Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Jack Fallonberg

One Sunday after one of our church services, I was walking down the aisle headed toward our lobby. All of a sudden, Sam a big, burly, three-hundred-pound-plus man, slapped me on the back and said, “Hey, I know you!”

Even though I was standing in my own church, a wave of fear shot through my body. This man wasn’t just large; he was ominous looking as well. He was obviously a biker, with tattoos, a bushy graying beard, dark sunglasses, earrings on top of earrings, and dressed in black leather.

Nervously, I replied, “Where do you know me from?”

“I saw you up front at that baseball deal last February,” Sam said, “and I wanted to let you know how much that changed my life.”

He was referring to an outreach event our men’s ministry had held with a former baseball star. Apparently, Sam had attended. He said, “That night, I accepted Christ as my Savior and now I’m a new man, living the best I can and making changes to be God’s man. I live quite a ways from here now, but I wanted to let you know how thankful I am for that night.”

When a man commits his life to Christ, he can impact the world with an incredible, life-changing, culture-altering resolve. You probably agree with the importance of reaching men for the sake of Christ. Jesus modeled the ministry of reaching men who in turn reach their families and spheres of influence. Certainly, it isn’t all that Jesus did or all that we should do. But we should place a primary ministry value on reaching out to men.

Reaching out to men is a difficult ministry. They’re hard to reach, difficult to persuade, and grueling to develop. But so is marriage, raising kids, running a business, coaching a sports team, and we don’t seem to be running from those challenges. OK, some people do run from those things, but anyone truly committed doesn’t run. In the church, we shouldn’t run away from the challenge of outreach to men either.

What Is Outreach?

Let’s begin our discussion of outreach with this question in mind: What are we trying to accomplish with “outreach”? The story of Sam, the biker guy, contains one of the most natural meanings of outreach: providing an opportunity to share the message of the gospel with people who don’t know Christ. But let’s expand on that.

Outreach 1 Using any means possible to share the message of the gospel through presenting or proclaiming it to those who don’t have a personal relationship with Christ. First Corinthians 9:22b says, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.”

Outreach 2 Using any means possible to share the message of the gospel through serving those who are in need whether or not they have a personal relationship with Christ. “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” (1 John 3:17).

The first type of outreach typically occurs in three ways: (1) at a one-time outreach event, (2) as an on-going outreach ministry, and (3) through personal outreach conversations and relationships.

All of these methods are valid and valuable. To reach men for Christ, you must be willing to reach them where they are, when they’re there, and with whatever means possible to get them where they need to go. Using a one-time outreach event can be a great tool for a man who has difficulty sharing his faith with others, or it can open a door to a spiritual conversation you’ve never been able to have before.

Having an ongoing outreach ministry lets the men of your church know that there are ongoing evangelism opportunities through the church that they can make use of to reach their friends, co-workers, and neighbors.

At the same time, we should never be so concerned with events and programs that we’re not personally sharing our faith and not encouraging and equipping others to do the same.

The second type of outreach is equally as important. This involves service through the network of communities that men are connected to. It means equipping men to serve others and reach out with the love of Christ. This occurs first to the community of family and friends in a man’s life, then within his church family, then in the community where he lives, and finally, throughout the world.

The goal of this section is to help your men’s ministry accomplish effective outreach to your communities of influence through both evangelistic and service efforts. We’ll look at how-to’s, ideas, strategies, and programs that can help your ministry right away and for years to come. While churches of different sizes will have different resources available to them, the principles of reaching out to men are the same.

Keeping The Main Thing The Main Thing

One of the most enduring jokes (or truths!) about men is that we’re notorious for not stopping for directions when we’re lost. A close second is that we won’t read directions when we’re assembling some-thing. When it comes to ministry to men, we need to do both, stop for directions and read the directions. We’re simply not smart enough, and we can’t work hard enough to make this “men’s thing” work. We’re in desperate need of God’s counsel through prayer and through his Word, prayer and Bible study are the most practical and basic practices that any man of God and leader of men needs to develop.

Before you skip over these words because you “already know that,” hear me out. We live in a culture where nearly all people say they believe in God. Yet a relative few actually live out their beliefs. So here’s a question for you as a leader of men’s ministry: Certainly, you believe that prayer and God’s Word are important to becoming a man of God and ministering to men, but are you truly living it out?

