Open Air: Men Without Women

Now, what might this be? A discussion of the debut album from Little Steven And The Disciples Of Soul? It’s an inviting prospect, especially when we get to “Princess Of Little Italy”. But, alas, no. I’m simply wondering what “Men’s Breakfasts” are all about. I’ve been to one recently, with another one coming up in the near future, but I’m still not sure about their aims and objectives.

It’s so the men in the church can get together was one suggestion I was given. Hmm. To be honest, I prefer the company of women. I like women. I went so far as to marry one of them: proof, if proof were needed.

It’s something you can invite your non-Christian friends to. Ah yes, friends… I remember them.

It’s to encourage men to be ‘real’ men. That seemed to be the burden of the brief address that was given at the first one I attended, a few days ago. “Man up!” would be a fair summary, I’d say. But I didn’t feel I needed advice on that score: I was wearing Elizabeth Taylor’s “Passion”, layered with “Passion For Men”. Only a real man can get away with that.

A rather more cynical suggestion was that men could use it as an excuse for not going shopping with their wives; instead they could enjoy a full English breakfast and talk about football. It has to be said that the breakfasts eaten on that first occasion were mostly well into heart attack territory, and there was indeed some talk of football. Fortunately, the latter was over before I lost the will to live.

Did anything of value come up in conversation? Well, there was some discussion of open air work, which always interests me, if not other folk. After mentioning Manchester, I was asked why I didn’t do Open Airs in my home town. It’s a good question.

I’ve done it there in company with others from the church that I attended several years ago. Whatever limitations that group of men might have had, the presence of half a dozen men of substantial stature standing with you is a distinct advantage in the open air. Also, responsible companions offer fellowship and a measure of oversight. In Manchester, as I’ve often said, I was not happy to proceed until Dan appeared out of the blue, and then others followed in his wake. In my own town I know of no local churches or individual Christians who would even contemplate this sort of outreach. If you want to know more, feel free to ask me next time you see me.

Men Without Women is also our situation on most Wednesday afternoons in Manchester. Sometimes we have Janet, or a few of her friends, but it’s usually an all-male gathering. Last week, while Stephen was preaching, I was approached by a lady of Indian appearance, with some small face paintings on her forehead that might have held some significance for Hindus, but I know nothing about such things. I was much more interested in the situation that she outlined to me.

She was under pressure from someone who was telling her that she had evil spirits within her, and that he could cast them out for her. “For a price?” I asked. It was a good guess. £180.00 was what he was asking… She asked me to pray for her: not to cast out any demons, but for protection from this individual. Her health was suffering, she said, so I prayed for that as well. As she went on her way, I wished that we had had a woman or two with us who could have talked to her at greater length and offered her more in the way of advice… Please pray, if you would, for this woman and her situation.

And then there were two men who both looked as though they needed a good woman to help them through their times of very real trial. After talking to Stephen and taking some tracts, they made their way over to me as I was preaching, one of them staggering as much as walking, the other, older man bent over as though carrying the cares of the world on his back. Although they claimed to be “born again”, whatever that might have meant to them, they were open and honest about having wandered way off track. Paul, the tall one, was an alcoholic, and his older friend, Simon, was on a methadone treatment program.

I’ve just looked at that section of the GoPro recording again. Stephen is keeping a watchful eye on the three of us, but there is no threat, no aggression there - just two men who are desperate for some sort of help and reassurance. They asked me to pray for them, and I did, to the best of my limited ability. They thanked me - for what, I wondered? - and they went on their way, leaving me to carry on preaching with tears in my eyes. Please pray, if you will, for these two men, Paul and Simon.

Last Wednesday was a day of drenching drizzle, and next Wednesday’s forecast is “light rain showers and a moderate breeze” for the city centre. That doesn’t matter: we can wear waterproofs and work through the rain easily enough. What we really want are your prayers to carry us through any spiritual opposition that there might be.

Hmm. I wonder if anyone has ever thought of an Open Air Men’s Breakfast? A couple of sandwiches, a flask of coffee, and thirty or so men taking turns to preach the gospel, to tract, and to talk to those passing by?

It was just a thought…

Every blessing!