The value of fellowship with other Christian men cannot be overstated.
This weekend I had the pleasure of attending my church’s annual men’s retreat, titled Pacesetters.
In the New Testament, Paul repeatedly refers to the believer's spiritual walk as a race. Thus, the theme of the retreat explored how to set the pace for our loved ones and those around us.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
2 Timothy 4:6-7
My life has been blessed with many such pacesetters—firstly, my parents. They raised us up in a baptist church, taught Sunday School, and made sure we were there every week.
My mom had my siblings and me read from a family Bible every day before the school bus picked us up, and she was very zealous about making sure we stayed away from the demonic influences of The Smurfs and He-Man (a true and funny story, but one for another time).
Next, there were those in my childhood church who I consider pacesetters—too many now passed on. Whether pastors, deacons, or simply faithful members of the church, I was surrounded by men and women who set the pace for others in their words and deeds.
As a man in my thirties (who has worked in retail), I’m painfully aware of how annoying kids can be. They screech, run around underfoot, and are often disruptive. Sometimes they don’t make it to the potty. That's fun.
To be fair...I spilled my coffee in church this morning. Adults make messes, too.
But back to my point, I don't remember being swatted away or seeing many eyes rolled into the upward position. What I do remember is seeing grown folks in their Sunday best, happy to be in the Lord's house and equally happy to see me and my younger siblings there, too.
As proof, I submit that there were any number of purses packed with Big Red, Juicy Fruit, or Werther’s Original for my friends and me. On Sunday, I had more grandparents than I could count.
But more than that, when I think of pacesetters, what sticks out in my memory are the men who spoke to mere boys as equals. They joked with us, encouraged us, and asked us about what was going on in our lives in conversation, not interrogation.
At the same time, they were willing to put their lives on the line. Though I didn’t fully understand it at the time, the church neighborhood had gone downhill in the decades since it was built. Some of those same men worked a low-key armed detail—how official or unofficial, I still don’t know—to make sure those of us worshipping inside were safe.
All of that was backed up by the fact that we knew that these were real men who showed up, did the work, and shepherded their families well.
Over the years, day by day, those men spoke volumes into our lives about what it was like to be a godly man; not always by what they preached, said, or taught us directly, but by simply living as godly men where we could see it.
On Saturday I was party to a conversation about our mortality and what legacies we leave behind. My brother-in-law (and in Christ) noted a grim reality: in one or two generations, we will be all but forgotten. Even the greatest among our generation will be perhaps a name, a footnote in history. But by partaking in Christ’s legacy, he remarked, we can take heart in the fact that His legacy and work are so much more worthy than ours could ever be. We can be happy, then, to simply preach the Word and be forgotten.
Towards the end of this weekend’s retreat we were asked to speak seriously to the other men in our circles and identify where we see Christ in each other. Men like Bob Meinke, Harold Pringle, and many others displayed Christ for my younger self, furthering His great work, but passed on before I truly began my own earnest pursuit of Christ as an adult.
And yet, I don’t feel too bad about it, because we'll meet again. Prayerfully, between that time and now, I'll be able to set the pace for others in Christ's name.