“I’m thinking of closing down our men’s ministry.”

“And you’re telling me because—what? you want me to talk you out of it?”

“Or tell me how to salvage it without shutting it down.”

“What’s the problem?”

“The usual. It’s a meet-and-eat affair, and very little else.”

“Start at the beginning,” I said. “What do they do?”

“We have this group of men who meet at the church for breakfast the first Sunday of each month. They’ll have about 30 present. They eat breakfast and sit around drinking their coffee and visiting with each other. And that’s all.”

“That’s all?”

“They might have someone bring a devotional once in a while. Or a visiting missionary to speak. But usually, it’s just them.”

He was quiet a moment, then said, “I’m not saying they’re doing anything wrong. They’re just not doing anything.”

“Do you attend?”

“Not in several months. But I’ve gone often enough to know what they do.”

“Let me ask you a question, pastor.”


“Why do you think they attend? If nothing is going on and they’re not doing anything, doesn’t it figure that they’re not getting anything out of it? Everything we read about men’s ministry says guys do not like pointless meetings. They prefer action.”

“You’re asking me why they come if they’re not getting anything out of it?”

“Seems like a logical question. They must be doing something right if you have that many men coming without any encouragement from the pastor.”

“I really don’t know what they’re getting out of it, to tell the truth. Beats me.”

“I have another question. Why do you want to shut it down?”

He raised his voice and said, “I can’t believe you’re asking that! This is what you tell us to do–you have pointless meetings going on in the church and you’re to either give them some direction or shut them down.”

I said, “You’ve not heard that from me.”

“Well, I heard it from somebody. We’re supposed to streamline the ministries, to make sure that everything we do follows our purpose statement.”

“The first part–streamlining your ministries–I’m not too sure about. But I’ll buy the part about following your purpose statement. So, what is your purpose statement?”

“Something about loving God, loving one another, and loving the world with the Gospel. I don’t have the exact words.”

“Well, it looks to me like this is within the purpose of your church.”

“You’re kidding? Sitting around eating and shooting the bull is conforming to our purpose? You might not have heard me. Our purpose statement is definitely not ‘love God, love one another and shoot the bull.'”

“Very funny. But you’re missing something here, pastor.”

“Then tell me. So far, this conversation is like talking with my mother-in-law.”

“Thanks for the compliment. I know June. She’s a neat lady. Smart, too.”

“I’ll trade you her for your wife’s mother and I’ve not even met her.”

“Stay on the subject here. I’m trying to point something out. The second part of your purpose statement is about loving one another, right? And that has to do with fellowship.”

“Your point being?”

“That there is a lot to be said for a group of men coming together and sitting around the table and enjoying each other’s presence over a meal. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say there does not have to be anything spiritual about it. It does them good just to spend that time together.”

“Are you putting me on? Some of these men get there at 5:30 in the morning and spend two hours cooking breakfast. They eat at 7:30 and sit around talking for a solid hour, then they clean it up and go back home to bring their families to church. It is the most pointless thing our church does. And you’re saying it’s a good thing?”

“I’m saying it is probably a very good thing. I’ve not been there, so I’m not the authority, but they must have a good reason for continuing it, especially for all the work it takes. I assume they cover the expenses?”

“They do. Three dollars each. The boys eat free.”

“They bring their sons?”

“Oh yeah. They’ll have a dozen or so there each time. The boys sit at a table by themselves. The men are at the other end of the room.”

“Pastor, read your Bible lately?”

“I’m not even going to honor that with an answer. What kind of question is that?”

“What do you think about all those places in the Bible where the early believers gathered for the breaking of bread? Let me show you something in Acts 2.”

I reached behind me and pulled my Bible across the desk and opened it.

“Verse 42. ‘They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.'”

He started to say something. I held up my hand. “Hold on. Verse 46.”

“Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart.”

“Pastor,” I said, “what do you have against God’s people meeting together to share a meal?”

“Whoa,” he said. “That’s not what those early disciples were doing!”

“I’ll bite,” I said. “What were they doing?”

“Religious stuff,” he protested. “Reading their Bible, talking about the Lord, worshiping. Ministry. Missions. You know.”

“I do not know,” I said. “I will agree we can assume they did a lot of that, but don’t you think they sat around sometimes just talking about their families and their jobs and maybe the ball game Friday night?”

“No one knows. But okay, say they did. What is your point?”

“That it’s good for God’s people to sit down and enjoy a good meal together and just visit with one another. Our spirits need that.”

He was quiet, evidently thinking that over, so I said, “Where do most of your men work?”

“At the shipyards. And the chemical plant up the river.”

I said, “Is it safe to say they work around a lot of non-Christian men?”

“Hah! You’ve got that right! I used to work there myself–at the shipyards–while I was in seminary, and that’s a rough bunch. The actual Christians are definitely in a minority.”

I said, “Is it possible that that breakfast at the church is the one time in the entire month some of those men sit down and have a meal with a group of Christian men?”

