Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

March 13, 2005


One hundred men at a Bible study is an unusual sight


          Small groups have been important to me during my entire ministry. I got hooked on the idea of prayer and sharing groups in my first church out of seminary.

          Actually I went overboard with the idea. It seemed so important to me at the time that I announced in one sermon that no one could be a genuine Christian without belonging to a small group that met to pray, share, and study the Bible together.

          That was a mistake. I soon realized it, but not before persuading over a hundred people to begin participating in small groups. I know now they chose to belong to small groups not because of my persuasive preaching but because the groups made a difference in their lives.

          People were changed as they studied the Bible together. I saw more conversions as the result of small groups than from my preaching. It dawned on me that people could be converted in the den of a home even more easily than at a church altar. Then and now, few conversions occur at the altar; most people trust God in ordinary settings where others have shared their faith journey in loving ways. People respond to folks like themselves who are vulnerable and honest about their own faith struggles.

          The difference is the intimacy that can be shared in a group of seven or eight people. People do not share their honest feelings, their longings, their heartaches, with the folks sitting beside them on church pews. In a group, when trust is developed, people can admit their sins and their desire to really know God, not just sing about God or hear someone preach about God.

          People are so busy that it is often difficult to find a time to meet. After having several men tell me they could not meet on certain nights, I proposed that we meet on Sunday mornings at 6 a.m. That worked. No one had anything else to do at that hour.

          Warren Thompson, Royster York, and I agreed to start meeting every Sunday morning. Soon three or four other men joined us. We met together for several years sharing our hearts, studying the Bible, and praying side by side on our knees at the altar. It meant something to each of us.

          Since then I have always looked for the opportunity to meet weekly with a few other men. The Bible explains why it is helpful: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). A man benefits from becoming accountable to a few other men. The encouragement of close friends helps us all to grow and reach the goals we set for ourselves.

          Sometimes I have had to settle for meeting with no more than one or two men. That, however, has always been a blessing. I remember with joy those years when Greg Lotz and I met weekly at lunchtime. We skipped eating so we could share, pray, and occasionally hurt together. The memory of those sharing times almost 20 years ago is precious to me now.

          A few men can discover that Solomon really was wise. Long ago he said, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” It makes a powerful difference to have two or three men pulling for you, and praying for you.

          Lately I have been amazed by the response of men to a Bible study offered at our church. The idea began with three men. They agreed to meet at 6:30 on Thursday mornings for an hour. No breakfast. Just coffee and doughnuts. Each meeting ends at 7:30 so the men can get to work on time.

          The number has grown now to more than one hundred. I have never seen anything like it – sometimes 120 men gathering early in the morning for Bible study. We meet in table groups, with seven men at each table. The experience has been so good that most of us do not want to miss a single meeting. Close friendships have developed as “iron sharpens iron.”

          One might wonder what subject attracts these men to come out. The theme this month has been taken from the book, Epic, by John Eldredge. He talks about the “story” that God is telling, and our role in it. Evidently men want to know more about the role God wants them to play in their work and in their home. That excites the socks off this aging preacher!

          Our pastor offered a simple explanation for this unusual turnout of men – “God is up to something!” I think he is right, and I for one do not want to miss being a part of what God is doing. I know that some good things happen to their families when men get turned on for God. + + + +