Training Faithful Men
"You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus,and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnessesentrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also."(2 Timothy 2:1-2 ESV)
How are you putting Paul's command to Timothy into practice? Few pastoral tasks should be higher on our priority list. The gospel--what Paul calls "the good deposit" (2 Timothy 1:14)--must be passed on to others. Like runners in a relay race, we must pass the baton of God's truth on to faithful men who will, in turn, be able to pass it on to others. Because this doesn't happen automatically, we need strategies for doing this. Faithful men who can teach the gospel do not come from nowhere.
We should draw a careful distinction between this vital task and the many other kinds of "Men's Ministry" which can so easily become competitors. Entrusting the gospel to faithful men who can teach others is not the same as having a good men's softball team or going on a men's camping trip. Those things are good in their place and can be used as the occasion for the more important (and more difficult) task of passing on the gospel baton; but they do not, in and of themselves, accomplish this task. More is needed. Here are a few strategies that you will perhaps find useful, as I have:
1. Build personal, discipling relationships with men. I try to meet regularly with the men in our church for one-on-one breakfasts or lunches. These are laid-back visits where we talk about life, our families, the church, and often God's Word. Occasionally these meetings become informal times for counseling, or involve direct confrontation. (I recall one instance where a brother finally agreed to quit playing poker with his buddies--after a rather awkward silence while he considered my challenge!) More often they are casual, relationship-building times. But the net effect has been very positive. In fact, it's amazing how much more vulnerable men are with me after these time investments.
2. Start a men's discipleship group. For most of three years I met with a group of men on Saturday mornings. We typically ate breakfast and then discussed a chapter from a book we were studying together. We've covered Kent Hughes' Disciplines of a Godly Man, Mark Dever's Nine Marks of a Healthy Church (the booklet), John Piper's Desiring God, and a significant portion of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. These were fruitful times of study, and it has been a thrill to see the Lord develop a hunger for truth and the discipline of reading into the lives of several men. Now we are in the process of recruiting a group of men to begin an intensive year-long "Elder Training Course."
3. Turn your leadership meetings into teaching and training sessions. Our deacons' meetings usually include a segment devoted to studying Scripture together. We read through a text and then have a round-table discussion on what we've read and the implications of Scripture for life and ministry in our church. We've covered the Pastoral Epistles and are working through 1 Corinthians. We have also read through a book on deacons and some material on elders, and we've discussed our Statement of Faith point by point. We usually make the teaching component of these meetings our first priority, and only discuss church business and administrative issues afterwards. We also spend significant time praying together. This has set the pace and tone for our meetings so that problems are faced within the context of prayerful dependence on the Lord and submission to His Word.
4. Train men to teach and preach expositionally. I rarely get pulpit supply from outside the church. Instead I schedule men from within the church to preach and teach in my absence. And I am trying to help them learn how to do it well. Several months ago we spent a Friday night and Saturday in a seminar on expository preaching, where our men were taught how to get from text to sermon. The conviction behind expository preaching is that the meaning of the passage should determine the message of the sermon. So, we're training men in the skills that will help them teach and preach expositionally. Fourteen men paid for and attended the seminar, each receiving a copy of Bryan Chapell's Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon. And a number of them agreed to accept preaching assignments on assigned texts, which they will study and teach expositionally.
What are you doing to train faithful men? Are you passing the baton?
Making It Personal
*Do the discipleship ministries in your church reflect the priority of God's Word over other activities?
*How much of your time do you spend building relationships with men?
*Are you actively and intentionally equipping leaders with the knowledge and the skills necessary for effectively communicating the gospel?
*Are you maximizing leadership meetings for building truth into others?