Getting Men to Jesus
Men are notorious for not asking directions. They might grab an old map from the glove box and try to figure out where they’re going, but they’re just as likely to try to feel their way by intuition. But even if a guy conde¬scends to using a map, it isn’t going to show all the roadblocks, barricades, construc¬tion zones, detours, bridges out, and other obstacles on the road to his destination. Apply these same principles to a spiritual journey, as we seek to get men to Jesus through evangelism, and the road to glory can be even more complicated.
Make no mistake, there’s only one “highway to heaven,” and that’s through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, but depending on where a man is when he starts, it might take some careful steering to get him over to the main road. When we present the gospel to our non-Christian friends, it is imperative that we give clear and com¬prehensive directions for getting to the truth. If our friends don’t understand the mes-sage, they’re bound to take a wrong turn and end up somewhere they don’t want to be.
STARTING WITH A GOOD MAP
If we want to lead other men to Christ and teach the men in our congregation how to do the same, we must begin with a good map. Of course, there is no better guidebook than the Bible for leading a man to Jesus Christ.
In our ministry to men, we must equip them with the skills and knowledge to use the Bible to discover God’s truth and to present it in a way that relates to men. Useful tools, such as the Roman Road or the Four Spiritual Laws, that use a sequence of Bible quotations to guide a man from recognizing his need to accepting God’s pro¬vision of salvation can be helpful. These and many other resources are excellent rep¬resentations of the biblical message of salvation through Jesus Christ, but they may not relate to a man and bring about the desired commitment.
AVOIDING ROADBLOCKS, DETOURS, AND OBSTACLES
Handing someone a map, and even tracing the route with our finger, doesn’t guarantee that he’ll reach the desired destination, because there may be obstacles on the road to redemption. A major roadblock to understanding the Bible and its mes¬sage of hope and forgiveness is figurative language. Even if we use a modem transla¬tion of the Bible, spiritual language can sound otherworldly and mysterious.
Spiritual concepts are often described in symbolic terms that can be confusing to an unchurched reader. Take, for example, the phrase “open your heart to Jesus.” What does an expression like this mean to a man who is a stranger to God? He may sense the deep sincerity and passion in these words, but the mental picture he com¬poses may be confusing. Are we talking about a physical heart—the blood pump that keeps us alive—or a figurative heart-shaped box of chocolates that symbolizes roman¬tic love? Neither image seems to fit. Your friend may have said to his wife when he proposed marriage, “I love you with all my heart,” but even then, he probably hoped she wouldn’t ask him exactly what he meant. It might be more comfortable for woman to express her love for Jesus using intimate language, but most guys would experience cognitive dissonance. In their minds, romantic words don’t fit with the spiritual context.
How about this line from an 1879 hymn by Joseph Parry: “Jesus, Lover of Soul, let me to Thy bosom fly.” I can just hear some guys I know saying, “I don’t think so. I’d better play golf next Sunday. I feel a little embarrassed even thinking about flit word bosom while sitting in church.” You get the point. Old poetic images with secondary meanings don’t translate well into a contemporary culture in which allusions are not well known, much less understood. In our ministry to men, we present the truth of the gospel in language that men can understand.
How can we explain the spiritual concept of knowing or relating to God? He:: are four images that most men can readily identify with.
1. God as Father. Every man wants to have or to be a great dad. Even if a man’s relationship with his own father was less than ideal, we can explain how God is the ultimate and intended Father of us all—the one who sets the standard for what an earthly father should be.
Telling Your Story
Every Christian man should be able to tell another man how he came to know Christ. You can do this in several ways.
1. Let your words reveal your faith. You don’t have to explain the four spir¬itual laws in every conversation. However, your words should be filled with an honest appreciation for what the Lord has done, even when you’re talking to a non-Christian!
2. Share faith stories. No doubt you’ve seen God do remarkable things in your life. Tell people about the answered prayers, the changes in your life, and the times the Lord has brought you through something difficult.
3. Prepare a testimony. Take the time to write a simple, two-minute testi¬mony that describes what your life was like before you met Christ, how you became a Christian, and what a difference it has made in your life.
2. Jesus Christ as the older brother. Most guys look up to and admire their older brothers. In the same way, we can look up to Jesus as our example. What guy wouldn’t say, “I want to be like him,” when looking at Jesus?
3. Christians as colaborers together with Christ. Our society admires team play¬ers, and everyone wants to be teamed with the superstar. Jesus sets the example and shows us how to live. When we team up with him, we know that we’re not alone in this quest. As mature believers, we can encour¬age our younger brothers to “follow me as I follow Christ.”
4. Called to a noble, sacrificial task. Deep in the heart of every man is a long¬ing for significance. Christ’s call to “take up your cross and follow me” reaches deep into a man’s character and summons him to commit to a calling of substance and sacrifice.
