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Andy Holt – Live Deeply

I’m Andy Holt, a pastor here at CSPC for 28 years, and this is some of how I’m living deeply. God has been so good to me.

I was successful in the world’s eyes, but life was so empty. And it was that emptiness that God used to first start drawing me. I came to see there has to be more to life than just having the American dream, because I had the American dream. I was selling real estate in Nashville, wasn’t married yet. I’d started out in banking and was loaning large sums of money to some not-so-smart people who were making a lot of money in real estate. I said, ‘If that guy can make money at that, maybe I can, too.’ It was going very well. Because of Dad’s name (my father –same name as me- was president of UT), lots of doors opened up. And God had given me a personality that people could get along with, or at least tolerate. But it was the emptiness of success that drew me to God. I was going to a church, just because it was one block away from where I lived. Convenient- I could party Friday and Saturday nights and still be a good Christian. I could get rid of a headache or hangover and still get to an 11:00 service one block away. One Sunday, the head of internal medicine at Vanderbilt came to speak to our Sunday school class (where we mainly talked about football, basketball, cars, and boats). I don’t remember anything he said. But doctors make pretty good real estate clients, so afterward I went up to him to see if I could build a bridge. He looks me in the eye and says, ‘Andy, do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?’ Well, I’d always been a liar, and we were in a church- I mean, the obvious answer should be yes, so I said yes. Then he invited me to come and pray with a group of guys- they met once a week, from six to eight in the morning, for intercessory prayer. So this one guy with spiritual life came into our spiritually dead Sunday school class where I was looking for money, and through this group he invited me to, I heard the gospel. And I mean I really HEARD it through these men praying, because they prayed a lot of Scripture. The group met at the home office of a Christian counselor, and he was the one who led me to Christ.

I’d become a Christian at a later age -31- so all I knew to do was follow in my mentor’s footsteps, becoming a Christian counselor and a missionary. Then, in 1987, I came on staff at CSPC. We didn’t have any leadership development process at all. But a friend of mine in Nashville had started this thing called CLC: Christian Leadership Concepts (it’s now called Christ-Led Communities). It’s a two-year equipping program to help men follow Christ. I asked if I could borrow his curriculum, and that really started my involvement with men’s groups concentrated on studying God’s word. David Reynolds and I were the first co-facilitators. So often we find men in the church who certainly belong to Christ, but they’re just not growing or serving. Through these groups, I’ve seen God bring that growth. That’s why I’m leading my eighth CLC group right now. But I’ve got other groups also. One is a support group for men who are disabled. Another is a remnant of that first CLC group (it’s been meeting together for 34 years now). And there’s another that started as a CLC group and is still meeting weekly 23 years later. I haven’t seen any form of ministry more effective at transforming men’s lives. I did some preaching in my life of ministry, did a whole lot of teaching, but that which has had the most impact is men being in a small group where it was not just studying, but being encouraged and being challenged. Through these groups, being able to watch what the Holy Spirit does within a man to change his thinking, to change his heart and therefore change his life and what’s important to him, that has been just fabulous to be a part of. Because anybody involved in counseling knows YOU can’t change people, but the Holy Spirit CAN change people. That’s what I get to see within these groups: the mystery of the Spirit’s work. I guess one of the most important issues we ever cover is learning how to forgive. Most people, even Christians, don’t really understand what God has done for us. But if we can see the pattern of what He has done for us, then it makes it so much easier to forgive somebody else.

Let me unpack a powerful example of this growth in forgiveness, from very early in my ministry at CSPC. A fellow in one of my small groups had gotten married -I had done the premarital counseling- and during the honeymoon his wife said, ‘I want to go back to my old boyfriend. I don’t want to be married to you anymore.’ You talk about forgiveness issues! (The marriage ended up getting annulled.) The deeper a wound is, generally, the longer that it takes- because forgiveness is a process. It’s not a one–time decision, like, ‘Well, I’m going to forgive.’ It’s a process. This man came through wonderfully, genuinely forgave his former wife, and has become a Christian leader. He and his second wife have tremendous ministry gifts and have really used them. When I recall stories like that, it drives home the primary way these groups have affected me: They’ve put me in awe of God. Seeing Him change men, each with our own unique mix of complexity and variety, it’s amazing that we could ever be unified. But that’s where He’s taking us, and that work is starting right now. I just find that to be fascinating. I think another lesson learned for me personally is how important fellowship is within these groups. We pray with and for each other because we’re developing our faith life together. We’re learning to trust God- because we’re asking Him to do things we can’t do or influence; things only He can do. How can it not put you in awe when you see Him answer and work? So I think for me and for others participating, it’s heartening that we get to see how powerful God is, how wise He is, how good He is, how loving and faithful, and so many other attributes we could list as well.

I need to emphasize again how important it is that men are challenged in these groups. I’ve needed guys who said, ‘Andy, you said you wanted to be like Jesus. Would you like for me to tell you about an area where I think you are not like Jesus?’ Do I like that immediately? No, but once I get over my pride, I see that every time someone has challenged me in these groups, it’s been accurate. God has been using those to enable me to learn how to love, particularly with compassion. A lot of men who are leaders are like, ‘Let’s get on with the next thing.’ Often, we’re not compassionate. So God takes us through lots of trials and testing to get us there. He changes my heart and mind, and hopefully I will cooperate with what He wants me to do. I guess the biggest and deepest thing I’m still learning is how to love the particularly unlovable people we all have in our lives. Most people are good at something- I’m just good at judging and being critical, so I can judge other people really easily. But the Lord’s been teaching me (I have a long way to go) how to love like He loves us, which is unconditional. And I’m in that process as I grow in awe of how merciful, how loving, and how faithful He is. If you’re a man looking to grow, I’d encourage you to get involved in one of these types of groups. Don’t let busyness become an excuse. As men, we all know we’re far from what God intended us to be. Being involved in a good small group concentrated on God’s Word and Christ-centered books, forcing us to look at ourselves, to look at God, to see who He is, to study other men… the opportunity for growing is just amazing. Or we can say, ‘I’m too busy– the time and study are too costly’, and continue on in the same patterns. (Which, by the way, is grieving God, because He’s planned for our lives to be so much more.) Spending your time on screens or bodybuilding or whatever you’re into won’t satisfy. I’ve been there- it leads to emptiness. Small groups, on the other hand, have given me bosom buddies who I know, anything that happens, if I call on them, they’ll come running.

To learn more about men’s small groups at CSPC, contact Landon Paul: landonpaul@cspc.net.

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