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Jesus’ Leadership Manifesto – Welcome to the Upper Room, and Jesus’ farewell address to His beloved disciples.

As you are about to hear in this PODCAST, as we break the seal on this, Jesus’ final night before the crucifixion, I do so with something of a lump in my throat and the pinkish hue of embarrassment upon my otherwise rosy cheeks. This because this particular portion of the grand story of Jesus’ life and ministry hits me most personally. And if, as they say, “Confession is good for the soul,” then I make my confession to you, my beloved little Safe Haven family, tonight.

There is embedded within this most amazing scene, Jesus washing His disciples’ feet, a timeless lesson that, if only I could turn back the hands of the clock and the passage of time, I would have taken to heart way back when I was just starting out in my ministry.

This pointed and practical warning is as timely today as it was that night in that Upper Room when Jesus gave it to His disciples.

A timeless truth that has come to define my life and, more to the point, my ministry today. A living lesson of which you are the beneficiaries.

As we detailed last week, this so-called “Last Supper” was a modified Passover Seder. I say modified because as we learned last week, the word Seder means “order.” As in a carefully choreographed, specifically scripted order to the meal.

Yet, at certain significant points along the way, Jesus purposefully departed from that thousands-year-old order and added to that script.

Just as Jesus did here, in John 13, at the very beginning of their meal together.

It was certainly customary — very much a part of the script — for the host (Jesus) to wash His hands ceremonially as meal began. But why did He then wash His disciples’ feet?

Especially given that every other departure that Jesus made from the Seder script expanded or enhanced the significance of their celebration of Passover, especially in light of His coming death as ultimate Passover Lamb.

Every departure, except for this one: Jesus washing His disciples’ feet.

A beautiful gesture, to be sure. The quintessential picture of loving humility and servanthood. So much so that foot washing in some Christian traditions even today, has been elevated to a sacrament or ordinance equal to that of Communion and Baptism.

You talk about, Paint the picture, Rabbi? How about Jesus kneeling as a slave to wash His disciples’ feet (including Judas’ feet) as a three-dimensional, high definition picture of this? (The this to be explained in the remainder of this Podcast.)

We read about this in John 13:4-5,

So Jesus got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.

For starters, we should ask, “How does this apply to me?” That answer is easy, as Paul wrote in Philippians 2:5-8,

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Ok, so we are supposed to have the same servant attitude as Jesus. But, why did Jesus pause in the beginning of His final Seder dinner and wash His disciples’ feet?

Truth be told, when He did this, He strategically placed His finger directly on the pulse of the issue that has plagued – and continues to plague – His servants and His work around the world for over 2,000 years. You see, something triggered Jesus’ actions here and understanding what that trigger was will help us understand how it applies to us today.

Jesus' Leadership Manifesto

Image: Marilyn Todd-Daniels

Now, when a rabbi would celebrate Passover with his students, it was carefully planned out who would sit where, especially in relation to the rabbi. There were certain seats of honor at the Passover table, as well as seats of less honor. In the case of the triclinium that Jesus and His disciples reclined at that night, Jesus would have been seated in the center of the left-most branch of the table, along with two disciples, and the other ten would have been reclining around the other branches of the table.

According to John’s Gospel account, he was the one reclining to Jesus’ right. And, the fact that Jesus dipped into the same bowl as Judas tells us that he was the one seated to Jesus’ left side. Both of these positions would have been seats of honor at their Passover table, which makes Judas’ betrayal at that moment all the more heinous.

All this to say, when we take into account the positioning at the table, we understand Luke’s Gospel account of that dinner much better:

The apostles got into an argument about which one of them was the greatest.  (Luke 22:24)

THAT’S the trigger!

That argument is what precipitated Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. The cancer of ambition had oozed its way into the Disciples’ discussion, even as they ascended the stairs to the upper room that night.

Yet, Jesus’ desire is for all of His followers to be selfless and humble.

So, upon the foundation of the trigger that was the Disciples’ argument, Jesus went off-script at their Seder dinner that night and offered us – for the next 2,000-plus years – a most profound object lesson about one timeless truth. And that truth is this: Jesus wants His followers who are spiritual leaders – from His Apostles in the past to today’s pastors, missionaries, and other church leaders – for their lives to be marked by humble, selfless servanthood. Greatness has no part in this equation. Therefore, the quest for greatness is never justified, even when someone claims to “pursue greatness for God’s glory”.

Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called ‘friends of the people.’ 26 But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.  (Luke 22:25-26)

And, with that, the Master of the universe took the position of a slave, got up and washed their feet.

This was a lesson that did not fall on deaf ears when it came to Peter, who later wrote:

Here’s my concern: that you care for God’s flock with all the diligence of a shepherd. Not because you have to, but because you want to please God. Not calculating what you can get out of it, but acting spontaneously. Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way.

And when the Great Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of never-ending glory and honor. (1 Peter 5:2-4)

So here’s the point. The first step in correcting a problem is to identify it and its causes, which we will do courtesy of Jesus, Peter and Paul.

Firstly, the aphrodisiac of raw ambition is universal and nearly irresistible. It affected the original Christ followers, aka the Disciples, as well as committed Christ followers throughout history. It takes a variety of forms: the ambitious quest to build great churches, to develop great ministries, to build great brands, to produce great conferences… these are just a few too often justified pursuits of greatness.

However, God receives no glory when His servants seek to build great and glorious ministries. That is actually in direct contrast to the selfless shepherd model He repeatedly offered us.

Secondly, in almost every Christian organization today lives the relentless pressure to grow that organization. Yet, again, this goes against the rabbinic model that Jesus offered, where a single rabbi taught, lived alongside, ministered to and knew the lives of his students. The building of a church is not a duty Jesus assigned for us.

 I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. (Matthew 16:18)

 HE will do the building, not us.

