March 25, 2015

Would you use the following words to describe Christian men, in America; “Spectators, consumers, celebrity oriented, lazy, passivity, bored, lethargic; disconnected”?

Howard Hendricks often said that the average Christian church reminds him of a football game where there are 70,000 spectators in the stands desperately needing exercise and 22 men on the field desperately needing rest!

That quote is certainly funny but I must ask a serious question. Is it true, especially as it relates to Christian men?

For years many pastors, authors and researchers have been telling us that men are underperforming and seek ways to reignite men to both the incredible adventure it is to follow Christ as well as the simple responsibility to lead our families and share our faith as Jesus told us to. Are we? What grade would you give the average Christian male? And if you assessment isn’t a good one, what suggestion do you have to reverse our slide?

Noted author John Eldridge tried to help ignite the flame by summarizing the Christian opportunity, for men, this way… “Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.” 

Others have tried a different course. Bestselling author David Murrow broaches the issue with his book entitled “Why men hate going to church”. And Mark Elfstrand of Moody Broadcasting network offers a diagnosis in his book “10 Passions of a man’s soul”. Interestingly, these good men are late comers to the dilemma, as Edwin Louis Cole, the father of the modern men’s movement, tried to forestall the downward spiral of men, spiritually, in the early eighties, with his classic work, “Maximized Manhood”.

Finally, we should ask what the intelligent observers, from outside the church, have to say? They don’t view us any better, wondering aloud about our manhood, especially as related to mature responsibility, the very definition I use of a real man; “a male who lives responsibly” (Ephesians 4:13).

Kay S Hymowitz writes in “Manning Up” – “How the rise of women has turned men into boys”. And Kathleen Parker offers in “Save the Males” “why men matter, why women should care”. Geez, men; apparently we’re so pitiful, at being men, the women pity us!

The conclusion seems to be what Guy Garcia wrote, in his book “The Decline of Men” – “how the American male is tuning out, giving up, and flipping off his future”. Oh my; is it true, men?

Well, to a measure, it is my observation that many men in the sub culture of North American Christianity have evolved into one of two extremes. There are the few zealot’s – parishioners and professionals – the “players”; who are passionately pursuing the faith, “once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). And then there are the tepid majority that are neither cold nor hot (Revelation 3:15, 16). This majority are mostly disengaged, acting more like consumers and spectators, than engaged champions of the gospel.

Not so in India…

A week ago two of our Master’s Men staff returned from India after vetting our contact there; Vinoth Paul. They went, also, to teach at a pastor’s conference set up by Vinoth; an invitation-only event with 60 pastors, hand selected by Vinoth. They came to listen and interact with our men about the Master’s Men ministry. Our purpose was to present our perspective, how we feel called to emulate Jesus’ ministry model – a simple, small group approach, outside main institutions, to men, who will reach others. We came to share our passion, our commitment to a mission dedicated to “fishing”; to preaching the gospel and reaching men with Christian men, where men naturally reside – outside the church.

After three days all the attendees went back home. On the fourth day the Masters Men staff of Tim and Phil, plus Vinoth, went to visit the attendees to see what they thought. What our delegation discovered is the attendees “thought” they should apply the training, immediately!

The conference attendees did not sleep on it. They did not rally a committee meeting. No one voted. In fact no one slept. They simply, immediately, went out and invited men to join them – in a home, out under a tree, wherever – just come; the same offer we make to men here in the US. Therefore, Tim and Phil saw the following results. 60 pastors from at least 4 different Indian states ALL had a team, and they averaged over 10 men each.

Many invited their Hindu neighbors. No women were invited. It was men, only, for men. Many, many, Hindus came to Christ. It worked; and it kept growing. While traveling to another state to serve our first generation teams, Phil heard of more teams being started in more states as those who came to a team meeting, left the meeting to start their own team.

By actual head count, we now have 600+ men, in over 60 teams, in 6 states. Too many 6’s for ya? Don’t worry about it, by now there are 7’s everywhere!

I had to ask myself this question. Why did India blow up so fast with acceptance of the invitation to become a fisher of men for Jesus, when North America doesn’t; instead we sit, soak and sour on the invitation/commission of our Savior. The Indians just got up and went? Why the difference?

I think it can be boiled down to one simple, embarrassing thing. Many Indian men have nothing to distract them but making a living – the same chore we all have! Most Indian men don’t know some “big shot” that captures their adoration nor a local professional sports team to follow and drool over. Nor do most Indian men belong to some mega-phenomenal church/pastor/music ministry, which entertains them. Therefore, just knowing Jesus is a super big deal.

Indian’s are not apathetic but passionate about their faith for they are connected to Jesus. He is all and He is enough. So they gladly go, share, accept misunderstanding and occasional abuse, but more importantly, they realize, daily, the incredible joy of “Being” a Christian and “Doing” what the Master bids them to do.

It’s that simple and that convicting. No need for psycho-analysis, it’s a simple matter of how men in India value Jesus over the rest of life and its pull.

What do you think about that? How would you sum up American Christian men? Can we improve our “game”, men? Am I missing something?

Article by Jim Coté

For further study…

Passivity: John 21:1-22. After all Jesus said did and empowered His men to do, they had difficulty getting started.

Passion: Acts 9: 1-20. Despite a poor start to life, once Paul became a Christian he immediately pursued Jesus and his commission.