Week after week and year after year, Rob Adams faithfully attended Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, taking notes during the sermons and doing his level best to live by Christian principles. Yet three decades after his conversion in college, he began to wonder about the reality of spiritual transformation. If God is the God of the cosmos, why do I feel so little change in my life?
Steve Sonderman, associate pastor of men’s ministry at Elmbrook, had seen that same distant gaze many times before—the look of a man who goes to church but, for the life of him, can’t seem to find the reality of God. Sonderman assured Adams that his reservations were not unique.
Sonderman says the Church needs to be intentional about rearticulating the identity of a man made in God’s image, unleashing him in the engagement of a fundamentally redemptive mission.
In his mentoring of Adams, Sonderman employed a series of principles and resources he later distilled into the creation of Top Gun Men’s Ministries, a national organization designed to come alongside churches in developing strategy for men’s ministry. Sonderman outlines the ministry’s principles for reaching and engaging men far from God:
Skeptical men need to be coaxed first and challenged later.
Adams was encouraged, through a series of graduated commitments, toward slightly elevated levels of personal investment. “Men need and love to be challenged,” Sonderman says.
Men must engage with models of biblical masculinity, which pervade the church.
Instead of his usual diet of Jesus as sacrificial lamb, Adams was able to sink his teeth into the Lion of Judah engaged in the great spiritual battle of the cosmos. He was startled by sermons focused on men in the Bible who were risk takers, giant killers, ark builders, and roof breakers. Ultimately, Adams was transfixed by the masculine character and work of Christ, who channeled the power of the universe through the cross of sacrifice for the redemption of others.
The spiritual health of men develops primarily in the context of authentic, iron-sharpens-iron relationships between a band of brothers.
The first small group Adams joined, by design, required little participation. Mostly, he showed up and talked about Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers and his job and the benefits of synthetic motor oil. The same men resumed in a second group, sharing a goal of deeper commitment. In the context of more caring relationships, Adams finally accepted the risk of transparency. He shared with them his preoccupation with “lust and the habits associated with it,” he says. When the other 11 men in the group confessed to sharing the same sin, a dramatic transition occurred, pulling each of them into greater authenticity and accountability.
Men must be trained.
As a boss of 70 employees, Adams understood that you can’t ask a man to do what he had not been trained to accomplish. He appreciated the church’s provision of resources and tools to translate a growing faith into concrete action and received specific training on how to be a better husband, father, boss, and leader.
The issue of significance propels a man’s mission into the world.
“The transformed guy,” Sonderman says, “is ready to charge any hill.” When Adams—healing and growing—finally released God out of his one-hour-a-week religious box, a hunger grew for a mission with deep significance. Adams now models to 70 employees the reality of Jesus and has grown into a man focused on the needs of others, who uses power to shape lives rather than rule over them.