The monthly Men’s Forum of Christ Reformed Evangelical Church is intended to be a time of masculine Christian conversation, meant to edify our men, and foster like-mindedness and a shared vision, in order to further our mission.
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:25, 29 ESV)
This means that as we meet, this is what we desire:
- We want this particular event to be masculine, that is, marked by the virtues and characteristics that God has designed men to express in a unique and peculiar way, summarized by the words sacrificial strength. Without denying a place for feminine conversation (ie, the Women’s Fellowship) or general conversation, we desire this time to be marked by a boldness, forthrightness, and clarity of speech that would not be suitable if women were present, but will not offend a mature, godly man. We also want to avoid a macho or boyish conversation full of bluster, pride, and empty words. We are aiming for the atmosphere of the den, the study, or the pub, and not the kitchen, the tea room, or the locker room.
- We want our discussions to be distinctly Christian in form and content. Because Christ is Lord over all, this means that in principle, no topic is off limits. But at the same time, we recognize that if a non-Christian were to hear us talk about sports, politics, business, or any other topic, and not hear anything about the gospel and the Lordship of Christ over those areas, then our discussion would not be distinctively Christian, and could just as well have occurred in a secular venue. If that ever becomes the case, then we have failed to live up to our vision. We want Jesus to matter to our conversation.
- Not a teaching time
- This is not a teaching time, where one voice dominates the discussion. There are other times of teaching in the life of the Church, most important being Sunday morning, but at this time, we desire that all the men of the church participate. The preached Word is a sword that cuts away sinful flesh, even to the division of joints and marrow. Instead of a heart-piercing Word from God, conversation at the Men’s Forum should be iron sharpening iron. This is not the place to come and silently take notes in the corner.
- Not a teaching time
- Not an accountability group
- Since the Men’s Forum is about iron-on-iron, not iron-on-flesh, we do not wish to cut and wound one another, which means that the Men’s Forum is also not an accountability group, or a time of restoring repentant sinners and broken relationships. We are not against such things, but they are not what this event is designed for. We encourage you to take personal and relational struggles against sin to the elders of the Church, or other wise and godly brothers.
- Not a Bible Study
- We desire that the conversation that takes place at the Men’s Forum to be biblically informed, but the Men’s Forum is not a Bible study. Feel free to bring your Bibles, and use them during the discussion, but save the word studies and diagrams for another venue.
- Not a HOH Meeting
- The Men’s Forum is also not the place to conduct Church business, dream up ideas for liturgical change, or receive head-of-household updates. That’s what HOH meetings are for.
- Not a Free-for-All
- Each time of discussion will have a leader and moderator of sorts, who will introduce the first topic of discussion, and ride herd on the evening, but the discussion topic is not an agenda, and the moderating will not be done by way of Robert’s Rules. When an elder or Church leader speaks at this meeting, he speaks as a brother in Christ, and doesn’t represent the voice of the Church in any official capacity. But since we don’t want the conversation to spiral into a brawl, a riot, or a new cult, don’t be surprised or offended when your rant against the color green or your tirade against left-handed grocery baggers gets cut short. One of the ways men serve each other in Christian conversation is the same way a pin serves a balloon full of hot air. When that happens to you, you should love the man who is man enough to be your friend in this way.
- The goal of our conversations is edification, the building up of the men of the church. We want our understanding deepened, our eyes opened, the gaps in our knowledge filled, our awareness of the world increased, our ability to bless and shepherd our families strengthened. If our conversation doesn’t do that, it isn’t worth our time. But before you have one bad experience and bail out on your brothers, realize that one of the areas we hope to grow in is the area of mature Christian conversation itself. We’ve lost the ability to argue well, to debate righteously, to take a rebuke on the chin and follow it up with the kiss of peace, and it will take some time to get it back. But if you aren’t fed or challenged or satisfied, realize that you are the problem, and not the group. Don’t just come to feed yourself: think of ways you can make the discussion stronger next time, and look for ways to edify the rest of us.
- We want our words to lead towards unity. We desire that as we grow in understanding God, the world, and each other that we will be renewing our minds after the image of Christ. We have the mind of Christ, and our conversations should be constantly revealing how deep that reality runs. This means that it is crucial that we understand the current state of the conversation, and how a particular topic or statement would change things. Are we in a position of strength, itching for a challenge, at risk of stagnation? Then let’s shake things up with a humdinger of a topic. Are we in the beginning stages of learning how each other thinks, and still developing trust for one another? Let’s focus on topics that will lay a firm foundation, saving the earthquakes for later. If our conversations tend to divide the body, separate friends, and harm relationships, it’s time to shut things down. But the road to unity isn’t a simple uphill grade – it’s full of ups and downs. Think about how many times Jesus had to say something designed to remove the lightweights and hangers-on from weighing down the group of disciples that were truly committed to Him, and realize that the path to unity might involve some initial or periodic steps back before a true and lasting unity is forged. Commit to acting like a disciple, and not just someone who shows up for the miraculous food.
- Shared vision
- As we become more and more like-minded, we expect to see an emerging and sharpening vision of how to live and move and have our being in the world. As we talk about how Christ changes and shapes everything in the world, we should expect to see it happening in our lives. Words that don’t change the world are dead words, and not the words of Christ, and we want nothing to do with that kind of talk. Instead, we want to come to an agreement on how we should live as disciples of Christ in a complex and changing world. We want to have a clear-eyed view of where we should be going, and we don’t want to be charging off in opposite directions. We are members of the same body, and legs can only stretch so far apart. Instead, we want to feel with one heart, think with one mind, and speak with one mouth. We don’t want a top-down uniformity, but a Trinitarian unity-in-diversity.
- So we have a bunch of conversations, and the Holy Spirit blesses our discussions, and we grow in knowledge, grace, unity, and like-mindedness. Why does God want that to happen? What would God do with a Church full of people who love each other, who can talk freely, and who share a vision for the Christian life? Well, for starters, He would change the world. God wants us as men to sacrifice our lives, to use the strength He has given us not for ourselves, but for His purposes. And God is all about reconciling the world to Himself by exalting Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. If we grow content just to talk amongst ourselves, we are missing the point. If our discussions become an end to themselves, we are wasting each other’s time. When we come to a place of significant unity and agreement, it’s time to leverage that agreement and corporate strength against the gates of hell. We need to keep things in perspective and remember that the mission is not to convince Deacon Bill that turtle farming is the first step on the road to utter apostasy; the mission is to announce to the world that Jesus is King, and to show them how good a King He is through the way we live our lives. How can our discussions serve that end? Let’s talk about it.