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Next Level

Sydney Missionary Bible College (Flickr CC).

“Without spiritually-intentional friends we drift into spiritual stagnation.”

David Kitz
Special to Spur Ottawa

For three years, Jesus ran the most effective men’s ministry group ever. It went on to change the world. In terms of small group men’s ministry, Jesus set the gold standard.

This begs the question: How effective and life changing is men’s ministry in your church or fellowship circle?

If your answer is not effective or minimally effective, you are likely not alone.

Since January 2000, Lyle Johnson of Nextlevel Ministries has been trying to change that situation for men in the Ottawa region, and now Nextlevel is growing beyond its Ottawa base.

“Many men are languishing in relational isolation,” Johnson states. “They’re paying a big price, and that’s particularly true for Christian men.”

The rationale for his ministry is quite straightforward.

“A follower of Jesus Christ who navigates ‘The Way’ alone will not fare well. Without a few spiritually-intentional friends, serving as a social anchor, he will drift into spiritual stagnation or moral temptation.”

Johnson sees intentionality and accountability as keys to growth.

Nextlevel’s mission is “to provide men with the opportunity to experience life-transforming spiritual friendships with other men.”

“Growth doesn’t happen by accident,” Johnson explains. “We don’t grow spiritually unless we intend to grow. It happens best when we are connected and accountable in true friendship. It’s a friendship that goes deeper than just talking about last night’s hockey game.”

Currently, 35 Nextlevel covenant groups meet weekly to open the scriptures and their lives to one another. As a result, 250 men are experiencing deep spiritual friendships as they commit to encourage each other as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

In 2015 Nextlevel started groups in three new cities: Cornwall, Kingston, and Napanee.

Later this month Lyle Johnson is flying to Vancouver to train group leaders there. He admits that while that’s exciting, there is still so much to do in Ottawa.

“Here in Ottawa, we probably have 5000 to 10,000 Christian men who need to be connected into lifelong friendship groups, centred on Jesus.”

“We believe a man needs ‘friends for life’ to share all the trials and joys of his life, for all the years of his life.”

Andrew Nicholls has been involved in one of Johnson’s covenant groups for more than ten years. After a time he also began leading his own group.

“Being part of two different Nextlevel groups has given me what I have desired for a long time: close friendships with men who are always there for me,” he explains. “It is a safe place to share my darkest thoughts and experiences, as well as mountain top moments in my walk of faith.”

Nicholls goes on to say, “The biggest take away for me is drawing closer to Jesus through my relationship with my brothers in the group. I know God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit better, due to my walk with these brothers.”

Jesus might agree that small groups of men like these can change the world.