Before He went back to the Father, the Lord Jesus gave His followers a stirring assignment; Go disciple the nations! In other words, do for them what I have done for you; make them into disciples. This work would need to continue until the end of the age (Matt. 28:20 KJV). Later (see Acts 20), Paul said it in different words, but it amounted to the same thing (see for example, 2 Timothy 2:2). Christians are to work hard at making intelligent, committed followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In order for this to happen, the local church must be a suitable environment for disciple making. The church is not an option; it is God’s workplace for life change. And this calls for good leadership. What can elders do? Among others things, delegate! They can involve younger believers by delegating work to them, just like the apostles did in Acts chapter 6.
One way some assemblies do this is by holding regular men’s meetings (also called brother’s meetings), to care for the ongoing needs, concerns and decisions of the church family. In our assembly (Waterbury Christian Fellowship in Waterbury Connecticut), men’s meetings have been a solid part of the life of the church since the work began in 1997.
Let’s explore the idea of a regular time for men to gather to care for practical issues that must be addressed. Since this is a “Here’s how we do it” article, I’ll draw freely on methods we have used, lessons learned, and some of the benefits and dangers.
First we should inquire about the Biblical basis for such a practice. As already mentioned, Acts 6 provides some helpful guidance. Three principles stand out:
1) As the church grew, it became evident that some structure was needed that was not necessary when it was smaller.
2) Those in spiritual leadership had a clear sense of priorities for the use of their time, and did not want to compromise in this.
3) Some of the administrative type work of the church could be delegated to other, qualified men.
Note that the idea of a men’s meeting to care for assembly matters is built around the three key words from the above list: structure, priorities, and delegate. I hesitate to use the term “business meeting,” because that puts the emphasis in the wrong place as we shall see.
Making It Work
Essentially a men’s meeting has two major parts: time with the Lord as the Head of the church, and caring for assembly decisions in response to His direction. Here are some general guidelines that we use for each of these.
Spending time with the Lord as the Head of the church is essential. Beware of compromising this time! It needs to be first in the schedule and it should be substantial, i.e., of substance. I am not talking about “Opening the meeting in prayer” or scheduling a five minute “devotional thought,” but a serious time for all the men to pray and fellowship around the Word. In our meetings, this usually takes up the first hour. In fact, it is not unusual for our time in the Word (with accompanying discussion) and prayer to occupy more than half the entire meeting. Remember, we are making disciples first, and then tending to assembly concerns. The needs of the church become a tool to gather men for fellowship and spiritual growth.
For this to work, some brother must come prepared with a relevant, challenging portion from Scripture. Interaction may be natural and immediate, but if it is not, a designated chairman can ask some questions to draw out the men. He must never be in a hurry to get to the business part of the meeting. Time spent in listening to one another, being honest with one another, and interacting about the Scriptures presented will pave the way for a harmonious time when the decision making part of the meeting does come.
The “business” part is simple and orderly. The chairman (hopefully a brother with some administrative gift) collects items for an agenda during the week, and at the start of this time. It helps to address any urgent situations right at the outset. The goal for each item throughout the meeting is a consensus as to what action would be pleasing to the Lord, and helpful to the church.
We do not vote, and the elders learn to practice restraint in their participation so that the younger or less experienced men can interact. Records are kept by a secretary, and decisions must be clearly understood by all and recorded in the minutes. When a matter cannot be resolved, it is tabled until a future meeting to allow time for prayer, further research, and private discussion. At some point in each meeting, we check the previous minutes for tabled items or items needing to be followed up on. Occasionally, the men refer a matter to the elders to resolve.
Meetings can be convened as needed. For us, two per month works out well. Having no building of our own, we rotate among homes which adds a touch of warmth. After the meeting, we often find some refreshments awaiting us in the kitchen!
Strengths and Difficulties
As we near the ten year mark for our assembly, we thank the Lord for this profitable discipleship tool. Others could add to the list, but here are some benefits I have come to appreciate.
– The men are being discipled by each other; learning to lead, and learning how the Word and prayer are part of the normal Christian life.
– The elders (who also meet separately at other times) can devote more time to the Word and prayer, to shepherding and visitation, being relieved of much routine decision making.
– Children in the homes where we meet are sometimes listening in other rooms. Hearing the Scriptures discussed and the way in which godly men relate to one another forms a healthy contribution to their spiritual training.
– Human relationships work more smoothly when time is first spent in Scripture and prayer. This is a valuable lesson for young married couples.
– There is an increased sense of “ownership” in the church among those who are not elders or deacons, as they become more involved.
– It is gratifying to see a pool of leaders coming along from which elders might arise in the future.
Are there problems? Of course! But they have been remarkably few over the years. Things to watch for are; lack of clear communication of decisions by the men with their wives and others in the assembly; need for the displaying of grace when items overlap areas where elders or deacons may also be at work; making sure that all matters are brought to closure and not left hanging; and convincing those men in the assembly who tend to remain uninvolved that even though they are not elders or deacons, their participation is needed and valued.
Concerns often raised by outsiders such as novice brothers wanting to run things, or breaches in matters of confidentiality have not been much of a problem for us. Rather, we have found both blessing and refreshment by getting the younger men to take up the challenges of the church. Although the elders remain the final authority under Christ for all assembly decisions, we had found no strong Biblical support for the tradition that all decisions of the assembly are made by elders behind closed doors. Rather, elders appreciate this practical help to prevent them from becoming busy administrators rather than shepherds of people and families.