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Men’s gathering builds friendships & accountability

HOUSTON (BP)–Darius Linder’s search for Jesus as Savior and Lord started in the fall of 2003 when he went on a spiritual retreat with his father. But he didn’t make the conscious decision to accept Christ until attending a men’s gathering at Sagemont Church two years later.

Although the computer software developer had been exposed to religion throughout his life, he said he had never “connected the dots.”

Ironically, Linder attended the weekly Men’s Fraternity study because of his wife’s prompting. Midway through the 24-week “Quest for Authentic Manhood” course, Linder recognized he needed to commit his life to Christ during a lesson on how mankind’s heart is blackened by sin.

“That talk that Buddy [Griffin, Sagemont’s men’s ministry leader] gave was pretty emotional,” said Linder, whose parents are Catholic. “God laid it on my heart that I needed to follow through with that decision.”

Since then, the 35-year-old father of three said Men’s Fraternity has helped him understand the need to serve as his family’s spiritual leader and point them toward God.

“That is part of my purpose and role in the family and something I had never thought about before,” Linder said. “That’s sort of been reinforced throughout [the Men’s Fraternity sessions]. That’s what I think about the most.”

Because he grew up in a stable home and never suffered from abusive relationships or a lack of respect, Linder said the Quest study didn’t make the same impact on him as it did on other men attending the Men’s Fraternity sessions at Sagemont, a Southern Baptist congregation in Houston.

Now a small group leader for the second of three year-long Men’s Fraternity studies, Linder said “Winning at Work and Home” has been more practical for him.

“It made me stand back and evaluate,” Linder said. “I’m spending more time with my family and I have more patience with my kids. When I do spend time with them, my mind is with them, not just my body. It makes everything a lot better.”

Not only has it blessed his walk with Christ and his family life, Linder said Men’s Fraternity has brought the men of Sagemont closer together.

Lately, his small group has been providing comfort and a listening ear for one member who has been involved in a lengthy divorce dispute.

“There’s a bond between a lot of men in the church,” Linder said. “It’s opened up some lines of communication that wouldn’t have been there, to realize a lot of men are struggling with some issues.”

Gary Williams, one of the men Buddy Griffin enlisted to help launch the Men’s Fraternity curriculum at Sagemont, said he initially resisted the idea of running sound and video equipment because it was so closely related to his professional background.

However, as the course unfolded, God impressed on him that he was doing exactly what he should, Williams said.

“It’s been a tremendous God thing,” said Williams, a computer software writer. “God has done so many awesome things in men’s lives.

“For me personally, it’s building up some friendships with adult men that I never had before, man-to-man and one-on-one. One of things many men don’t have is relationships. I have some guys in my life now who are close.”

The father of three said the group’s close-knit character has reminded him of the enormous influence he has in raising his children, ages 10 to 15.

Williams’ Men’s Fraternity participation has helped him in dealing with the past wounds that most men hide and in developing mentoring relationships in which men encourage each other.

“A man and his wife is another” area where Williams said he has found help. “I want to actually date my wife. I’m setting priorities instead of passively letting life pass me by. Rejecting passivity has been a tremendous change for me.”

Houston McComb, a staff member in Sagemont’s counseling center, said his wife has remarked about the difference she sees in him. And she’s impressed that he arises at 4 a.m. on Tuesdays to get to church at 5 (an hour before the meeting) to help set up.

“I’m more committed to the things I need to be committed to,” McComb said. “I’m more involved in the Word and I’m more committed to being involved with my family. I look more at them than myself.”

McComb said one of the most important lessons for him came during one of the Quest studies in which curriculum author and Arkansas pastor Robert Lewis lists 25 ways to be a servant leader.

Although doing fairly well on most, McComb said he has been working on four: 1) fair distribution of household tasks with his wife, 2) praying with his wife regularly, 3) initiating meaningful family traditions, 4) improving the family’s financial soundness.

“I let people I’m counseling know I don’t have it all together either,” McComb said.

Sagemont member Tim Donham said Men’s Fraternity helps him stay focused on what is important, especially being accountable for his actions to other men.

In addition, the owner of an air conditioning and heating service company likes the support provided in the small group atmosphere.

“One thing I found out is all of us need encouragement,” Donham said. “I constantly send Buddy an e-mail, card or other encouragement. He has so many demands on him; he needs a good word from a brother.”

The 62-year-old Donham has experienced regrets in the course as he recognized how his father failed to instill the importance of Bible study in him. In turn, Donham said he failed to do that with his sons.

That realization prompted him to write a long letter to his younger son, apologizing for his failures.

Men’s Fraternity also has given him a fresh perspective on the importance of developing his spiritual life, Donham said.

“My prayer life has increased,” he reported. “My study time has increased, too. I’ve implemented prayer time at work. All of my [four] employees are Christians and I’ve given them a prayer card to start the day, inviting God into the workplace and committing our responsibilities to Him.

“There are things you can see where God’s hand is at work in the church,” Donham added. “I definitely think there’s a change. You can feel the Spirit of God moving in there.”

Although pleased by such testimonies, Griffin calls the small group leaders the key to Men’s Fraternity’s success in attracting several hundred men to the church each Tuesday morning.

“A whole lot of good things are happening,” he said. “My goal is to see God get the glory out of this and for men’s lives to be changed.”

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  • Ken Walker