Personal Growth

How To Be A Man Who Makes A Difference In Church

by John Pate

three men talking and laughing together

My family loves to camp together. Typically, after arriving at the campsite, we try to give the kids jobs, jobs that are helpful in some way. The kids will help us unload firewood or bring sleeping bags to the tent, and those things are helpful! But occasionally, one of the kids will do something that is—well—not helpful. Once we were camping in a location with quite a bit of sand, so we brought some toy shovels and buckets. As we were setting up, I walked around the corner of the van to find one of my boys carefully taking shovelfuls of sand and depositing them into the track of the mini-van’s sliding door. That door hasn’t been the same since. Perhaps he was trying to help. I’m not sure. But the truth is: it wasn’t helpful.

And I think sometimes, we men can run into that same dilemma when we gather with our church body. We want to help! We want to make a difference. We want the church to grow and change. We want to solve problems. But how do men make a difference in the church?

The Catalyst for Change

In the New Testament letter of 1 Timothy, Paul tells Timothy exactly what to tell the men in the church at Ephesus. Timothy had been left at Ephesus as a sort of “crisis manager,” navigating a leadership and behavior crisis that had gotten out of control. From what we can tell from Paul’s instructions in the letter, it seems that the men were trying to make a difference—but in the wrong way.

It appears that the men, in an effort to be helpful, were beginning to think that the best way to solve problems in the church was to argue and to quarrel (1 Timothy 2:8). But in Paul’s brief instructions to men, we find that it’s not the argumentative men who make a difference in the church. The real catalyst for change is far less intuitive and far more powerful.

Paul puts it simply:

“I desire then that in every place the men should pray…” (1 Timothy 2:8).

It’s so simple! This is the only verse in the whole letter in which Paul addresses men as a group, and the only thing he tells us to do is pray. If Jesus really is the only mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5), then the most effective way for a man to make a difference in the church is to pray.

The Location

But where are we supposed to pray? Should we designate a spot? Should we pray only in our homes or when we’re alone? No, Paul says prayer should take place “in every place.”

We men tend to be good at spotting problems and attempting to fix said problems. You might even say we’re drawn to the places where problems are. (Just watch a group of men naturally congregate around an ongoing church project and listen to them comment on the “best way” to get it done.) And where two men are both trying to fix the same problem, they’re probably going to experience some friction.

And it’s here that Paul tells them exactly what to do: “the men should pray.” Although personal prayer is important, I believe the emphasis here seems to be on group prayer. Pray everywhere. Pray often. Pray together.

The Manner

But Paul’s not done talking to us men. He proceeds to address the manner in which men should pray, and we see the manner in their posture:

“…lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling.”

Why the emphasis on the hands? Let’s picture this for a minute. If a 1st-century man meets another 1st-century man, and he’s arguing, and he’s angry, what might he do with his hands? He might very well try to bash some sense into his brother! (When Paul is instructing Timothy how to pick elders in the next chapter, he expressly urges him to pick the guys who don’t throw punches when an argument starts. See 1 Timothy 3:3).

So, instead of striking, Paul tells them to take those same hands, and, without anger or arguing, lift them to pray together with the brother with whom they had the problem in the first place.

We in the 21st century might think we’re way beyond throwing punches. But are we? How might we respond to someone with whom we have a problem? Maybe a scathing text, thick silence, acidic gossip, or sardonic laughter? Perhaps words spoken with an air of superiority or a cutting confrontation?

Don’t do that, Paul says. Instead, get with that brother, lift your hands together and pray. When you encounter problems in your church and want to make a difference, pray.

Find a Prayer Partner

Do you pray? Do you pray with your family, your kids, your wife? Do you pray with the sorrowful and suffering? When a brother at church begins to tell you about a problem in his life, do you put your hand on his shoulder and pray? If you want to make a difference, you should!

I’m sure you’ve heard that in order to have a habit of prayer in your life, you’re going to need to find a time and place. And that’s a great start. But may I suggest you also need to find a prayer partner? Stop and think right now who that might be. And then take a moment to text that man. Ask if he would be willing to pray together with you on a regular basis. Chances are he won’t say no.

A Global Prayer Meeting

Let’s conclude with that phrase we already looked at: “in every place.” That phrase is charged with Old Testament allusion to the global spread of the glory of God. Think about this. What if your little prayer meeting spread, and that brother went and prayed with another brother who prayed with another from a neighboring city. And so on. If that continued, the whole world would soon be full of believing men who pray together. In the long run, those simple prayer meetings would fill the globe with the glory of God. And that would make a difference!

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