Forming Men of Faith

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What is a man? Does hunting in the woods hours on end make men men? Does working on classic cars make men men? Does knowing baseball teams and stats or football teams and players or basketball players and teams by heart make men men? What makes men men?

More so, what makes a man a man of God?

That’s even tougher to answer. How do we form the faith of men when they are boys or teens or in their 20’s? We have Cadets (which are great and has done great things for my 10-year-old son). We teach boys how to build fires and how to camp. We also have Sunday School wherein we teach compassion, love, service, and other wonderful virtues to our boys. But then we chastise them when they rough house, when they create civilizations out of Legos and destroy them, when they play war, or do other things that modern polite church society frowns upon most of the time. We tell them to be like Jesus and teach them not to be how as many developmental psychologists say boys are hard wired to be.

And then eventually they grow up to be men. Somewhat. In his book Iron John, Robert Bly speaks of how men have moved from one side of the pendulum to the other in the perspective of manhood. Man was once seen as the provider, working long hours to provide, leaving wife and kids at home (think of the song “The Cats in the Cradle”). But then men needed to be loving, kind, almost feminine (not trying to be mean, but think of the dreamy guy from the 80’s rom-coms). Bly calls these “soft males.” Not being mean, he says that they haven’t been allowed to live the masculine in life, what they are wired for.

We wonder in the church why men aren’t leading. Women are leading more and more now that the CRC has made it possible for them to do so. But how much are men now leading? Not the wisened older men with the gray hair and years of experience, but the men of the Baby Boomers, the Xers, and the Millennials. Are they stepping forward as men of God, as men of faith?

Have we properly formed men in their faith? We have given many contradictory views on manhood—being rough and tumble but kind and compassionate, be strong and fierce, but able to cry, be independent yet submissive to others, be the knight in shining armor we need but also be Mr. Mom.

And to be honest, many of the books out there on being a man of God haven’t helped. Some of these books are very good, and they take a good solid look at Jesus who was taught as being meek and mild and now turned into a warrior with honor. A warrior with compassion, a warrior with a cause. Men are called to be wild at heart, be tender warriors, be manly men. And then we get back into the swing of things and find that just doesn’t fit.

I’ve heard a number of times it is hard to get men to attend Bible studies. We have a breakfast provided early Saturday mornings (way too early usually for the young men or fathers of young children), we study things that don’t go much in depth or that require no prep time. We have accountability partners but there is no instruction on how to truly be accountable. We don’t share feelings and fears because we don’t want to not look like warriors who are wild at heart.

And then men fail to lead. And the church suffers. And the next generation of boys suffer.

The church needs to look at how we work on faith formation of boys of young men of men in the church. There is a need to allow men to be men, not to be pigeon-holed into a rom-com style view of men. Not to be pushed into flannel when they’d rather wear a suit. At the same time, allow them to see a savior who valiantly went to the cross the die for them as the ultimate warrior so that they too can live as Christ Himself did, as a warrior come to defeat the ultimate enemy and rescue us from the tyranny of the devil.  

What are your thoughts on forming men of faith?

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Identifying "men of God" Is something simiar to what a Supreme Court justice said about identfiyng pornography, "I can't define it but I know it when I see it." For example, Gandhi, MLK . . . . 

Community Builder

Bill...thank you for your response. One of the reasons behind this blog post is trying to define what a man of God is. As stated in the post, there are many different views that are out there about being a man of God. Yet with these mixed messages, we leave the faith formation of men in the cold. The emphasis in this post then is how can we help men grow in the faith outside of "I'll know it when I see it"? Leaving it just to "I'll know it when it I see it" does not give direction to help men grow in the faith. The purpose of this blog post is to begin helping giving direction in faith formation in men. 

Community Builder

It is so difficult to separate cultural gender roles and expectations from what our Lord expects of us as men and women of God. That's where looking at the life of Jesus seems so valuable to me. He is true man (and God); we become more human, the people that God created us to be, when we become more Christlike, more like Jesus.

In Safe Church Ministry, we talk a lot about power, use and misuse of this gift that God has given each of us in different measures. We see Jesus, who had all power, not grasping it for his own benefit, but laying it down, dying on a cross for those he loves. Real men look like that. Giving themselves in love to others. We see Jesus sharing power, empowering all of us with his Holy Spirit. Real men share power, empowering others to be all they can be. Others feel loved and flourish in the company of a man of faith. 

Jesus also was not afraid to show his emotions, anger, weeping, joy, etc. A couple years ago now, safe church ministry hosted a lecture, presented by the Men's Resource Center related to the book "Mascupathy". A main premise in the book is that when boys are denied the opportunity to express their emotions, those emotions come out in other ways, often in violence against others. We are causing harm when we tell boys to "man up" and "don't cry". Perhaps it's not an accident that mass shootings have almost always been committed by men, or that men are far more likely to die violently than women. Real men are in touch with their feelings and can freely express them, the way Jesus did. Godly men don't let pent up emotions erupt in violence. 

