Exhaustion

My favorite pictue from my cross-country career isn’t even of me. It’s of my best friend Tyler.  He is coming directly towards the camera at full stride.  He is 3 miles into a 3.1 mile race and you can see it on his face.  It’s the longest race on the toughest course, Rim Rock, and it has taken a toll on the man.

That is exhaustion.

That is the word that I finally was able to attach to my situation in life.  I am exhausted.  It seems like since Mom fell in September and went back in the hospital, life has been hectic.  She wouldn’t ever really leave the hospital.  My foot has been broke and I moved.  Now all this hospital stuff and the question is offered: when will it all end? And what was I supposed to learn?

  1. There is more to life than accomplishment.  I will work along time to pay off some medical bills and I thank God for the insurance payment i do make every month.  Still if that was the end game I think I would go insane.
  2. It’s ok to show some emotion.  At 24 I was physically unable to cry.  Since Labor Day weekend, Mom’s entrance into the hospital, simple thing will bring me to tears.   I just teared up at a text my cousin sent.  I’m a mess.
  3. Everything is permissible, but not beneficial.  In times of exhaustion, some will give great advice, others not so much.  Learning to ignore the bad advice or support really takes the pressure off.
  4. Finally, knowing where your good support lies is invaluable.  Not all support is good support.  Some will force themselves into your crisis, ignoring boundaries and your wishes, and they will only add stress and add to your exhaustion.  Others will simply set with you seven days and say nothing, just to be supportive.

Still learning and the list will continue to grow…

An Unhappy Mother’s Day

Mamă-şi-fică-în-apus-de-soareTread carefully this weekend: it’s Mother’s Day.

I have spent many years trying to figure out what this day meant.  Is it a celebration of all women, young or old?  Is it just for women who have children?  I have been in churches where scenes were made because deacons have tried to honor all women.  I have been in churches where women being honored took offense because people have asked when they were “due”; implying that they were pregnant.  One must tread lightly.

The worst, though, is the predicament of Hannah.  In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah has desired a child.  Her husband’s, Elkanah, other wife, Peninnah, kept giving him son’s and daughters, but Hannah was unable.  Peninnah saw the wound and kept opening it through mocking and provoking.  Elkanah continued to spoil Hannah, but without result.  She prayed and prayed and prayed for a child.

“In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.” (1 Sam. 1.10)

Hannah prayed year after year for children.  Year after year the prayer returned unanswered.  So for years her bitterness increased.  Literally the Hebrew word is mar, from where marah comes from.  The place where the Hebrews could not drink the water in Exodus 15.23.  The thing about bitterness is that it doesn’t heal itself.  The Dead Sea is the way it is, is because water flows in, evaporates, and then leaves the salt.  There is no healing.

Not only is she bitter, but she is weeping.  Back to back this Hebrew word is used: bakah.  There are only 4 other places in Scripture where this word is used back to back with itself: Isaiah 30.19; Jeremiah 22.10; Lamentations 1.2; and Micah 1.10.  Isaiah uses it in the negative, referring to the understanding that Judah will weep no longer because of God’s quickness to assist them.   The rest are not so positive.  Jeremiah reminds his people of the great weeping that will come with exile.  Lamentations, also from Jeremiah’s pen, recounts the weeping of the once great city that has now fallen, Jerusalem.  Micah wants the people to know of the coming judgement and the feelings that will come with it.  There will be “weeping and weeping.”  The picture becomes clear:  the best word for Hannah is one of exile.  Her inability to have a child, puts her on the outside looking in.

“I am deeply troubled…I have been praying here out of my great anguish [siach] and grief [ka’as]” (1 Sam 1.15-16)

She is worn out.  As time goes on, stiffness ensues.  I remember getting out of bed and walking out of the house before it became a 20 minute stretching routine.  Hannah claims that she is: “a woman deeply troubled” (hb. ‘isah qeshat ruah ‘anoki).  Ruah is the Hebrew word for Spirit.  Geshat is the Hebrew word for stiff (a favorite word of Moses for the Hebrew people).  It’s a stubbornness.  She has been at it for years and the flexibility is gone.  Stiffness has set in.  She is so tired that she just needs come home and crash on the couch!  Its fitting that the word “anguish” (siach) here is the same word that Job uses when he seeks rest: “…my couch will ease my complaint (siach)” (Job 7.13)  Hannah needs to crash on the couch and get her feet up.