And thirdly, we have created a culture of Christian celebrity. And merely because it is achievable to seek and reach celebrity status within Christian culture, the temptation is overwhelming for most church leaders.

What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”

13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:12-13)

We are called to be like the guy who washed His followers feet and dried them with the towel He had wrapped around Him, not like celebrities.

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What happens when you put an archery range inside an abandoned grocery store and call it a church?

Brandon Smith started a church in Oak Grove, MO – 30 minutes east of downtown Kansas City. In the past five years, his church – Paradise Outfitter Ministries – has grown from 15 to more than 500 weekly attendees. They’ve had to expand to four weekly services in order to accommodate the crush of new members. Amazingly, close to 70% of the congregation consists of folks who had no connection to church at all prior to visiting Paradise Outfitter. Brandon is not stealing sheep. He’s making disciples.

I visited Brandon at his church, I learned what makes his church unique and some of the exciting things God is doing in Oak Grove. The first thing that jumped out at me coincides with something that I have joked about for years, but Brandon has actually put in place – walls full of dead animals. It’s definitely a hunters and sportsman’s church!

Here’s what Brandon had to say about Paradise Outfitter Ministries:

It started about six years ago at my house with just a half dozen or so of us. Attendance just went up and down like an airplane that couldn’t take off. We were nomadic. We ended up in a resort at one point, but it just didn’t take off. By the time we came here at what was an abandoned grocery store, we were at about ten people. So, we remodeled the building, planning on a wild game supper for 350 people. So, we held the wild game supper in February, we began worshipping here in March, and opened the archery range in April.

The archery range was really part of the dream from the beginning. Because we knew that if we could create a space where people could hang out, it would make a huge difference. Men would begin to make friendships without forcing them into what felt like a “church culture”. So, we started opening the archery range before and after worship without requiring anything from anybody – they didn’t have to come to church or attend any of our events – they could just show up before or after services and shoot in the range. Soon thereafter, we started some leagues, and now we run about 90 people in our archery leagues.

The leagues are technically separate from the church, organizationally, but they offer opportunities for the men and women of our congregation to connect with and make relationships with the people of our community. Eventually, just through these friendships, deeper connections are made and people move from only coming by our building as part of the archery leagues to coming to church and getting to know who God is. It simply is a very natural connection point and allows people to just hang out. Often times, people are hanging around more than an hour after our worship services talking and fellowshipping with one another.

So, our building is basically divided in half: one half is the archery range with about 20 targets; and the other half is an open area with 12’ high ceilings and close to two dozen mounted animal heads. We wanted to dress up the walls so that when people came through the doors, they didn’t look in and say, “Ah, typical church”. If they don’t instantly figure out that we are what we say we are – typically judging and making their first impressions off of what they see – then we’re sunk. Some of our mounts are done locally, but others were donated and flown from as far away as Alaska, including our moose and caribou. We even have African game animals (a kudu and a wildebeest) that were donated by the guys at Hodgdon Powders when they heard what we were doing here.

During our worship services, the congregation sits on fold-up camp chairs and enjoy a very casual, relaxed worship atmosphere. Even our cross is unique to what we have going here. One of the ladies from our church who is very creative with rustic décor grabbed all of our sheds that we had laying around and made an “antler cross”.

The bottom line is that when people from our community come by, they feel relaxed and at home. Most of the people who attend are church were previously not connected to a church in any way, shape or form. They may have attended church as a child, but they currently didn’t have anywhere where they called their “church home”. Or, some of those who did, had a rough exit from wherever it was they previously attended.

So, often times, when people walk into our building, they come in with a predetermined idea of what to expect. Therefore, just upon seeing the unique and relaxed environment that we have here, offers an opportunity for them to lower their guard some and for us to connect with them, whether its through a common love of hunting, fishing, or just an appreciation for the outdoors.

We offer five weekly worship services on Wednesday nights, Thursday nights (which was our original meeting time, since most unchurched outdoorsmen are going to be out hunting or fishing on Sunday mornings), Sunday evening, and two Sunday mornings, each with about 70-120 people attending regularly. The crazy thing is that we never even dreamed of having a Sunday morning service, much less all this.

Our church is not only unique based on the décor and buildings. We almost always offer free meals to open the service with, then we’ll break into a song to get peoples’ attention. It may be something by Third Day, or even something secular like Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” or Travis Tritt’s “Great Day to Be Alive”. We just want some thing that will get their attention and says, “Hey, for the next 50 minutes, if you give us your attention, we’ll try to be as quality as possible.” After the song, we do announcements and let people know, in a light-hearted lay-back fashion, what we’re doing around here. Announcements are followed by a worship set of about three songs. We know that most unchurched men are uncomfortable singing, but they do typically enjoy quality music, so there’s a fine line between overdoing the music and engaging them through worship songs. That being said, our song choices range from stuff that’s on the radio this week to age-old hymns that some of them were brought up on as kids. And, we often do songs that focus on the majesty and power of Jesus Christ. In other words, we try to stay away from a set full of love songs.

After the music, we typically have our message time, which often begins with an outdoor story which transitions into a Bible story and always leads to a real-world, contemporary application of God’s Word. We then wrap things up with a closing song and an opportunity for people to respond and seek out someone in the congregation, whether it be me, one of our other pastors or someone they met over dinner or at the range, to talk about how they can begin their personal connection with Jesus Christ.

One of our governing philosophies is that we prefer to keep our children alongside their parents. So, we offer an archery program for kids that also teaches Bible lessons, and parents are very involved. Also, instead of Vacation Bible School, we have “Hooked for Life”, which is a fishing event where about 100 kids came out to the pond to learn to fish and learn about Jesus. The most amazing part of it is that we had about a 1:1 ratio of adults to kids. I credit a lot of this parental involvement to the fact that kids are part of our weekly worship services. And, while it may be a bit noisy – even chaotic at times – we find that the men, in particular, really appreciate being there with their kids beside them.