Jesus was not afraid to honor others in counter-cultural ways and in so doing he spoke truth to power. He lifted up a child as the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, he honored lepers, prostitutes, and tax gatherers by spending time with them. He called out pharisees for their hypocrisy. Jesus was no respecter of persons; he valued each and every one. Real men honor others, regardless of their status. 

That's enough for now.

Community Builder

Working as a campus pastor I encounter young men in various phases of formation. Many are eager to serve Christ and simply need to be trusted, challenged and mentored to do so. Our churches and schools do a wonderful work in instructing boys in the faith. I usually encounter them when they begin to question what they have learned. That's OK... after a period of discipleship, I take great joy when I witness a young man seize what it means to be seized of Christ.

Often, the key is not in the instructing but the listening to a young man's struggles or simply their zeal, then with gentle guidance, trusting that young man with a ministry task and watching the Spirit work in and through that young powerhouse!

Timothy was a teen when entrusted by Paul with sacred Kingdom work! Look what a great job Timothy did in following the Master! Guidance needed? Of course! ... Older men, do not be afraid to relinquish power, trusting that God has also called the younger man to follow in your footsteps. You know who he is,,,watch him go! Let him be the "apple" of God's eye. Empower him Take delight in him.

Community Builder

Bonnie... Thank you for your insights. As you point out, yes, there are cultural influences in how we see gender roles in the church. I agree that there has been an abuse of power over the years by men. With this being a 700 or so word blog post, there is limitation. Parts that were cut from this blog did attempt to balance some of the gender roles in our church today. Yet we have to be careful in pushing various cultural concepts of gender roles onto the church. Just as years gone by the machismo of male authority was pushed into the leading of the church, today there are struggles with pushing newer thoughts of gender roles into the church as well. We need to be careful and discerning as the pendulum swings.

I agree that in many ways Jesus did show a variety of aspects that are in need for men today. Yet focusing on just Jesus meek and mild does a disservice to men today in their faith development. I believe the role of anyone in power and privilege is to empower others as Jesus empowered his followers. God made us in His image, both male and female, yet, I believe, the pendulum has swung the other way (as Bly and many others both secular and Christian, philosophers and psychologists, since have pointed out) and placed a blueprint on masculinity that goes against how men are hardwired. Men process emotions, experiences, thoughts, and ideas different than women. And that is okay. One is not better than the other. To point to Jesus and show just one side of Him as how men ought to live their faith does a disservice to the Gospel message and the Second Person of the Trinity.

As much as Jesus is shown in the Gospels to be in touch with his emotions, He also acted out in anger such as cursing the fig tree or clearing the temple. He is depicted as a mighty warrior in Revelation. God Himself is not only depicted as a warrior in the Old Testament but refers to himself an describes Himself as such. As men are made in the image of God, we must not deny the masculinity in which men are hardwired with.

When men are not allowed to be men of faith they then are not equipped to fully empower and disciple younger men in the faith. Instead of helping form the faith of the next generation of Godly men the same roadblocks are passed along and then men become more lost. Men need to be allowed to be men in their faith for there is a masculine side to faith as there is a feminine.

I want to be clear, I am not pushing for a complimentarian view of gender roles. I am egalitarian in my view of gender. I also know that being wired differently is okay and should be accepted not forced to be what it is not. I believe that many fear taking steps backwards when discussing what masculinity means. I firmly believe that we do a disservice to men in their faith when we neglect that part of faith they are hardwired for in connection to God's ability to be a warrior, protector, fighter--as long as we fight for the right cause and empower others in doing so. To neglect this does not allow men to truly grow in their faith but instead hinders them and does not allow them to reach their full potential in which they were created for to serve with and along side women who are also made in the image of God.

Community Builder

In my comment I said to focus on Jesus, I meant Jesus as he is revealed in Scripture - I don't see meek and mild there at all.

John Eldridge has offered some good insights into this this in Wild at Heart.

Community Builder

Though there may be some good insights, there are many who believe that this book enforces gender stereotypes that may be unhealthy. I've spoken with many Christian women who find some of it offensive and demeaning.

 

Community Builder

Bonnie.. I appreciate your reflections on how Wild at Heart has been received by those you've spoken with. I can see that you are passionate about this. Every book will always have its plusses and minuses. I see that gender roles and stereotypes are very important to you. The concept of what is healthy and unhealthy in a book needs to also be seen through the lens of how it is interpreted and implemented. Wild at Heart and other books in this vein attempt to engage this discussion of gender roles which has evolved over the years. A different point of view might be offensive and demeaning to those who hold an opposing view. Wild at Heart and other books were written because the opposing point of view was seen also as demeaning and detrimental to the faith development of men.

A question might be brought up: How can we affirm our genders given to us by God in such away that it allows strong faith formation while not derogating the other gender?

You had mentioned a book in an earlier response, what other books might you suggest which counter the arguments seen offensive in Wild at Heart yet also affirm and assist men in growing in their faith?