Finally she is ready to do something about it…but cant.  I have had a walking boot on for about 6 months.  If I have to tell the story of how it happened one more time, or get asked when it comes off, or have another person mention it; I’m going to explode!  The last word in the passage above is translated as “grief” [ka’as].  It’s used earlier in the chapter, verse 6, of the continual prodding by Peninnah (translated there as “provoke”).  She has hit wits end.  The continual nagging by this burden has taken its toll on her.  Every stroller she passes; every minivan door that opens; every facebook post is a reminder that she is inadequate in this area.

THAT IS SOMEONE IN THE PEW NEXT TO YOU THIS WEEKEND!  Every time a special day is celebrated…the scab/wound is reopened.  One in 8 couples will struggle with infertility.  According to the American Pregnancy Association, anywhere between 10-25% of pregnancies end with miscarriages.  Be reminded and be aware that Mother’s day wont contain a picnic for everyone.

Mentor Monday: Giftedness

kid and cowboy bootsI am not a fan of mass production when it comes to making disciples.  I think public education is realizing its own mistake in turning public schools into a factory that takes in kids and spits out graduates.  Mentoring is a highly personal endeavor and a Mentor helps his disciples FIND and UTILIZE their giftedness.  Of all the roles of a mentor and mentee relationship this is perhaps the most specialized and unique.  As Dallas Willard says in The Spirit of the Disciplines: “Everyone who has a pastoral role to others, whether as an official minister or not, must strive for a specific understanding of what is happening to those who come regularly under his or her influence and must pay individual attention to their development.” (247)  Giftedness comes in two somewhat overlapping areas, the first of which we will explore today.

Spiritual gifts are the “manifestations” phanerosis [1 Cor.12.7; 2 Cor. 4.2]) of the Holy Spirit’s work and power in the life of a Christian in order to build up the people of God. (1 Cor. 12.7; Eph. 4.11-12)  They are the evidence, the talents, and the abilities given by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling within the life of a Christian.  Every Christian has one, some have multiple, but only Jesus had them all.  These abilities are “gifts” (in the sense that they were not earned or achieved) from the Holy Spirit with the express purpose to meet needs.  It turns people from an inward focus, to an outward focus, from consumers to distributors.*

The first step is finding their Spiritual Gifts.  There are three theories to finding your giftedness: 1) Testing for them is a common way to find and reveal your gifts.  Most tests are arranged as a series of questions, which are assigned a numerical value based on how well they describe the person taking the test.  There are multiple tests and evaluations that are out there.  Most range from 50-100 questions.  This method assumes that you are honest with yourself and know yourself well. 2) Another method of finding gifts is what Nike has made its slogan for years: “Just Do it!”  The best way to discover something is to try it out and see what fits.  If we continually just try the things that we feel gifted at, we may never discover a gift or a passion that has been dormant and unknown.  This can at times become frustrating as the pains of trial and error can wear on. This is the “grip it and rip it school” of thought.  3) Or you can point them out!  At some point, someone may need to point out a gift that has gone unnoticed.  There are times when we are the last one to see the truth.  I have a student whom I constantly remind that his gifting is leadership.  This student can influence those in her class to do anything.  She would and still does argue that she is not a leader, but everybody in the church can see what God has given her.  This is where you as a mentor may be able to provide direction, counsel, and illumination for your protégé.

Now that it is understood what spiritual gifts are in the student, it is imperative that they utilizing them. One of the best presents I have ever received was a 20 gauge Remington 870 shot gun.  My parents got me the gun for my 12th birthday.  The next step was learning how to shoot it.  The Spirit freely gives gifts to God’s people, but learning how to utilize those gifts is often overlooked.  Dennis Bickers, in his book The Healthy Pastor, make this observation about the Church:  “The church seems to be the only institution in the world that still believes it can ask someone to do a job without requiring training for that job…This training should include both theological education and training in practical ministry skills.”^  Training people to use their gifts more efficiently and effectively should take a higher precedent in churches across the nation.  If we are to take Paul’s words in Ephesians seriously “It was [God] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…”  then as leaders and churches need to make it a priority to train, to prepare, people for service.  Peter reminds his readers, “Each one of you should use whatever gift he has received to serve others faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4.10)  Mark Moore, my Acts professor at Ozark Christian College, had a tradition of bestowing the name of a character from the book of Acts on every one of his students in class.  He would say your name and then tell you what character that he sees you as.  With each character he would give background and how they used their giftedness to further God’s kingdom in the book of Acts.  If only we as the leaders in the church would follow his lead in challenging our people to use their giftedness.