You see, outdoorsmen typically really enjoy their family time. They want to be the ones to take their kids on a turkey hunt or deer hunting. So, if they were to walk into a church and the adults go in one direction and the kids go off in another, this goes against the grain of who they are.

I owe a lot of this identity that we’ve developed to the first book that I read when we started the church, John Eldredge’s “Wild at Heart”. John’s book then put me on a search for more inspiration on how to bring the church back to men, which led me to “Why Men Hate Going to Church”, and that is what finally put words to what I was thinking about how a church could look like if it were angled toward men.

For more information about Brandon’s ministry, check out www.paradiseoutfitterministries.com.  And, to purchase my book or be part of the ongoing conversation about today’s church, go to www.churchformen.com.

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Common story: First Church gets a new minister – Pastor Joe. He’s not a very good communicator. People start leaving. Within two years attendance has dropped by half. Giving is down by a third. First Church descends into a malaise. Eventually Pastor Joe is fired and the search for his replacement begins.

A year later First Church hires a new minister – Pastor Daniel. He’s a great communicator. The church immediately starts growing. Happy days are here again. People love Pastor Daniel.

Why did this happen to First Church? Nothing else changed. The building remained the same. The worship times remained the same. The ministry programs remained the same. The key staff remained the same. The only thing that changed was the pastor. Yet First Church’s attendance and giving rose and fell in direct response to the quality of the preacher.

Can I be brutally honest? When it comes to church attendance, nothing matters as much as the ability of the pastor to deliver good sermons. If a pastor is a good speaker, the church grows. If he’s bad at his job the church shrinks.

Sounds unspiritual – but it’s true. It shouldn’t be this way – but it is. Each week is a referendum on the pastor’s ability to deliver an inspiring sermon.

Admit it – you’ve gotten into the car with your spouse and begun critiquing the sermon before you’re out of the church parking lot. Or you’ve been asked, “How was church?” What do you talk about? The sermon.

Let’s be real: Protestants judge the quality of a worship service largely by the power of the sermon to move them. Nothing else comes close.

This is why the right minister can cause a church to sink or soar.

I liken it to a football team: an NFL squad has 53 men, but the team’s fortunes rise and fall on the talents of one man – the quarterback. If he can deliver lots of touchdowns, the team wins. If he can’t, the team loses. Granted, the signal-caller must have good players around him, but as the 2012 Washington Redskins learned, a great QB means everything.

The same is true with church attendance. When it comes to numbers, nothing matters as much as the ability of the pastor to deliver engaging sermons. Preaching is everything.

It pains me to write these words. In an ideal world, what SHOULD matter is prayer, the presence of the Spirit, the love of the people for one another and the church’s ministry in the community. In that ideal world a church should be able to take out one preacher and install another without a hiccup.

And while we’re at it, why does the size of a church even matter? Jesus would choose a church of 12 sold-out disciples over a church of 12,000 passive pew-sitters any day.

We can argue these points until Christ returns, but this podcast is about attendance. Numbers. And when it comes to putting men in pews, nothing matters more than pastoral quality. Every other consideration pales in comparison.

This wasn’t always the case.

In medieval times there was only one church in a given area, or parish. If your parish priest offered boring homilies, you were stuck.

After the Reformation, sermons became the centerpiece of Protestant worship, as they are today. Some preachers were interesting, and others were boring. But until the 1950s, that didn’t matter much. Christians were mostly loyal to their denominations. If you were born a Methodist you attended the Methodist church in your area. If pastor was a lousy preacher you endured it. You never even thought of going to another church because you were Methodist and that was that.

Fast forward to today. Parishioners are no longer loyal to their denominations.

Here’s my story: I was born and baptized Lutheran. As a young man I attended an Assemblies of God Sunday school. I came to know Christ in a Free Methodist Church. In college I joined a Baptist church, where I was married. I moved to Alaska and became a Presbyterian, and ten years ago I joined a non-denominational megachurch, which I still attend today (although I visited a small Lutheran church this summer and loved it).

This kind of religious switching would have been unusual a century ago, but today it’s common. People move to new cities. They have automobiles that will take them to a church (and a pastor) they connect with. People are less loyal to institutions.

Because parishioners now have access to better preaching (live or through the media) they are less willing to put up with boring, rambling, irrelevant preaching. This has led modern congregants to evaluate their churches based on the sermon. They stay or go based on whether they “are being fed.” If the messages consistently lag, they seek out another church that offers them more.

Many of you are seeing red by this point. “Today’s churchgoers are so shallow. They treat God’s holy church like a product to be consumed!” you may be thinking. And you’re right.

But this is the reality in today’s world. People come to church expecting to receive something from God. If they don’t, they move on. Can we blame them? People came to Jesus – and they always received.

Although we may condemn them as consumers, today’s parishioners choose a church with great care. The decision to leave a church is often a difficult one, fraught with emotion, doubt and uncertainty.

Church hopping is less common than you might think.  And thank God for that.  But it does happen.

I have a friend in Texas (let’s call him Roger) whose church planted “daughter church” in a nearby town. Roger and his family agreed to move to the daughter church to help it get started.

This “church plant” started with much enthusiasm but quickly began to sputter. Attendance dropped by 75% over the first year as the fledgling congregation struggled with its music and preaching.

Roger attended faithfully. He volunteered. He prayed. But the poor sermons exacted a toll on his walk with God. “Honestly, I wanted to be a good soldier and stick it out, but I finally had to be honest with myself – I was dying spiritually,” Roger said. “The worship was lifeless. The sermons just weren’t reaching me. In nine months I didn’t hear anything from the pulpit I hadn’t heard a thousand times.”

