Majoring in Men
An Interview with Dr. Pat Morley and the late Ed Cole
The church is in a life-and-death struggle for the souls of men. Of the 98 million men in America 18 years of age and older, 63 million make no profession of faith in Christ. American men are mired in the moral decay of divorce, adultery, and pornography. The national center for fathering reports that the physical absence of the father from the home is the most significant family problem facing America. More father-deprived children are in the U.S. than ever, with over 25 million children under the age of 18 growing up in a home without a dad.
Majoring in men and connecting them to Jesus Christ has never been more consequential for the church. If men are brought into a meaningful relationship with Christ and developed into fully devoted followers, they are capable of making a difference in the home, society, and the world.
This is the message the late Edwin L. Cole and Patrick M. Morley are carrying to the nations, and it is the proposition they bring to this exclusive Enrichment interview. Three months to the day of granting this interview, Edwin L .Cole went to be with the Lord. To our knowledge, this is the last interview he granted before his death on September 3, 2002.
Edwin L. Cole was the founder and president of the Christian Men’s Network, a worldwide ministry that demands sexual and social responsibility from men. Patrick M. Morley is one of America’s most respected authorities on the challenges and opportunities facing men. He is the founder of Man in the Mirror, a ministry devoted to helping pastors and churches create, capture, and sustain momentum in their men’s ministries.
Why was there an explosion of ministries to men in the 90s?
Morley: For the last 50 years there has been a downward slide in America in issues of morality. Men feel they are at the center of the problem, and they somehow feel they are supposed to be at the center of the solution. They want to make a contribution, but they don’t know what to do. In the meantime, men are living lives broken through divorce, pornography, drugs and alcohol, and the random pursuit of blind success. Many men have gotten what they wanted, and they are still not happy. They are confused, disillusioned, and discouraged. They are looking for answers. I believe this is what has led to the rise of men’s ministries across the nation.
Why is the pastor’s role important to a successful men’s ministry in the local church?
Cole: God only calls one man to disciple the men of the church—the pastor. One of the pastor’s primary responsibilities is to disciple men. Then each man is to disciple his family.
Other organizations are doing men’s ministries because the pastor is not leading and men are hungry for men’s ministry. So they find someplace to feed their hunger. But many pastors fail to recognize their responsibility to lead men. Until that is changed, pastors will continue to have churches where their men are not being discipled.
Morley: The pastor’s role is all-important. If the pastor does not have a passion for evangelizing and discipling men in his church, it will not happen. As it goes with the senior pastor, so it goes with the church.
Ministry to men is often an undermanaged department in most churches. Explain.
Cole: The church went through a period where it majored in Sunday School. One popular theme the church used was "A Child Will Lead Them." The belief was that if you could reach the child, you could reach the family. So what you had was an incredible effort to enlarge the church’s base by building Sunday Schools and children’s ministries. Throughout that time the children and women were being reached, but for the most part the men were omitted. Then the church turned around and tried to have a men’s fellowship.
I spent from 1963 to 1969 as the Northern California/Nevada men’s ministries director for the Assemblies of God. I was with the A/G for 40 some years. During that time I tried to interest pastors in discipling men, only to find after 6 years, pastors still turned a deaf ear to it. Now for the last 25 years I’ve ministered internationally to denominations all over the world, and Promise Keepers has found the same problem—they’re trying to give the ministry to pastors and pastors don’t want it. So what you have is a pastoral failure to recognize their responsibility to lead men. Until that is changed, churches are going to continue to have the same problems.
Morley: No pastor fails on purpose. No pastor gets up in the morning and thinks, I wonder what I can do today to make a mess out of my church. No man fails on purpose. No man I’ve ever known wakes up in the morning and thinks, What can I do today to neglect my wife, irritate my children, and let my boss down? And yet every day men do.
Men are noble. When the Titanic went down, it was customary for the men to say, "Women, children, and unsaved on the boats first." Now, decades later, men provide leadership in churches and denominations as pastors and as laymen. Perhaps they think they are doing a noble thing by making sure they take care of the women and children. But the unintended consequence of this is the failure as pastors and men to make sure they take care of their own spiritual needs and discipleship.
In the United States, there are 98 million men who are 18 years of age and older. Sixty-three million of these men make no profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Furthermore, 90 million out of the 98 million men—11 out of 12—are not involved in any kind of discipleship or spiritual formation. This means only 1 out of every 12 men in the U.S. is involved in discipleship. Imagine putting a football team on the field with only one man who understands the playbook. Chaos would result.