In order to utilize giftedness, the first thing is that we must know the opportunities.  Often times our inability to help people utilize their gifts comes from our own disconnection from the body.  Mentors need to keep their ear to ground in order to know the needs opportunities within the body.  I have found that high school students are either: a) too busy to find their own ways to use their gifting; or b) not motivated enough to find ways.  Not being willing to use their gifts is not the issue, but my job is to disassemble all the barriers that stand in the way of using their gifts.  Make an effort to talk to the leaders in the church and know where the needs are.  Check with ministry heads and ask them where people have vacant positions.   Ask questions, make a volunteer opportunity board in the fellowship hall of your church, post them online, send them out via Facebook.  There are many ways to inform your congregation (and your students) off places to utilize their gifts.   One creative way I have seen this done is after having taken the giftedness test, a bulletin board full of note cards with their giftedness was posted.  Written on the visible side was the gift that was needed to accomplish the task on the backside.  For example, one side might read “service” and the other side might read “clean the restrooms once a month at the church”.  One might read “encouragement” the other side might read “send a note to each person from your congregation in the hospital”.  Knowing the opportunities for implementation of gifts really comes down to communication and organization.

Secondly we can create our own.  If your search for vacancies has proved fruitless, get creative in thinking and find an outlet.  “Our cultural hero is not the artist or reformer, not the saint or scientist, but the entrepreneur.”**  This is the generation that gave us Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook; David Karp and Tumblr; and the Instagram creators Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger.  All entrepreneurs and all under the age of 30.  Most were under the age of 23 when they started their ventures.  This generation believes in creating the place where they fit.  Creating a place (and helping them create a place) for their giftedness to be developed and used takes a venture and vision, which the next generation of leaders can rally around.  Start with the gift and rule out nothing.

Finally, connect your disciple with those like-gifted.  After exhausting leaders, finding vacancies, and racking the brain to create and outlet for gifting, find someone who is gifted in a like manner and arrange a time for your mentee and them to get together.  When I first got to the church where I serve, most of our students were musically inclined.  I am very much not.  I didn’t know how to relate to them, how to lead them, of to implement their giftedness.  The church didn’t really have a great place for them to use their gifts at that time, but our worship leader assembled a youth band.  It was his leadership that showed me the necessity of connecting people with similar giftedness to create and to find a place to use the gifts that God has given.

Mentors make it a priority to help their disciples discover their gifts and to put them into practice.  Paul reminds Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God” (2 Timothy 1.6).  A simple reminder for Timothy to exercise, to take care of, protect, and implement the gift that God had given him.  Paul had called Timothy out in his previous letter, making sure that his gift would not be neglected (1 Timothy 4.14).  When is the last time that a leader stepped in a held someone accountable for not using their gifts to the fullest extent?  I can’t think of the last conversation I have had as a youth minister, with a student, confronting them on a neglecting of the gifts that God had given them?  At a birthday party recently, I watched two young girls (3 and 5) open up every one of their presents.  They did not find excitement in the $50 Barbie’s or the $70 All American girl dolls, but it was the 50 cent tissue paper that they enjoyed throwing around the room.  If I had brought one of those presents I would have been frustrated knowing that I could saved a ton of money and went with just the tissue paper.  How much more does God feel seeing a gifting that he has placed in us go dormant and atrophied from lack of exercise?  The role of a Mentor is to help their student to discover their giftedness, by testing, opportunity, and telling them.  The next role of the Mentor is to find opportunities for the student to use and implement the Gifts that God has given them.  When I coached, I always told the athletes that my job as a coach was to put them in a position to succeed.  I’m not going to play the shortest kid on the team as a center, or the slowest person on the soccer team at forward.  As a mentor, it is my responsibility to help our students to find areas to serve where their gifts are used and their passions are fed.

*Keller, Tim.  “Discerning and Exercising Spiritual Gifts” redeemercitytocity.com

^Bickers, Dennis.  The Healthy Pastor (Beacon Hill: Kansas City, 2010) 138.