The Detour of Self-Justification
Men are masters of self-justification. We’re wired that way. Our simplistic sense of fairness suggests that God, whom we fancy in our minds according to our own image, will balance the
deeds of our lives on the scales of justice. Most guys live their unredeemed lives as though the preponderance of their good deeds and intentions will outweigh anything bad they have done. When engaged in a spiritual discussion, many men quickly retreat to the passive position of “letting God decide.” They say, “I do the best I can, I try to be fair and not hurt anyone, and when God weighs the good against the bad, I think I’ll come out okay.”
How to Write a Testimony
1. Speak to God and ask him to speak through you.
2. Follow a simple outline: your life before Christ, how you met Christ, and your life after receiving Christ.
3. Start with an interesting sentence and offer a good conclusion.
4. Include relevant, thought-provoking personal experiences. Give enough detail to arouse interest.
5. Use some Scripture verses to help you explain the gospel clearly.
6. Avoid negative statements about others and Christian jargon like “sanc¬tified” and “redeemed.”
7. Build your testimony around a theme—something characteristic of your life.
8. Lift up Christ as the only means of eternal life.
What causes the same man whose response borders on road rage if anyone passes or cuts him off on the highway to adopt such a passive posture when confronted with spiritual issues? Most guys prefer to take the detour that allows them to say, “I don’t want to deal with it today. My attention is taken with concrete, tangible, real things of business, family, and entertainment. All this stuff about morality, mortality, and ethics puts me on a road where I don’t feel comfortable, so I’ll just stay over here on the detour as long as I can.” He may look over to the main highway every now and then to see if the traffic is moving, but often it takes a catastrophic event like a funeral or a tragedy in his life to wake him up to the realization that the detour isn’t getting him where he wants to go.
If we have been careful to establish meaningful, committed relationships with our unsaved friends, the best challenge to the detour may be an “in your face” state¬ment, such as, “You really don’t want to wait for justice. You need to plead for mercy. now, like the rest of us!”
The Barricade of Self-Reliance
Self-reliance is as masculine as the Y chromosome. The notion that “I can fix it myself’ can block a man’s understanding and acceptance of God’s truth. The barn-cade of self-reliance is built with the following blocks.
• As men, we don’t want to owe God anything.
• We equate control with independence, and we don’t want to have to depend on anyone.
• We assume that behavior rather than character is the issue with God, and we act no worse than the next guy.
• Most men process in a linear sequence. We can live according to a set of rules, but freedom in Christ is another matter.
• An intimate relationship with God is unpredictable, and therefore, intimidating.
In confronting the barricade of self-reliance, we have several factors in our favor. First of all, the “I can fix it myself” mentality implies that the man understands that something needs to be fixed, that he is not meeting the expected standard, whatever :hat might be. Most men who have had at least some exposure to church recognize that there is a God to whom they are accountable. Finally, it implies that at least as a matter of discussion, he is willing to do something about his situation.
It is axiomatic that a man doesn’t own anything he doesn’t buy. I had an expe¬rience with a friend named Jack that illustrates this reality. I had been talking to him about the Lord for several months, and one day I invited him to lunch. He happily accepted. After we had enjoyed some good food, conversation, and humor, it was time to return to work. When the check came, I picked it up, because I had invited Jack to have lunch with me. He quickly suggested that we split the tab. I thanked him but said I wanted to pay, because I wanted it to be my gift to him. He looked nervous but didn’t protest.
As we started to stand up, he said, “Let me get the tip.” Again I thanked him but said I had already put it on the credit card and I didn’t want him to do anything other than enjoy the time we had spent together. He looked frustrated, but again he didn’t argue.
As we walked out the door of the restaurant, he said, “I’ll buy next time.” It was time to let the other shoe drop, so I said, “No thanks, Jack. I invited you here today because I appreciate you and want to honor you. I don’t want to reduce that to merely trading lunches. This lunch was a gift, no half-payment due, no shared tip, and no future obligation.”
When he looked confused, I added, “On a small scale, this lunch illustrates how you are approaching God, Jack. He’s offering you the gift of salvation and you don’t want to receive it. Your only obligation in receiving a gift is your acceptance of it. Its price may be as simple as a thank you, but by your acceptance, you acknowledge that we share a bond of friendship. Accepting a gift from God works the same way, yet you’re resisting it. You want a half-and-half deal—your part and God’s part; or you want to throw in the tip—God did most of it, but I’ll add a little to it! What God wants is for you to freely receive what he has freely given. The challenge is that our resistance keeps us from getting what we can’t earn. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul tells us that `the wages [what we earned] of sin is death, but the free gift [what we received but didn’t earn] of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23 LB).
Jack accepted Christ that day.
The Pothole of Control
Control is our greatest prize and often our worst enemy. Sometimes our efforts are downright funny; other times, they’re simply pathetic. When men overuse con¬trol, power, and direction with their wives, it is sad and often hurtful. In a relation¬ship with God, a man who insists on being in control will eventually end up in isolation, estranged from God.
