How may we begin to address the nightmare of abortion you ask? Well, we can start with a responsible father figure who recognizes, lives out, and promotes God’s plan for (all) of His children. Gun violence a problem you say? Well, a good moral upbringing, reinforced by a strong and accountable male role model sets the stage for a solid decision-making process in those with whose well-being he’s charged. A lack of answers to the troubles of drugs and alcohol, as well as our inner-city strife causing you to lose hope? Well maybe God’s plan for the Christian family is where we should be looking as a starting point back to a nation with God in our homes and schools. Are you reading a common thread in my preamble here?
Before I was saved, I struggled (and still do sometimes) with a way forward amidst all the chaos of a nation (and a world) in “crisis”. Seeing this life through my experiences lens left little room for hope of any kind over the years. Finding and accepting Christ however, opened new doors for me and allowed truth to flow freely once again. That truth, of a country conceived in the Biblical principles that man was intended to live by, and the reality of the consequences should God’s people stray too far from the light of the Gospel, caused a sort of knowledge revival in my soul, and basically unscrambled my brain. Over time, and as I’ve continued to argue the politics of ideology, my pool of solutions to our human conundrums has diminished to be sure. This was a good thing, with one constant emerging and continuing to shine as the only real way back to the light for us all.
Now I know this may sound all “pie in the sky” and preachy coming from this fairly new Christian who still struggles every day to let his Lord & Savior have the wheel. But keep in mind, I’ve been pretty darn consistent in my assessment, that perfection in His likeness or expectation is simply not achievable. And I’ve also conceded that we are indeed fallen, and will spend all of our earthly days on a perilous journey home, fraught with the pitfalls of ego and selfishness. “The Good News Today” however, is that He forgives us and loves us unconditionally, thereby making that journey one of grace and love. Moreover, He’s actually there with us the whole way. His words give us direction and provide us with the answers if we choose to seek them.
For instance, my first paragraph here does drip with some sarcasm I know. But the message is actually a simple one. While our elected officials pander and parade around the halls of government, spending our money and re-writing our storied history to the benefit of their own power and position, the very tenets and Biblical foundations of our free society are there for the taking if we would just embrace and live them out. And I tell you today, with all that I am and all I have learned, that this course of action begins and ends with the responsibility and accountability of we men of Christ. It in fact falls exclusively to the men who hear His voice, to anchor our lives, our families, and our communities with the weight of our best efforts, and with the power of His words and the justice which comes from being accountable to those words. Will we always get it right? Not likely. But I submit to you, that as a husband and father who stumbles as often as the next guy, waking every day with the prayerful intention to live as He would have us, thus modeling those efforts to our families, friends and co-workers, will do more to address the aforementioned national and worldly dilemma’s than anything being touted by the so-called press or charlatan politicians.
NOTE: (I’m not in the business of plugging movies, but for you men who are hearing me and a bit unsure about my message or how to proceed, may I suggest the film “Courageous” as a starting point. It’s a well-done Christian movie that’ll truly make you think about your station in this life. It certainly was a big influence on me…)
Anyway, back in 2014 I read an article in (The Good News Today) about John Mentus of RI “Men of Hope”. It read of a men’s ministry and some of the work they’d been doing at the RI Department of Corrections and it intrigued me. Those were my early Christian days (2014) and the idea of facilitating the complicated needs of the incarcerated was something I had some experience with, though in a far different context as a Correctional Officer some years earlier. Nevertheless, I could feel the desire to raise up men to their true calling even in the short paragraphs I read, and even in their most diminished station in life. Along those lines, and in keeping with my passionate belief in what I’ve just put to paper concerning the accountability of men in our society, I’m pleased to convey a conversation I had with John Mentus on the work being done by “Rhode Island Men of Hope”.
Truth be told, the 79 year-old Mentus was quite frank with me, voicing his disappointment with the men of the 21st Century. And I was in complete agreement with him when he told me, that his experience with (some) of the “men of the church”, was that they’d rather be playing golf than be active in a men’s ministry or hearing God’s plan for them. He talked of a certain complacency which made men with whom he’d interacted seem far more concerned with the next men’s breakfast date, rather than with what was being discussed at the one they were actually at. And I agreed with John when he spoke of his attempts to generate enthusiasm for Christ’s charge to men in local churches, and of his frustration with the fact that it simply hasn’t materialized. John quickly pivoted to the valuable work of his local prison ministry, and how he and his colleagues in Christ were changing hearts and bringing the lost to be saved in places few would even consider it possible.
