The Magnolia Tree

I know most people do not like Magnolia Trees because they can make a mess with their big, hard-to-rake-up leaves. But Magnolia Trees have always had a special place in my heart.

My wife and children understand this to the point they gave me a Magnolia Tree sampling to plant in our front year back in 2008. The year after, I went through my cancer battle resulting in the loss of a kidney.

My love for Magnolia Trees spurns from my days as a young boy when there was a mature tree probably a hundred years old in my neighborhood. I really do not know how old. As a kid, anything over twenty was old. But this tree was at least several decades old.

It was large enough that me and my friends would climb the tree and sit in its massive branches. Like a strong man’s arms holding us on his shoulders, gently cradling us so we could look around and see all around the neighborhood. We could sit there and virtually hide as we watched others walk below, never knowing we were just a few feet above their heads. We could have jumped from the tree and landed on their shoulders before they knew we were there.

Its massive canopy covered us above from the beating sun. Rain had a hard time getting through to wet us as the branches and leaves above were so thick. We could sit there for hours, it seemed, never concerned about falling. Moving from branch to branch like monkeys in the wilds of the jungle. The mammoth branches gather us like a grandfather hugging his grandchildren. Feeling his strength, love, and comfort in knowing you were protected from unknown forces we were unaware of at that age. 

The tree itself with roots reaching far from the trunk. Like strong fingers digging into the ground, shifting it, grabbing it. Reaching deep to hold secure from the winds. While other trees bend and sway in the strong hurricane winds of North Carolina, the Magnolia Tree stood the test of time, holding firm, never wavering, never bending to the whim of pressure. 

The tree is a symbol of my youth when I had no cares in the world when nothing could harm me. When nothing could persuade me, there was evil in the world looking for a chance to prance like a roaring lion to devour my very being. Standing strong and tall, magnificence in all its glory. Never to allow harm to those who hide in its giant branches.

Oh, I long for those days again. To climb into the branches of that magnolia tree. To sit and watch the world as it goes by. Never concerned about tomorrow. Only enjoying the moment of security and peace, I felt years ago.

Though today I cannot climb in the branches of a Magnolia Tree, and the tree planted in my yard in 2008 is now 30 feet tall, the branches are not strong enough to support me or hide me from the world.

Today, I climb into the arms of Jesus. He gives me that security and peace I long for and felt as a child. His foundation is strong; His protection covers me like the canopy of the magnolia. I rest secure in knowing that He will protect me from those unknown forces. He is the branch that supports me.

The Word of God is the foundation – the Rock – that I need, to keep me from being swayed. Like the roots of that childhood magnolia digging deep into the ground, the Word of God digs deep into my soul, and I find solace.

The Word of God quenches my thirst like a cool brook. Providing refreshing words of comfort as I rest, knowing that God has me in the palm of His hand.

And the Word of God covers me like the canopy of that magnificent Magnolia Tree with His Grace and Mercy, protecting me from the attacks of this world.

Thus comes the saying my friend and mentor Jeff Kisiah use to say to all his men after spent time praying over them. He would end his prayers with,

“I pray God will give you a rock to stand on, a brook to drink from, and a tree to shade you.”

His influence has resulted in me picking up this quote and saying it over those I pray with.

Where are you today in your spiritual walk? Are you standing on the Rock? Are you drinking the cool water of God’s Word? Are you resting under the canopy of God’s grace and mercy?

If not, I encourage you today to make the decision to follow Jesus. If you have turned your back on God, I encourage you to repent and return to the Lord.

I would like to hear about your decision.

To the challenge and adventure to disciple men.

  • – Mike

God Bless.

Encouraging Men to Walk Together


Remember when you taught someone how to perform a task, and you would tell them, “This is not rocket science?”  Well, after working in men’s ministry, coordinating events for men, discipling men, facilitating men’s small groups, and meeting one of one with men, let me tell you – ministering to men IS ROCKET SCIENCE!  I don’t say that to discourage you but to let you know that I know the frustration many of you may have as you seek to get your men involved in the ministries designed to bring men into a deeper walk with Christ.

I was talking to someone a while back who had started a small group a few weeks earlier, and I could tell in his voice there was a little frustration.  This was the first time he had ever attempted to lead a group of men.  I encouraged him to just be obedient to the calling God had placed on his life and let God do the work.  Continue to pour his life into these men, praying for them and being there for them.  Even if only one man shows up, that would be who God would want you to share life with at that moment.  Paul said it best to the people of Thessalonica when he wrote in his second letter to the Thessalonians, “Being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (2 Thess. 2:8).

We often think we need to have a deep bible study when we get our men together, but sometimes we need just to do life and allow God to open the opportunities for us to share the gospel or a word of encouragement.  I meet with a group of men once a month to have breakfast just to talk and let them share what is happening in their life, getting to know them, and opening myself up to them, not having any agenda.  Another group I meet with once a week as we study through the disciplines of a godly man, all to develop relationships and impact the Gospel of Christ in each others’ lives by either just sharing life or speaking the Word directly into their lives.

When I first began to work in Men’s Ministry, I thought we had to have big events and get as many men to attend as possible.  I reasoned that if we had these events and could get men to attend, men’s lives would begin to change.  However, I quickly learned this is only a small piece of the puzzle.  There is nothing wrong with big events, and they do have a place; but, these events should be used to connect with men.  From these events, you should always be looking for ways to encourage men to take the next right  step; to become involved in a discipling relationship.

Working with men is all about developing those relationships for the purpose to disciple. Even putting yourself out there to share some of your life’s successes and failures.  Men need to see you as being just as fallible as they are.  They need to know you have overcome situations in your life, and your hope is rooted in your relationship with Christ.  When men see you as one of them, then they will begin to open up.  It doesn’t happen overnight – it takes time. 

