Pursue Your Calling

Featured Story: Matt Hill 


“I decided I was going to chase after the Lord with my life and be obedient to his calling.”

Matt Hill received his calling into ministry at an early age. Growing up in the church, as a pastor’s kid, the church was everything they did. Matt gave his life to Jesus at an early age but struggled with faith and fitting in during high school. Instead of following God’s calling, he chose to follow his own interests. Matt would go on to earn his degree from Penn State University and pursue a teaching career. But God had bigger things in store.

“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” Psalm 37:4

In 2007 Matt decided to stop running from his calling and follow the plan God had for him. He gave up his teaching career and pursued a full-time job in ministry. Matt joined the staff at Community Evangelical Church in Sinking Spring, PA. Ten years later Matt is still at CEC, now as Associate Pastor of Missional Ministries. From planting churches to reaching the “one-percenter” motorcycle gangs with the gospel, Matt is chasing after God’s calling on his life with a passionate pursuit.

Matt’s desire to see men lead and families flourish is what opened up the door for Men of Iron to partner with CEC.

“We need the men in our church to understand that they were not created to do life alone. But that they were created to be leaders in their homes, good husbands and fathers, and leaders of their church.”

As they looked around their church they saw a women’s ministry flourishing through relational discipleship. At the same time, their men’s ministry was dying. After trying every kind of fellowship event possible, the leadership knew they needed something structured and something purposeful. In 2009 they found exactly what they were looking for after meeting with Men of Iron Executive Director Garret Barbush.

“We tell our men that if you succeed, your family is going to succeed, and our church is going to succeed. We have seen an overwhelming growth of the ministry because we have seen guys, who have been through the ministry, tell other men about it. And we have celebrated it well. The wives will tell you that their husbands have changed dramatically.”

Community Evangelical Church is passionate about Strong27™, and it starts with men like Matt Hill. One of the biggest contributors to the health of the church and now the health of their men’s ministry is the leadership at CEC. The entire leadership team has served as mentors through Strong27™. They desire to see men lead their families, and ultimately about seeing the kingdom of God advance. Strong27™ has changed the culture of the church, both in individual men and in families.

“Strong27™ has bred this culture of spiritual health and spiritual leadership through our men. It’s pushed our men to step up in leadership positions and when they’ve done that our men’s ministry has just exploded. To see men come to understand their purpose as leaders of their home and their church, that is the overwehlming joy of Strong27™”

Matt is married to his wife Emily of 12 years and they reside in Sinking Spring, PA. They have 3 kids; Addison (9), Aaron (7), and Aubree (4).

Why Mentoring Needs a Long-Term Approach

Over the last several months, I have been working and communicating with a man who had a strong interest in his church partnering with Men of Iron to implement our Strong27™ mentoring ministry. This man was excited and loved the idea of providing a platform for men to mentor other men at his church.

 He, too, believes men are distinctly called to be leaders in their families, their churches and their communities. I witnessed his desire to see his church partner with us in order to provide a culture-changing men’s ministry.

As the time came for the church’s pastors to make a decision, I sensed this man’s excitement and passion was slowly dwindling away. I followed up to assure everything was still moving forward. He informed me that his pastors were skeptical of the 12-month commitment men have to make to the Strong27™ ministry. He went on to explain how their leadership felt 8 weeks was the average committal level for people.  Anything beyond that only led to slower attendance or just quitting all together.

This kind of response is not uncommon. What typically follows is something like, “Can we do a 6-month version of Men of Iron?” or “Can we speed it up a bit?” Our response has consistently been, “No,” and our philosophy will not change. Let me explain…

  • Mentoring takes time. Its affect doesn’t take place overnight. Jesus didn’t just show up on the scene and walk with his disciples for eight weeks. He walked with them, talked with them, loved them and challenged them for three years before he commissioned them.  Likewise, we have found it takes some mentorships 6 months before the protégé even opens up and trusts the mentor sitting across the table from him. Why is the church so quick to rush people through programs or to water down the standards for the mentoring and discipleship process?  This brings me to my next point…
  • Mentoring and discipleship needs a standard. And that standard should not be watered down. In Every Man a Warrior’s Book 1 – Walking With God, Lonnie Berger states the following in regards to the role of standards in the discipleship process, “The inclination was to set the bar low so that no one was excluded or felt left out. In some church activities that is exactly the way it should be.  Sunday school classes or small groups that are safe, compassionate, and minister those hurting and struggling among us are good examples of when inclusiveness is needed. But that mentality kills the building of men. If you are going to bring men to maturity, they have to be challenged. You don’t build character and leadership skills by watering down the requirements. You don’t send men into war without rigorous training and specific skills and expect them to win.” Our standard for the Strong27™ ministry at Men of Iron is 2 meetings per month for 12 months or 24 meetings. In some cases, 12 months isn’t enough. We understand mentoring and discipleship needs a standard, and we’re looking for potential church partners who are willing to agree with that standard.
  • Men are in a war, not a battle. We’re talking about lives…real men…with real souls…with real issues…with real potential. We need to quit treating men’s lives as battles that can be won in a day or two. Men in churches across the world are in the midst of a war with a real enemy.  1 Peter 5:8 says, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” History has proven that wars can go on for years. The men in your church don’t need an 8-week program. Their enemy is bigger than that and is focused more on the war than the battle. Are we focused on the war or the convenience of a battle?

I want to challenge and encourage all of us to have an open mind when it comes to time and commitment it takes to mentor men. Conduct an honest assessment of yourself and your church in regards to this topic. How well are you REALLY doing? Are the men who form the backbone of your church taking the time and intentionality to step into the lives of the next generation?

There are young men in your church who are getting married, starting careers and families, striving to find balance, etc. It’s often these same men who desire to lead well and grow deeper in their faith. Our philosophy is that being a man is a big deal and big things take time. It is for this reason why mentoring needs a long-term approach.

Garret Barbush, Executive Director