* Practically speaking, here are some things you can do to keep the main thing the main thing in your ministry to men.

* Develop a personal quiet time that includes Scripture reading, Bible memory, and prayer for yourself and for those in your life.

* Develop a regular time to pray for the men that you’re ministering to and with.

* Develop a regular time to pray and connect with the men that you’re personally reaching out to.

* Personally pray for events, programs, ministries, or service projects that you’re developing.

* Recruit a team of men who will pray for the men’s ministry and men you’re associated with.

Knowing Men

The next practical thing to remember is that you must know men, how they think, how they act, how they’re challenged. Men aren’t the sex-crazed, sports-driven, money-hungry, power-crazed lunatics that the world makes us out to be. Well, some of them are; but they’re only acting out what’s been modeled and taught to them. It’s your job to meet men where they are by understanding them, connecting with them through quality ministries, and challenging them to a new life of purpose, character, faith, and leadership.

Ten Key Values For Men’s Outreach

Having a solid outreach ministry with your men requires some basic values and components in your overall ministry to men. Without these key building blocks, your outreach ministry won’t get off the ground. Following are ten key values your ministry needs to accomplish successful outreach to men.

1 Determine Your Purpose

What’s your plan, vision, or purpose for what you’re doing and where you’re going as a men’s ministry? This is the “so what?” to your events, planning, and communication. Many men have attended pancake breakfasts, bowling nights, small groups, or men’s retreats without any idea of why they were there or what was to be accomplished. Many times, guys don’t know because the leadership hasn’t thought it through the men’s ministry held the pancake breakfast and retreat because they were on the calendar and they’d always been done. But men want purpose, understanding, and a vision of where you’re taking them. Let them know where they’re going, and they’ll jump on board and carry your ministry forward.

2 Gain Pastoral Support

If your senior pastor isn’t on board with what your men’s ministry is trying to accomplish, the obvious question is, why? Certainly he (or she) would love to reach men. And he knows the struggles that affect men. So why wouldn’t he support a men’s ministry? I’ll suggest two reasons. First, he thinks it will be more work for him in his already busy schedule. Second, he’s not sure what you’ll do or if it will be done well.

To put his mind at ease, set up a meeting with him. Share the vision the Lord has placed on your heart for the men of your church and beyond into the community. Tell him about the leaders you have working with you. Invite him to be the main speaker at an upcoming event for the men of the church. Or ask him to be involved in a brain-storming session for an outreach event you’re planning. Encourage him to share prayer requests with your men’s prayer team. Let him know that you need his support but that you have no desire to increase his workload just to involve him in key ways that support
the overall ministry of the church. Even mentioning your events in announcements or things as simple as the men’s ministry as a pastoral prayer item demonstrates support.

3 Communicate Your Vision

Use whatever resources you have to communicate the vision or purpose for your men’s ministry. Produce a flier for the men of your church, an informational piece that allows men to see the big picture of what you’re trying to accomplish. For each event, clearly delineate and communicate the goal of that event, as well as how it fits into the ministry’s overall vision.

At my church, many of the events in our men’s ministry are geared toward outreach. One spring just a few months after a big men’s outreach event, we held our first men’s Power Breakfast. The purpose of the breakfast is to build up the prayer life of the men of our church. At this first Power Breakfast, we didn’t communicate our vision very well. One guy who loves making connections with un-churched men came that morning with a friend who’d never stepped foot in church before. They sat in the front row. This would have been great if it had been an outreach event, but it wasn’t. That morning our pastor spoke on prayer and fasting. While I believe that God’s Word never returns void, that man has never returned to our church.

The lesson? Communicate your vision clearly, regularly, repeatedly, and in as many ways as possible.

4 Pursue Excellence

The days when a man will settle for mediocrity at church are over, particularly if you want him to reach out to his network of relationships, He will probably survive another church service with Aunt Sally playing the organ with her mittens on, but he will come alone or with his family that’s it. You won’t see him inviting un-churched friends to join him, Also, if you get a man to a place of service, where he’s reaching out to the community, you need to deliver. If he finds that you’re unorganized and unprepared and really don’t care about his time or needs, he won’t be back. One of the best ways to pursue excellence is to do what you can do in an excellent manner that glorifies God. If you can’t do something well, don’t pursue it until you can do it with excellence.

