Summary: The end goal of the Christian life is to become the man that God wants us to be, by allowing his vision, mission, purposes, and goals to shape our lives. One way we can lead men to this is it through discipline.
A discipline, or in our case "spiritual discipline," is a training activity that helps to shape and force character over an extended period that accelerates and focuses the process. Spiritual discipline is the "strict training" that Paul was talking about 1 Corinthians 9:25.
“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.”
So here are five disciplines that I believe we need to build into every man.
First | Prayer
Prayer is the first discipline that men need to build. Prayer is a simple conversation with the God of the universe. And we should be challenging men toward prayer perpetually because this is like breathing for the Christian man. For most men, our prayer life is less than we want it to be. Other competing agendas consume our mind, and before you know it we have gone days, and weeks devoid of prayer, relying on our strength and are left feeling spiritually dry. So this has to be a constant priority for us as men, and we always have to be encouraging men toward this.
Second | Regular Time In God’s Word
We just cannot get enough of God’s truth. The truth is always found outside of us and only in Christ. And God's Word is the revelation of this. Small doses of it, in short readings on Sunday mornings, is not enough to be “filled” with the truth. We need to challenge men to read it, to listen to it, study it, and pray it. And I am not talking listening to another pastor talk about their understanding of the Bible; I mean praying it, reading it, and studying it for themselves.
One of the great apps over the last few years that I have pointed men to is the Daily Audio Bible. In an app for your smartphone, Brian Hardin reads the Bible daily to you. I have been a huge fan of listening to the Bible since I can listen anywhere. In my bed, on a drive, and even on the run, but I think we also need to read it, study it, and pray it. If you want to dig in deeper you should check out Logos Bible Software, it is the best on the market with the broadest library for studying the Bible, and I use it regularly for my studies.
Third | Positive Spiritual Accountability
Men need relationships with other men. Too often we don't have healthy spiritual relationships with other men. In fact, far too many men do life alone. They go the journey alone because healthy spiritual relationships are so hard to find and developing a structure for these relationships often new territory.
Accountability is critical. And I am not talking about accountability only regarding things I should stop doing, but the stuff I should start doing. When men think about accountability, they tend to think about accountability around the things they do wrong, like their sin patterns. I think men do need some accountability around this, but they also need some accountability around actions that will have a positive impact on their spiritual life. For example, I need people to hold me accountable to praying with my wife, regularly giving to my church, reading my Bible, forgiving myself, letting go of my anxiety by trusting in God, and things like this. Solely focusing on the previous is not motivating for very long.
Check out one of our Accountability Reports if you are looking for some structure here: https://beresolute.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Mens-Accountability-Report.pdf
Fourth | Small Group Involvement
I think men who participate in small groups, are often maturing more and faster than other men because the previous three disciplines can be sharpened in this environment. That is if it is led well. Men need to be involved in a Christian community, and not just the large weekend gathering, but smaller gathering in groups where they can discover some things about themselves and others. Spiritual growth does not happen in isolation it occurs in a community, and men need other men. For when they link arms great things happen. For example look back at what Jesus did with twelve men, and his small group changed the world.
Fifth | Personal Ministry
Christian men who are maturing and have the right balance in their life have space for personal ministry. Personal ministry would include things like leading a small group, mentoring another man, teaching a class at church, mission trips, service projects, youth leadership, and the like. I get excited when men do this because now they are not just receiving discipline, they are extending their spiritual leadership with others.
Some men I know need to do this and need to be pushed to do this. Too often men wait to take this step, yet every pastor and ministry leader out there needs help. And I think men sometimes need a little push on this one since they love to disqualify themselves. Sometimes they need a push off the diving board, to come alive!