TL:DR NOTE: This is an intentionally thorough and lengthy article from our founder, Riley, and obviously won’t be for everyone because of the length. In a sense it is written as a stake in the ground to mark where we’ve been and point where we’re heading. It is a broad look at what we’ve seen and learned the last few years, what we’re seeing currently, and what we’ll be doing moving forward in light of these insights. A few major aspects of TMM as a site, community, and organization are going to change — mostly focused around three major intents. Also, we tell how you can get involved if you want!
To make it easier to consume this content, we’re offering an audio version you can listen to:
This is not my first time to write a post like this. Since TheMajestysMen.com (TMM) first started in 2013, the site has grown and morphed into all sorts of things and almost-things. Twice now, after a year or two of intense growth, we came to a complete stand-still as a site and community. Mostly this has been due to, simply-put, “outgrowing our breeches”. That’s “country-boy” for growing beyond what is capable of being handled.
“Growth” (a vague word to be sure) can be good, but it also has its detriments. One of the clearest detriments we experienced was outgrowing our vision (this was the first year-long pause we took in 2014-2015). Then, we reformulated, relaunched, grew even bigger and more capable of anything, had tons of guys involved (from around the world!) with tons of good ideas, and went in every plausible direction to achieve our vision.
We soon realized we were experiencing another detriment of growth. Though you may have a vision, you can outpace your maturity and ability to wisely execute on, and continue clarifying, that vision. Additionally, the guys serving in leadership had an abundance of life changes and responsibilities outside of their volunteer time with TMM which further made doing well with TMM extremely difficult. Hence, our second slam-on-the-breaks (aka, “pause”) for the last year of 2017.
Since the original inception, TMM has been a community project. I love this about TMM. It will always be a community project. However, this reality brings a lot of difficulty with it. Communities are made of people with all sorts of ideas and passions and skillsets. People with different theological views. People with different desires for their future in ministry or vocation. People with different ideas for what “Church” should be (or even a website that works with the Church).
TMM has fostered an abundance of friendships and connections as well as a fair share of disagreements and challenges between guys. I, and so many others, are thankful for both — well, most of both. It has also been a pleasure to work with so many guys who have donated their time and money and skills to this giant project over the years — an honor and privilege.
Because of these realities though, it became increasingly clear over the last few years that we would need to not just “grow” in a numerical and “capabilities” sense as a website / platform / community / brand / etc., but also grow in clarity of purpose, mission, vision, and execution. Again, it’s not that we’ve greatly lacked these things, but we’ve greatly lacked in clarity and focus and excellence in carrying these things out.
TMM had become such a large infrastructure, in terms of the website and technology, that it was (and is) both exciting and daunting to try to manage it all. Additionally, TMM had become such a large community in terms of guys writing, involved on social media, and serving to keep it all happening, that it became vital, but daunting, to steward our time, resources, and opportunities for influence in meaningful and focused ways.
Community endeavors are my favorite endeavors. With Christians, community endeavors are the best endeavors. However, they’re also the most difficult and require the most wise and careful leadership. This has been a real challenge.
Echo Chambers Of A Different Kind
Before I share some vision for what’s coming, it’s best to share some concern with what’s happening across the web and what we’ve been a part of. And, well, frankly, what I’m tired of being a part of.
When TMM first began, I knew of three other websites even remotely close to what we were aiming to be. As in, sites that were creating content meant for specifically for Christian men. Two of those were both single author blogs with one primary author and at best a few guest posts from others. The other was TheResurgence.com, which was obviously a huge multi-author, multi-type-of-content producing website, which was primarily targeting men with its work but not solely. Otherwise, there were some multi-author sites and there were many men blogging, but none that were both of those combined specifically for men.
That was the webscape of 2012 and 2013. It’s part of why we grew pretty fast and saw a level of “success” as a site despite our immaturity and lack of vision. Times have changed. Specifically, the internet has changed. Everyone has moved online. Every church; every ministry leader or aspiring “somebody”; every ministry, parachurch organization and cause. Everyone has a website, a blog, lots of social media accounts. For many, and perhaps most, that’s all they have — a website and social media accounts. Thus, we are inundated with tweets, articles, graphics and media, news and opinions, and on and on.
