This is me and Rick Keith. Yes, we are at the Big House…don’t judge. He is one of the guys who reached out to me way back in 1990, when God was getting a hold of my life back at UM. He lived across the hall in the dorm and he used to answer my questions about Jesus. After I came to Christ we served at New Life Church, and went into full-time ministry together. We stumbled our way through those early days and were actually ordained as pastors on the same day, April Fool’s Day of 2001. When I left for Columbus in 2008, I knew he was the person I would miss the most.
Rick came to visit last week. He had just dropped off his son at college and swung by Columbus to say hi and stay the night. We stayed up late talking, and then after a little sleep, went out, got breakfast at Northstar Cafe & continued the conversation. Next thing i know it’s 3pm and he’s gotta go.
As I got on with the rest of my day. I thought….that was kinda weird.
2 grown men. 10 straight hours of conversation, only interrupted by a little sleep and some fantastic prosciutto & poached eggs.
A lot of us have read about King David’s “mighty men.” When David was in hiding, he attracted a bunch of outcasts and refugees…we can read about it in I Samuel 22…
“And everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was bitter in soul, gathered to him. And he became commander over them. And there were with him about four hundred men.”
In I Chronicles 11 we can even read their names and some of their accomplishments. These were the men that fought with David, protected him, and encouraged him through the many trials he faced as he was persecuted by King Saul. I know that this is probably one of the most cheesy & over-used phrases in the world of Christian men….but I have always loved that picture of having some “mighty men”.
As I have read scripture I notice that is a picture we see repeated over and over again. Men (and women) standing together. We certainly see it all over the New Testament. We even find it hiding even in the moments we least expect. Look at the day of Pentecost….(Acts 2:14)…
“But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words.”
Picture this in your head. We usually think of Peter being used by God to give this message to the crowds alone. But all the while the eleven are standing together with him.
This seems to be the norm. Most people I have met who are running hard after Jesus have linked their lives with a few ‘mighty men’. (or ‘mighty women’….this isn’t a ‘guy’ thing).
We all want this don’t we? (except the lone ranger types — but they will eventually) We call them by different names: mentors, disciplers, people we “do life” with, brothers (brahs) or sisters, ….you get the idea…
Call them whatever you would like, but they are the ones we count on, share with and build deeply with.
So, where are they? How do we find them?
Well, I’m certainly no expert, but let me start by saying who I think these people usually AREN’T.
They AREN’T the Coolest People you Know.
Go ahead and look at this picture of Rick from the early 1990s….
Even back then, that wasn’t a great look. So many of us like the idea of some ‘mighty men’ but have a bunch of criteria they must meet. They must be cool. They must be mature. They must be peers. Or better yet, just slightly ahead of us in life. They must be natural leaders, or impressive to others, or good looking…..blah blah blah. It’s like 5th grade all over again…..we are not satisfied until the “cool” kid takes notice of us. (in our world I believe that’s the one with the most twitter followers)
and They AREN’T the People Most Like You
The alternative is to look for people who are just like us. Its nice to have things in common, but do we really want to run with a little tribe of clones? Like most of the people closest to me, Rick and I are radically different people. He is a country boy, who works hard and fixes things. People actually like him, because he is diplomatic and sensitive. Sure, we have some common interests, we talk about sports a lot, but there are also times I can’t even figure out what he’s talking about. This week he told me that he had recently ordered bees, and was going to be a beekeeper. so he could make his own honey. huh? who does that? it took me a few minutes just to figure out that he wasn’t joking.
LOOK AT WHO DAVID GOT. The distressed, the in debt, and the bitter. Imagine hanging out with these guys. “Distressed” = needy. Probably always wanted to talk about their problems. And guess who was that guy who was always asking for a few bucks? Yeah, David’s mighty men. Not to mention the constant whining & fits of rage. Sounds like a pleasant little crew. I haven’t looked it up, but I believe this is the definition of riff-raff.
And David welcomed them with open arms. Because he needed help.
I think a lot of Christians don’t find their ‘mighty men’ because they let their pride get in the way. They ignore the men & women that God has ALREADY put in their lives.
Forget the cool kids. Here’s who I would look for….
1. The People who you don’t BS
No need to impress, no need to put on a show. These are people who know you, all your garbage, and haven’t run away screaming. It is such a beautiful thing to have relationships where we take off all the masks, and hats we wear and just be ourselves.
AND no topic is off-limits and no question is too personal. Not just the deep things of life but the ordinary. When Rick and I hung out we covered everything from my recent fantasy football championship (it was epic), our views on multi-site churches, the state of our marriages, and which Harbaugh we thought was a better coach.
(by the way, the only way to find these people is to stop trying to impress folks, talk candidly about life and see who sticks around)
2. The People who believe in you
I know this sounds SO soft when I say it. I spent the first years of my Christian life believing it was lame to desire a few advocates. That is for needy people. Trust me, the sooner you get over that, the better.
Are there people in your life who you consistently build you up, and send you away encouraged? Not in a flattering way….not in a way that denies the truth (see point 1)….and not because you produce something for them….but somehow they seem to irrationally just believe that you are worth something. That God has great plans for you and His power is bigger than your mistakes. That you are worth their time and energy. Stay close to those folks. They see with eyes of faith. In a world that is harsh and critical, they are modeling for you the truth of the gospel.
3. (Most importantly) The People who will point you back to Jesus
It is all fine and good to have a friend, but just like the guys who followed King David, we are in a battle. (I have met a lot of guys who like to think of themselves as King David, but lets face it, we have WAY more in common with the riff-raff that followed him : )
We are on a mission to glorify the name of Jesus in every area of our lives…..our work, our marriages, our family. After all the openness, and the encouragement, our mighty men will gently (or not so gently) point us back to what we know is right. They have earned the trust to say what needs to be said in the moments we need it.
One of the strangest things about hanging out with Rick is that afterwards I almost always have a fresh vision for loving my wife, and my church, and walking in integrity. That’s got to be a good sign.
Let’s face it. We are only “mighty” when we are following the King. And the king isn’t us.
Want a place to start? Pray and ask God for these people and in your life….and then start searching for them. They don’t happen by accident.
And then when you have them, fight for the connection. In the last 5 years, i have tried (albeit unsuccessfully) to try to talk with Rick on the phone every week. I have been running with this guy for 24 years. And Lord willing, we’re just getting started.