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

How Sweet the Smell

Read – 2 Corinthians 2:14-17

The introduction of Sunday’s sermon started out with a bang. “Every moment of our lives is a big moment.” It certainly caught my attention. I watched some of the congregation go from poor posture to backs straight and heads up. That is more than a statement. It’s more than a philosophy. It’s a mindset.  It’s an approach to life. It made me think, “Do I really believe every moment of my life is a big moment?”

Big moments mean big things. Big moments lead to success or failure. Big moments result in joy or sorrow. Big moments can cause contentment or discontentment. Big moments can lead to love or a lack thereof. Big moments bring big choices, and big choices lead to big consequences. Do you feel the pressure yet?

If you’re like me, then you feel the pressure and heat of big moments. I hear, “Every moment of my life is a big moment” and I tense up. I’m hard on myself, and I have high expectations for the output of my life. I’m a Christ follower, husband, father, son, brother, ministry leader, boss, etc. I’m faced with big moments every day of my life. Every day throws challenges and curve balls. The decisions I make ultimately affect one of my roles and responsibilities. Therefore, there is truth in, “Every moment of my life is a big moment.”

In 2 Corinthians 2:14-17, the apostle Paul reminds us that every moment of our lives is a big moment, yet he also reminds us of a significant promise. Yes, he gives a clear illustration of what our lives should look like but he also gives a clear illustration of something bigger. He opens up with, “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.” What does this mean?  

Let’s start with ‘triumphal procession.’ According to Zondervan’s NIV Study Bible, “A victorious Roman general would lead his soldiers and their captives in a festive procession, while the people watched and applauded and the air was filled with the sweet smell released by the burning spices in the streets.”

He is reminding us that in every big moment, we are led by God in a triumphal procession because of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. In other words, the victory has already been won. Yes, every moment of our lives is a big moment, but the pressure is off. The victory has already been won because of what Jesus Christ did. You can attack manhood with clarity. You can attack your roles and responsibilities with freedom. Jesus is triumphant, and YOU are triumphant through Him.

No matter what life is throwing at you, remember that Jesus has won. Regardless of your situation, you have the privilege of marching behind God in a triumphant procession. Is it not much easier to engage in battle when you see the victory coming?

In this day, the people knew victory was evident not just because of the processional march but also because of the fragrance in the air. This brings me to my next point – are you allowing Christ’s victory in you to cause a fragrance that seeps into the lives of everyone around you? They may not be involved in your day-to-day life but is your aroma undeniable? Distinct fragrances and aromas cause a reaction. How are people reacting to you? Do they smell the victory in your life?

Every moment of your life is a big moment because of what Christ did for you. How sweet is the smell of victory?

“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” Corinthians 2:15 

 

Garret Barbush, Executive Director

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