OK, time to get serious about this again, and with good reason….
Over the next ten weeks, you’ll be seeing a series of posts about discipleship leading into, and then based upon, the re-release of my From Disciples to Disciplers series (nee Growing Out)—the original title has become the title once more, and always has been the central focus. The initial run is wrapping up, and the rights are reverting to me, and thus I’m reworking the pages and republishing privately. Honestly, just spending time with all this stuff has reminded me: I put three years of my life into writing this, and years before that brooding about this issue (as you’ll see below), and much of which is captured here. It’s not for nothing, and it still deserves a platform.
But before we all get back in the pool, let me tell you a story involving another “Pool”—and trust me, I say this more to my shame than as bragging, as this incident took place nearly 18 years ago….
Still, while sitting in church a few Sundays ago, this memory kinda crept up and whomped me over the head. It struck me as a pretty vivid illustration of where I once was and where I’d like to be again, personally, no matter how the books (re-)do…. And after all, the guy I’m talking about is the guy I’m encouraging all of us to become….
It was October 4, 1997—maybe 2-3 weeks after the launch group that would become (and still is) Living Word Church started meeting in our home. (That, in itself, was both the result of and the beginning of a series of “long obediences,” to quote Eugene Peterson/Nietzsche.) Specifically, it was the day of Stand in the Gap in Washington, DC, where by best estimates nearly a million men met to pray, confess, and lift up a nation and one another. A few dozen guys from our mother church, Cornerstone Chapel, were headed the 200+ miles south from north Jersey, and these were guys I’d been pouring into (via men’s ministry that looked absolutely nothing like Promise Keepers, who put on the event), so I wasn’t gonna let my personal preferences get in the way of being there for them now. But it was what happened when we got there, with a totally different group of guys, that I remember most….
Some of you “men’s guys” might remember the event—as well as the “prayer teepees” that were set up all over the Mall (enough said). The original senior pastor of Living Word (who’d be gone by this time the following year), suggested we go inside one of the teepees and pray for our fledgling church. As a bunch of our prayer partners were there with us we all went in and prayed, I’m thinking for a good 15-20 minutes. But as we started filing out, I could sense God grabbing me by the shoulder and saying, “Wait.” So I did.
And as I waited, more guys came in and out of the teepee, most looking as bewildered by the experience as we probably had been. I just started talking to guys, taking prayer requests, and praying with them—probably for a good hour and a half. Those of you who know me know I’m not real good at initiating conversations (although I got better at it during eight years at Living Word—again, the “long obedience” thing). But it came very naturally that day. Guys were opening up about all kinds of stuff, and more often than not crying by the time we were done praying. Most of them thought I was with PK; I most certainly wasn’t. 🙂 It was Spirit stuff—God working from the inside out—from end to end, and that’s what men’s ministry (or any kind of ministry) should be all about.
But here’s the kicker: I remember especially a couple guys from (I want to say) Wisconsin/Illinois and Massachusetts, who were friends who’d used the event as an opportunity to have a mini-reunion. After we’d shared and prayed and yes, cried, they said to me, and I quote: “I wish there were guys at our church that we could talk and pray with, like we just did with you.” And again, I don’t say that for props—I say it because it was one of the saddest things I’d ever heard.
This is why I do what I do—when I do it, at least… and why it’s so stinking important regardless.
Next week, I’ll start talking about that importance on a broader scale. But for now, I have work to do….