Everyone is claiming to change the world (at least eventually) through online communications. At least, they hope to if you’ll just get involved and promote them and sponsor them.
Even in just the last year or so as TMM was “on pause”, numerous websites and “ministries” for men have sprung up and found some followers and some recognition online. It is easier than ever to spin something up and get some social shares and recognition and make promises of all sorts about how you’re going to change the world with your online content.
It’s easy to make a website. It’s easy to make content. It’s easy to get recognition. It’s easy to find people who agree with you and puff you up. It’s easy to fine people who disagree with you and make you feel like you’re fighting a worthy battle. It’s easy to find people who want to join you in that endeavor for their own affirmation and potential recognition. It’s easier than ever to fool ourselves, and others who aren’t watching that closely, into thinking we’re actually doing much of value with our online endeavors.
Typically, the term “echo-chamber” is used to describe a scenario in which we increasingly remove dissenting and opposing voices until we’re left with only people who echo and affirm what we already believe. This definitely happens online.
However, I think we as Christian ministry leaders (men especially) have found that we enjoy a different sort of “echo-chamber” even better. Even more rewarding for us is when we get a bunch of people, all sharing the common interest of ministry/church/Jesus-promotion, but with differing views on what that means in a practical sense, and then start “shouting them out”. We get pats on the back, we get hoorahs, we get attacks, we get defenses, we get adulations, we get justifications, we get recognition, we get rejection, we get praise, and we get persecution.
We get value and purpose and mission… or, at least, it feels like it! And, that’s the whole point!
The echo-chamber we value most is the kind that gives us a platform to lob my thoughts back and forth — amongst dissenters, yes please! — with others doing the same so that we feel to be a part of something big — even better if we get to feel like we are someone big in the midst of it.
So much of TMM’s “success”, in whatever meager way we might define “success”, has been built on the desire for guys to make a name for themselves. I’ve experienced it again and again (in myself and others involved). It’s that pride in each of us, especially us with “word-giftings”, that infects and affects everything we do. It creeps up and justifies doing actions and service for all sorts of noble sounding reasons as a cover-up for the expansion of our name’s glory. It’s actually fairly easy to spot at this point in others. It’s usually hardest to discern in myself.
My point: I’m aware of this online echo-chamber of ego battling. I have participated, facilitated, and observed this closely for a littler over a decade of blogging, social media, and website and community building, and with even more intensity in the last 5+ years of stewarding TMM. I am acutely aware of how absolutely little good it does for anyone — saved or unsaved. And, I am exceedingly tired of it.
Don’t Hear What I’m Not Saying
Yet it is very important you do not hear me say what I am not saying. I do not believe blogging, podcasting, publishing, creating content and building “community” online is negative altogether — quite the opposite! This clarification is very important for reasons I’ll state still coming up.
Additionally, though I’m sick of all the “positioning” and “jockeying” for attention and glory that I watch us all engaging in online, I simultaneously believe the main way I see this fault, and others, being addressed in men is unhelpful and destructive. Too many voices try to combat the sins of pride and laziness in men with shaming and condescension and belittling. I believe in challenging and charging men, sure, but I believe we have gone too far in the direction of “shaming” men in combatting these things.
Not that ironically, I believe this condescension is actually part of what fosters the desire in many young men to jockey and position themselves online as really doing something and knowing something. It’s better to try to be this “somebody” than to be lumped into the group of men whom their role-models speak about as though they’re wasted “nobodies”.
Thus, again, I believe it’s very important to create spaces (many spaces) where guys can write out and speak their thoughts, share what they’re learning, create things, grow with one another, be encouraged and offer encouragement, and hopefully foster meaningful friendships and mentorships in which they can feel recognized, valued, and cared for, and able to contribute to.
