I've been up very early the last two mornings in order to attend two different men's breakfast meetings. To be more specific, I was the speaker at both events. On Thursday I spoke to 140 men who gathered at 6 AM for breakfast and Bible study at Calvary Memorial Church. This is a brand-new ministry that we started in order to reach and disciple men for Christ. Two years ago I visited Irving Bible Church (Irving, TX) and spoke to over 200 men at their "First Watch" morning meeting. When I came back to Oak Park, I shared the vision with several men. After months of planning, we launched our version of "First Watch" three weeks ago. It has been a resounding success. Here's what I notice: Men love to get together with other men. As I listen to the men laughing and talking around the tables, I remember C. S. Lewis's comment that his favorite sound was hearty male laughter. There's nothing else quite like it. Our wives and daughters and girlfriends will probably never fully understand how much men need to get together. We probably don't even understand it ourselves. But we need to be together with men, as men, by ourselves, so we can encourage each other.
What else do I notice beside the laughter? Our men love to eat. No big surprise there. We charge the men $3.50 for a hot breakfast, and they take full advantage of it.
Perhaps the happiest news is that we are drawing lots of new men each week. It's not just the usual people who are coming. The diversity in terms of age, background, ethnic group, marital status, and even church attendance is amazing. We're reaching men who previously had been on the fringe of the church fellowship.
We eat and fellowship around the tables from 5:50-6:20 AM. Pastor Bob Boerman make a few announcements and tells a corny joke or two. So far we've introduced my talks with film clips from (in order) Braveheart, Runaway Bride, and City Slickers. I roam among the tables, giving an informal Bible study for about 20 minutes, ending with a discussion question. The men share around the tables, we pray for five minutes, and we're done promptly at 7 AM. Yesterday we ended with a song before the men left. Because most men have to be at work early, the Dining Room clears out fast. A few men linger to talk. The atmosphere is convivial, supportive, upbeat. One man (a coach at the local high school) said he starts getting excited on Wednesday when he thinks about coming to First Watch on Thursday morning.
This morning I spoke for another local church in a neighboring town that is starting a similar program. Nearly 100 men showed up for the first meeting.
I think First Watch is the most important thing happening at our church this fall. I say that understanding that we have tons of meaningful ministries touching people in many places. But there is nothing quite like seeing the men of the church come together to grow in Christ. Yesterday and today Dr. Dobson is talking about the importance of Men's Ministry on Focus on the Family. He stressed over and over that as the men go, so goes the church. God has laid on men the burden of leadership in the church and in the home. When men do their part, the women gladly do theirs. And in most churches, the women do their part even when the men are nowhere to be found. But oh how blessed is the church where strong, godly, compassionate, Christ-like men lead the way. They are blessed, the families are blessed, and the community itself is made stronger. There is no downside to an army of godly men rising up to serve the Lord.
Here are links to several early-morning men's ministries around the country. I am sure there are hundreds more.
If you church doesn't have something like this (and we didn't until three weeks ago), starting praying and working to see it come to pass.
To sign up for Pastor Ray's free weekly sermon email list, click here. You can find his daily weblog, online sermons, travel schedule, and other resources at www.keepbelieving.com. You can write Pastor Ray at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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About Dr. Ray Pritchard
Dr. Ray Pritchard is the president of Keep Believing Ministries, in Internet-based ministry serving Christians in 225 countries. He is the author of 27 books, including Stealth Attack, Fire and Rain, Credo, The Healing Power of Forgiveness, An Anchor for the Soul and Why Did This Happen to Me? Ray and Marlene, his wife of 37 years, have three sons-Josh, Mark and Nick, two daughters-in-law--Leah and Vanessa, and two grandsons--Knox and Eli. His hobbies include biking, surfing the Internet, and anything related to the Civil War.
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