Discipleship is the command that Jesus Christ gave every person who was call themselves His follower (see Matthew 28:18). And it’s not just for the “super Christian” … it’s for everyone. It’s interesting to note that right before Jesus gave that command, Matthew records that, “the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” (Matthew 28:16-17). That tells me that even the newest or tentative follower still has the command to make disciples who make disciples.
So what does that look like with men? Well, once you have the end in mind of what a fully devoted follower of Christ looks like, it’s time to look at the stages of discipleship. And for that, we go to the pattern we see in 1 John chapter 2. As you read through this chapter, you’ll begin to see a pattern that John is developing .. “little children” (v12), “young men” (v14), “Fathers” (v15). The terms John is using is referring to spiritual development and not actual age.
This is a helpful pattern when we think about discipleship because all start out as spiritual children, but how do we move from young men to spiritual fathers? What does 1 John 2 discipleship look like?
Most of our discipleship in churches is for spiritual children. Think about it, how do you feed little children? You spoon feed them. You teach them. And this 90% of the Canadian church. You go to church, where someone spoon feeds you a sermon. You go to small group, where you turn on a video and someone spoon feeds you. You read a Christian book or a devotional, where someone is spoon feeding you. There is a reason why many Christians are fragile in their faith, because they don’t know how to feed themselves (see 1 Corinthians 3:2). We like teaching and preaching, but is this really going to produce more than hearers of the word (James 1:22)? Spoon feeding spiritual children in the beginning is good (1 Peter 2:2) but there needs to be a plan to move them into feeding themselves.
In our men’s ministry, what is the plan from simply spoon feeding men to helping them feed themselves?
Young men feed themselves. The difference between a spiritual child and a spiritual young man is the ability to feed oneself. And this is where we need to crack open the spine of the Bible and read it and understand it on our own. The Bible is the only book in the world where the author is actually right there with you as you read the book. We need to provide opportunity to teach men to read the Bible for all it’s worth.
The easiest way you can do that is turn your Bible studies or small groups from listening to a teacher or watching a video to opening the Bible, reading a passage of scripture and then discussing the following questions: What? So What? Now What?
- What does it say? After reading the passage, go around the room and discuss what it says. Line by line, verse by verse, what is the passage saying?
- So what does it mean? Then go around the room and discuss the meaning. This may mean different things come from different people. Challenge them to think deeper. Get the men to think about the meaning in various aspects of their lives. Help them get honest and vulnerable.
- Now what are you going to do about it? This is where it gets practical. What are the ways that we can obey what God is saying in this passage? What does it look like in the various places of my life? We can hold men accountable to this. We can encourage one another daily to live this out.
When men feed themselves, they begin to increase their Faith in Christ and decrease their dependence upon one teacher. When Christians say things like, “I’m not getting fed”, I always gently remind them that they should be feeding themselves.
Spiritual Fathers feed others. If spiritual children are spoon fed, and young men feed themselves, spiritual fathers feed others. Spiritual fathers has nothing to do with age, it has to do with a disposition to caring for and nurturing those around you. You must be feeding yourself but you also feed others. Spiritual fathers help little children become young men. They give themselves sacrificially for the spiritual benefit of others. Spiritual fathers aren’t perfect, they are simply those who, as they feed themselves, they make sure to feed others. The difference between a young man and a spiritual father is not age, it’s reproduction. Fathers reproduce disciples of Jesus. They have spiritual conversations with people and invite them regularly to church or to places where the Gospel is presented. They are seeing new believers come to Christ and growing into maturity. Imagine if your church was full of spiritual fathers.
Spiritual children. Young Men. Spiritual Fathers. You can have an intentional plan to move guys from one sphere to the next. You can restructure your ministry to consistently encourage and equip men towards feeding themselves and others. Don’t allow men to remain spiritual children, your call is to disciple men to disciple other men.