Recruiting Men to Disciple – Seth Barnes

seth-barnes

I get daily emails from Seth Barnes. It’s a long story of how I found Seth’s website, but suffice it to say it was part of the groundwork God was using to move me forward in jumping out into “the great unknown”, to live intentionally for the Kingdom, and leave everything else behind. Today’s post from Barnes is something I think our church, and anyone else who is concerned about discipleship, should consider. I would be interested in your thoughts as well:

A friend who ministers to Millenials in Pennsylvania wrote with this question:

“Have you ever advertised that you were “recruiting” or “inviting” a group of young men to disciple?  I have a few guys who are asking me to disciple them. What questions do you ask?  Do you have a criteria for a selection process?”

Here’s my answer: As a matter of fact, I’m in the process of doing that very thing. I’ve noticed that about 70% of the people going on mission trips are women. For years I’ve wrestled with the subject of how to recruit men. And I’ve seen that almost every serious mobilizer wrestles with this issue.

Inviting them to what?
I’m guessing that a lot of church pastors don’t really wrestle with this issue because they don’t believe in the kind of intensive, experience-focused, life-on-life model that Jesus gave us.

If they do disciple, their efforts tend to be focused around Bible studies in living rooms, or meetings in coffee shops. While both of these venues may be useful places to start a relationship, if they are the primary venues for discipleship, the process will bare little resemblance to Jesus’ model.

Jesus called his disciples away from home, out into the discomfort of life on a journey, a journey focused around stretching their faith and exposing them to risk in a hundred different ways.

The paradox is, most of us guys are actually looking for more of that in our lives. We’re looking for something to get the adrenaline pumping. Jesus offered it and 12 guys followed him. Along the way, they got thrown into all kinds of dicey situations that tested their faith.

The question is, can we replicate that in our modern, sedentary, risk-averse society? And the answer I’m finding is, YES. Guys have a deep hunger to connect with a wild God, a God who takes them on adventures and invests them with authority.

I’ve recently begun to recruit a team of 14 high-capacity, high-commitment guys who will go out on an epic journey for half a year. We’ll start in Peru and travel to Guatemala, India, Nepal, and South Korea.

I’m promising them that I and a group of the most successful men I know will mentor them. I’m promising them that I’ll give them opportunities to make a difference and to engage with significant issues of justice and hopelessness. They’ll have a chance to bond deeply with one another.

It’s not for most guys. But Jesus turned away most guys. Just by word of mouth, we’ve got seven amazing guys signed up. They are hungry for this kind of high challenge, high mentorship adventure.*

Problems
All kinds of problems make this thing look impossible. Guys face a number of issues. Here are five:

1. Debt. Going to college costs more money than most people have. Guys have to borrow a lot. Their debt-loads leave them feeling irresponsible if they do anything other than getting a job that pays well.

2. Parents’ expectations. Parents want their sons to be “successful.” That equates to getting hired and getting a paycheck.

3. Own expectations. Guys internalize the expectations of others and feel like they need to follow a career track. They can daydream about adventures, but don’t see this as an investment in their future.

4. Few models. Going out on and adventure and doing what Jesus did may seem interesting, but highly impractical. Nobody does this stuff anymore.

5. No disciplers. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? Because so few of us who follow Jesus have been discipled this way, we settle for conversation over action, coffee shops over journeys. Maybe we would try to do what Jesus did if we didn’t have a mortgage.

Solutions
Start with myself. If we aspire to disciple guys as Jesus discipled them, we have to begin with ourselves. We’ve got to break free of some of the shackles limiting us. I don’t know what that means for you. For me, that meant raising support and starting a ministry that gave me the flexibility to look for guys that are willing to do risky stuff.

Investing time. Next, we’ve got to be willing to actually invest time in them. Guys need to know they are a priority. They’ve got issues to work through. Most 20-something guys struggle deeply with pornography and have stumbled sexually. They need help breaking free. They have father wounds that need to be addressed. It takes time.

Risk. The guys I’m going to invest in will get a chance to see what’s inside themselves. They will be thrown into challenging situations every day. Along the way, they’ll have dozens of adventures and go deep with God, giving him the chance to prove himself powerful in their lives.

Bonding. Guys hunger for community. The band of brothers idea resonates deeply with us. We want to connect at a heart level with guys who are as committed as we are.

A final word about guys and faith: Sunday morning is not only the most segregated time of the week, it is also a highly feminized experience. We men were made for something more than what we get at most churches. We want to know our Creator and join with him in his plan to bring freedom to this dark world. We see Brave Heart and we wonder if that could be us in some way.

Jesus promised his disciples hardship and they didn’t shrink from it. They resonated with the journey he called them to. We men looking for the same kind of promise and challenge today.

All emphases mine.

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