I asked “Big John”, as he’s affectionately known to those around him, how it all began. He told me of his mission to bring men back to the church and to their calling, where their attendance had fallen to as low as 28% in 1996. He and his team worked to accomplish these goals early on by formulating and promoting local community based men’s and family events, as well as working closely with similar ministries like Promise Keepers, The National Coalition of Men’s Ministries, and Iron Sharpens Iron. “It all started with many different men getting together at the Promise Keeper’s conference in Washington, DC in 1995. From there we’d meet every two weeks on a Thursday night and start with prayer. We developed a task force and asked for additional training from Promise Keeper’s headquarters Denver, CO. I also began serving as a coach for the National Coalition of Men’s Ministries. www.ncmm.org. We will go anywhere in New England to train men to be effective leaders in their churches and in their communities”.
John continued with what he feels are some of the most basic things men need to learn, those being: How to relate to one another, how to be reconciled with one another, how to share their successes and failures with one another, how to become secure in their relationships, how to serve their families, churches, employers and communities by becoming Biblically based servant leaders, and frankly, how to pray. I was also moved by Big John’s solidarity with women who often struggle in the capacity of dual parenting, thus trying to fill the void left by the unaccountable men in their lives. This is something which has always cut deeply for me, as I’ve seen first-hand the domino effect of fatherless families.
Big John came back around to his “Men’s Fraternity”, and how he channeled some of his frustration into his efforts at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections, and how God always streamlines and qualifies our desire to serve with His plan for that service. And with more than 30 men saved at present, and throughout the prison classification system, his group continues to bring the Bible and Jesus Christ to men who need and seek it, by way of numerous programs and courses made available to them. To be clear, John remains committed on all fronts to bringing men to Christ and promoting the Lord’s plan for them, their families and communities.
Frankly, I could write for hours on this subject because I believe it is without a doubt, the one primary antidote for the venom poisoning the world today, that being the reckless and malicious redefining of a man’s role in this life and the destruction of the family unit as God intended it to be. In the end, from the cells of the ACI, to the hard work of rebuilding one’s life, from the checkout line at the grocery store to the assembly lines in our factories and the corporate offices of our financial districts, from the mission fields abroad to the boys clubs and playgrounds of our inner cities, and finally from the halls and marble domes of the self-governed, and the churches as God’s gathering places for believers, there can be no substitute for men accountable to, and saved by the blood of Jesus Christ first, as the foundation for all that He intended us to do on this planet. Only at that indisputable juncture can we possibly begin to move back into the light of God’s love and forgiveness.
Speaking with Big John, I understood him to be a no non-sense man of action for God. No excuses, you’re the man, just do it. I’m good with John… And I’m also good with the notion that he will in fact go anywhere and do what is necessary to help me live it.
As we wrapped up our conversation I asked John if I might borrow a memorable little story from his website which truly says it all, and he agreed to let me. It’s at the very end of this article. Also, John is promoting a “Men’s Night Out” at the Halifax Country Club in Halifax, MA on Route 106, featuring famed Christian Author and Apologist Josh McDowell. (www.icmn.us) The event will take place from 7-10PM, and you may contact Alan Siegel at (508) 238-0406 with any inquiries or questions. And please find it in your hearts if you can, to support Big John and his efforts with RI Men of Hope, and his efforts in the prison ministry with “The Men’s Fraternity”.
C/O: Big John Mentus – Serving the Master, 22 Connors Lane Riverside, RI. 02915 or RI Men of Hope PO Box 15306 Riverside RI 02915
You can attain more info about John and his ministry efforts at (401) 383-9967 or www.menofhope.org
Good luck Big John… I suspect your frustrations will be held in check by the message you speak, and the truth of the Gospel it brings to the fight. Carry on…
Here’s a wonderfully illustrative story of what it means to be an authentic man from the life of Samuel Proctor, Pastor of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church: “Pastor Proctor was in an elevator one day when a young woman stepped in. The pastor tipped his hat to her. She was offended and said, ‘What is that supposed to mean?’ The pastor’s said: ‘Madame, by tipping my hat I was telling you several things, that I would not harm you in any way, that if someone came into this elevator and threatened you, I would defend you, that if you fell ill I would tend to you and if necessary carry you to safety. I was telling you that even though I am a man and physically stronger than you, I will treat you with both respect and solicitude. But frankly, Madame, it would have taken too much time to tell you all of that so, instead, I just tipped my hat.”
Enough said… I pray everyone is having a safe and enjoyable summer.