Modern, western Christianity seems to struggle with reaching men, particularly younger men, and many are starting to wonder why.
Researcher and sociology professor Michael Kimmel stood in front of his class, whiteboard marker poised. “What does it mean to be a good man?”
An awkward silence followed with rustling papers and creaking chairs.
“Let’s say it was said at your funeral, ‘He was a good man’,” Dr. Kimmel elaborated. “What does that mean to you?” He wrote as students began hesitantly offering up words like honest, caring, considerate.
“Now…” he turned to the still blank side of the board. “Tell me what it means to be a real man.”
“Take charge. Be authoritative,” a guy in front said almost immediately.
“Take risks,” a girl added.
Another said more slowly, thoughtfully, “It means suppressing any kind of weakness.”
The Church Struggles With Guys
This disconnect between the good and real for men has perhaps been felt most in the church where sermons seem to command men to be Mr. Rogers and society screams at them to be either Gerard Butler the king of Sparta or “Caitlyn” Jenner.
One of the first things you may notice upon entering an evangelical church is that there are probably more women than men.
IF Studies did a comparable analysis of men and women in Christian religious traditions and found that the statistics, at least on the surface, appeared less alarming than they’re sometimes made out to be. However, the numbers changed significantly when they considered men versus women who actually show up to church.
They noticed that, among the major Protestant churches, “…in terms of who actually shows up, the average Sunday service probably has more like 71 men per 100 women.”
These statistics are hardly surprising. Please observe the worship that usually comprises only of singing (with lyrics like “Jesus, how beautiful you are”—Have you ever heard a straight man tell another man he’s beautiful and not as a joke?—and “love will never die”). Listen to the announcements that the church needs more volunteers in the toddlers’ room. Check under your seat for the box of tissues.
Church these days often has a feminine flare. Add to this how little instruction the church seems to give men on how to lead and acknowledge weakness at the same time, take control and be caring, both take risks and be considerate.
If you’re not a man who particularly enjoys singing or listening to a 40-minute lecture, church is already a struggle without the nebulous messages about masculinity.
The Bible’s Not-So-Saintly Men
An uncertainty about manhood is one that Christian men don’t have to keep.
“The confusion indicates that we have forgotten our roots. Too many men live isolated,” Desiring God writer Greg Morse says, “not only from each other but from our ancestors. We need not reinvent what a man is, but only rediscover him.
“How? By forsaking the uncertain sounds of society and hearkening to the war drum of Scripture. God calls us to fellowship with giants—or those who slayed them—great men who have run the race before us and offer their strengths, weaknesses, and sins to instruct us on how to walk before God this side of heaven.”
Genesis 12-25 tells us about Abraham, a man who was a pagan and a coward but became a man of faith as he followed God’s call across the known world in search of a homeland.
Genesis 37-50 follows Joseph on his journey from a spoiled kid to a man who steadfastly resisted sexual temptation, became a government leader and saved a nation.
Joshua submitted to the leader of his people but was threatened by others’ abilities (Numbers 11:16-30) until he learned how to have the peace of God’s plans and timing, and he experienced God’s power.
David was a songwriter, warrior, poet, king, adulterer and man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 16 – 1 Kings 2).
Elijah wrestled with depression and suicidal thoughts, and God called him to take a stand against the corrupt leaders of his country (1 Kings 17- 2 Kings 2).
We could go on and on, exploring the lives of biblical men like Moses, Gideon, Samuel, Solomon, Elisha, Ezra, Malachi, John the Baptist, Peter, Timothy, Silas, Barnabas, James and many more. “All of these men had two things in common,” points out Thomas Nelson in his book Why Men Hate Going to Church, “they had an intense commitment to God, and they weren’t what you’d call saintly.”
A Different Path to Walk
In an age of postmodern ambiguity, the church needs not-so-saintly men who have a fire in them for God and his commands.
This is not to say that the church needs machoism or to become a male-dominated sphere, but we’re all robbed of something vital when men are froufrou-ed out of the church and don’t obey the Bible’s commands to lead.
So how do men find this path?
In his sermon “Men of Another Sort,” David Wilkerson examines some of the lives of Old Testament prophets, men who were driven by a fiery passion for God: “Long before God laid his hand on Ezra, this man was diligent in searching the Scriptures. He allowed himself to be examined by it, washed by it, and cleansed of all filth of body and spirit.
“As a result, God saw in Ezra a man who was saturated in his Word. Ezra hungered for the Scriptures and rejoiced in them. In short, he allowed them to prepare his heart for any work God chose for him. That’s why the Lord laid his hand on Ezra and anointed him.
“Yes, God’s anointing is supernatural. But he lays his hand only on those who are wholly given to knowing and obeying his Word. That’s where all anointing begins.
“No one can expect God’s touch in his life if he isn’t passionate about the Scriptures.”
He concludes, “I urge you, set your heart today to seek God with all diligence and determination. Then go to his Word with ever-increasing love and desire. Pray with fasting for brokenness, to receive his burden. Finally, confess and forsake everything that hinders the Holy Spirit from opening heaven’s blessings to you.
“The path of “men of another sort” is open to everyone. Will you walk in it?”