One of the church’s most important tasks is to raise men of courage who have the will and the internal strength to stand firm for the sake of the gospel. The church needs men who are not swayed by criticism, not pursuers of their own comfort, not afraid to say the hard thing when it needs to be said, and the internal conviction to stand firm on the truth even if they have to stand alone. They do not do so boisterously or for the sake of their own ego, but rather because their hearts have been captivated by the glory and grace of God and they are willing to take their stand on God’s truth no matter what.
Paul encouraged the church in Corinth to “be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” As a pastor, I want to raise up men like that: men who are watchful and firm and strong not for their own sake but for the sake of others, not to elevate themselves over others but to have the strength to get under them in love and push them toward the gospel.
But men rarely rise to such heights on their own. They need leadership. They need to be challenged. Strong men are not born – they are built. A large part of leadership in the church is being that voice that calls men out to do hard things.
Pastor, you need to challenge your men!
I have tried to build a culture of doing hard things in all the places where I have been privileged to serve as a leader. Every year, I challenge a group of men in our church to come with me once a month and do hard things to grow spiritually. I challenge them to memorize longer portions of Scripture, read books that are deep and rich and have to be read slowly, and get up early to host the group in their homes.
Throughout all the years I have done this I have never seen a single man who took me up on that challenge that didn’t blossom and grow in Christian strength and maturity. We were created to lead, created to exercise dominion, created to subdue things for the glory of God and when we hear that voice challenging us to dig down and take ownership of that calling, it ignites something within us. We unite to the calling to which God has called us, His Spirit works within us to change us into the men we were meant to be, and our lives and the lives of those around us change.
But I also like to challenge guys physically as well.
Just recently, we started a workout group at our church that gets up early, before the sun, and challenges our bodies to grow. It’s early and we work out hard but it has encouraged my heart greatly to see, just in these first few workouts, these guys laughing together, encouraging one another, challenging each other.
The physical benefits of working out are fun but the real thing I’m after is finding those guys who will do the work of putting off sleep, getting up early, and carving out time to spend with their brothers in challenging themselves to do hard things. If we get men in the habit of accepting challenges, of doing hard things, it builds their courage and makes them more willing to continue to do so in the future.
Deep down, our men want to be challenged, they want to do more, be more, grow closer to that task within them that God instilled at creation. When we challenge our men to take charge of their lives, to do the hard things first, to work to cultivate and improve themselves and others, we are training them to be what God created them to be.
So, pastor, challenge the men in your church. Get them together to do hard things as a team, and watch as they blossom before your eyes. They will be vigilant, firm, and strong – they will act like men!