Roger eventually made the painful decision to abandon the church plant and return to the mother church. “I felt like a traitor,” he said. “But I’m regularly hearing from God again back in my home church. I know I’m being selfish, but I go to church to meet with God. If that’s not happening what’s the sense in going?”

Here are some questions for you to grapple with:

  • What do you think Roger should have done? Was his decision to abandon the church plant selfish, or is it more important to do the things that help us grow spiritually?
  • Why do we go to church? For our own benefit? For God’s benefit? For the benefit of others?
  • Should a believer persevere in a congregation that does not meet his needs “because it’s not about him?” If so, for how long? Weeks? Months? Years? Decades?
  • Should Christians be “self feeders” or should they expect to be fed Sunday morning?
  • Should churchgoers expect to hear something new at church, or should they be content to hear familiar truths they’ve long known?
  • Should believers “tough it out” in a church with lifeless preaching?
  • Is it right for churchgoers to change congregations based on the quality of the preaching?
  • Should a church live or die on the preaching ability of its senior pastor?
  • If a Christian decides to leave a church, what’s the best way to go about it? Should he simply disappear? Or should he write a letter to the pastor explaining his reasons for resigning?

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I’m noticing a growing trend – Christian men quietly admitting they do not like going to church.

More than half of the committed Christian men I talk to, when asked, will tell me they do not like churchgoing.

They come to me after I speak. They admit their dissatisfaction in hushed tones.

They love God – but hate going to church.

These are not malcontents who’d rather be golfing on Sunday. These are the good guys. Guys who’ve left much behind to follow Jesus. Guys who love their wives and kids. Many are deacons and elders. Some teach Sunday school.

Some are even pastors. Some are nationally known Christian leaders. If I shared their names you’d be shocked.

Most of these men are faithful churchgoers – yet they freely admit they don’t get much from it.

Most are longtime churchgoers who are simply tired of the routine. The act of churchgoing – going to a building, singing songs, hearing a sermon, eating the cracker and drinking the juice, dropping the check into the plate, socializing and heading back to the car – is leaving them particularly dry. They see church as ineffective, focused on the wrong things, or hypocritical.

Sometimes quality is the issue – but not always. Many of these restless men attend dynamic churches with fantastic preaching and music. They have good friends in the church. In fact one man said, “I absolutely love my church. I just don’t like going to it.”

Furthermore, these men sense that God has more for them – but they can’t seem to find what they’re looking for within the existing structures of church.

So what’s going on here? Is this a trend, or am I just hearing these complaints because I wrote a book titled, “Why Men Hate Going to Church?”

And how about you? Are you a person who loves God but hates going to church? Would you like an alternative to the Sunday morning “God show?”

HOW TO DO GREATER THINGS THAN EVEN JESUS DID

In John chapter 14, Jesus said something outrageous:

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these.”

Say what? We will do greater things than Jesus?

Yes we can. In fact, we already do.

You say, “David, what are you talking about? Jesus raised the dead and healed the sick!”

Yes he did. And every day, Christian-chartered hospitals around the globe heal thousands, and even bring a few back from the dead.

You say, “Jesus fed five thousand.”

Yes he did. And every day, Christian relief organizations feed millions.

You say, “Jesus preached truth to multitudes.”

Yes he did. And every year, Christian churches proclaim eternal truth to billions.

You say, “Jesus commanded the forces of nature.”

Yes he did. And every year, scientists unlock the secrets of nature at universities that were chartered as Christian institutions.

You say, “Jesus befriended the lowly.”

Yes he did. And every day Christian organizations such as Salvation Army help people in desperate straits get their lives together. Prison ministers care for the incarcerated. Chaplains comfort the sick and dying.

Taking in strangers? Habitat for Humanity. Clothing the naked? Samaritan’s Purse. Casting out demons? Counseling and prayer ministries.

Jesus told us we would do greater things than he did. This scripture has been fulfilled in our time.

Best of all, Jesus wants you in on the action. He wants to work through you to accomplish greater things than He did.

Miracles still happen. This year, volunteer in your local church or parachurch organization. See what God can do through you.

For more information about David’s ministry, visit www.ChurchForMen.com

And, for more engaging and encouraging podcasts and videos, check out the E-Squared Media Network at www.e2medianetwork.com

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Imagine a church that meets outdoors. Rain or shine. Next to a fishing hole. Around a campfire. There’s no shortage of men in this church. In fact, guys come early to go fishing – and stay late to talk around the fire.

Sound like a little bit of heaven? It’s called The Sportsman’s Church, and it meets every Sunday night in Victoria, Texas, 125 miles southwest of Houston.

Bring your bible – and your fishing pole.

The founder of Sportsman’s church is Glen Dry. He was working part time on a church staff when an idea hit him: start a church that targets the camo crowd.

Glen already had numerous irons in the fire. He’s a busy father to 3 active kids. Starting a church was the last thing he wanted to do.

“I didn’t want to be a church planter, but I’ve learned that obedience is a lot better than misery,” Dry said.

The Sportsman’s Church launched February 3, 2013. The church meets on Sunday nights so outdoorsmen have the weekend free to do what they love.

“It’s gospel centered, relationship centered and also very man-centered,” Dry said.

In just 14 months the church has grown from a handful of worshippers to more than 100 in regular attendance.

Attendance varies depending on the weather — because the church has no walls. The worshippers gather under a pavilion – whether it’s 40 degrees or 100 degrees.  “The good thing about this is I’ve got a church of people who want to be there,” Dry says.

Worshippers start to assemble at 5 p.m. Sunday on a party deck. The church provides snacks and soft drinks. The band starts playing a little after 5. Then Glen shares a hunting story or a testimony. Hunters and fishermen are allowed to share their stories (thou shalt not lie!).

