Mentoring men to be men

Documentation Published on Tuesday, 24 October 2023

Mentoring men to be men: The value of male fellowship

We recently started a discussion on the importance of male to male mentoring. Here are five reasons why it is essential that men fellowship with other men (Permission granted by the authors of With All Wisdom to use their information here.):

  1. Men Must Bear the Burdens of Other Men
  2. Men are Sharpened by Other Men
  3. Men Need Mentoring from Other Men
  4. Men Partner in Ministry with Other Men
  5. Men Experience Depth of Relationship with Other Men

MEN MUST BEAR THE BURDENS OF OTHER MEN

First, there are burdens in a man’s life that can only be carried by other men:

2Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2

A professor of biblical counselling at my seminary once said regarding married men, "All of her problems are your problems... but not all of your problems are her problems." He wasn’t advocating having a secret life. Rather, he was speaking of 1 Peter 3:7 and what it means for a man to live with his wife as with a weaker vessel.

7Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. – 1 Peter 3:7

You don’t put heavy objects atop fragile vessels. Simply put, there are burdens in a man’s life that his wife can’t bear without breaking. A man ought not to hide his burdens, but rather cast them on other men as Galatians 6:2 instructs.

It is for this very reason why, though women may generally yearn for relationships (with other women) more than men do (with other men), men need these relationships just as much, if not more.

MEN ARE SHARPENED BY OTHER MEN

Second, there is a sharpening that a man can only experience when in the presence and fellowship of other men, particularly his peers.

17Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. – Proverbs 27:17

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. To sharpen a piece of iron, you don’t rub it against gold or silver—you rub it against another piece of iron. To sharpen himself, a man needs to rub shoulders with another man.

I saw this truth play out during a church retreat. I decided to go for a morning run before breakfast. On the way back, I ran (literally) into a peer friend of mine who was also a distance runner and was also making his way back to the retreat centre. Because he had been training for a marathon, he was fast—faster than me. As soon as we started running back to the campgrounds together, he started picking up his pace. His legs were longer than mine, and I was struggling to keep up, but I remained silent because I didn’t want to embarrass myself.

All of a sudden, about ten minutes into the run, my friend said, “Dude, you’re going way too fast. I can’t keep up with you—I need to stop!” Then he stopped and threw up. To my surprise (and relief), he felt like he was trying to keep up with me, all the while I felt like I was trying to keep up with him. Because of each other’s presence, we both ended up running faster than we normally do.

That’s what happens in good peer relationships: a man is sharpened when he’s pursuing his endeavours right next to someone else who’s aiming to do the same thing. That is not to say that men can’t be sharpened by their wives. Obviously, they will. But consider this: there are many men who are convinced that they’re sacrificially loving their wives and children until they see another man in the church in the same stage of life and the same set of circumstances who is more selfless with their wives and more patient with their children. A man who is only around his wife and children will be self-deceived and may quickly atrophy in several areas of his life, including his family endeavours. And so, when I see a man who only spends time with his wife, children, and parents, I start to cringe. I can almost assume the spiritual flabbiness underneath the Christian lingo. For though biblical masculinity must be exhibited toward women and children (cf Ephesians 5:25-33; and 6:4), it must be sharpened by men.

MEN NEED MENTORING FROM OTHER MEN

Third, there is a mentoring that a man can only receive from another man and exercise toward another man. For the record, a man’s wife is his most effective and ongoing source of accountability in his life. A man’s wife will help him in a way that no other person can (cf Gen 2:18). I testify of this both biblically and experientially. But every wife will rejoice upon knowing that her husband is being mentored, counselled, and discipled by a more mature and seasoned godly man. A woman cannot train a man to be masculine. She can rightly insist on it and can rightly demand it. She can admonish her husband to man-up. But she cannot show a man how to do it. Hence, Paul himself told Timothy:

10But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, 11Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. – 2 Timothy 3:10-11

It takes a man to train a man to be a man. Thus, one can assume that a man who is not surrounded by godly men is not becoming a godly man.

MEN PARTNER IN MINISTRY WITH OTHER MEN

Fourth, there is a kind of partnership in labour and ministry that a man can only truly share with another man. What I find interesting in the New Testament is that, although the apostle Peter was married, his wife’s name is never mentioned in Scripture. In fact, the only time she is referenced is when Paul reminds the Corinthians that Peter was able to take along his wife in his ministry with the financial support of the church (cf 1 Corinthians 9:5). I don’t doubt for a second that Peter’s wife was a true suitable helper who herself was a believer, as testified in church history. But the reason Peter’s wife is mentioned only once is because Scripture highlights Peter’s ministry as an apostle and pastor, not his personal life. The people who shared in his particular ministry were fellow men—James, John, and Paul, to name a few.

A man cannot carry out his labour and ministry on his own; at least, that’s not how God instructs it when Scripture says:

9Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. – Ecclesiastes 4:9

He needs other men to come—or fellowship—with other men. When Peter laboured as a fisherman, he did so with fellow men (Mark 1). When he discussed the issue of circumcision in the church, he did so with fellow men (Acts 15). There is, indeed, a partnership that a man ought to exhibit with other men in their labour and ministry should they seek to maximize both.

MEN EXPERIENCE DEPTH OF RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER MEN

Fifth, there is a depth of friendship that a man was designed to experience with another man. Proverbs says:

A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. – Proverbs 18:24

A man who exhibits wisdom in his relationships is a man who has close relationships. And the relationship in Proverbs 18:24 is a reference not to a man’s marriage (every time Proverbs references a man’s relationship to his wife, it mentions the word “wife” or “woman,” both of which are translations of the same Hebrew word), but to a man’s close friendship with another man.

In order for a man to navigate skilfully through this world, he needs to have a “friend who sticks closer than a brother.” This is not a sign of weakness—it’s simply part of God’s sociological design of men. It’s no wonder that so many men, even those who have wonderful wives and precious children, express feelings of loneliness. Whenever a man expresses such feelings in the counselling room, I can almost always guess what he’s looking for: he’s looking for close friendships with a few good men. And I’ve heard this sentiment expressed by male high school students, married men, and senior citizens. Men can be stereotypically terrible at developing close friendships with other men, but boy are they in need of it!

As Christian men, we are not only saved by Christ, but we are saved into a fellowship. In such a fellowship, men are unburdened. In such a fellowship, men are sharpened. In such a fellowship, men are mentored. In such a fellowship, men labour and minister. In such a fellowship, men find deep friendships. Through the fellowship of other men, men can work out their salvation in fear and trembling. Men’s fellowship is not only beneficial: it is vital.

For more information, visit our website Mentoring Men.


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