**Deresiewicz, William. “Generation Sell” Nov. 12, 2011 <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/13/opinion/sunday/the-entrepreneurial-generation.html>

Surviving Attack

tumblr_m1e50bLWVk1qljd8so1_500Patches O’Houlihan had nothing on David.  If the 5 D’s could work for David, Patches could make them work in dodgeball.

First things first: learn to dodge.  David learned to dodge.  Saul hurled his spear at David and David “turned from his face twice”, according to the Hebrew.  The NIV renders it “eluded”.  The idea is that David learned to evade the spears.  Being around spear throwers mandates that we, as targets, must learn to dodge the attacks that come.  Often there is little that we can do about the predicaments that we are in and our proximity to spears, so we must learn to stay alive amidst the danger.  By learning how to make them miss, we retain our place and remain alive.  Sometimes it is the pay, the relationship (familial or something like it), or the commitment, that keeps us from relocating, forcing us to stay within spearing range, but learning how to dodge, keeps us alive.

The second maneuver is to dive away.  I played goalkeeper in college.  Once you start to dive for a ball, there is no going the other direction.  When you are parallel to the ground there is no changing directions.  That is why there is no guessing, just reacting.  David had to commit to the direction away from spear throwing.  The common sense reaction, the way of this world says: “Saul no longer has a spear, and now I have his”, therefore, I grab his spear and throw it back at him.  But David knew that once your hand finds comfort on the handle of a spear, it will never find comfort without it again.  The move has to be away from the spear and a commitment to never picking one up.  Too many spear-throwers begin by picking one up that was originally thrown at them.  If we are to be men after God’s heart, then we must commit to not becoming spear throwers ourselves.  That means leaving the ones that were aimed originally at us, stuck in the wall, never to be thrown again.

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Gardner Rodeo Bible Camp  Dodgeball MVP

Thirdly, David has to dip into his own soul and remember his identity.  If you have ever read the Psalms, David is no stranger to probing the depths of his identity and his relationship with God.   In 1 Samuel 18.12-19, David was committed to not letting the spear throwing change him.  He remained in closer relationship with the Lord (12), a commander of troops (13-14), a humble servant to Saul (18-19), and a man after the heart of God.  How many times does being targeted affect the target?  We can become “the victim” and wallow in pity or we can be come the aggressor and start throwing the spears.  Some choose to hole up and never trust again and some seek revenge at every opportunity.  Some have allowed the incident to take over their every detail of their lives.  They save old emails and letter of attack, archive old documents and letters of accusations or lists of people that they wronged…I for one don’t know anything about that (insert sarcastic emoji here).  Each document, file, extension, email, voicemail, text, and story became a sharpened point aimed back at the ones I felt were attacking me.  I became the very thing that I hated, because I didn’t know how to move on from the spear stuck in the wall.  It has taken a lot for me to dip back into what God created me to be and to do.

David learned to duck; keep your head down or lose it.  Through all of the turmoil, David continued to serve the man that God had chosen to lead his people (1 Samuel 18.12-16).  What is good for David was also good for Saul.  A victory for David meant also that the people of Israel, led by Saul, was also victorious.  The spear throwers may be elders, pastors, government officials, or bosses, it doesn’t matter, God put them in that position and we are to serve as long as we are under their charge.  God’s Word says:

  • When the Government throws spears: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.  The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Rom. 13.1)
  • When Elders or pastors throw spears, Paul reminds us in his speech to the Ephesian Elders at Miletus: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers…” (Acts 20.28)  God picked them and the elders of the church.
  • When bosses throw spears: “we are to obey our earthly masters” not as slaves, but as workers who “are working for the Lord and not for men…because it is the Lord Christ that we are serving.” (Col 3.22-24)