Glen shares a short message (15-20 minutes). The service (or Bonfire, as it’s called) wraps up a little after 6 pm, but hardly anyone goes home. Instead, they gather around campfires and visit until dark. “If we kept the lights on they’d probably stay all night,” Dry said.

“It’s exciting to see people coming to church not just for a show, but they are coming for the relationships, and I believe, to experience God in those relationships,” Dry said.

The church is hoping to keep meeting outdoors, but they are looking at an indoor option for the coldest winter days. Even if they do eventually move indoors, they’re looking for a light, airy facility where they can bring the outdoors in.

One of the great strengths of the Sportsman’s church model is how inexpensive it is. There’s no building to rent. Glen owns the lot where the church meets – and he doesn’t take a salary from the church. “There is hardly any overhead in this church,” Dry said. The congregation has grown without much advertising because it offers such a unique approach. Sportsmen are a tight community who are used to doing things together, so they’re not shy about inviting their friends.

The church offers Camo Kids on Wednesday nights, and Critter Care for babies. The Student ministry is known as “Wild Life.” They blow stuff up, shoot arrows into targets and draw Biblical lessons from the outdoors. In addition, the church offers midweek small groups called Campfires.

Every week Dry has men coming up to him, saying, “This is what’s been missing in my life. I can relax in this environment and be a man and bring my family.”

“I’m baptizing guys I’d have never dreamed I’d see in church,” Dry said. “They don’t fit into the traditional church culture America has created. So this is just a great option for them.”

To learn more about The Sportsman’s Church, click here.

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Have you heard of Men’s Fraternity? It’s the world’s most popular men’s discipleship curriculum. Thousands of churches around the globe have used this much-loved video series to challenge their men.

Men’s Fraternity began in the early 1990s. Pastor Robert Lewis of Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock saw his men returning from Promise Keepers rallies excited about their faith. But there were few resources to disciple them.

So one Sunday Lewis announced that he was going to offer an early morning weekly talk on men’s issues. He rented an old gymnasium and expected maybe 50 guys to show up. To his amazement more than 300 men packed the gym that first morning. By the end of the first year, a thousand men were attending his weekly talks.

Men’s Fraternity was born.

Lewis eventually videotaped his sessions and began distributing them on VHS, and later on DVD. The videos been viewed by millions of men around the world.

A few years ago, Lewis and his creative team began to brainstorm: How can we make Men’s Fraternity more relevant to today’s busy young man?

They came up with a concept called “33 – The Series” The number 33 refers to Authentic Manhood as Modeled by Jesus in his 33 years on earth.

33 – The Series offers many of the same teachings as the original Men’s Fraternity – but in a package that’s more relevant to today’s man:

  • Thirty-three is shorter. Men’s Fraternity consisted of 24-week sessions at 55 minutes each. Thirty-three is built around a series of six-week modules at 35 minutes each. Shorter sessions leave more time for men to discuss the lesson afteward.
  • Thirty-three is filmed in a man-cave. Men’s Fraternity featured Robert Lewis speaking from a church podium. Thirty-three is filmed in a studio with lots of guy-oriented stuff in view.
  • Instead of one teacher, 33 features three pastors of different ages and races.
  • Thirty-three includes strong visual content. Each video includes interviews, documentaries, testimonies, round-table discussions and dramatic vignettes.
  • Interviewees include rappers, athletes, pastors, counselors, and many others.
  • Thirty-three is available on multiple platforms including DVD, computer and mobile. It can be purchased in a kit or episode by episode.

Rick Caldwell is executive director of Authentic Manhood, distributor of Men’s Fraternity and 33 – The Series. Caldwell says that 33 has expanded the reach of this teaching. It’s finding a home in different kinds of churches, in military installations, and even in jails. “We just got a note from a guy in Trinidad, who’s using it in the correctional system,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell’s son recently returned from Afghanistan, where troops were watching the 33 videos on their smartphones and iPads. Thirty-three is available on military bases around the world.

“We’re also seeing huge success in the African-American community, because one of our presenters on the 33 team is a prominent African-American pastor,” Caldwell said.

Each year, Authentic Manhood donates all the proceeds from DVD and online sales to an organization that plants five new churches. The first thing these church planters do is offer 33 – The Series in their communities and advertise for men to join. These men are the foundation upon which these churches are planted.

Volumes 1, 2, 3 and 4 of 33 are now available online and on DVD. Each volume is six sessions. During the next year the final two volumes will be produced. After that, “we’ll explore what men need to be doing,” Caldwell said.

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Donald Miller is the latest high-powered Christian man to admit he rarely attends church. The author of bestsellers, “Blue Like Jazz,” and “Searching for God Knows What” recently said he rarely attends worship services, and feels no connection to God while singing in church.

I also cited the work of Dr. Michael Lindsay, who interviewed 360 of America’s most prominent evangelicals, 90 percent of whom were men. These well-known believers included athletes, CEOs, Hollywood stars, and two US presidents. Lindsay “was shocked to find that more than half—60%—had low levels of commitment to their denominations and congregations. Some were members in name only; others had actively disengaged from church life.”

This got me to thinking: if the twelve apostles were alive today, would they attend church services? Perhaps. But I suspect their leader, Simon Peter, might be one of those high-powered men who went missing.

Jesus placed three men in his inner circle: Peter, James and John. I’ve heard it taught that this triad represents the three dimensions of a man’s soul: James, the mind; Peter, the will; and John, the emotions. Every man possesses these three, but one tends to dominate.

For example, I am a James. I am a deep thinker. Always have been. I live in the world of ideas. I read about two hours a day and write at least an hour a day (unless I’m working on a book, in which case both those numbers rise).

The problem with being James is that I’m not Peter. I have many great ideas, but lack the will to bring them to fruition. I’m often afraid to “step out of the boat” and follow my Lord in faith. When I face opposition I tend to back off – not move forward.

