This past weekend I spent two days in an old cabin with some of the men from Grace. We were there to develop a tighter bond together and discuss the nature, value and necessity of genuine male friendships that go beyond entertainment, the weather and Sunday mornings. Friday night Ed introduced the topic and led us in a discussion that gave us food for thought until the next day. In addition to the great conversation there was good food, the smell of pipe tobacco, and music. Chris, Rob, Jason and Eric played for us with ukulele, guitars, and mandolin. Stuff from O Brother Where Art Thou?, Derek Webb, Daniel Lanois and more. It was a very fun night.
The next day Ed led us in a devotional and Rick taught on the blessings and hindrances of male friendship. It was helpful to discuss the hindrances to godly, intimate love and friendship between Christian men: homophobia (don't call me gay), self-centeredness (friendship demands that we are about others), busyness (friendship requires flexibility with time and an openness to the "pop-in"), the masks we wear (don't look at me too close, you might find out I am a real sinner), etc. And the discussion on what comes out of real friendship and love was excellent. It began to give a clear picture of how our church will continue to move forward missionally and relationally - through the redmpetion of our manhood, friendship and love.
As I considered the teaching and conversation I realized that the missional activity of the churches in Scripture was generally carried on by men who really knew and loved one another. They spent time together, suffered together and sang together. Their preaching and works of mercy were done together in the communities God sent them to.
We have been praying, and waiting, and working for some time now for God to give our church a unified vision and practice of mission in the community. I think this weekend God began to give us clearer vision, direction and motivation in this by showing us the way of love and friendship. There is no plan to start a new program, or new ministry structured by programs. But what is clear, is that the men of Grace are coming together, learning to know and love each other, while looking to demonstrate the love of God to those around us, outside of the Kingdom, in real ways.
We discussed a lot, and I have a lot on my mind. I do not want to presume on God, so I will share what God is doing as it happens, and as we gain wisdom.
And let me say this. As a Pastor, especially a pastor of a small church, I am generally doing the teaching wherever I am present; Sunday's gatherings, Home Groups, retreats, etc. So when I have the chance to sit under another's teaching I am always ready, eager to hear the voice of God from others in our church. This weekend God spoke to us through a chemist and a garbage man; good friends and men I love. As God unites our men in authentic love and friendship, I am confident he will use us to reach our community with his gospel.