SIDEBAR Dinner and Conversation QUESTIONS--Friendship
by Wes Yoder
Use one question or set of discussion prompts each evening, and ask each man to join the conversation.
1. What is the most surprising thing that has happened in your life?
2. What did you learn from your father — both good and bad — about what it means to be a man? What do you admire in him? In what ways would you not want to be like your father? Did he love you? Hurt you? Why or how?
3. How does knowing your father’s life story help you understand why he was silent about his struggles? In what ways does this knowledge provide understanding of your own sorrows and help you overcome silence regarding the things you care about most deeply?
4. Yoder writes that the fears that come to a man in the “tough years” are immense. What fears have the “tough years” brought for you? What do you believe God desires to accomplish in you during this period, which, for many men, is often filled with fear?
5. What is your deepest need right now in this season of your life? What gives you joy?
6. How does God’s gentleness, of all things, make us great (Psalm 18:35)? What is the connection between this seldom-talked-about virtue in our own lives and its ability to produce greatness in a world consumed by the notion that conquest in business, sports, and relationships produces greatness? What is good about your competiveness? What is not so good?
7. A man’s entire story is important! The power of Jesus Christ is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). How is choosing to reveal only our strengths to others and not our weaknesses wishful thinking about our true identity? In what ways does hiding our weaknesses from one another hinder the flow of wisdom and God’s power among men?
8. Why are confession and forgiveness your “keys to life,” as Yoder puts it, “to the fullness of your manhood and to making life the adventure God designed it to be for you” (78–79)? Which is worse and potentially more damaging to you: the hardened bitterness of unforgiveness and a shroud of secrecy regarding your sins and sorrows, or the risk of opening your heart and being wounded again? Why?
9. “To be healthy in your relationships with God and with people,” writes Yoder, “learn to distinguish good voices from bad so you can reject those that repeat only worn-out lies from the enemy of your soul” (92). What voices do you currently hear speaking to you from both sides? What lies or half-truths do you accept as the truth about you? Can you discern whether a thought has a good or evil origin?
10. What makes your marriage strong? What makes it weak?
11. Yoder says that beauty and honor are the two most powerful driving forces in men, but that “beauty and honor must be alive together, or both will die” (113). He says the pursuit of beauty apart from honor can lead to pornography, and honor divorced from beauty can lead to harshness or legalism. Reflect upon the need for beauty and honor to coexist in light of King David’s life and personal struggles. As a result of your struggles, in what ways do you now share (or not yet share) David’s desire “to gaze on the beauty of the Lord”?
12. How has pornography affected your view of women? Start this conversation by having each man tell the story of the first time he saw pornographic or degrading depictions of women — starting with the group leader.
13. The act of “homemaking” is usually spoken of as a woman’s responsibility, but how do you participate as a man in making your home a place of both beauty and honor? What do you want your home to be in the next 20 years?
14. What have you learned from the hardships you’ve been through? Has the value of what you discovered surpassed the cost of your sorrows? What does it mean to allow Jesus — the Man of Sorrows who was acquainted with grief — into your sorrows and to enter, as the apostle Paul puts it, into “the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10)? Do you enter into your brothers’ sorrows? If so, how? If not, why?
15. What is the greatest sorrow of your life? What is your greatest fear?
16. Reflecting on his disappointing experience with an accountability group, Yoder writes, “We did not live out of our weaknesses or understand authenticity…. Ideas about church and Jesus flourished, but Jesus was not the center of our life together” (142–143). What does it mean for a group of men to focus their shared life on Jesus? How are you living this out in your relationships with other men today?
17. Yoder writes, “A man who is unsure of love acts in anger and must lose himself in a cause or a set of rules to find a sense of identity” (156). Do you agree? Why or why not? Do you believe you are deeply loved by God? Why or why not? Do you see a connection between not believing you are loved by our Father and the difficulty you may have in forgiving those who have hurt you?
18. How has placing a high value on performance and results caused you to misconstrue Jesus’ statement to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”? How have your performance-oriented expectations affected the way you view your wife and children and the way you consequently relate to other men within the church?
19. In what ways does your awareness of and cooperation with God’s Spirit, who is alive and at work inside you, transform the way you relate to others in your journey as a Christ-man?
20. What characteristics describe authentic manhood? Make a list of things that might be evidence of something lacking in manhood. Be honest about which item on the list most accurately describes your struggle, and say why this is your struggle.
21. Men are shaped by what they love. What do you love?
22. Spend an evening telling stories about your mothers.
Take time at the dinners around your table to have each man tell the story of his life, and let each man who attends know you care about him. Trust the Holy Spirit will use you, that God cares for each of you more than you do, and that deep friendships with Jesus at the center are His plan for restoring and healing each brother, including you.