Strong Men Make Strong Churches

Everyone knows men are in trouble today. This one factor in a man’s life could change everything for him. | by Paul Louis Cole

Practicing golf can be tedious. Shooting free throws seems boring. Catching hundreds of footballs, blocking dozens of shots, it all seems monotonous. Drilling and practicing can lead to excellence. But practice done wrong just leads to more bad habits.

Practice doesn’t make perfect, right practice makes perfect. The same is true in every man’s life. What is practiced habitually can become toxic, deadly…or, it can give a man health.

One of the most overlooked healthy practices in ministry to men is also one of the most overlooked healthy practices of Jesus’ life. It is this—Jesus had friends.

Too often we look at what Jesus did rather than how Jesus lived. We think of the people around him as cogs in a divine project—disciples who were there to get a job done. But more important to his life, and to their development, was that they were all friends.

Brotherhood marked the life of Jesus. He and the friends he chose did life together. What they learned from him wasn’t just from sermons. It came from experiencing his living life every day. Friendship builds character. Friendship makes us healthy.

A ministry to men can be the result of purpose, communication, strategy, hard work and perseverance. But fundamentally, it’s about healthy friendships.

Jesus said this:

“I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in His slaves. Now you are My friends, since I have told you everything the Father told Me. You didn’t choose Me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using My name. This is My command: Love each other” (John 15:15-17 NLT).

Some scholars believe Jesus’ best friend was a man who wasn’t even a disciple—Lazarus. Jesus was often at the home of Lazarus in Bethany. When Lazarus was sick, his sisters Mary and Martha sent for Jesus saying, “…the man you love.”

Lazarus wasn’t anxious—his sisters were. And after being raised from the dead, Lazarus became such a fearless evangelist for Jesus that the chief priests in their deliberations to kill Jesus said, “And let’s also kill Lazarus because on account of him many are following Jesus.” Friendship gives us courage.

We are designed by God for brotherhood. Even the chemicals in our body relate to friendship. The most powerful chemical in our system is “dopamine,” secreted when we experience a sense of satisfaction or pleasure. Psychologist Nancy Houston calls it “the marriage chemical” because it is meant to bond us together as husband and wife.

Dr. Keith Walker teaches the second most powerful chemical is called “oxytocin.” He calls it “the compadre chemical” because it’s what our body produces when friends bond.

Social scientists report that women bond face to face, but men bond shoulder to shoulder facing a challenge. Friendship makes us stronger.

Abraham, the father of faith, had a secret weapon, the same secret weapon God has given to you and me. In James 2:23, the half-brother of Jesus writes, “And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God.”

The power of the life of Abraham was friendship with God. Friendship builds our faith.

We need friends. The fastest growing age group for men committing suicide in the U.S. is between 45 and 64. Many researchers tell us it’s because of isolation. In fact, the leading states for suicide are Alaska, Montana and Wyoming—places built on the myth of the rugged individual, by himself, facing the challenges of the wild alone. It doesn’t work.

The holiday season and the start of a new year is the time to consider your friendships.

And in the new year of ministering to men, it’s time to consider how to help them build friendships.

Strengthening a friendship or making a new one doesn’t take a lot. Picking up the phone, a football, a bike, a golf club, or a hammer can make a man a friend to someone. Making a decision to text two friends every day strengthens friendships. Spending a few minutes every day in the car to pray for specific friends out loud by name produces a bond.

Healthy friendships build our faith. Building healthy friendships is one of the core ingredients in becoming strong in faith and spirit. My dad always said, “Choose your friends wisely. They’ll get you into trouble. Or help you out of trouble.” My mom just quoted scripture, “Bad friends corrupt good character.”

As you disciple your men, encourage them to make friends and strengthen the friendships they have. And you do the same.

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