Faith Matters: Iron sharpens iron

Most men desire a life of value, of purpose and worthy of pride, but they just don’t know how to get there, says a leader of an interdenominational group that helps disciple men for service in the church and their community.

Mark Lubbock, CEO of the Gulf South Men, says much of the blame lies with the church.

“Most churches didn’t have a planned process to disciple men in particular, to reach men where they happened to be in the moment in their life and then bringing them along at a process and a pace that worked for them,” says Lubbock, 59, also the pastor of Meadows Chapel United Methodist Church in Prairieville.

Gulf South Men, formerly the Louisiana Men of Christ, will be holding its biggest discipleship effort of the year when it hosts an Iron Sharpens Iron Conference from 8:30 a.m. to 4:55 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at Istrouma Baptist Church, 10500 Sam Rushing Drive in Baton Rouge.

“Iron Sharpens Iron is one of the main (discipleship) tools we use,” Lubbock says. “It’s an equipping conference that’s designed to be an annual event for men of the church.

“We particularly target the medium and small church that doesn’t have the resources to bring in national trainers and that sort of thing.”

Among the key speakers for the conference are Jonathan Evans and Ted Roberts.

Evans is an author, former NFL fullback and chaplain for the Dallas Cowboys. He serves at the church in Dallas with his father, well-known minister Tony Evans.

Roberts, a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War, is an author and pastor of the megachurch Pure Desire Ministries, of Gresham, Ore.

The conference will consist of 16 breakout seminars with topics relative to age groups starting with the 13-17 age category.

Seminars include “Fatherless America and the Church,” “A Gifted Man: Understanding Your God-Given Strengths,” “Understanding the Woman in Your Life” and “Grandfathering Isn’t for Retirees.”

“It’s the sort of thing that they can bring back to their church and use as a training event to help the men deal with things like how do you live as a single man and still be a godly man,” Lubbock says.

“How do you deal with things like pornography; how do you become an effective father or a better grandfather; what do you do if you have a financial crisis in your life and don’t know how to respond to it. These are training ministries that we expose these men to and give them training, and they in turn can take that training back to their church and leverage those for their own church community.”

The Baton Rouge event was previously at The Chapel in the Oaks before moving to the larger Istrouma location, where 400 to 600 men are expected to attend.

“It’s designed to get men excited first of all about Jesus and about serving in the church,” Lubbock says. “We’ve seen this grow each year, and we’ve seen the interest grow. One of the things that’s really exciting to me is this is crossing racial and denominational lines, and that’s real important to me.”

Lubbock felt a special call to action in 2008 to focus on men in the church. “Really, the church hasn’t received much success in the past couple of decades,” he says. “That’s where my passion arises, why I’m so focused on this.”

His concern started in what he was seeing in the community.

“I noticed that locally, and even nationwide, Louisiana and our community ranked pretty low on some of our quality-of-life issues surveys. So I started looking at what we could do to turn that around,” he says.

Lubbock found local churches ranked high in Bible consciousness and attendance.

“But when I looked and I saw the rate of incarceration in Louisiana was the highest in the country, and we off and on had the murder capital in the country, and we had the AIDS capital in the country, it suggested to me there was something wrong with the church,” says Lubbock, an Iowa native who has lived in Louisiana since 1982.

“There were a lot of people in the church but the behavior of our citizens didn’t reflect the godly values,” he notes.

The common denominator? “I found out that the No. 1 influence both positive and negative was the men. If men were absent or wasn’t marrying the mother of his children, or was abusive or was involved with substance abuse of some sort, it had a severe negative impact,” Lubbock says.

He adds, “But the flip side of that was the No. 1 factor for behavior outcome was to have a godly man in the household — rather that’s a grandfather or a dad — it turns out if that was the case in the household, the kids were less likely to have premarital sex, less likely to become pregnant outside of wedlock, likely to go on to secondary education and complete it and also earn a higher income. They were less likely to become incarcerated.

“To me the most common-sense thing was to go after the men, to see what we could be, stem the tide or at least turn it around,” he says.

For more on the conference, go to gulfsouthmen.org or ironsharpensiron.net.

‘Calling’ of ushers

Prince Pointer enjoys ushering as much as teaching it.

Pointer, 72, and his church hosted the state convention of the National United Ushers Association of America Inc. last week at Friendship Chapel Baptist Church.

“Ushering is a calling,” says Pointer, who has been an usher for over 20 years. “I love ushering. I teach it and it’s a good ministry. A lot of them don’t know what are they ushering for. That’s my job: to teach them what they are ushering for.”

The National United Ushers Association, a nondenominational group, has about 20,000 members nationwide and 100 in Louisiana, Pointer says.

An ushers group meets in Baton Rouge about once a month for training with schools also in New Orleans, Slidell and Kenner. There are plans to open schools in the Lafayette and Lake Charles areas.

“It’s a wonderful organization,” Pointer says. “We offer scholarships for young people. We help young people so much, especially trying to get them in school, get them off the streets.

“I have eight young people that we train right now. We got some got teachers.”

The conference consisted of business meetings, a youth oratory contest, a memorial program for deceased members and preaching.

Friendship’s pastor, the Rev. Charles Allen Sr., closed the conference with a message titled “Do You Know Who Jesus Is?”

His message was taken from Matthew 16:13-17, which read in part, “(Jesus) asked his disciples, saying, ‘Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?’ And they said, ‘Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.’ He saith unto them, ‘But whom say ye that I am?’ And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”

A knowledge and a relationship is important to the life of an usher, Allen says. “The only way you’ll have the strength to go throughout life under your assignment, you got to know who Jesus is,” he says.

“You cannot follow somebody unless you know who they are,” Allen says, “You can’t be faithful to a calling, whether it’s deacon ministry, whether it’s usher ministry, whether it’s choir ministry, unless you know who called you.”

Call Pointer at (225) 276-3782 for more information about the usher group.

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or email trobinson@theadvocate.com.