We've learned about each other. Once again, we discovered we didn't know each other as well as we assumed (a recurring theme it seems).
We've discovered similarities and differences in our backgrounds, journeys, and perspectives. Even though we have some diversity on our team, we are in fact a rather homogeneous group with many dimensions of diversity not represented, especially when we think of creating an all-inclusive ministry to men.
We've agreed that there's something irreplaceable about men ministering to men that can't be accomplished through mixed or more generic approaches. A subtle shift occurring over many years may have put us men in a spiritual predicament that we need to counter in a way that responds positively to the 'new' ways of the world.
We've learned that discipleship should be a central focus from which flows our desired outcomes. Missing this point can derail the best of intentions.
We've learned about our church and who we're primarily 'catering' to and reaching through an analysis of our existing activities, events, and programs. Our current predominant target audience is narrower than we would probably have guessed.
We've learned some simple, yet profound, models and approaches to ministry to men that can help avoid numerous pitfalls.
We've learned about some surprising themes, sins, and trends that are common among men, both inside and outside of church.
We've discovered or confirmed that we can no longer assume that Wieuca is adequately reaching men unless we are intentional and methodical in our approach.
We've learned to step back, reflect, and take our time to discern God's will for us as individuals and for our team as we aim toward the creation of a 2-3 year plan. We're only a few years into what could be many years (there's that old average of 10) of the creation of a truly sustainable ministry. We must be patient and wait for God's timing.
We've learned that if we are to ensure the creation of a sustainable ministry, we've got to begin ministering to each other here and now, creating a microcosm of what we hope to produce, though not necessarily through multiplication but rather through simple slow addition, in the greater body of the church--investing in one man at a time through personal contact, personal invites, and caring about each other. It's going to be more +1's than x10's. (Who are the +1's that you're actively investing in?)
We've learned that it's really cool and rather compelling to be part of something that's bigger than ourselves and to think that, just maybe, we're part of a big plan that God is guiding.
We've discovered that God continually reveals himself and confirms why we personally are involved in this initiative as he draws upon various talents, skills, knowledge, and wisdom that he has blessed us with, some which we're just discovering.
By no means is this email meant to preempt Lane's, but I felt compelled to share some things which you can ponder as a prelude to the kick-off we are to receive from Lane. This email is a bit longer than I anticipated, but when you have an adequate moment to properly focus and reflect ("yeah, right" you say), please give it a read or re-read.
We're at a critical point in our process where we begin to work on our vision statement. I'm the first to admit that too much time and energy is expended by organizations on vision/mission statements that once created just collect dust and do little to spur on action. However, in our case, I feel that this is an essential guiding component that will we will use to keep us on track going forward in our planning and implementation. I know we'll all appreciate having something tangible beginning to show after our months (!) of meetings ("what exactly do you do in these meetings?" the wife says).
Take a moment to think back over our journey to this point. Some of us started last fall planning the retreat. Others have joined in post retreat at the beginning of our strategic planning process. None of us really knew what we were getting into and where this might lead. What have you discovered along the way that has surprised you, encouraged you, or enlightened you? How has your experience varied from your initial expectations?
As I'm prone to do, here are a few bullet points that come to mind as I reflect over our journey together. Although you know me as typically a man of brevity, I break away from that for the moment to share my thoughts:
Through the brotherhood we've started building, we've been given a small taste of something that seems familiar, feels good, and is yet often fleeting. How can we use this team to grow the body of Christ by reaching the spectrum of men that interface with Wieuca? From the husband on the fringes who follows his wife and kids to church, to the committed man serving in multiple areas of leadership, to those who are hurting from loneliness, divorce, pornography, wayward children, or marriage struggles, God is preparing this team to make a difference in the lives of many men through the initiatives and leadership that come out of our planning.
Think about the vision that you have come to understand as a reasonable and somewhat daring possibility for ministry to men at Wieuca. Let's start converting that to words.
In attempt to spur you on, I share with you a few verses that God has put into my path over the past week. We're probably all familiar with Psalm 139, if not by number, by the verse that says "you knit me together in my mother's womb." I've discovered that the last two verses, which I rarely make it to, are rather powerful.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Here's an open invite to God: Search me, test me, try me, lead me. How daring I must be, especially as a man, to open myself up to God and make myself vulnerable. "Here I am--find out everything about me, I lay it all out. I hide nothing. I openly show You the sin that nags at me." But once I'm done, I feel a whole lot better, regardless of what is revealed.
Think how great you feel leaving that annual physical (whew! that's done, for this year at least) compared to how you felt walking into the doctor's office. And then once you get the results, you look to your doc to lead you to better health. ("You need to exercise more, eat less of this and more of that, get more sleep, take this medication, take care of #1, etc.)
Just like looking to the doctor, think how good it is to ask God to lead you. What man, even if among the best leaders of all, doesn't respond positively to a great and respected leader? We all want someone we admire to be a model and guide for us. Who better to invite to lead you than the Creator himself? Men yearn for a respected leader and without the right one easily substitute all the wrong ones and things presented by the world in their quest for fulfillment, meaning, and purpose.
I challenge you to join with me and invite God to search you, test you, try you, and lead you as we create, guided by the Creator, our vision for the men of Wieuca. This is also my prayer for each one of you by name, and I hope that you will pray the same for the team. Let's not forget that we need to regularly cover this process and each other in prayer (think back to our microcosm).
Be on the lookout for a shout out from Vision and Logo Man Lane as he kicks off our vision formation (Big thanks to Lane for eagerly volunteering to step up to lead us in this effort and coordinate our input). It's a must that everyone "reply all," multiple times to his email, to give us something to work with at our next meeting which isn't until August 11. Your input via email is extremely valuable whether it's a few words, a challenge to others, or a perspective from a whole new angle. Permission to spur via email is granted.
Your commitment is refreshing. Your dedication is amazing. I appreciate your openness to listen to and respond to God's promptings. Thanks for being a leader that I can look up to on our journey together.