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Lost in the Pew
“Men today need to experience Christ in all of His masculinity and power, and they need to do so in a context that speaks their language in the company of other men.”

At our recent annual men’s retreat, we called out the teenagers who were there and had their dads stand in front of them, lay their hands on them and bless them   We then welcomed them into the adult male community of faith at Calvary Church.  The previous evening, we had dads and sons, and fathers- and sons-in-law speak public words of grace and blessing to each other.

The feminization of both the church and our culture at large doesn’t provide many opportunities for this kind of thing to happen.  At Calvary, we strongly believe that it’s about time the church did!

We also told the teens we didn’t consider them to be children any longer, but young men and spoke of other men who, at their age, had fought in wars, opened up the prairies and got married and raised families.

We told them outright that we would now expect them to act like men, and not spoiled adolescents lost in a world of their peers and ipods, waiting to grow up.

In a very real sense, we helped them cut the apron strings and enter a brand new world.  The world of men.

We spoke of having a spiritual father, of benefiting from such a relationship, and of being a father to others.  We spoke of the cause of Christ and the need for a band of brothers to encourage and support one another along life’s path.  Pastor Mark Hazzard of Parkwood Gospel Temple in Windsor, Ontario, led us through that process.

Men today need to experience Christ in all of His masculinity and power, and they need to do so in a context that speaks their language in the company of other men.

Look at a typical Canadian church today:  most volunteer roles are filled by women.  The sanctuary is normally decorated in soft colours, with draped baptisteries and large floral arrangements.  More than half of those seated in the sanctuary are female.  A disproportionate number of married women attend church without their husbands.  When it comes to worship, many of the newer choruses sound more like crossover love songs and often speak of being in someone’s eternal embrace. Most men find it difficult, if not impossible, to relate to these songs since it’s not how they normally think or speak. I’ve watched carefully from the platform in any number of services and seen men sit passively or stand with arms crossed in a defensive posture while such songs are sung. For most women this is not an issue. For most men, it is. My point is this; language that is understood by both genders is healthy.

I carefully review the songs that we sing on our men’s retreat.  We try to use songs that speak instead with masculine imagery and language, the kind of words they would usually use themselves in normal daily living. Ask men why they enjoy listening to Tim McGraw sing Live Like You Were Dying, and listen carefully to their answers.

I remember a couple of wild turkey hunting seasons ago when I met a young man in a cornfield who asked me what I did for a living. I told him I was a pastor. His eyes quickly scanned my camouflaged appearance and said, “No, you’re not.  You can’t be.  Just look at you!  You’re too…” as his voice trailed off.

“Masculine?” I asked.

“Well, yeah, but I didn’t want to come right out and say that!”  he replied.

“It’s okay,” I said, “I get that a lot.”

Why is that so?  Why do so many guys view pastors as less than masculine, and the men in their churches the same way?  Perhaps it’s because we’ve allowed our churches to become so influenced by our culture that they’re now places where we play it safe, avoid risk and seek security. Women and many seniors are security oriented, while men and younger adults are more open to taking risks.

In the church, we use words like “relationship,” “nurture,” “humility,” “safety” and “meekness” more often then “challenge,” “mentor,” “adventure,” “sacrifice” and “risk.”  I’ll always remember Rev. H. H. Barber telling me, “You get what you preach for,” and he was absolutely right!

Many of our churches have settled long ago for mediocrity in all areas. Most men want excellence.  The toughest engine, the biggest truck, the best fly rod, the fastest computer are what turns their crank.  “Go for it…git ‘er done!”  is what they’ll say. Unfortunately, what they often hear is, “Well, I know that God wants us to have faith, but He also gave us a brain, and we need to be reasonable, too.”  Yuck.

Men today are longing for affirmation.  They’re looking for strong, male leadership…leaders who can be counted on.  They want challenges, not committee work.  Give them a cause that will cost them something, and they’ll go for it.  Perhaps we need to rethink our décor the next time we build or renovate!

Jesus made things with His hands.  He walked many miles some days.  He withstood the heat of the desert.  He stared down the religious authorities.  He hung out with fishermen.  He told Satan to get lost.  His passion took Him to Gethsemane, then to Pilate’s hall, then to Calvary.

His friends were outcasts – prostitutes, lepers and thieves – real people with real problems.

That’s my kind of Jesus!

Frank Patrick is senior pastor at Calvary Pentecostal Church in Peterborough, Ontario.

Originally published in Testimony, June 2007.

 

 
 
 
 

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