Last month, I attended the memorial service of a man everyone who knew him, admired. Scott was a faithful husband, father, successful businessman, but more importantly, a serious follower of Jesus. A year ago, I had an opportunity to spend an hour or so with his son, a high school student. “Tell me about your father,” I asked. Without any hesitation, he replied, “my dad is the real thing!”
A Christian man, or woman, can’t hardly get a higher compliment than that, especially from his children. I agreed with him. Scott was the real thing.
At the memorial service, a young pastor told a story of meeting Scott at a summer family camp in Michigan and halfway through the week, they took a long walk on the beach. A half hour into the walk, Scott turned to his new friend and asked this courageous question, “Is this conversation going to be a snorkel or a scuba dive?” Here’s what Scott was really asking. “Is our conversation going to stay on surface things, like sports, weather and church talk, or are you willing to go deeper? I’m ready to share with you some of my frustrations, my fears, disappointments and doubts, friend-to-friend. Are you?”
That bold move by Scott, led to a deep, multi-year friendship and partnership in ministry.
Over the years, I’ve been asked how to encourage men to “go deeper.” Scott’s approach worked well, but for some men that feels more like diving off a cliff, than a simple scuba dive!
Three ideas for encouraging men to go deeper, conversationally.
Don’t be afraid of going deeper. One of the major reasons we don’t go deep with other men, is that it may get messy. The man your encouraging to go deeper, may just start telling you about his marriage or financial problems. That possibility scares the wits out of most men. If you’re not willing to risk that, then the conversation will stay a snorkel. However, pray that the Holy Spirit will give you the courage to step into another man’s life, regardless of how messy it gets. That’s where most real ministry gets done! That’s loving your neighbor.
Be vulnerable yourself. Being vulnerable doesn’t mean blurting out to a total stranger that you struggle with pornography. What it does mean is making a statement, telling a personal story, or asking certain questions that demonstrate you are willing to be more transparent and go deeper, even if the other guy isn’t yet. Here are the kinds of questions or “conversation openers” I and others have used over the years.
My wife and I have been married for 40+ years, and its been both some of the best times of my life and the most challenging. At time’s we’ve had to go for professional help, because we’re not simply committed to staying married, but to making our marriage great! (That simple statement will usually open amazing conversations) Although I never discuss specifics about our struggles without my wife’s permission.
Years ago, I made the decision to move from being your standard-issue Christian, to being a far more serious follower of Jesus. (Then explain how that happened and what the results were.)
I’ve had a lot of stress lately at work; frankly, there was a time, that I’d come home and just have a few beers (or a glass of wine, or just want to veg out) to get over it. But that, not only became a problem for me, but it didn’t actually solve the root problem. (explain what the root problem was and how you addressed it.)
Ask questions that encourage a deeper conversation.
Tell me about the family you grew up in. What were your mother and father like? (Then share your own family info. Be especially vulnerable about any tough relationships.)
What kind of problem wakes you up at 2am? (Before they answer, tell them what wakes you up.)
What’s the toughest personal challenge in your life right now?
Perhaps none of those conversation starters work for you. But then, take some time and pray for Holy Spirit wisdom for ones that do feel comfortable for you. I find it amazing that every salesman I know works hard on their “pitch” for their products or services, but most Christians won’t spend 30 minutes praying and preparing to invest in a deeper relationship with another man. Be different. Be intentional!
“One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace will have the king for a friend.” Proverbs 22:11
How following Jesus works in real life.
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