This article originally appeared in Deacon Magazine.
Pastors dream of having strong and vibrant men's communities that are driving the mission and vision of their local churches. So why is it that these dreams rarely become reality? The problem is that there's no compelling vision for men that is articulated, visible, and connected to the church. Too often we just expect men to show up and give their best energy and expressions . . . just because the church asked. This is presumptuous and can feel deflating to a man.
We orphan our best potential leaders to the culture where there's a clear, albeit unhealthy, vision for him. And then we wonder why most of our best men choose to remain just members of a church and not active in it. We haven't painted the target!
Ineffective ministry has
- No end game.
- No goal.
- No pathway.
- No larger meaning.
When the vision for men in the church is no larger than a prescriptive "this is good for you" or "you should do this," they will wonder, Why go? Without a transformational component driving interest or curiosity, they'll ask, "Why bother?" Time is a man's most precious and valued commodity, and there are plenty of things competing for it.
On the flip side, a strong vision - a defined process - and outcomes that make men stakeholders in the ongoing success of the church's mission, make a difference. Men long for that kind of significance!
Men will start showing up in big numbers when there is
- A clear process.
- Influence that matters.
The Sleeping Giant model contains the critical ingredients that are central to wide participation and success with men. Key word? Simple. Men like simple. But they also like strong, clear, and intentional.
Gathering men is the easy part. Keeping them is the hard part. The question every man asks internally: Now that you've got me, where are you taking me? The consequences of that question going unanswered are lethal for your men's community.
Inspiration without progression is stagnation. Create a vision that resonates. To this end, the Sleeping Giant model and process bridges men from inspiration to an intentional progression of spiritual development in four steps.
Every man has "gotta guy" he knows who can help him fix his car or write his next home loan. But most men don't "gotta guy" that helps them win battles for spiritual and relational health. The Sleeping Giant model emphasizes getting guys "IN" with other guys who share a commitment to becoming better men and growing spiritually. That could be a weekly men's group. It could be the men from your couples' Bible study who meet on another day of the week. It could be some guys from work getting together over coffee once a week. It could be a meeting of men at church or at a conference that connects them to other men who are seeking God's purposes for their lives.
When a man commits to pursuing and deepening his male friendships, he will work at sustaining his momentum that will enable him to achieve personal changes faster than he ever could by himself. Men become men in the company of other men. Ask any warrior in any culture. And for God's man, who wants to do life God's way, connecting with other men is not optional.
The next call after "GET IN" provides direction and meaning once guys get connected. They will naturally want to know: "What's the process?" "GET HEALTHY" defines and meets the felt needs of men and helps them get a "win" that is meaningful to them.
Men are like icebergs in the sense that they only reveal the small part of who they are and what is happening in their lives. But underneath the surface, their lives are full of issues that produce enormous stress and pressure morally, relationally, professionally, and emotionally. These stress points can define the true substance of their existence.
Ten years of testing and research show that, if a man's most real and relevant issues remain unaddressed and untouched, the rest of what a man may learn or accomplish through his connection with other men will be short-lived. He is a roadside bomb waiting to go off. He may be a more knowledgeable roadside bomb, but the unresolved issues are a hidden bomb waiting to explode.
And when the bomb goes off, we act surprised. "I thought I knew him." "He had his act together on the outside, so we thought what was on the inside was OK, too." Without a process of development to help him "get healthy," he was able to pole vault over any close inspection of his character and core relationships.
Men need to go after core health in their own character and relationships first. And they need to do this in the context and safety of a men's group. This involves open discussion about:
- Temptation and compromise (moral health);
- His view of women and marriage (marital health);
- His leadership in the home (family health); and
- His masculine friendships and accountability (relational health).
Health in these core areas is the difference between an authentic leader and a leader in name only. The Bible requires core health and strong leadership in these categories prior to selection for church leadership. (See 1 Tim. 3:1-13 for the requirements for church leadership.)
"GET IN" and "GET HEALTHY" are powerfully connected parts of the process for the man, his group, and for the church. Here's why.
- Men who go through transformation together tend to stay together and finish the process together. They have gone to war on major issues in their lives and celebrated major victories in those same areas. They have bonded deeply.
- A church that sponsors an intentional process for the transformation of men wins the loyalty and energy of those men toward the larger needs, mission, and vision of the church.
Once a church defines and meets the felt needs of a man, the men's group can move to leadership development and the call for that man to
The "GET STRONG" phase prepares a man for deployment into his ministry within the church and his mission in the world. This phase will
- Give a man - the potential leader - a higher stake in the vision of the church;
- Be up-front about a higher commitment; and
- Be honest about a higher cost.
This is the "if any man come after Me" moment. It is intentional. It is on purpose. If the transformation process has been effective, you shouldn't have to plead or coax a man at this point. He knows he's called.
In a relational context, the phase "GET STRONG" is about exploring and experiencing the core beliefs and behaviors of God's men. It's the natural progression from connection to transformation to activation into leadership training. Men will feel themselves going to the next level of commitment personally, spiritually, and practically in ministry. Resources and relationships center on strong spiritual formation which leads to strong spiritual expression of Scripture's Great Commandment and Great Commission.
The "GET STRONG" step produces a man of God who is willing to take risks in line with God's purposes. He wants to
- Fulfill God's dream and vision for his life (Christlikeness);
- Fight the world, his flesh, and the Devil daily and effectively (Spiritual Warfare); and
- Soar above cultural "masculinity" into a true Spirit-filled mature life of global impact (Holy Spirit).
Once a man is all in, healthy, strong and fully trained, there is only one call left.
The last step is to deploy these men to serve the church and aggressively share the gospel. It's time to get going.
In the Sleeping Giant process, a trained "God's man" is responsible for ministering, reproducing leaders, and assisting pastoral staff in the execution and delivery of ministry to the people.
At this phase, a man's spiritual pathway is carefully supported with the right connective conduits, the right tools and resources, and the right relationships. With this plan, a solid leadership engine can be built that will accelerate the mission and vision of the pastor.
Moving transformed men from the audience to the army in the local church is something to behold. It's like discovering a gold mine underneath the floorboards, and the whole church yelling, "Eureka!"
What is the sleeping giant? The men in the body of Christ and the incredible untapped potential within them.