The last 50 years and current psychological and sociological studies help explain why we have become the way we are. At the core we have a nation that is Christian in spirit and secular in practice. Only 1 in 12 men understand how to live a biblical life. Look at every problem we have in our society. At the root of that problem is a man who failed, even though, ironically, he got up that morning wanting to be successful. None of them wanted to fail. That is the challenge before us. We will not change our nation until we change our men.
Cole: Out of what Pat has just described has come our ministry to men. Pastors are spending their time ministering to families and are omitting ministry to men. But if they would minister to men and give men the responsibility to minister to their families, pastors wouldn’t have as many family problems in their churches.
Pastors are not called to be surrogate fathers to every family member in the church. But when pastors take care of families and the needs of the mothers and children, they become surrogate fathers. When mothers and children have a problem, they run to their pastor, not to their husbands or fathers. Pastors have created this huge issue in the church where they provide all the answers and all the care for the families. Men are not providing ministry to their families. Then when something goes wrong within a family, the man blames the pastor. The pastor must recognize the importance of ministry to men and let the men minister to their families.
How, then, do we convince pastors that a priority of their ministry is reaching and discipling men?
Morley: Whom do pastors respect? To whom will they listen? That’s the answer to your question. If the leading people in denominations—the opinion leaders—stand up on the floors of their general councils and conventions and begin to create a national dialogue about the importance of making evangelism and discipleship of our men a priority, it will begin to happen. Once you put an idea out there, it sets forces into motion that once released can no longer be contained. Wouldn’t it be interesting if out of this interview came a national dialogue with the Assemblies of God and other denominations on the importance of reaching and discipling men? Perhaps out of such a dialogue we would put into motion something that could change the spiritual direction of our nation.
Cole: If pastors minister to families, they get the tithe on the grocery money. If pastors minister to men, they get the tithe on the gross income. Where pastors have built their ministry majoring in men, they have had the income they need for ministry. But their success came because they majored in men.
James Meeks in Chicago has an all-male choir every Sunday morning. Single mothers see the choir filled with men. They bring their children to Sunday School where every class has a male teacher or helper. Single-parent women love that church and they flock to it.
Years ago there were church splits when some members began showing allegiance to some television ministries. As I ministered across the country, I discovered that in every church where the pastor had a relationship with men through a men’s Bible study, the church did not split. The pastor had bonded to his men and another shepherd could not lead them away. This is one reason why a pastor needs to have a relationship with his men. It cultivates bonding, allegiance, and loyalty. They won’t listen to some other voice.
Jack Hayford says that if he had to give up every ministry in his church except one, he would keep the men’s ministry because that is what the church is built on.
Pat, you once said, "To help a man change the core affections of his heart is easily the greatest contribution we can make to Christ’s work." How do you change the core affections of a man’s heart?
Morley: Much of the ministry to men that has and is taking place deals with helping a man change his outward life. And there is no problem with that. But we are in error when we deal with the outward and we do not deal with the inner motivational structure of the heart. The core affections of men’s hearts are not focused on the person of Jesus Christ. That is the challenge before us. The focal point really needs to help men change the core affections of their hearts.
A man studies his Bible, prays, pays his tithe, and serves his church. He tries to be a godly father and husband, and a good citizen. One day he looks around and realizes that life seems unfair. He’s trying to be good but the wicked are prospering. He gets confused. He begins to question Scripture. He gets embittered. Little by little lukewarmness sets in and he becomes a cultural Christian. He continues in an orbit around Christ, but not at the white-hot core.
This man is with the Lord a little bit and then he’s out in the world. The yeast of the culture is everywhere, so it gets in his clothes. It’s like a fine dust, and some of gets in his ears, eyes, and nose. Some men even start snorting the yeast. They come to the conclusion, through unbelief, that Jesus Christ alone is not enough to make them happy. They need something else, so they make idols.
Many men are discouraged. They are often on a winning streak, but they still feel empty because they have other desires competing with a full surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ.
There are different disciplines we can teach men. But my basic philosophy is to bring men into the real presence of Jesus Christ and He will show them what they need to do.
Cole: Churchianity comes from growing up in church. Christianity comes from growing up in Christ. The difference between these two can be as far apart as heaven and hell. Jesus did not say you shall love God with all your soul, mind, and body. That’s religious. He said love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and body. That’s Christianity. You love God with your heart. The heart comes first.
I wrote a chapter entitled "It’s the Heart" for the revised edition of Maximized Manhood. We have a great deal of teaching that touches various aspects of a man’s life but doesn’t change his heart. It’s the heart that has to be changed. It’s the heart that has to love God. Pat talked about the fact pastors are trying to help men be good people. That’s good. But until a man is changed in his heart, he still is not the man he wants to be.
Describe the kind of church that attracts men.