Often we use Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” in our respective men’s ministries.  There is truth here, but the only way this can be applied in our lives is to spend time with other men who have a passion for growing deeper in a relationship with God.  We will permit other men to challenge us when they see us missing the mark, holding us accountable in our walk with Christ.  This can only occur if we are intentional about developing discipling relationships.

Let me encourage you if you do not have such a man in your life; find one.  You will be blessed to have that man who will challenge you, be a listening ear when you need to talk, and, more importantly, pray for you.  “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  To have someone in your life that will sharpen you, knock off those rough edges and smooth the edge so you can be ready to fight the battle that lies before us every day.

There is a battle for men’s souls happening all around us.  And we need men who will stand shoulder to shoulder with us every day.  Will you be a man who will stand shoulder to shoulder with another man in this battle?  Will you pour your life into other men?  Do you want to change families in your church?  Do you want to change your church to be more of an impact on your community?  Then start by sharing life with other men – the Gospel of Christ – developing intentional relationships that will sharpen each of us to be the man God desires for us all.

Together in the adventure and challenge to disciple men,

Mike Sandlin

Supporting Ministry To Men

In my years of working with churches and men, there are four areas I regularly see lacking in churches regarding ministering to men.  Some churches are doing some of these well, but very few are doing all of these well. 

We spend a good deal of time talking about discipling men and moving them into discipling small groups, conducting Bible Study Groups, determining what men’s interests are, and creating events around those interests.  But we rarely speak to the administrative side of ministering to men other than the leadership team.

Some of the areas I am going to mention here may create some serious debate among members of a church.  These will only be resolved when key individuals begin to understand that ministering to men is one of the most important and vital ministries in a local church body.  

The following are the four areas most churches lack in their ministry to men.

Lack of Leadership – Leadership for ministering to men is taken for granted in many churches.  Nominating committees often look for a single man who will agree to have his name placed on the leadership list as the Men’s Ministry Director, generally for three years.  When the Nominating Committee should be looking for a man who has a burden for men and a passion to speak into their lives.  A man who is not looking to be replaced in three years, but one who has been called to minister to men.  One who can build a leadership team around him so when God moves him on there is someone who can move into the position and continue the ministry.  If a church wants to have a vibrant and effective ministry to men then they need to seek a man who is called into the position.

Lack of Promotion – Notice the picture.  What is wrong?  You may not be able to read the title of the three brochures on the table but they are brochures for the Youth Ministry, Women’s Ministry, and the Children’s Ministry.  What is missing?  Men’s Ministry!  To have an effective ministry to men the church must bring the ministry to men to the forefront just like they do with ministries that reach other people groups.  By neglecting any kind of promotion of men’s ministry you are saying men are not important.  The leaders may not feel that way, but this is the message being conveyed.  Whatever you do to promote other ministries do the same or similar to promote the Men’s Ministry – put them on equal footing, at least. 

Lack of Finances – One of the least budgeted ministries in the church is the men’s ministry.  The women’s ministry will generally rival but if one is going to have a larger budget, it will be the women’s.  Some of the reasoning is that men are better equipped to cover the cost of events and material for various activities.  Another argument is the men do not have has many events.  But that is a topic for another time.  Youth and children ministries generally have the largest budget of the various ministries in the church; often 12-15 times as much and the parents are still expected to pay for certain activities although the church budget may cover some of the cost.  Men, however, are expected to pay 100% of the cost.  Many of the men are also parents who are not only paying their way but also paying the way for the rest of the family.

We talk about ministering to men and helping them to become husbands, dads, employees, employers, community citizens, and leaders God desires.  We talk about how it is for men to step up and be the men God created them to be, yet we make it harder for these men to be trained.  Churches need to give strong consideration to increasing their budgets for men to help cover the cost of attending planned activities and to increase the number of events in the year – the number of events should be proportional to the size of the church.  Rarely make an event free, but consider covering at least 50% of the cost – similar to the youth and children activities.

Lack of Masculine Presence – I often ask church leaders, “After men have attended your church services how would they complete this sentence?  Men are ________ here.”  Would they say, ‘Welcomed,’ ‘Wanted,’ ‘Needed,’ ‘Active’, or something like ‘Tolerated,’ ‘Bored’ ‘Disinterested’ ‘’ or some other word?  Though men are members of the church and many are invited to attend, often there is very little to help men feel the church is for them.  Church campuses are generally decorated with a feminine mindset.  Nothing wrong with that, but even in areas generally frequented only by men have a feminine décor.  Think about decorating men frequented areas with men in mind.  About how a man might feel if he walks into a room decorated in a masculine style to attend Bible Studies, breakfasts, etc.  I know of churches who have hung tools on the walls in the men restrooms; another church hanged pictures of old cars and motorcycles, they even had a 1957 Bel-Air Bench Seat sitting in the room.  Maybe take a room and turn it into a ‘man-cave’.  There was one church that had taken a WWII P-31 training aircraft and hanged it in their Family Life Center.  Don’t be scared to decorate areas of the church campus with the men in mind.  Encourage your music leader to think of men when they are planning the music for the weekend services.  Sing some manly songs, warrior songs, songs that help a man feel like a man of God worshiping the King of kings and Lord of lords.  Remember men sing lower so do an occasional song in the lower registers to make it easier for men to sing.

These are areas I believe most every church can improve.  We not only want to speak into men’s lives but we also what them to know they are welcomed, important, and vital to the life of the church.  So take a long look and evaluate where your church may be able to improve as you develop the ministry to men as a vibrant and effective ministry.

Together in the challenge and adventure to disciple men – Mike

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