“More than possible, I’d say. A probability.”

“And if they’re doing it with no encouragement from you and no promotion from the staff, doesn’t it figure that it’s doing them some good and meeting some needs?”

“That would seem to be a logical conclusion.”

“So, you being a good and godly pastor and all,” I said generously, “what do you think you ought to be doing for these guys?”

“That’s easy. I ought to be in there with them. And I need to quit trying to turn it into a work session.”

I nodded, and thought to myself that this activism, this anxiety to make every meeting in the church “productive,” is one of our problems. We’ve forgotten how to enjoy one another.

“Pastor,” I said, “you doing anything right now?”

“Not for an hour. I have someone coming at one.”

“Let’s go get lunch. I’m buying.”

Might as well give him a demonstration of the power of relaxed fellowship over a good meal.

When David Brown was pastor of Lakeview Baptist Church in New Orleans, his wife Melinda was a part-time chef for an upscale restaurant, filling in for the regular chef three nights a week. One day while she and David were brainstorming on ways to pump up the life of the congregation, they came up with a wonderful idea: Melinda would cook a meal for the Wednesday night church service, using her culinary skills.

When David first mentioned it to me, he said I ought to come sometime. That was a Wednesday, so I said, “I couldn’t do it before tonight.” That night, some fifty people–almost as many as met for worship on Sunday–gathered for a wonderful salad-and-lasagna dinner in their fellowship hall. The meal was as good as any I’ve ever had. David did an excellent Bible study and we had a short visit afterwards.

“I know they’re just coming for the meal,” he laughed. I said, “Well, they are and they aren’t.”

I went on. “They’re coming for dinner, granted. After all, they’ve been working all day and they need to eat. And now they know the meal is going to be something to write home about. But that’s not all.”

“This is their church. They love one another. They look forward to just getting together and sitting around the table with people they like and talking about whatever.”

He still did not say anything, so I said, “My young pastor friend, there is nothing wrong and everything right with that. In fact, even if you did not do a Bible study, it would be worth all the effort just for the uplift the experience of being together and eating a meal is providing for your people.”

That was a new thought to him, I surmised.

When, I wonder, did the Lord’s shepherds come to the ridiculous conclusion that only spiritual food is holy? That only time spent in prayer and Bible study really counts at church? That an hour spent around a table visiting with Christian friends is time poorly spent? That fellowship is optional? That to love one another means something other than a delight in spending time together?

When I was a kid and our family attended the church of my grandparents, we used to hear it said that having meals at church was unscriptural. “The Bible says you’re to take your meals at home,” someone would say, giving an entirely unbiblical twist to Paul’s word in I Corinthians 11:22. (“Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink?”)

These days, I’m happy to say, that wonderful little church in rural Alabama (where my aged parents still worship) has long since gotten over that bad theology. Many a time the members will bring meals to the church and share together. It’s not by accident that this church is flourishing in a section of the country where some congregations are closing their doors. They take seriously an identifying mark named by no less than the Lord Jesus Himself—

“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.” (John 13:35)


  1. Joe: I am meeting with a group of men in Second Baptist Church of Providence the third Sat. morning of each month for breakfast. We have 15-25 in the group. Those men and all of us enjoy getting together and just talking. They do have prayer requests and talk of those who are sick. I am thankful for the group as it gives me more contact in the community and hearing of happenings in the life of the city. Most pastors would be thrilled to have the attendance that you mentioned in the blog, especially young boys,(men of the future). The one I am attending the Pastor is there unless he is out of town. He does not moderate or conduct the meeting. The men do all of that and enjoy doing it for the church. He, the Pastor, gives encouragement through handshakes, prayers, and good fellowship.

    I remember when the Brotherhood got to going good in our SBC churches and it was enjoyed by many men. Now we do not have the number attending men’s meeting as we once had. My thinking on what killed the Brotherhood was that our meetings got turned into a work session instead of a fellowship session. Men stopped attending and it is hard to get them back if not impossible.

    So to the Pastor I would say, “Let the men and boys have their meeting and enjoy it with them. Everything we do does not have to have a specific stated purpose. They deal with that all of the week. They want to just goof off in the best of ways. The men who get there at 5:30 am and cook, do you realize the sacrifice they may be making. They are doing it as a service to the Lord and to the church for those men. Do you think they would be disappointed if the meeting is canceled? Lighten up and attend the meetings. Listen to what the men are saying and you might learn more about what is happening in the church family. But be careful how you use what you hear.” This is not meant to be a criticism. After Pastoring for many years it is some of what I have learned.

  2. Good for you, Joe. I don’t understand a shepherd who doesn’t love sheep. Years ago I went to a conference on Pastoring and heard one of the best bits of wisdom ever. The shepherd should smell like sheep. We should love our people. I love to sit during the men’s breakfasts and get to know my people, to know their hearts and their dreams, their wants and what makes them happy. It makes my sermons a little better, too. Amen? Amen!

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