Morley: A leader in a large denomination once told me, "Pat, our denomination is not making disciples. The reason we’re not is that most of our pastors have never been discipled." When many pastors hear the words "make disciples," they are unclear how to do this. That’s why there are ministries like Christian Men’s Network, Man in the Mirror, HonorBound, and others. We need to help pastors overcome this deficiency. The pastor is sometimes in a position where it’s difficult for him to admit he needs help making disciples. After all, he’s the pastor. So it’s almost a catch-22.
Another thing that attracts men is preaching that is challenging to a man’s world in terms of his integrity and his leadership in the home and the community. I teach a men’s Bible study to 150 men every Friday morning. These men want me to step on their toes, and they want me to make them laugh.
A pastor could take his men through the Bible each year. Whatever he feels God wants him to do is fine. There is no one right way, but having the pastor lead it is effective.
The dynamics in a men-only Bible study are different from a Sunday morning worship service. In a men’s Bible study, the pastor can talk plainly to his men about lusting after a woman in the office who might look like Julia Roberts. You can’t talk like that in a Sunday service.
Cole: A church that attracts men is a church where the pastor relates to men and disciples them. When a pastor has trained his men and those men know what they’re doing in leadership, other men are attracted. It also attracts the women. When women see men taking their rightful place of leadership in the church, they love it. Women will come where men are, but men won’t necessarily go where the women are.
Neither of you mentioned a basketball league or a big screen for Monday night football to attract men.
Cole: For years people have been trying to develop a men’s fellowship and have failed because fellowship is a byproduct. When you try to get men to come for fellowship, they don’t have time. That doesn’t attract them because there is no purpose or destiny in it. The very name, men’s fellowship, works against men coming together in the church. But when you call your men’s ministry, Man in the Mirror, Men of Integrity, or Men of Destiny, you have a name with purpose and destiny. Then there’s a reason for men to come, and the byproduct of their being together is fellowship. When Pat gets together with his 150 men in the morning, they come for a purpose. The byproduct of that is fellowship with each other and they develop friendships. You must have the purpose first.
Morley: I’ve been working with men for 29 years. After all these years I’ve concluded that men basically want three things. First, they want something they can give their lives to. That’s the cause or the mission. They want to make a contribution. Second, they want someone to share it with. This is the need to love and be loved. And this is not only in marriage, but also in friends and family. Third, they want a system that gives a reasonable explanation for why one and two are so difficult.
Jesus is the someone worth giving your life to. Jesus is the someone you can share your life with. And Jesus is the system that gives a reasonable explanation for why those other two are so difficult. Christianity explains why life is futile and the solution to life. I’m increasingly trying to build what I’m doing around those three wants or needs.
How does a pastor and his leadership team create, capture, and sustain momentum w hen launching a ministry to men?
Morley: The command to make disciples is in opposition to the principle of the Parable of the Sower. In other words, at every meeting you have seed that goes to different places. You have attrition, and so the command to make disciples is working against this. What is needed is a reciprocal process of making disciples. In other words, we need an event to create momentum. It could be having a college football player give his testimony, a seminar, or a weekend fishing trip. To get men to places where you can get to know them and challenge them they need to be interested.
Second, you need to capture the momentum. No one cools his house down to 72 degrees on a hot summer day and then opens the windows and doors. You try to capture the energy that has been expended to cool your house. Many times, though, when we have events, we haven’t thought through the follow-up process.
We have found that 6-week follow-up groups are successful. We sign up men for these groups at our events. Of the men who have been through any of our Man in the Mirror events, 66 percent of them join our 6-week follow-up groups.
Also, don’t micromanage. Men are smart. They will figure it out. Say, "OK men, we’re going to form in groups of six to eight and exchange names and phone numbers. Choose someone to be your discussion leader, and pick your first meeting time." Of course, you need to have some materials for them to study. HonorBound has many wonderful things men can study. Man in the Mirror has men’s studies called Life Plans. They are 6-week courses. Doing this captures momentum.
The other error is trying to do too much. An overzealous approach might go like this: "Men, we’ve had a wonderful weekend retreat. Now we’re going to have a 3-year inductive Bible study in the original Hebrew language that begins with a 40-day fast. How many would like to be a part of that?"
Once you get men into groups and they like it, then have an ongoing Bible study for them to sustain the momentum. Then periodically have additional events to create more momentum.
Cole: We do the same thing Pat does. None of us were raised up to take the place of a pastor. Everything we do is to help the pastor disciple his men and develop character in them. We are called to help the pastor because the local church is the basic ministry of Christ on the earth. Those who bypass the local church may have their own ministry, but they’re not helping build the church of Jesus Christ.