The other problem with being James is that I’m not John. I often run roughshod over people and hurt their feelings. As church services become more focused on emotion, I feel less excited about attending them.

I know many Christians who, like me, are James. We love to debate theology and ideas. Doctrines and beliefs are paramount. James loves nothing better than a meaty sermon that makes you think.

I also know a lot of Johns in the church. They are deep lovers. Johns are emotionally perceptive and into relationships. They are compassionate and they really enjoy praise and worship and the way it makes them feel connected to the divine.

But where are the Peters? Where are the impulsive men who act first and think later? As Dr. Lindsay’s research found, the modern church is very short on these types of men.

Dr. Mels Carbonnel has administered personality tests to thousands of Christians over the past thirty years. While about 62 percent of Americans have passive personalities, about 85 percent of the churchgoers whom Carbonnel has tested fall into the passive category.(On the well-known DISC test, the passive personalities are the S and C)

Put another way – in the broader society, potential Peters make up 38% of the populace. In the church, that number is just 15%.

What are the implications of this imbalance? Any institution so heavily tilted toward passive personalities will itself become passive. It will tend to value tradition and stability over innovation and growth. Anyone who’s served in leadership in a local church knows this is true.

Jesus put Peter in charge of the early church. What was he showing us? Without a bias toward action, the church dies.

Yet today’s church is practically bereft of Peters. We meet. We argue. We defend our turf. We love one another – but often fail to reach the world.

So where are all the Peters? Why are they leaving the institutional church? And how can we get them back? I’d welcome your ideas.

In my next post I explore the reasons Peter has left the building. For more discussion on this issue leave a comment below, or join the conversation on my Facebook page.

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In October 2013, the New York Times featured an article titled, “Turning Education Upside Down.” It’s about flipped schools, in which students watch lectures at home, and then do homework at school.

Please take 5 minutes to read the article by clicking here.

In flipped schools, students view lessons outside class on their computers, tablets or smartphones. Teachers produce their own videos, or assign web content such as TED talks, audio files, or other reading materials that make their points.

At first, teachers would to record 20- or 30-minute video lectures, but they quickly discovered that lessons of 3 to 6 minutes worked better. The key to good learning is a short, memorable presentation that students can rewind and watch over and over if they don’t grasp the concept the first time through.

In flipped schools the classroom is no longer the forum where ideas are introduced – it’s the place where ideas are clarified and put into practice. When students arrive at class they ask questions, do lab work, solve problems, and get personalized instruction from the teacher.

The most exciting aspect of flipped schools is their results. Clintondale High School outside Detroit saw a huge turnaround after it flipped:

“On average we approximated a 30 percent failure rate,” said [Principal Greg] Green. “With flipping, it dropped to under 10 percent.”

Graduation rates rose dramatically, and are now over 90 percent. College attendance went from 63 percent in 2010 to 80 percent in 2012.

Flipping changes teachers into coaches. It turns classroom time from lecturing to mentoring. The teacher is no longer the “sage on the stage,” but rather the “guide on the side.”

The more I read of the article, the more I began thinking about “flipping” church.

Our current model of church is stage-driven. The centerpiece of Protestant worship is the sermon – a lecture delivered live (or increasingly, via video). We sit passively as the pastor stands in front of us and introduces an idea. Or several ideas.

The problem is, most sermon content is quickly forgotten – because there’s no practical way to reinforce the idea or turn it into action. We’re given no opportunity to discuss the sermon – no place to ask questions or receive personalized instruction and coaching. No way to immediately practice what was preached.

Home groups are supposed to be the answer – but less than half of churchgoers regularly attend a weekly spiritual group. And very few of these groups are dedicated to reinforcing or practicing the content we hear on Sunday.

So what if we flipped the worship service?

What if we watched the lesson at home and then gathered weekly for individual instruction and coaching? For personal support and prayer? For service and fellowship?

What if pastors put their teaching on video, and then used the weekly meeting time to nurture the flock? Or expanding on this idea: what if the pastor distributed daily devotions via e-mail that prepare the flock for the training they will receive on Sunday morning?

I can hear the objections already: what about visitors? What if people don’t watch the video or read the devotions? How can we have a service without a sermon? And what about worship?

Flipping a church would be challenging – but look at the potential rewards: more effective teaching. A chance to turn Sunday morning into a true disciple-making experience. Less stage-time and more life-on-life time. Less passive pew sitting and more doing. The possibilities are endless and exciting.

So what do you think of this idea? Would you join a flipped church? What are its strengths? Its weaknesses? Comment below, or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

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Christian bible teaching about how to bring the church back to today's men and boys. How men and boys need to follow Jesus Christ, read scripture, and become a mature Christian, participate in discipleship, and learn then teach the truth about God.

From David Murrow, founder of Church for Men and author of “Why Men Hate Going to Church” and “What Your Husband Isn’t Telling You”:

I attend a lot of men’s conferences. And the constant theme of these events is a call on men to live sacrificial lives. To step up and serve…to be heroes…to lay down their lives for their families, for their communities and for their churches.Man_Video_Game

You hear the same call issued from pulpits. Preachers ask, “Why don’t we have more courageous men?”

The fact is modern society doesn’t need as many courageous men as it once did. And it no longer rewards men for acting like men. To understand this, travel back with me in time.

Since the dawn of the species, humans have been locked in a life-and-death struggle to feed themselves and to fend off invaders. It’s hard for us in 21st century Western society to imagine how hungry and violent the world was until recently. Famine was common. Crop failures meant the death of thousands. Hordes of thugs regularly swept through settlements, sacking, raping and pillaging at will (the Old Testament is full of these accounts). There were no standing armies, police forces or welfare programs to prevent this suffering.