So, again, don’t hear what I’m not saying. Even this virtual reality can be done well…
The Increasing Irony Of Celebrity Ministry
Even still, before I tell you what this is all building up to, I must voice one more observation of the negative angle. This negative, flowing from all I’ve previously stated, is an even stranger and hard-to-articulate reality at play these days.
It’s ironic really. Because of the nature of what I have described above, we have gifted leaders and thinkers and teachers who increase in reach and respect online. The more people see a person’s platform grow, the more people rally to that person. Strangely, the more people rally to that person, despite knowing very little about them, the more we tend to deem that person as more “gifted”, “called” or even “sanctified”.
As this continues to develop as an unstated standard of perceived fruitfulness and even holiness, we naturally begin to turn our desires toward achieving this. As young ministry leaders desire this more and more, concerns arise (they are arising) and the discerning start to speak against this (they are starting to).
Yet, we have an ironic situation: those with the most ability to say “don’t desire to be a celebrity” are those who are celebrities!
I have already seen and heard the beginnings of addressing this growing celebrity-status conundrum, but I believe this is an issue that is only going to increase in the days ahead. I can’t say exactly how it will be addressed, but I know it will be. It has to be.
I witness, and converse with, too many young men aiming for that perceived pinnacle of righteous achievement: large Twitter followings, massive share counts on content, book deals, invites to podcast interviews to share their supreme insights, conference speaker requests, and anything else that gives a known status amongst the stars.
It’s as if more and more people must know that we are Godly, respectable, and enviable in our righteousness, and leveraging Jesus might just be the best way to make that happen.
If this lie of a promise for satisfaction isn’t addressed, it will be the disastrous fall of a generation of ministry leaders. Yet that’s why I know it will be addressed in some way — probably multiple ways. God is faithful despite our silliness.
Some of us must come to believe that serving and leading faithfully with our family in a local body of believers and reaching a local community of nonbelievers is the most sure way to achieve lasting satisfaction and to please God in this life and then we must model this and discuss its goodness for years and years so that others believe it.
A wise guy you likely know named Jesus, who never wrote a single blog post, recorded a podcast, or was offered a book deal, once said it well:
“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? (John 5:44)”
We’re going to have to consider these words seriously and examine how we receive glory from one another and address our desires and drives for more of it and how they may be progressively incapacitating our beliefs in what is good and true.
We Return To A Community Endeavor (And Talk About The Vision And Future Of TMM)
So what are we going to do about these realities (along with so many other equally important issues) we face daily as men of God and ministry leaders? This has been the looming question for me the last few years and an ongoing discussion I’m having with anyone who will have it with me. While I have no profound answers (and I’m not sure anyone does), I and some men I’ve spoken with, have begun to form a few suggestions and idea for ways to, as I’ve said, simply “begin addressing” this going forward.
Part of the reason there will be no “profound answers” as we go forward is because the real answers are already given to us as the Church at large and as the leaders of our families and churches. The most obvious one is this:
We return to and exist primarily in community and thus do our work in and through community!
I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with young men over the last few years about their plans for their big ideas, especially websites and causes they’re going to start, and thus how many times I’ve had to ask these guys, “Is there anyone else already doing this that you could simply join and help?” But, I’ve discovered, that’s an alarmingly difficult question to be asked and to answer for many guys!
Also alarming is how short-lived a young man’s investment is on a cause or project that isn’t avidly promoting him or at least his contribution to it. If it doesn’t quickly advance his recognition or promise him access to those he deems worthy of his attention (celebrity ministry leaders), most likely for hopes of recognition still, then he’ll drop out and move on to the next opportunity rather quickly — for all sorts of noble reasons though, of course.
The big problem here is that as long as we’re focusing our efforts on building our own platforms, we’ll probably be persuading others to do that same thing more than we’re persuading them to join with community to magnify the name of Jesus. Of course the primary community we want men involved in is their local and “visible” church body.
