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).


Freedom From Addiction

Featured Story: Paul Leininger

 

“I always thought I didn’t need help. That I could do this on my own. I couldn’t do it on my own.”

As men, we think we are strong enough to handle our issues. The truth remains, no matter how strong a man, there lies an Enemy in the shadows determined to see us fall. But Paul’s story boasts of a God who is stronger than it all. A God who never intended for us to do this on our own.

During his senior year in high school, Paul found God on a golf course. Growing up in a non-Christian family, it was his girlfriend’s dad that walked him through what it meant to know Jesus. It was all he needed to hear. Paul was now a self-proclaimed “Bible-banger.”

After high school, Paul’s relationship with Jesus struggled. He quickly found himself headed down a dark path, addicted to pornography and involved in an ungodly relationship.

Paul’s addiction to pornography became a catalyst for selfishness and anger. As the sin and secret grew, so did the anger. This deep-rooted anger would eventually follow him into marriage.

Paul met his wife Connie in 1995. Marriage and kids would soon follow. From the outside looking in it seemed as if Paul and Connie had it all together. But Paul’s secret remained in the dark.

“Whenever there’s a secret, it’s the enemies biggest weapon. When you get that secret out you disarm the enemy.”

In 2008 Paul and his family started attending Petra Church, in New Holland, PA, where Paul got involved in a men’s ministry called Men’s Fraternity. In his Men’s Fraternity group, a man named Dean shook Paul’s world with one sentence, “I have a porn problem.”

It was this one sentence, this one moment of admission and freedom for Dean that would ultimately break the chains of pornography for Paul. Paul began feeling his life change, and slowly God was taking away his anger.

Paul not only found a best friend in his men’s group, he found accountability. He found a group of men he could be transparent with.

Because of Petra’s experience with Men’s Fraternity, Men of Iron seemed like a natural fit for their church and a great next step for their men. Paul was part of the initial team that got Men of Iron – Strong27™ off the ground at Petra. Today Strong27™ is an integral part of the men’s ministry at Petra Church.

“Through Strong27™ we have seen the effects of accountability. We are seeing marriages change, we are seeing single men change. Men are more intentional about being godly husbands, fathers, friends, and workers. They are more intentional about taking responsibility for their actions and their sins.”

A 2003 Focus on the Family study showed that 70% of men in the church view pornography. A survey done by the Barna Group in 2016 found that only 7% of churches in the United States have programs equipped to deal with someone who comes to them for help with a porn problem.

Pornography is a serious issue that men in the church are struggling with in silence. At Men of Iron we believe that accountability and one-on-one mentoring can change the narrative. Strong27™ provides men with a chance to be open and transparent. To sit across the table from another man and share in each other’s struggles and victories. To challenge each other to grow as a Christ-follower, husband, father, and leader.

Thanks to Dean’s vulnerability and a desire to have another man hold him accountable, it gave Paul the freedom to do the same. It gave Paul the courage to tell his wife and sons. Today Paul and Connie are not afraid to tell their story and to help other couples walk through similar issues. Paul has experienced a substantial change in his own life through mentoring and he sees the impact Strong27™ is having on the men at Petra Church.

“Guys are admitting things, they are saying I have issues and I need a guy walking beside me. They needed something intentional and something strategic. We are seeing guys sow the fruit of it, they are hearing from other men and saying I need that. The change has been so traumatic that it is changing the men in our church. I want to see this grow exponentially.”

Steve Glick

Weathering the Storm

Featured Story: Bob King

 

“If you fully surrender for one year, you never know what’s going to happen.”

Transparency is a word that comes up often in conversation with Strong27™ mentor Bob King. Transparency with his wife, friends, and with his protege. This quest for transparency has helped Bob tear down walls that stood for decades.

Bob can still picture his dad sitting at the kitchen table reading his Bible, every morning. It’s a memory forever engrained. He grew up surrounded by godly influences. A foundation that led him to Christ at a very young age. That picture of what a godly man and leader looks like has helped shape Bob to be that for his own son.

Growing up in Friendswood, Texas, not far from the rough neighborhoods of South Houston, Bob saw it all. From drugs to drive-by shootings. An environment that often leads young men down the wrong path. But Bob had a mentor, in his dad, guiding him down the right path.

After school Bob found himself in Lancaster, PA in pursuit of a girl. Bob and Jill would soon marry and geared up for the next stage of life, a family. What they hadn’t planned for was how hard starting a family would be. Bob and Jill struggled through six long years of infertility. Instead of talking through the anger and letting people in, Bob allowed it to fester and built up walls to everyone and anyone.

It was through this difficult season they found a church to call home. At Victory Church Bob’s relationship with God began to flourish and things started changing. The door that was shut for Bob and Jill to have a baby, God opened through the form of adoption.

During his second year at Victory Church Bob heard about Men of Iron. It was something he knew in his heart he desperately needed. Now in his sixth year through the Strong27™ mentorship program Bob serves as the Strong27™ Director for his church. Not only participating but also overseeing all the men going through the program. Bob describes Men of Iron as a “Band of brothers, men in the church who will lock arms together.”

“Without having some type of mentoring, like Strong27™, I wouldn’t have been open to engaging with my neighbors. When you sit across the table from another man you are forced to break down walls and build relationships.”

Today Bob is not afraid to talk about his struggles, past and present. Through the Strong27™ program Bob has found an avenue to share and be transparent. An avenue to form lasting friendships. The Strong27™ program has given Bob the strength to lead his wife, to lead his son, and to lead in his church and community.

 

Steve Glick

Second Chances

Featured Story: Eric Stoudt

 

“Men of Iron gave me the courage to be a leader. Going through the Strong27™ mentorship guide and being challenged by my mentor made me a better person. I started living out the things I knew in my heart I should be doing.”

From recovery houses to broken relationships, Eric’s story radiates redemption. He tells a story of a God who never gave up on him and whose plan was greater than he ever imagined. Today, Eric is a man after God’s own heart.

When Eric first met his wife Rachel, they were both coming out of broken relationships. Both were searching for something more, something greater. They knew this time around the foundation of their relationship had to be God. He had to be the center. It was this desire that led them to GT Church in West Lawn, PA.

As their faith in God grew, so did their relationship. They desired to do church the right way. They got involved, they met with leadership, and they invested in people and relationships. It was then that real life change started to happen.

In the fall of 2015, at the recommendation of friends who had been through the ministry, Eric signed up to be a protégé in Men of Iron’s Strong27™ mentorship ministry. For a man who was already growing, it was the momentum he needed. Strong27™ gave Eric a hunger for more, a hunger for God’s word, and a strong desire to lead.

“The biggest thing is accountability. It allowed me to be more intentional with my wife. I learned a great deal from setting goals and accomplishing them, and even from the goals I didn’t accomplish. Strong27™ gave me somebody, walking with me, who could help me be intentional.”

Intentionality and accountability gave Eric the strength to be a better husband, to be a better father, and to be a better leader in his church. It also gave him the opportunity to be a Strong27™ mentor the following year. Besides being a mentor Eric and his wife Rachel serve the church in other areas. Their willingness and heart to do church the right way has allowed them to serve in high capacity leadership roles within GT Church.

Men of Iron gave Eric the confidence to lead well. He is now more intentional in his relationship with his wife and with his kids. He is now a leader of other men at GT Church, helping to change a culture one man at a time.

Steve Glick