God designed us to function interdependently. This is true in our marriages, in work, in team relationships, and especially in the body of Christ. All of God’s gifts are for the common good. Men can relax and be real with God and other people when they realize that they are accepted and valued and that they don’t have to wres¬tle with life on their own. It is only insecurity that says, “If you know me, you may not like me.” Insecure men continue to grasp for control while trying to hold God at arm’s length. What a sad predicament.
The Missing Bridge between Sin and Behavior
There is a vast difference between character and image or reputation. In our super¬ficial society, it is easy to think that “keeping up appearances” is the highest virtue. But when we become more concerned about who others think we are rather than who we are in the eyes of God, we can easily twist the cause-and-effect relationship between our behavior and sin. Before long, the bridge washes out altogether, and we’re left with a strictly performance-based standard of righteousness. Consider the typical sermon about sin. It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that you are a sinner
• because you drink
• because you cheat on your wife
• because you gamble
• because you steal if you can get away with it
In this scenario, we think that all we have to do is clean up our behavior and we’ll be acceptable to God. But God looks at matters from an entirely different per¬spective. He looks at the heart of a man and says, Because you are a sinner
• you drink
• you cheat on your wife
• you gamble
• you steal if you can get away with it
A man may do none of these things, and yet he’s a sinner; his sinful behavior is the result of his nature. When a man finally realizes that he sins because he is a sin¬ner (not the other way around), then we need to ask him the question, Can a sinner go to heaven? Isn’t that the bottom line? If behavior is the result rather than the cause, the cause must be addressed.
Leading Men to Christ
If you’re going to lead men to Jesus, you must know the words to use to get them there. A sample script would probably include the following essentials.
• God loves you and has a plan for your life. No matter what you’ve done, there is a God who made you and loves you.
• Man is sinful and separated from God. Each of us has sinned, and that sin has created a barrier between us and God. (Use Rom. 3:23.)
• Our sin will lead to eternal separation from God. Since God is perfect, he won’t allow our sin to go unpunished. The punishment for sin is to spend eternity apart from him. (Use Rom. 6:23.)
• God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to make peace. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. Believing in him is the only way we can be freed from our sins and gain acceptance into God’s family. (Use Rom. 5:8.)
• Every man must decide for himself. Each person is given a choice: either to accept Jesus Christ and his gift of life or to reject it and try to make it to heaven on our own. (Use Rom. 10:9-10.)
Why are men afraid of a relationship with God? Why do they insist on trying to fix their own behavior instead of choosing a relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ? When you consider that the power of God and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanse us from the inside out and that the influence of the Holy Spirit brings last¬ing, positive change in our lives—and eternal life as the ultimate bonus—why would any guy in his right mind not jump at the opportunity? The problem is that the obsta¬cles and roadblocks we’ve discussed make it hard for men to see where they’re going. Men want a clear road map they can follow, and it is our responsibility as Christian men and pastors to untangle the mystery and point them in the right direction.
Wrong Turns and Dead-End Streets
Even when a man sincerely sets out to pursue God, he’s susceptible to wrong turns and dead-end streets. The goal of men’s ministry is to come alongside our broth¬ers and walk with them in genuine friendship as we all make our way toward God’s purpose for our lives.
Some men take the path of denial. They think they can escape responsibility to God by claiming he doesn’t exist. The Bible states the truth in simple language, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God'” (Ps. 14:1 NASB). If you have a friend who has taken the wrong turn of denial, tell him to put it in reverse and get back to the road of reality.
The New Age Movement, the counterfeit religion of our day, is another wrong turn and dead-end street. Whether it’s secular humanism, revived Hinduism, plural¬ism, animism, relativism, or simply “different strokes for different folks,” New Age thinking leads a man down the dead-end street of thinking he can control his own destiny. Any philosophical system will have some moral value and order, but in the final analysis, they can all be summed up by the words of Proverbs 14:12: “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (NASB). The bridge is out. Only Jesus Christ can span the gap from mortality to immortality.
THE UNFINISHED ROAD
God is calling men to himself. He wants to draw us into a relationship—not simply to an event. The gospel, if received, involves giving up all that I know of myself to receive all that I know of God. The road is not the prize. The journey is not the prize. Relationship with God through Jesus Christ is the prize of our salvation. The unfinished road stretches toward the horizon because we haven’t yet arrived. If we had arrived, we’d say, “That’s mine, I’ll go on to other things.” But because we walk by faith not by sight, the road unfolds before us as we walk. And as we journey with Jesus, we learn how to depend on God and become interdependent with our fel¬low pilgrims along the way. The good news is that we walk in the light together, rather than in the darkness of isolation, when we surrender our control to the higher calling of the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
The above article, “Getting Men to Jesus” was written by Gordon England. The article was excerpted from chapter 12 in Patrick Morley’s book, Effective Men’s Ministry.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”