Men were particularly valuable in earlier times because they possessed the physical strength to raise crops, hunt animals and fight wars. It’s no exaggeration to say that men held the key to the survival of the human race. If men failed to hunt or farm, women and children starved. If men failed to protect, women and children were slaughtered. If men didn’t do their jobs, all was lost. As such, men were indispensable.

Men have always done society’s dangerous jobs. Humans never even thought of giving these roles to women until recently, because females are typically physically weaker than men. Women were needed to bear, raise and protect children. Men were the “expendable sex”—and so were assigned the jobs that were most likely to kill someone.

But one day, a tribesman got wise. “Why should I hunt beasts that can rip my flesh?” he asked. “Why shouldn’t I run away when a superior enemy threatens? When I’m hungry, why shouldn’t I eat all the food myself, instead of sharing with the rest of the tribe?”

The leaders of the tribe panicked. “If this kind of thinking spreads through the tribe, we’re finished! We need a way of motivating men to overcome their natural fears, so they will become the protectors and providers everyone needs.”

So the leaders hatched a plan. “We’ll play a trick on the men,” they said. “We’ll create a code of manly behavior, and we’ll expect every man to obey it.”

So tribes all over the world developed various versions of the code of manly behavior. Among the expectations of the code:

  • A man is strong
  • A man is brave in the face of danger
  • A man endures suffering
  • A man puts the needs of others first
  • A man is generous
  • A man leaves a legacy

The whole idea behind manliness is to help a man overcome his natural instincts (fear, hunger, loneliness, etc.), so he will do what’s best for the tribe, not for himself. The code convinces men to do things that have the potential to hurt, exhaust or kill them.

Societies made sure every man understood the code. Adolescent boys were subjected to brutal coming-of-age rituals to ensure the code was implanted deep in their hearts.

But here’s the key: men who “stepped up” to these expectations were rewarded lavishly. They got the best homes, the most wives and the choicest foods. They were given the name “hero” and their exploits were memorialized in songs. They got medals and parades when they returned from war. But men who failed to act manly were shunned as cowards. They were treated as outcasts by society.

So for thousands of years, humans all over the globe favored men, in order to motivate them to do the dangerous jobs. Men were given an elevated place in society—including rights and privileges unavailable to women and children.

But then everything began to change—quickly. Set the time machine for AD 1800. A novel technology—the internal combustion engine—gave birth to the Industrial Revolution. A new kind of society was born, one that completely changed how humans protect and provide for themselves. Suddenly, for the first time in history, men were no longer indispensable.

With the rise of machinery, raw muscle power became much less important. Farm implements allowed one man to do the work of twenty. Advances in science increased crop yields dramatically. Never before had food been so abundant, easy to acquire, and relatively cheap compared to income.

Industrialized countries became wealthy enough to create a social safety net. Women could now rely on government welfare programs instead of husbands as their primary providers. Education and vocational opportunities for women multiplied, which increased their income and decreased their dependence on men. Today, for the first time in history a woman can live comfortably and even have children without attaching herself to a man.

In prehistoric times, every man was a warrior—literally. Rival bands frequently raided each other’s camps. Every man was expected to pick up his weapon and repel the invaders. In the age of agriculture, farmers grabbed their implements and went to war to defend their homelands. The Old Testament is full of stories of kings mustering common men to fight the Caananites, the Ammonites, the Amalekites, and various other ites who threatened the nation of Israel.

But in the past 150 years the role of protector has gradually been taken away from common men and given to professionals. The wealth created by industrialization funded the rise of professional, full-time armies and navies. Municipalities established the first public, salaried police forces and fire departments in the 1800s.

As a result, modern men rarely have to defend themselves. Today, the average American male will go his entire life without using a weapon to physically protect his family or property. In some nations it’s illegal to own a gun for self-protection. Battle is becoming rare even among professional soldiers. Fewer than half the U.S. veterans alive today saw combat during their military careers.[1]

Thanks to industrialization, a relatively small number of men can provide us with all the protecting we need. Around the world armies are shrinking because one warrior can wield the power of thousands. Battle machinery such as tanks, planes, bombs and machine guns have greatly amplified the power of one soldier.

The same is true with providing—today we need only a few men to feed us. In 1800, 90 percent of the U.S. labor force was engaged in farming. It took that many hands to sustain our populace. Two hundred years later, U.S. population has grown more than fifty-fold, yet only about 2 percent of Americans work as farmers.

Machines enabled women to become professional protectors and providers for the first time. A female fighter pilot can be just as lethal as a male one. Put a woman behind the wheel of a combine and she can harvest just as much wheat as a man. Physical power is no longer key to the survival of the human race—brainpower is. Men have lost their traditional advantage as protectors and providers for society.

I’m not suggesting society turn back the clock so men can regain their dominance. I’m merely pointing out how quickly industrialization has removed men from their indispensable role as the linchpin of society. Men just aren’t as important as they once were. Suddenly, society can get along quite well with just a handful of them.

In a little less than 200 years society went from lauding men’s accomplishments to holding them in contempt, particularly among the intelligentsia. The PC crowd sneers at men who fight wars, men who carry guns, men who cut down trees, and men who drill for oil. We no longer expect men to subdue the earth; instead, they’re supposed to live in harmony with it.

The feminist storyline has metastasized from “equal rights for women” to “men are the oppressors of women.” There’s a great deal of hatred and suspicion directed toward men on university campuses. It’s just assumed that men are responsible for every modern ill: war, environmental degradation, economic inequality, and the exploitation of various victim groups. If only women were in charge, we’d be living in a peaceful, egalitarian eco-paradise.

Men are no longer society’s greatest asset; they are its biggest problem. Each day men become a little less necessary. Guys sense this, and as their value diminishes we see them withdrawing from the workforce, the church, civic organizations, and from public life in general.

I’m not blaming women for any of this. I merely want you to see how much men’s value to society has fallen—and how quickly it fell. The Atlantic magazine recently printed an article titled, The End of Men:

“Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women?”

