Below is an article I wrote for a men’s publication, coming out later in May.
Mac and Susan (*) were new neighbors that moved into our cul-de-sac. A few days after the trucks left and friends stopped dropping by, my wife and I prepared some welcome cookies (fresh baked oatmeal raisin, still warm from the oven) then went over and introduced ourselves, to give a warm welcome to our community.
We made lots of small talk about the community, about life, and shared a little of our personal backgrounds. Eventually, Mac asked me: “What do you do for a living?”
“I’m a pastor.”
Often, that kills the conversation.
But this time, Mac wanted to know more.
He asked me all sorts of questions, and began to reveal much about his spiritual journey. In college, he had been involved with a campus ministry, was busying talking to others about his faith in Christ.
Yet he was always troubled by the problem of evil.
If God is love, then why did Hitler even exist?
Since he couldn’t come to a satisfactory answer, he set his faith aside and decided it was better not to be certain of anything. He stopped going to church, changed his social networks over time, and became a pleasant agnostic. He was quite happy with his choice, and his life was fine without an active faith.
My current neighbor, an Australian wine maker, is simply “on his journey.”
Many of us likely know men who are in the same place: a place where faith is not important, and men whose life is fine without an active faith. Men, like my former neighbor, who might label themselves ex-Christian; men who might take on the label agnostic, or atheist.
Many of us know first hand that it is not easy to reach men with the gospel. Giving up is not an option, and just one man turning to Christ can revolutionize an entire church or community.
The power of a shared life
Effective evangelism to men begins with genuine male friendships, sharing common experiences, and doing life together. In that relational context, men develop the security to share what’s really on their minds.
It is this type of relationship that leads to success with men in evangelism. In all the reading I have done, all the ministry I’ve been a part of, many men’s leaders unanimously agree that building long-term relationships is the best way to lead a man to Christ.
Swinging a hammer together on Habitat for Humanity, crewing on a sailboat, disaster relief, feeding programs, and even golf tournaments some of the ways that I’ve been involved in doing shared life ministry. In the context of doing life together, many men find the liberty to talk deeply.
Talking about grace in a quiet space
Jorge (*) was an architect. He stopped going to church nearly 30 years prior simply because it didn’t make sense. One afternoon, I served as the crew on his racing sailboat, joining him for the best of three in the afternoon. It wasn’t a very windy day, so the skill was catching the mild breeze correctly to move forward. With lulls in the breeze, we had nothing to do except talk.
Jorge shared his life with me, shared with me his struggles of faith, and I shared some of the answers that I have found in Christ. We talked about the definition of grace, and how I discovered an amazing grace. The conversation was genuine, not preachy. The tone was polite and respectful. The breeze picked up and we raced on.
Months later, during another race, we experienced another lull in the wind, Jorge picked up the conversation from before. My comments had intrigued him and we continued to talk deep.
If you want to reach men, consider how you can help the men of your congregation do life together. Help your men see the value of inviting others to something besides a church service.
- Service projects for housing or disaster relief efforts
- Golf tournaments, Fishing events, or other sports events
- Cookouts, BBQs, Block parties and other such social events
- Retreats around practical life, such as how to love your family, or not to marry a jerk.
As church leaders, our goal is to help provide the space for men to connect and do life together. We can encourage them to notice the moments when talking about faith is appropriate. We can model how to do that with our own lives.
Let me ask you this?
What does your church do for men’s outreach?
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