Yet, again, there does remain a real value to the online tools and resources and “invisible” community we can create. I believe this wholeheartedly and have experienced wonderful benefits of encouragement, education, insights and wisdom, challenges to my views, tendencies, and practices, and more that I perhaps would have never received from my local circles of relations.
Further, I’m an avid proponent of writing. It clarifies and it catalogues and it carries! It’s a wonderful practice and we have wonderful tools for it these days. What a blessing!
I’m of the mind that any man aspiring to lead others well should write for his own sake, primarily, and write for other’s sake, secondarily, but certainly do both! Just, don’t care so much to be recognized and appreciated for it.
Other forms of media production are pretty stellar too, and no doubt increasing in power, but they all ride on the coat-tails of good thinking expressed in good writing. Do one. Do some. Do them all if you want! And, do them in like-minded, Christ-exalting community!
TMM Wants To Help – Our Plan Going Forward
So here we finally arrive at some substance of what we’re doing, and going to be doing, going forward as TMM. You’ll see why all the previous words were necessary. You’ll hopefully have more insight into what this will look like and why we’re doing it.
Focus On The Local Church
However, for the sake of clarity from the start, and because I won’t address this clearly until the end, it is worth stressing even one more time that it is our conviction (as in, mine and every guy’s involved with making TMM happen), that the value of TMM is first and foremost in how we assist in strengthening the local church to make much of Jesus. As we’ve considered the future of TMM, this has been the motivating and driving question. God promised to build his church, not his websites, para-churches, non-profits and other stuff.
All the previous thoughts stated here have come from and through the increasingly relevant conviction that if we aren’t tied to and through local and visible church bodies, we probably aren’t doing much, if anything, with the kingdom of God. We could even be harming the kingdom-cause as we appear to be a seemingly noble distraction.
Clearly, building something and then growing and asking “hey, how can we help the church” is not the best way to go about things. Ideally, TMM would have been built in reverse, starting with feeling and articulating a need in the local church and stemming out from there to help others in their contexts, if stemming out at all. In a loose way, this was how we began, but it wasn’t intentionally and knowingly done so and certainly not from one specific church body.
However, as we have reassessed every bit of TMM over the last couple years, this has been the one matured and overarching conviction: how are we assisting in building and strengthening the local and visible churches of our men’s communities?
I was prepared to happily scrap every bit of TMM if that couldn’t be answered. However, I believe we’re onto something great in regards to this.
What We’ll Be Doing Going Forward (3 Main Intents)
Now, let’s start with the obvious and the simple first:
1. TMM will continue to create content.
In fact, we’ll be creating more and better content than ever before, hopefully. What I mean by better is the significant part.
TMM was never meant to compete with the big sites and resources as places you’d go to look up theological view points and educate yourself on a matter. If you’re torn between searching for a topic on The Majesty’s Men or Ligonier for knowledge on a matter, you’re a fool. Rather, it was meant to be a place of promoting discussion around real-life activity (hence our action-based categories) as men of God, and thus promote and facilitate real-life friendship and mentorship amongst like-minded brothers of the Christian faith.
So, for example, it’d be more likely that you’d find a post from a guy saying, “I was wondering about this matter because of this, and so here is a list of resources I found extremely helpful. Any thoughts or other resources you guys would suggest?”, and that article would then be linking to those other sites like Ligonier and so many others.
Admittedly, our content veered into a bit of anything and everything. Categorizing stuff we produced the last year became almost a joke sometimes. Worse, knowing what to expect from us was impossible as a reader. Pressed for time and resources, we devolved into just a platform for guys to publish anything and, for many, a platform to hope to get noticed for the latest thing they were thinking about.
Some of the content was still excellent, to be sure, it just would have been excellent for any site on the planet… which isn’t the point of TMM.
Further, it became increasingly obvious that the most fruitful way forward would not be to have an unpredictable mix of theological view points that lead to distrust of content being produced and a continual decline in trust of who we are and what we’re about. Besides that, we were primarily attracting like-minded men anyway.
