OK, first of all, I will admit. I am supposed to be writing on my novel, finishing the last few chapters of a five-year project. Instead, I am writing my blog and hoping inspiration will kick in sometime before winter.
And my second caveat is that I am breaking one of my own rules. I am going be using some generalities, which are always dangerous. At the least, it will stimulate some discussion. At most, I may have a lynch mob at my door tomorrow.
Years ago, I had on my to-list a book of Christian stories directed at 12-year-old boys. I called it “Action Jesus.” The intent was to focus on the exciting things he did during his three-year ministry that would capture the imagination of young boys in a way that traditional stories might not. I don’t know why I didn’t write it; probably I got caught up in another project. But the reason I was considering writing it is the same reason I write what I do today. I propose that men and boys are left out of much of Christian literature today.
Testosterone is a good thing. It leads men and boys into action. The problem is that often it is viewed as undesirable. Christian writing–and preaching and evangelism, etc.–tend to focus on relationships, sharing and feelings. Many women’s ministries do the same thing (from my perspective). Guys aren’t built that way–most guys at least–and the ministry for men built around relationships and sharing would fall flat on its face.
When women get together, they talk. When men get together, they do stuff. In fact, you have to have the excuse of doing stuff to get two men into the same room at the same time. Get two men in a room together to talk, and they will get bored quickly or look around for something that needs fixing or, in the case of boys, needs breaking. A men’s ministry would have to be built around a need; something that would call for brains and elbow grease, a combination that men can’t resist.
Action is also a good thing. But it usually isn’t viewed as essential in Christian literature. That’s OK; a majority of Christians are women, and a majority of Christian readers are women too. But what about us guys? Is it any wonder that more men don’t go to Christian bookstores? Or even read, for that matter. Much of what I write get the comment from some Christians: “It’s good, but it’s too violent.” I look at it and wonder what they’re talking about. Take a look at the stories in the Old and New Testament. How much violence is in the Bible? Maybe we should write the story of David and Goliath so it’s not so violent. Or maybe the story of the flood has too many people dying. We need a softer Bible? Is that it? I don’t think so.
Hollywood and Madison Avenue have it right. Look at summer blockbusters and you see movies directed at the masculine side of our psyche. Women go to these movies too, which tells me that action doesn’t necessarily alienate women. So why don’t we have more books directed at men that also appeal to women?
Part–shall I say, a lot–of the problem is the whole approach we take in our church services and in our sermons. Church, for the most part, is a passive experience. About the most strenuous thing we’re asked to do is sing songs and pull out our wallet. And a passive experience does not generally appeal to men. But I think once again it’s a Catch 22: we have mostly women in our congregations, so we have taken an approach that appeals mostly to women. That’s the rub and probably why more men don’t come. Give a man a task to perform–one that he considers important–and he’ll be a lot happier.
Dwight L. Moody, the famous evangelist, was once asked after an evangelistic series how it went. “I baptized three and a half men,” he said. “Three men and a boy?” they asked. “No, three boys and a man.” He saw the potential of getting the attention of young boys before they have bought into the world’s view of religion. He also saw how much work there is yet to be done. There is a place for action. There is a place for testosterone.
And take a look at the New Testament and the early Christian church. The 12 disciples–and later the 12 apostles–were men. Not soft-handed men who spent their entire lives preaching and counseling. These were men with calluses on their hands who weren’t afraid of hard work. The Great Commission was social revolution, and it called for men–and women–who weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty and who took the great leap of faith in committing their entire lives to doing what they were called to do.
By now you probably think I am pretty sexist. Men can do everything; women nothing. Far from it. I applaud the many women who have served as the backbone of local congregations in countless situations. But why does it have to be that way? What are we doing to drive men away from our churches? Better yet, what are we not doing to get them to come?
I think it’s time to raise our standards. Men need a challenge, and the church isn’t giving it to them. More than anything, it’s teenage boys that need that challenge. We need to call them to commit their entire lives to what many would consider an impossible task. We need them to surrender themselves–just as the U.S. Marines calls them to–and become the army that will finish the Great Commission in our generation.
Perhaps the best quote that goes along with this blog was written, interestingly enough, by a women. Whatever you feel about Ellen G. White, this quote gives you amply reason to believe in her inspiration by God:
“The greatest want of the world is the want of men-men who will not be bought or sold; men who in their inmost souls are true and honest; men who do not fear to call sin by its right name; men whose conscience is as true to duty as the needle to the pole; men who will stand for the right though the heavens fall.”