Is the church for men?
It’s early. I’m dressed up on a weekend. Walking through halls of flowers and Hobby Lobby decorum, I’m wrapped in shades of mauve and taupe leading to a larger room with different shades of mauve and taupe (is that periwinkle I see?) to sit for an hour. During that hour, I will see a guy telling me to be more, do more, quit looking at porn, get a haircut, and point to a picture of a thoughtful effeminate-looking man with Pantene hair, South Beach body, and Oil of Olay skin saying, “Why can’t you be more like Him?”
After a few more songs about how much we love that effeminate man, how we want to be in His embrace, and asking Him to be with us, we shuffle out amongst the crowd, pretending we understand, agree with, and are doing all the things the “moral superman” said from the stage. “Just get me home,” we think. “There is football at home.”
For many men, this is church. And in many places, the church is screaming, “This is not for you!” It looks like a safe place to keep your wife busy, your kids off drugs, and make it seem in some way that you are doing the right thing for your family and maybe “earning a few points with the Big Man.”
Then you get the invitation. It’s to a man-specific church event to draw in the men and make them love being manly men modeled after “The Man.” The mauve is covered by camo. There are guns, hunting lessons, fishing tips and all the smoked meat you can eat with your bare hands. See? The church is relevant to men!
At the other end we have MMA pastors in Affliction t-shirts stroking their beards and cursing at us from the book of Ezekiel. Men yell more, read more John Piper and aren’t afraid to down a beer for the glory of God! See? The church is relevant to men!
My intent is not to debate, demoralize or bemoan these things in the church. They can be great tools.
But what are we teaching men about being godly men? Do we care more about taking a man through Field & Stream than 1 Timothy? Could it be we uphold a culturally-specific depiction of manhood in order to conform men into a deeper culturally-specific sense of manhood in order to make our churches look more culturally-specifically-masculine, all the while never getting to the heart of what real biblical manhood is?
Why do men struggle so much relating church life to daily life?
In large part, I believe it is because we have dropped the teaching of Biblical manhood in the church and replaced it with a morally sound version of men we see on TV. But God’s intention of manhood is much more broad, yet determined, and specific.
Here is a working definition we utilize with a group of guys that gather on Friday mornings. Based on Gen. 2, Eph. 5, and other passages, we conclude biblical manhood is: The glad acceptance of sacrificial responsibility to provide and protect for the glory of God and the good of others. This is just one definition.
How do we learn to do this? The church. Titus 2 tells us that older men and women are to teach, guide and invest in younger men and women. This is echoed by 1 Tim. 5 and modeled by Jesus, Paul, Peter, Moses, Abraham, David, etc., in the Scripture. Older, more seasoned men should invest in younger men. Paul, Peter, Moses and our other biblical forefathers were not perfect men, but they were investors in those who would lead behind them.
For older men, your missteps and experiences are not simply should haves, would haves and could haves for you. For a generation of men behind you, they are maps. What pitfalls should I avoid? What trajectory will get me from point A to point B? Where are the sharp rocks you hit that I could avoid? How do I get my kid to sit down in the bathtub?
Ultimately, the scope, trajectory, and definition of a godly man is given from the inerrant, inspired, sufficient, relevant across-time-and-culture Scripture. How that plays itself out has been and continues to be in narrative and relationship, story and direction, letters and challenges.
Men, perhaps the godliest thing you could do today is teach a younger man how to change his oil. Not because, “Men know how to change oil!” but as a way you can equip him to provide for and protect his family for the glory of God. The most meaningful investment you could make today may not be in a 401k, but in asking a young dad what his fears are in raising his son. The most life-deepening adventure you may have could be sitting down with a young man over Ephesians 5 and confessing, “This is where I’ve messed up at this.”
The church is not for you. The church is not for me. The church is not for women or men. The church is for Jesus Christ. Ephesians (and so many of Paul’s letters) reminds us, we are individual stones in a greater structure joined, held together, and united in Christ, for Christ and His purposes.
Can men enjoy camo and dead deer? Sure. But it doesn’t make them men. Following Christ’s design makes them men. Wouldn’t it be something if the church became known as the place for training true men? Perhaps we could take strides in that direction if we each took a little more time to show and guide men to become more like Him. After all, this is what Paul has done with the church through his letters. This is what Jesus did to his young disciples. This is what some men by God’s grace are doing for me. This is what I pray to do for younger men.