, or what your mandate, it simply can't be anymore overpowering and intimidating than the assignment given the assembly of people on the hill that day. In all fairness, it is quite true that they didn't grasp how big the "all nations" thing really was, since there were a whole lot of as yet unknown to them "nations". Still I believe they did have a handle on how many people and how many nations resided in the corner of the world about which their geography was sharp – and it was a lot of people and a lot of territory to cover. And all this in a time before basic phone service was available and the printing press was no more than a dream in a weary scribe's fantasies. So you see, no matter how challenging you believe your own task to be - and wherever you serve it's a big one – it can't be bigger or more daunting than the one handed down on that morning when Jesus departed.
So, relax, pour yourself a fresh cup of coffee, and lets spend the next few minutes chatting about what we (that's you and me and everyone else who is in on this thing) can do to fulfill our orders without loosing our sanity or taking permanent sabbaticals from what we must do to pay the rent and keep our families in groceries and designer jeans.
A few moments ago I asked you to think about your specific mission and the track you will follow to complete it. At any level, the task of establishing and maintaining a ministry can be restated in some simple terms. Communicate the message in understandable ways, model the behavior you wish to see repeated, encourage personal growth, and challenge others to become part of the solution. Let's set the simplicity aside for a moment to get very personally practical. Here are the questions which you really want answered: First, "Where can my team and I (or the team I really hope to have some day soon) begin our efforts to reach men?" Given the many possibilities available to you and to me, I think we can agree on this one as a "must know". Second, "How can we "keep" the small successes we gain once we attempt to grow beyond our present situation? I understand that you might have many other "essential" questions, but the truth is that questioning could go on all day, as could attempts to answer. Still, I believe you will find the following two answers to be encouraging, beneficial, and liberating.
They deal in general principles rather than specifics. They address the "mechanics" of humanity and of organizational success. There are two powerful principles which Jesus used in developing his personal ministry and then communicated to us as means for spreading his Kingdom through our specific and assigned ministries.
Both principles are universal. They apply at every level of ministry and activity. They hold true in the local church and are equally valid in efforts to help a city or an entire denomination. The first is what I call the "Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria Principle". It states that the best way to have a large impact is to begin by focusing your energy and resources at the most local of levels moving only later to broaden the base of activity. It has geographic, cultural, and relational facets and implications. Here too is what it has. A means of ordering your life, your purpose and your ministry around the best possible course of action, here are the questions which you must ask before beginning the pursuit of reaching your Jerusalem and only then Judea and eventually Samaria: What is my ministry's Jerusalem. Does this pertain to me in geographic, relational, or culturally similar terms? The point is to identify that which is closest to you and is within your scope of ministry assignment.
The beauty of the plan is that in the process of beginning your ministry, you begin with a manageable assignment. As you move forward with a view toward reaching your Judea, you are presently reaching and developing those in your Jerusalem who will be equipped to help in reaching Judea. As the ministry grows, it will be properly positioned, staffed, and equipped to reach its own Samaria. At a local level and for a new ministry "Jerusalem" may be the men in your church who will form the core team. They are the ones with whom you must build relationships and into whom you must invest. At a district level, Jerusalem may be several churches which are close at hand geographically, or are close in terms of philosophical understanding and maturity. At the national level, one Jerusalem may be working with another district or with another men's ministry which reaches a similar target audience. Remember, your job is to identify your own unique Jerusalem and Judea.
The second key principle is the "Ordinary Men" factor. Any organization or initiative built on the efforts of "Superstars" is in jeopardy of demise if the superstars defect. It is also not repeatable on a grand scale unless superstars are universally available – which they aren't. Ordinary men are available everywhere. They are not only available, but others can and do identify with them. Think with me for a moment about how weight loss programs market their package. They use everyday people as models because ordinary guys and gals are both believable and easy to identify with. "If he can do it, I can to" is the desired thought outcome which the marketer wishes to instill in the viewer. We too need that. As men charged with growing healthy men's ministries we need to build our ministries using everyday guys who are willing to use their gifts to assist Jesus in building his Kingdom. The men in your church, your district, or our denomination rarely see themselves as giants and superstars. Beware if they do. Superstars are often temperamental, demanding, and rely on their own skills rather than a healthy balance between "I can do this" and "I need God's help if I am to have any hope of doing this".
Often overlooked in Jesus' reasoning behind selecting common men to handle an uncommon task, was his need to structure a model which others could follow. Suppose for a moment that he had chosen to build his ministry using 12 willing scribes and Pharisees. Our take-away might be that in order to begin a church or a ministry it would first be necessary to recruit outstanding players from the religious elite. Nothing short of this would be satisfactory. What Jesus demonstrated for us was that by selecting those who were in fact his "Jerusalem" and who had been attracted to him, it was possible to build a team that could impact its Judea and Samaria and ... As you begin to assemble your team, remember that those who are eager to be involved and yet are seemingly ordinary will be a greater asset than those who possess "all the right stuff" but yet are not teachable nor trainable.
Well, there you have it. Two principles which when properly employed can be of immense value to you in determining how and where to begin the mission which God has assigned to you. Spend some time today in meditating on the scope or your Jerusalem, where it is, and of equal importance, where it is not. Move out strategically into your Jerusalem and allow God to reveal opportunities there. Spend time alone with Jesus today and ask him to give you eyes to see the "ordinary men" around you who may be developed into a team that is worthy of the task before you. Ministry done in this way is still difficult (and no one promised that it would be otherwise) but it is the best possible way to begin. Remember that the results are God's hands, but the commitment to begin and to begin well is in yours.