We only occasionally would have guys join who didn’t know much about the rest of the community, rightly so, and then would feel either disappointed or out of place and sometimes take on a nature of being offensive and controversial with the rest of the community.
So, we’re coming out in the open with our theological views, and we will openly declare that you can expect more clearly-declared theological content. Again, we’ve never really hidden our views, but we’ve promoted, a bit too much, openness toward any “believer” to contribute “for the sake of discussion”. However, this mostly lead to troubles and not a lot of additional edification.
So going forward, we’re going to have strict requirements on our content from the central site of TMM addressing the question of, “Specifically why and how does this concern or affect me as a man of God?”
Additionally, writers will need to affirm adherence to one of some select creeds, confessions, or statements of faith, which, you will soon see, resonate the most in the so-called “reformed theology” camps.
You’ll know what we’re talking about on here at all times, with each piece of content in any form we produce it… if it’s straight from the central TMM site.
This leads me to the next bit:
2. TMM is going to give an intense focus to building out the network.
“The network” — which we were once referring to as the Adelphotes Network until it became ridiculously annoying to hear people try to pronounce it — is our literal website network of blogs and sites being maintained by us and produced by upstanding and exemplary men of God serving and leading in their local churches and communities.
We are now referring to this as the HNR.GD Network. See what we did there? (Yes, it’s a domain we own.) And, again, it’s an actual network. We host their sites on the infrastructure we’ve built and make available all the bells and whistles and tools we have.
Why these guys? That’s the golden question! This endeavor aligns with and promotes the greater purpose of building up men of God for the local church because these actually are men of God modeling what we want other men of God to emulate. Simply put, these are men who would qualify to be elders in their local church body — most actually already are that, in fact.
Beyond being Biblically qualified to be an elder, and being a leader and example in their local circles of influence whether they’re officially an elder or not, these are and will be men who are “carrying weight”.
What we mean by “carrying weight” is they are responsible men taking on noble responsibilities. Leading churches well. Leading families well. Leading businesses or organizations well. Handling the Word of God well. Not exalting themselves but exalting Christ well. Dealing with people from all walks of life in exemplary ways. Continually growing in their desires and abilities to love others, glorify God in all things, and enjoy doing it!
I think of this verse when I think of the men involved and the men we’re talking to about being involved and the men who will be involved in the future, Lord willing, and don’t even know it yet:
“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” (Proverbs 27:2)
I smile when I think of this because these guys are very much worth praising, but won’t be praising themselves. So we, as a community, will praise and promote each other for the sake of encouraging and edifying one another as we seek to be, and raise up, faithful men of God.
We do not place limits (other than godliness) on what these men produce on their sites. The point is simply for them to use their gifts to communicate and to model living lives as the Godly men they are in whatever way, concerning whatever issues, the Lord has them doing it in.
So, if “who will these guys be?” is the golden question, the silver question to this intent is, “What do you mean as ‘give the network an intense focus’?”
For the first few months of 2018, I and another developer, Ryan Northfield, have been working on a complete overhaul and rebuild of the central TMM site and everything involved in it. As we have worked, we have continually focused on streamlining our tools and resources for repurposing for the guys on the network.
We are going to offer nearly every tool and resource we use for the central site, as well as other developed specifically for them, to the men and partners on the network.
We have already begun building out new site designs, features, and capabilities for these men that we’re really excited to offer them soon.
We will continue to do exactly this in the future as a core part of TMM. We see this as an essential element in our future — building out and supplying specifically ministry-minded tools and features and resources for creating modern, beautiful, user-friendly, easily-produced and easily-consumed content and projects.
We have many great ideas we plan to accomplish for the network in the near future, and I’m exceptionally excited and grateful for the clarity we have gained on this vision.
I believe it will certainly help in battling against the prideful cravings we have to promote ourselves and spend countless hours working on bettering our platforms instead of loving and serving our churches, families, and friends, and the unbelievers around us.
We can use our gifts, together, and make much of Jesus, together, and model a better way of producing and communicating for others to emulate all while we promote one another as men of God that others can emulate.
