There was a story in the news recently that told of three young hikers who ventured over a guard rail at a treacherous waterfall and perished as they were swept over the edge by the torrential waters. The article told of other hikers warning them with great concern to get out of the water and back into safety found on the proper side of the rail. It described how one person will never forget the look on the doomed man’s face as his body was carried closer to the edge of the fall, knowing no one could help him and there was nothing he could do. What a terrible, terrible thing.
I am the director of a Men’s Ministry leadership team and as I read this story it spoke volumes to me about why it is so important to have a healthy Men’s Ministry functioning in your church. As I read and thought about the tragedy that occurred that day, I thought about how many men we are watching be swept closer and closer to the edge of disaster, to eternity without Christ, and how we must rely on more than just rules and safeguards to keep men focused on God and on the right path.
From what I read, there were no shortage of rules and barriers the day the hikers entered into the dangerous waters. They were not even alone – others were there watching them and warning them of the impending danger that they could face. Many well-intentioned people were shouting at them to get out of harm’s way.
So why didn’t they listen?
From what I gather, they crossed the barrier because it looked appealing and they felt they could handle the current and keep their footing. After they entered the water they discovered that the slippery granite stone accompanied by the swift moving current was more than they anticipated and with no physical contact or ropes attached to the shore, they were easily swept to their death. All those on the shore could do was watch at that point. They were helpless.
How does this apply to men’s ministry?
We have to form RELATIONSHIPS. We have the rules and we have the warnings and we even have the recommended barriers. Unfortunately, at some point in many men’s lives, those things mean nothing and they venture across the guard rail and into treacherous waters. Only then do they find out that sin is a slippery and deadly slope that will lead them straight to certain death – spiritually and possibly physically. Without relationships with these men, many times we feel helpless as we watch them being swept faster and faster to the edge of the waterfall.
What can a relationship do? How can it change the situation?
From the start it can prevent men from even crossing the barrier in the first place. Being accountable to another brother or brothers in Christ is an important part of our Christian walk as a man. When we feel weak, when we are entertaining thoughts of some sinful act or behavior, or when we are having thoughts of just giving up, that friend is there to encourage, pray, and offer Godly wisdom as Jonathan did for David.
Beyond that, if a man finds himself already being carried by the torrential currents of the river and he can catch no footing on the slippery riverbed, the relationship becomes an attachment to the shore. Now he has a rope. Now he has a means to be pulled ashore other than his own doing. We are able to encourage those who have made wrong decisions and are in the middle of the raging consequences. No, it will not be easy but we can be a lifeline – holding onto them through prayer, encouragement, and hope in Jesus Christ.
How much different it is to be able to reach out to someone you trust when everything seems hopeless – when it seems that the end is just ahead. What a difference it could have made to those doomed hikers if someone on shore could have thrown them a rope or something to pull them back in. But no one could. No one was prepared for what was happening.
Put yourself spiritually into the shoes of those 3 and think of who you could reach out to if you were in the middle of a raging river of sin’s consequence. Now, think of who could reach out to you if they were in trouble. An effective, healthy Men’s Ministry can encourage and provide opportunities for men to develop strong relationships with each other. Mentorship and discipleship programs are great ways for men to get to know each other over a course of time. Providing low pressure events for guys to just hang out and enjoy themselves is also important but always allow the opportunity for guys to share any needs they may have and would like prayer for. You never know how close one of the men may be from walking away from everything,
While Jesus is the only way to salvation, He will use Godly men – men after His heart – to reach those who are lost and dying or who may have at one point followed Him but have grown cold in their relationship. Be one of those Godly men, one who reaches out to other men around you. Develop relationship and trust and encourage the men in your church to do the same.
It’s time to stop watching them go over the edge.
Rick, great insight in your article. I have had a lifeline in my life as well and it was through relationship. The integral part of a male relationship is trust, a catalyst that tears down any fear and builds a non-condemming environment melting down any walls of fear to share in the struggles of manhood. Thanks Rick and I pray that other men reading your article will realize that seeing a brother in distress as these three will be bold enough to throw a lifeline, taking action instead of watching him “go over the edge.”
His Grace and Mercy, Gary
Thank you for your comments, Gary. You nailed it – trust is so important! I am thankful for those in my life that I know are there for me – regardless of how painful the situation could be.