We could say the same for parents, friends, family members, other believers, and any other title that we could come up with.  We are to learn to duck, to continue to serve those that the Lord has given us to serve.
When we are exhausted because of the first 4 D’s, we move on to the fifth: Dodge (yeah again).  But before we get to that, we need to look at the last characteristic of a spear thrower.  Verse 29 of 1 Samuel 18 says: “Saul became still more afraid of him [David], and he remained his enemy the rest of his days.”  Once spear throwing begins, without God’s intervention and the person’s repentance, it will not end.  Saul wasn’t going to stop.  David “eluded” him the first time (18.11), and “eluded” him a second time (19.10).  This time the Hebrew account uses the word pater.  The word is used for a dam that is “breached” in Proverbs 17.14 and being “released” from a job in 2 Chron. 23.8.  Essentially it conveys the idea of “breaking for the open”.  David was left in 1 Samuel 19.10 with no other option than to make a break for it and run away.  First of all, this is not the idea of running in fear or backing away from a fight.  That is cowardice.  This is David, choosing to honor God, by letting the party established by God, to rule his people.  David dodged, to wait for his time and turn, appointed by God, to rule His people.  As a target, there will come a time when the only option that is God honoring is to leave.  In my experience, I missed multiple opportunities to honor God by leaving.  I should have gone to Kearney when I had the opportunity.  My spear-throwing career started, because I chose to stay.   I had the chance to follow and glorify God, yet I chose to stay and start chucking.  To this day, I am appalled at my profession of spear throwing.  Nate and Chad told me that things wouldn’t change…I didn’t listen.  Will things change for you as the target?  I don’t know.  But when the time comes, running is not cowardice or abandonment (as I once thought) but a decision to let God be God and his established leadership remain.

Resume of a Spear Thrower

 

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Tombstone (1993)

Life was simpler when the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys wore black.  Every cowboy that walked into a scene was able to be identified immediately by the hat they wore.  Wouldn’t life be easier if we could just recognize the good and the bad at a glance.

Actions reflect the man.  Saul’s actions would lead to multiple attempts on David’s life.  Maybe you have had spears thrown in your direction?  Perhaps you were the one throwing them?  Chances are, at one time or another, you have been both.  It could be that you are living life under the charge of one who is trying to stick you to a wall?  Maybe you are the one in charge and wondering if you are in danger of starting to throw spears?  The characteristics of a spear thrower can be found in the middle of 1 Samuel 18.

The spear thrower was angry (1 Samuel 18.8).  The hebrew word is chara.  It is a word that means more than just frustration, or hatred towards someone.  Chara is anger ready to act.  This type of anger is different for two reasons: (1) It is ready, as it resides just below the surface.  Cain was angry (Gen. 4.5) and sin was crouching at his door, ready.  Jonah was angry (Jonah 4.1), and it took a mere word from God to bring it out.  Like a hedge post that is smoldering, a slight breeze can flare up (chara) into a massive fire.  Saul’s anger lived just underneath his skin and not even Jonathan was safe from it (1 Sam 20.30). (2) It acts.  Chara makes itself known.  When the Lord’s anger is aroused He answers with fire (Num. 11), a plague (Ex. 32.10), a donkey (Num. 22.22), a death (2 Sam. 6.6), and a journey (Num 32.13).  Humans answer with a killing (Cain), a beating (Balaam [Num 22.27]), a death wish (Jonah [4.9]), and thrown tablets (Moses [Ex 32.19).  For Saul it manifested itself with two spear thrusts (once at David and once at Jonathan [1 Sam 20.30])  Chara always makes itself known.  But for what?  The first characteristic of a spear thrower is: when they care too much about who gets the credit.  What made Saul angry?  A simple song declaring that David killed his ten-thousands vs. Saul’s thousands. (1 Samuel 18.7)  Have you ever served with, worked with, been related too, or friends with, someone who needed the credit?  Their name had to be first, biggest, and brightest?  Have you ever needed to be known for your involvement, your name in print, or the praises of men?  If you have known or have been, then you know a potential spear thrower!

The spear thrower was galled (1 Samuel 18.8).  Literally the hebrew means “saw evil in his eyes” [ra’a b’ayin].  In front of Saul stood a threat to his kingdom.  Saul was looking into a future where he would not be the focal point and that really bothered him.  “What more can he get but the Kingdom?” Saul wondered to himself.  Which brings us to the second characteristic of a spear thrower: When they begin to own something that was never theirs to begin with.  Saul had to protect his Kingdom.  The pronouns are important.  Instead of Saul being charged with the care of God’s people, it became his Kingdom to rule and protect.  When it starts being your church, your ministry, your possessions, or your money, as opposed to the ministry you serve, the money God has given, or the things God has blessed you with, you are well on your way to becoming a spear thrower.  Saul want to protect his kingdom.  David, on the other hand, was “taken” from the pasture to the throne (1 Chronicles 17.7).  He was in charge of a Kingdom he never built, in a throne he didn’t own, to do a job he wasn’t worthy of.  David knew the true owner and possessor of this Kingdom, Saul though he was it.