5 Do Guy Stuff

Have men’s stuff at your events. Men’s ministry should be fun. Men like to have fun. Make things fun for them. Use camping, sports, business, tournaments, speakers, paintball, movies, and any other appropriate means to reach them. Yet don’t be afraid to talk about where most guys are in life. Talk about business, sex, money, marriage, relationships, power, and accountability. Don’t be afraid to put the “man” back into men’s ministry.

6 Use Tools

Men use tools every day at home, at work, and at play. Whether it’s a lawn mower to cut the grass, a Palm Pilot to organize the day, or a softball bat to get a hit, tools make the man. Tools make the men’s ministry, too. Men use tools to help them get ahead. Anything you can do to provide excellent and useful tools will go a long way to improving your ministry and connecting with men. Keep this in mind as you plan small groups, spiritual growth and leadership training, outreach events, and service projects.

7 Issue A Challenge

Why will two grown men still arm wrestle when given the chance? Why do companies create sales goals? Why do we make New Year’s resolutions and set goals for ourselves? It’s the challenge. Most men love and need to be challenged. Don’t soft-shoe with men about their spiritual growth or their need to step up to the plate when it comes to reaching out to other men. Challenge their excuses. Challenge them to invest in relationships. Challenge them to dream big and to dare to live out God’s purposes for themselves, your men’s ministry, and reaching other men for Christ.

8 Create Community

Outreach will happen best when the men of your church create a structure of men’s community to encourage each other, pray for lost friends, hold one another accountable, reach out to un-churched friends, and study the Bible’s teaching on reaching out. One of the best ways to accomplish community is in men’s small groups. If you’ve tried small groups, and they didn’t work, then try something else. However, keep in mind that true community must be intimate. Jesus had twelve friends (the disciples), and within that group he had three close friends (Peter, James, and John). Always keep in mind that the larger the men’s group, the shallower the relationships will likely be, including the levels of trust, openness, and conversation among the men. Also, true accountability, challenge, application, and men’s community can’t happen in a mixed-gender setting.

9 Battle With Prayer

The book of Ephesians tells us that our battle isn’t against flesh and blood but against the powers of the evil world. This is certainly true where outreach is concerned. There is one who hates the fact that you’re trying to change men’s lives and the lives of others. The key to winning the battle is to fight it on your knees.

For example, when you think about putting together outreach events, you quickly realize that there’s a lot of work to be done! You need to plan the programming and promoting, figure out the logistics, pull together all the details, and follow up afterward. When you think it through, it can become overwhelming. Go to battle in prayer:

* Realize that God wants your anxiety: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

* Don’t do it alone. Gather your leaders and prayer warriors, and pray regularly for all aspects of the ministry.

* Watch for, even be amazed at, how the Lord moves and works in you and through you to change the lives of men through prayer.

Most of us struggle with finding the time to pray. The story is told of Martin Luther thinking about the coming events of his day. If it were us, we’d say, “I have so much to do today, I must skip my prayer time.” But in the story, Luther said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” Focusing on outreach can be overwhelming, but through prayer, outreach can be more successful then you ever dreamed possible.

10 Pursue God’s Word

While there’s nothing wrong at all with reading books and using other resources to inspire and train the men in your ministry, one of the most important things you can do is to encourage them to pursue God’s Word. Encourage it. Teach it. Model it. Apply it. Be about helping men get into the Word and use it in their lives. Consider these benefits of getting men into the Word of God (and this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list):

* They grow to know God and Christ better.

* They learn the discipline of being a continual learner.

* Their goals for life are significantly transformed by God’s Word.

* They gain power to fight temptations.

* They grow in their desire to reach out in service.

* They increase their ability and desire to share the gospel.

* They accumulate tools to become purposeful fathers and husbands of faith.

* They develop God-honoring leadership and character to help them in every aspect of life.

* They set an example for others in where to turn for comfort and guidance.

* They learn the heart of God so that he can transform their hearts.

* They see how to he part of something significant from an eternal perspective.

Article “Stepping Out Of Your Comfort Zone” written by Jack Fallonberg is excerpted from Men’s Ministry In The 21st Century: The Encyclopedia Of Practical Ideas.

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.”