GRAPEVINE, Texas (BP)–What high-profile events like Promise Keepers and wild-game dinners instigate — namely, a push to mature Christian men — Men’s Fraternity facilitates.
The growing local church ministry program available through LifeWay Christian Resources has mapped out a process through which men, whether saved or lost, can discover what biblical manhood is all about and how to put it into practice.
In 1990, Robert Lewis, then the teaching pastor at Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock, Ark., responded to the pleas of the men in his Bible study for a deeper Christian, fraternity-like camaraderie. When Lewis first announced to his church that the Bible study topic would be “discovering manhood,” the group instantly grew from 30-40 men to 300.
“I knew then I had stuck my finger into one of these raging spiritual streams Henry Blackaby [author of ‘Experiencing God’] talks about. God wanted to do something,” Lewis said in a 2004 interview with Baptist Press.
The three-year program “Men’s Fraternity” was the result.
Also the author of “Raising a Modern-Day Knight,” Lewis grew up in a home without a healthy model of manhood and fatherhood. In the first Men’s Fraternity session, “What Men Need and How the Church Can Help,” Lewis tells how he left home at age 18, “clueless about manhood and seething with anger.”
“When you haven’t been schooled to be adequate in manhood responsibilities, then you constantly make stupid mistakes, which only fuels the anger and shame that you feel as an incompetent male,” he said.
In his quest to help men discover the principles of authentic biblical manhood, Lewis said he found several elements are needed for a transformational men’s ministry:
— a safe place where men know they are understood and not alone.
— a compelling vision of biblical masculinity.
— time to process their masculinity.
— practical how-to’s that yield success.
— encouragement from other men.
— a celebration of their crossing into responsible manhood.
— the church.
Men’s Fraternity director Rick Caldwell conservatively estimates that the material is now being used in more than 6,000 settings. It is being used in churches, corporate and work settings, and even prisons.
“It is an avenue for believers to bring non-believers to help them understand biblical manhood and to lead them to Christ,” Caldwell said.
In a December 2006 article in New Man magazine, Caldwell said that Fellowship Bible Church has recorded at least 80 salvation decisions annually in recent years stemming from Men’s Fraternity meetings. The Fellowship Bible group now includes about 1,200 men. They gather at 6 a.m. each Wednesday from fall through spring months to be served a “plate-sized” 45-minute presentation and then break up into small groups to “digest” it, Caldwell said.
The method of Men’s Fraternity is to provide an atmosphere that doesn’t look or feel “churchy.”
“We try to not make it feel like a [Sunday morning] worship service. Why do that if you can’t get them to attend worship on Sunday?” Caldwell asked.
The most successful meeting time has proven to be on a weekday from 6-7:30 a.m. “Safe” music, or sports videos, or other “guy” things going on in the meeting room help men understand that they are at a function designed for them, Caldwell said.
Over the three-year course, men go through three study guides:
— “The Quest for Authentic Manhood,” which defines manhood and challenges men to let the boy in them die.
— “Authentic Manhood: Winning at Work and Home,” which addresses fulfillment at work and relating successfully to a woman.
— “The Great Adventure,” which helps men rediscover the adventure in life and encourages them to maximize their manhood.
At each meeting hear a 45-50 minute talk given by the presenter, who can either be Robert Lewis via DVD, or a live presenter who has mastered the material and can deliver it with excellence. Men then go into small discussion groups.
“What’s happening is that men who have journeyed through this material are excited about taking it to their communities and other settings — they feel like they’re almost commissioned,” Caldwell said. “They are moving up the ladder of manhood and taking responsibility. And that’s our mission.”
For more information about Men’s Fraternity, visit lifeway.com/mensfraternity.
Kay Adkins is a freelance writer. This story first appeared in the Southern Baptist Texan, online at www.texanonline.net