The spear-thrower was jealous (1 Samuel 18.9).  This is the only time that this word is used in scripture (called a hapex legomena for those that care).  Saul “kept a jealous eye” on David.  Up to this point David had assuaged Saul with his harp playing, fought battles in his honor and brought victory to his name.  He had dined with him and advised him.  David was a faithful servant to the King.  Now at every dinner Saul had to look cross-eyed across the table at his servant.  He double checked everything David did.  It takes a conniving person to think everyone is conspiring against them.  So Saul kept watch.  When they/you start to look at everyone around as a threat, potential usurper, and enemy you’ve got a potential spear thrower on your hands.  David knew what Absalom was doing in Hebron (2 Samuel 15.7-9) but refused to look at his son as a threat.  The kingdom, after all, belonged to whom God had chosen, therefore, David would not stand in the way.  David refused to “keep a jealous eye” towards his son.  Saul, however, looked at everyone that way.

Finally, the spear-thrower was afraid (1 Samuel 18.12).  Saul’s fear was rooted in two things: 1) the realization that God was with David (v.12) and 2) the success of David made Saul uncomfortable (1 Samuel 18.15).  The Hebrew word yare’ [afraid] is supposed to be used in response to God:

  • “I was naked and I heard you walking, so I was afraid.” – Adam (Gen. 3)
  • “I hid my face because I was too scared to look at God.” – Moses (Ex. 3)
  • “Do Job fear you [God] for nothing?” – Satan (Job 1)

It is a word that is meant to be used of men understanding where they stand before a Holy God.  For Saul, however, it was a word used to describe his character and his rule.  The object of Saul’s fear was not God, but men.  Saul was afraid [yare’] of the people (15.24), Goliath (17.11), David (18.12), and the Philistines (28.5).  The great leader had become fearful of men. Fear would define him.  When the work of God and His people begin to frighten them/you, then you’ve got a potential spear-thrower on your hands.  Saul was bothered by God’s chosen servant, David, and God’s chosen direction, movement against the surrounding nations.  It can get scary when God’s leaders, start to be afraid of what He is doing and how He is doing it.

All these qualities wrapped Saul’s fingers around a spear and thrust it towards David (1 Sam. 18.11).  So what’s your bosses excuse?  What is your brother or sister’s excuse?  Is a co-worker displaying some of these qualities’?  Are you starting to get a “cross-eyed” look from leadership, or a sense of fear from a pastor?  What about you?  Have you taken census of your own soul?  Are you fearing the direction God is going?  Are you gripping for something that was never really yours to begin with?  Do people alongside you elicit fear every time their name comes up?  Do you need your name in lights or a mention on facebook or a shout out in a captioned photo?  Where is your heart as your serving?  Hoping a picture will get leaked somewhere?

But what happens when you’re the target?

The inspiration for this study came from a fantastic book by Gene Edwards called “A Tale of Three Kings”

What the Church could learn from Legos

Cowboys in Church thanks Jason for the Legos
Cowboys in Church
thanks Jason for the Legos

The appeal of a miniscule, plastic, studded block has stretched the limits of kids’ imaginations, challenges the latest technology in sales, and plagued parents walking barefoot to the kitchen at 3 am. There are few things that match the pain of stepping on a lego brick laying isolated on a hardwood floor. As “play” becomes more and more passive and sedentary, with an influx of apps and screen games, the little brick has managed to not only survive, but thrive. It’s fitting that a company that makes blocks that stick together, would be able to hang on in the rapidly changing entertainment market. They, Lego, would call it “clutch power”, the ability to stick together. Much has been written on how the Church is a lego-like community. Lego’s, like Christians, weren’t meant to be alone. Have you ever played with a single lego? But I can speak from experience that the Church has struggled to think in “clutch power” as it comes to service, specifically when it comes to men.