And this leads me to the third big intent:
3. TMM is going to focus on facilitating face-to-face friendship and mentoring as a primary purpose for our existence.
Again, TMM was never about being a big platform for guys to get recognized or even just to publish something random they were thinking about, and it was never about being a big database of knowledge that people would recommend to others when they have a burning question so that we could monetize it, leverage it, or even use it for nobles causes.
TMM was originally founded simply because I was experiencing rich gospel-centered friendship and peer-to-peer mentorship amongst a brotherhood of young men and believed others should as well. As I asked other friends in different locations and campuses and churches if they had that, they longingly lamented that they did not. I felt sorry for them because I knew how good it was for me.
I told my local brothers we should try to capture our conversations, learnings, and insights we were gaining from each other and post them online for others to partake in. Even more so, I wanted to inspire others to see this could easily happen in their local contexts with just a tad bit of leadership and initiative.
This is just a return to, and better execution of, this original good idea and purpose. We’re working on a “plan” right now for facilitating this sort of thing — a friendship and mentoring “thing” — in a real-life, face-to-face context way.
And, to be clear, we’re not trying to make some, “buy this study guide” or “follow this program” sort of thing. No, no, no. Those are rarely helpful and especially not for busy men. The point is not to build some marketable, branded thing that keeps you paying us for some latest and greatest cure for your church’s problems or something.
However, that’s about the only details I can share with you at this point for a number of reasons. I know, it’s disappointing after all this build up. But, we have some work and development to do on all the details before I share more about what we’re envisioning.
Again, we desire for this to be a primary purpose and directive for our existence — a core aspect to all we are and say and do. So, this will be talked about much more in the coming months. Right now it’s simply important that you know this is what we’re desiring to be about as we go forward.
How You Can Be Involved And Make This Happen
For sure there will be more to all we do — we have a number of exciting content plans, plans for how we’re going to develop the shop on TMM, how we’re going to relaunch our flagship show, Hold Fast Chats, some products ideas, and other stuff — but we can’t get into it all here.
These three intents will continue to be the big three initiatives that all we do will revolve around and support.
So, do you want to be a part of the fun still — or maybe for the first time ever? That’d be super! We’d love to have you involved!
There will be more ways to be involved in the coming months, but here are a few immediate ways:
- Be a content contributor. We are opening back up to accepting and publishing articles and would love to have you contribute. If you have an account on TMM already, log in, go ahead and submit a new draft or revive one of your old drafts in there. If you’re new, head over to the join page to get an account or simply watch for a new button in the top right coming soon which will say “Contribute”, or something like that. If you have ideas for content other than written words (such as multimedia content), so do we! Hit us up and let us know what you’re thinking. We may be able to make it happen if it’s a good fit!
- Serve on our team of “stewards”. You can check this page of lead roles we call “stewards” for opportunities which you can specifically join in and serve with us to, quite literally, help us steward TMM and make things happen. We’re talking social media managers, editors, developers, designers, audio engineers, content curators, shop managers, and so on down to very specific tasks. We will be adding to this page in the weeks and months ahead. But, there are already opportunities on there that we know we need some guys who are the right fit for. View the page for all the details and contact us if interested.
- Give us some social media love. Even if you don’t have the time or skills right now to contribute or serve in what we’re working on, the guy in your network might! The guys in your network might also be desiring what we’re producing and need to know about it! We would love to have you interact with our social content, share our site content, and/or share just simply who we are and what our mission is across your social networks! We’ll give you a big virtual high-five!
- Make a financial donation to our efforts. Really, this stuff takes money. We don’t take money (the people), but this work does! More than you’d think! We could definitely use your help, and if you hop over to the donate page and lend us some financial support we’ll give you a big virtual high-five (and probably more)!
Brothers, I’m looking forward to what we can do together. I really appreciate all your involvement the last 5+ years. I hope you’ll join in for the even better days ahead!
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” (Romans 12:10-11)