From the Marvel Comics superhero figure played in movies by Robert Downey Jr. to the triathlon sporting event that involves swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles, and running a marathon all in one day, the term Ironman conjures up imagery of men doing amazing feats of power and might. Yet there is another type of Ironman that encourages men to draw on the strength of Christ in quiet yet profound ways.
This past weekend I had the privilege of joining forty or so other men for an Ironman Retreat in the beautiful setting of Turkey Run State Park in central Indiana. Three congregations in the nearby area oversee their own Ironman Ministry for the men of their congregations. Based on Proverbs 27:17, which says, “As iron sharpen iron, so one man sharpens another,” this ministry is designed for men to edify one another by getting together in three simple ways.
- At the heart of this ministry is encouraging men in the church to pair up for weekly meetings for mutual accountability. They are given ideas of what they might do in their time together, but they have the freedom to choose how they will use their time.
- Regular large group meetings are held every two or three months, such as a morning prayer breakfast where often speaker will provide needed direction. The two main purposes of these meetings are to keep motivating the men to be faithful and to provide an opportunity for others to learn about this ministry to consider becoming involved in it.
- An annual overnight retreat where the men receive teaching and spend time together in expanded fellowship, prayer, and recreational activities.
Being there with old and new friends was a tremendous encouragement to me. I left strengthened by the interactions and testimonies I heard. At the beginning of each of the three sessions, the retreat organizer, Ken, had men from the different congregations come forward and share what being involved in an accountability relationship like this meant to them. It was a blessing to hear the men tell of the growth they had experienced, the deeper friendships they had formed, the books they were reading together, the ways they had opened up to one another, the confession of struggles and even sins to one another, and the greater service they saw rendered to God as a result.
The theme for the weekend was “Be Strong in the Lord” from Ephesians 6:10-20. An area that we concentrated on was raising our alertness level regarding the adversary we face in the devil. Paul warns the church about “the schemes,” or methods, the devil uses to discourage us. One way he seeks to do so is to focus on the shortcomings of others in the church. In his book The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis has the higher demon Screwtape telling the lower demon Wormwood to get the new convert he is tasked with harassing to do this. Lewis has Screwtape express this scheme with these humorous but sadly accurate words.
Make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like ‘the body of Christ’ and the actual faces in the next pew. It matters very little, of course, what kind of people that next pew really contains. You may know one of them to be a great warrior on the Enemy’s side. No matter. Your patient, thanks to Our Father below, is a fool. Provided that any of those neighbours sing out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous. At his present stage, you see, he has an idea of ‘Christians’ in his mind which he supposes to be spiritual but which, in fact, is largely pictorial…Never let it come to the surface; never let him ask what he expected them to look like. Keep everything hazy in his mind now, and you will have all eternity wherein to amuse yourself by producing in him the peculiar kind of clarity which Hell affords.”
An effective way to remove that haze of mind is being in the Scriptures together with like-minded brothers and growing in our appreciation of the church through such relationships as the Ironman Ministry encourages.
If you have questions or are interested in learning more, contact us below. We can put you in touch with someone who can coach you in beginning an Ironman Ministry in your congregation. You do not need to have superhuman strength, but just a recognition of needing the power that Christ supplies to and through his body.