A recent Popular Science article claims: “it has been calculated that there are more than 900 million possible combinations for six eight-stud bricks.”* Nine-hundred million combinations for six bricks? Creativity has no limits. I preface that by saying some men are well connected to the church in both belonging and service, as long as they are gifted properly. Simply take a look at the places to serve in the church and most of them appeal to women. They are places that women are naturally gifted, skilled, and experienced; often times outside of direct leadership and teaching from the pulpit. The areas of the churches greatest need are often areas of men’s least experience: hospitality, communication, compassion and empathy. These skills are nearly universal to most area’s of church service and also things that a lot of men either struggle with or are unconfident in. I am not absolving men from service to the church, but if we want more men to serve, we need to think honestly about giving them places to serve where they feel gifted, confident, and utilized.

8 studded brick
8 studded brick

We were meant to be connected, but the possibilities for connection (and service) are endless. At some point in the history of the church, there became standard area’s of service and no more. For years the church has asked men to serve, but in the same old ways. David Murrow, in his book Why Men Hate Going to Church, came to the same conclusion in his observations stating:

“Generally speaking, men’s gifts and abilities do not match the ministry needs of the American congregation…most jobs in the Church require verbal and relational skills that men may not possess. They demand proficiency with children, music, teaching, hospitality, or cooking; areas where women typically have more experience. A woman is so much more valuable in Church than a man because her natural gifts and life experiences enable her to fill so many slots.” **

It is my contention that men desire to serve, but are searching for a place to. We want a place that our gifting and ability can be used, that success is measurable, and we will be encourage through service. So how does the Church get men to serve? Just a few thoughts:

  1. Be concrete. Men are concrete thinkers and want concrete results. We enjoy areas of service that are task oriented because we are task oriented. The Church can help us out by giving specific descriptions of opportunities including: duration, time commitment, the type of work being done, and who it involves. Where as most women can deal with a certain amount of ambiguity, men strive under clear direction. Communicate the vision, the expectations, and the task upfront and help men out.
  2. Be Man-minded. We like competition, fun, and activity. We work best side by side as opposed to face to face. When helping get men involved in service, allowing them time to work alongside others can change the service experience for the better. Putting together tasks, projects, and goals can make the difference between a bad experience and a good one. There is a reason men congregate to mission trips, work days, and other activity minded projects. The church needs to think about how to incorporate these things into their weekly routine. Have a small group competition ever week; find small service projects (that can be done in an hour) during Sunday school; give men something to do as they are teaching (so that they aren’t face to face with their students)…try different things which leads me to the third one.
  3. Be ready to say yes. The common paradigm of service has left most men in the dust. Many want to serve and have ideas on what they want to do, only at times to be shut down by the modus operandi. Some ideas will be wacky, or uncommon, but it doesn’t mean they lack substance. Say yes!

When men lead in the Church, they become better leaders in the home. When men lead in the home, they become better leaders in the Church: it’s a cycle. The greatest servants in the Church that I know are also the men who exhibit that leadership in the home. Jason Hildebrandt and Aaron Jones are two guys who lead our youth group. They served alongside me, challenged me, challenged the youth, and set the direction and vision for the ministry. We grew alongside one another, became better men in our homes, and more connected to the Church. Aaron came alive watch the UFC, teaching our youth to do yard work, and teaching Sunday School. Jason led the most eclectic group of middle school boys you could envision. He came alive when he was playing games, talking lego’s, and ultimate Frisbee. These were two men, with very uncommon ministries, each finding a unique way to serve. They will someday lead the Church as elders because of what they learned from their students serving in the youth ministry. When men serve, they gain experience to lead. The final result is a healthier and more vibrant Church. Women outnumber men in most Churches.  Men show up when they have a vested interest.  Men show up when they are serving.  Without men serving, the Church struggles to become all that God intended it to be. Leadership should commit itself to helping get men “connected” to service, but to do so we need to think differently about it.

The Corinthian Theatre made out of legos.  Jason Hildebrandt and I made the City of Corinth out of the plastic bricks for a lesson one time.
The Corinthian Theatre made out of legos. Jason Hildebrandt and I made the City of Corinth out of the plastic bricks for a lesson one time.

*Paterniti, Michael. “Everything is Awesome and Mysitcal and Made Out of Plastic Bricks.” Popular Mechanics Apr, 2015. pg 84.

**Murrow, David. Why Men Hate Going to Church (Nashville; Thomas Nelson, 2005) 38.