Men will step up when they are rewarded for doing so. It’s always been this way. When families appreciate men, they will step up. When church needs men, they will step up. Not even Jesus laid down his life without the promise of a greater reward.

For more information about Dave’s ministry, check out www.ChurchForMen.com

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Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle and founder of the Acts 29 church-planting network, has endured withering criticism from both conservatives and liberals, Christians and non-Christians, even as his church has become one of the largest and most influential in the nation.

Mars Hill has been compared to a cult. Left wing outlets such as Slate and Huffington Post have been scathing in their critiques. There’s an entire web site devoted to Driscoll’s downfall, recording every controversial statement the church planter utters.

Megablogger Rachel Held Evans called Driscoll a “bully” for poking fun at the effeminacy of some worship leaders, and launched a letter writing campaign against him. A number of prominent pastors have called Driscoll to account for his occasional swearing, including Ed Young and John MacArthur, who declared the Seattle pastor, “unfit for the ministry.” Driscoll recently managed to offend every preacher in England by calling them “cowards.”

As I read the critiques, a question keeps popping into my head: Wouldn’t people accuse Jesus of these same things if he were to walk among us today?

In fact, they did.

Read John 10:20: Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” Even his own family thought he was insane, and tried to take charge of him (Mark 3:20). Christ and his disciples so angered people they lived under constant threat of arrest and death.

Discipleship has always upset people. It still does today.

The point of this blog entry is not to justify everything Mark Driscoll says, does or believes.  The accusations lodged against Mars Hill Church by former elders, if true, are disturbing to say the least. And simply being controversial is no sign of Christlikeness.

Whether you agree with Driscoll’s methods or not, a larger question remains: Is Mark a bully, or is he loving people exactly as Jesus did – with a “father love” we no longer recognize as love?

Many believers see God as a two-act play: the ferocious Old Testament God and the gentle New Testament God. The fire-and-brimstone God of the ancients has been replaced with gentle Jesus, meek and mild. It’s almost as if God was “born again” after the book of Malichi.

But the Bible presents just one God, and He is often just as “mean and wild” in the back of the book as he is in the front. Both God the Father and God the Son are plenty harsh throughout the New Testament. Here are a few examples:

God proclaimed Jesus as “his beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Then He immediately cast that beloved son into the wilderness for a brutal testing. (Matthew 3-4)

Jesus rebuked adoring crowds, calling them “a wicked and perverse generation.” (Matthew 17:17)

Christ ridiculed his own disciples, calling them “dull” (more accurately translated, “stupid.”) Matthew 15:16.

Jesus called a desperate Canaanite woman and her people “dogs.” (Matthew 15:21-28)

God struck dead a couple that made a generous gift to the church after they fudged on the amount. (Acts 5)

Of course we can’t forget the Pharisees, Jesus’ perennial foil. The Gospels contain page after page of stinging rebukes, curses and condemnations for these religious know-it-alls.

Reason with me. Did God love Jesus? The crowds? The Canaanite woman? Ananias and Sapphira? The Pharisees?

Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. And this is how he treated people he deeply loved. He dealt with them through deprivation. Rebukes. Insults. The death penalty.

What’s going on here? How could God be so mean to people he loved so intently? People he wanted to bless? People whose repentance he sought?

He was practicing father love.

When Jesus swung the whip and cleared the temple? Father love. When he called the Pharisees “whitewashed tombs?” Father love. When he accused his dinner host of murdering the prophets? Father love.

Father love is like a vaccination: it causes momentary pain, but promotes long-term health. We hate to be on the receiving end of a needle, but we know we need it. And we’re better for it.

We are a generation of Christians nursed on mother love. We expect God to bless us, comfort us and accept us as we are. Our sermons, songs and self-help books reinforce this idea. We expect nothing but kindness from fellow believers, and when we are treated harshly in the church we freak out.

Instead of examining our own lives, we default to the role of victim. “He couldn’t possibly be speaking for God, because he was so unloving,” we think. We often judge the appropriateness of another believer’s actions not by sober assessment – but how those actions make us feel about ourselves.

Now don’t get me wrong. We need mother love in the church. We must comfort the hurting. Men in particular need to learn to be gentle, patient and kind.

Yet as wonderful as mother love is, it will never propel us to something higher. If we are accepted as we are we will never change. If we are comforted but never challenged, our lives will accomplish little.

Of course, not all harshness is love. There is no place in the church for abuse, misuse of authority and egotism. When church leaders consolidate power and surround themselves with sycophants, this is a sign of danger.

How can we introduce healthy father love back into the church? First, we must grapple with these fundamental questions:

If a pastor seems to offend both believers and non-believers at every turn, is this a sign of strength or weakness? Godliness or carnality?

Is it ever appropriate for a minister to make fun of someone? If so, how might this benefit the body of Christ?

Is there room in today’s church for a leader who is harsh, salty and shockingly frank in his language?

Does God expect ministers of the gospel to guard their speech, never saying what they really think (like politicians)? Or should they let fly, regardless of the consequences?

Where do we draw the line between a pastor/elder who is exercising father love and one who is abusing his power?

Should churches adopt specific behavioral standards, and should they be allowed to discipline and “shun” members who fail to meet these standards?

The next time you hear an account of some pastor who’s in hot water for saying or doing something controversial or hurtful, withhold judgment. Get the facts. And consider the possibility that this leader may be exercising a kind of love that’s frightening but necessary. A kind of love that young men respect – and desperately need.

Mark Driscoll is human. He’ll make mistakes. I’d encourage you to judge him not by the latest controversial thing that pops out of his mouth – but by the tens of thousands of young men who are following Jesus because of the ministry of his church.

For more information about Dave’s ministry, check out www.ChurchForMen.com

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