Community Builder

I think that you misunderstand my sentiments. I am not saying anything about "soft" men. I'm all for men, being all that they are created to be in Christ - wild and free to truly follow where the Holy Spirit leads. I'm also all for women having that same freedom to be all that they are created to be in Christ. That's where my problem with "Wild at Heart" lies. It's less about what it says to men then about the way it limits women. 

Community Builder

Ron...Thank you for bringing up Wild at Heart. I have found that book helpful in many ways save for his stance on ADHD (being ADHD myself, I think he's totally wrong and ignorant of what it is, though the book was written when ADHD still was being debated). This blog post came about as part of my research in a doctoral class I'm taking right now on the book of Judges. I am working on a Bible Study on what it means to be a man of God (and what it doesn't). There are a plethora of books out there that struggle with what it means to be a man of God, with Wild at Heart being but one of them. I believe it is a counter argument against some thoughts in gender studies that attempt to create what Robert Bly refers to as "soft males" in Iron John. Bly is not insulting men who go this direction but he states that there has been something lost over the years. In my research, I have come to find that the majority of books written since the mid 1990's on being a man of God quotes Bly, either positively or negatively, but still they quote him. What I took away from Wild at Heart is that it is okay to be a guy.

Joshua and Bonnie - It might be helpful to note that John's wife Stasi Eldredge‎ wrote a sequel to Wild at Heart, call Captivating, in which she described her understanding of the nature of a woman in God's creation. Neither of these were meant to demean the other, but to push back against the egalitarian movement to erase any gender differences. Rather to see and celebrate the complimentary differences in design and role.

Participant

what is a man of God?  One who will do the right thing even in the face of fear, even at the expense of the "good old boys club",  exposing what is hidden in darkness, doing what is right in the face of resistance and opposition and persecution from their peers and leaders for standing up and doing what is right even though it will make the others look bad.

The man of God will speak out and protect those who have been harmed and abused by those in power, instead of operating in fear and damage control, instead of covering up and protecting the reputation of the leadership causing further harm to those who have been abused... remember Jesus and the woman caught in adultery?  The leaders who brought her to Him, didn't give a rip about her life... they didn't care if she was stoned, she was nothing to them, just an object to be used for their selfish purposes, yet they protected the man involved... don't do this!

The man of God will not shift the blame away from themselves, and will not change the narrative to minimize and distract from their wrong doing, or turn themselves into the victim.  I think of pornography and the horrible fruit which has caused extensive harm in so many ways, including objectification of people, especially women. the percentages of porn in the Church are horrific, beyond epidemic levels... and the CRC is not exempt...

http://www.provenmen.org/2014pornsurvey/pornography-use-and-addiction/

The man of God will confront and challenge his brothers, his friends, his peers in this area.  It is a lie that looking at pornography is no big deal.  It is a lie that looking at pornography doesn't hurt anyone.  It breeds horrible stuff...  including fueling human trafficking.  http://dojustice.crcna.org/article/how-porn-justice-issue   yet, it seems the Church, including the CRC (from my perspective, including research and anecdotal evidence through discussions with people on this subject) barely acknowledges/addresses this, only in secret it seems, behind closed doors, not openly. 

The man of God, will confess, repent, and tell his wife***, and walk in the opposite direction, honoring and protecting the dignity of these women, including his wife, who are made in God's image.  You will be free!  that is a man of God!

The man of God will then help others get free!  Bonhoeffer says... Nothing can be more cruel than the leniency which abandons others to their sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one’s community back from the path of sin.  Read more at: http://www.azquotes.com/quote/467189

The man of God that is truly remorseful and desirous of change, would seek the forgiveness of those they have hurt instead of blaming/attacking them, and instead of making themselves the center of attention, would turn people's attention to those they have hurt.  http://boz.religionnews.com/2015/12/11/an-unholy-alliance-when-mob-forgi...

The man of God will be wearing well used armor... not shiny and new, but beaten up, scratched, dented, muddy and bloody.. that means this knight has been in action, serving Him!

Here is the Warriors Prayer (author unknown):

When it is all said and done, and I'm standing before God, I want to be there bloodied and exhausted and worn from the fight, haven given my all.  I want to place at Christ's feet a well used, yet still razor sharp sword, a battered shield with the Kingdom's emblem faded and dull from years of service, a breastplate with deep scratch marks where the enemy's darts scarred it when my shield of faith dropped low, a helmet of salvation marked by the blows from the mace of doubt being deflected, boots of the gospel resoled many times and lastly, a belt of truth that is as strong as it was when I received it. All to be turned in for my eternal garments of white and a new name given by my King, the King of Kings. 

we recently took our family to the force awakens, I'm not a star wars fan, but my kids wanted to see it...  and my favorite line that is well worth the $100 for our family to watch it, is the maverick droid dude's response to the question asked by the fighter pilot on why he rescued him... and the response is "because it's the right thing"...   Pres. Obama used the same phrase at least 3 times if I recall in the state of the union address...  back to the movie... in a battle, you see this droid start to realize something is wrong, that he is a part of something that is not what he wants to be a part of.  I hope and pray that our men will start to see that something is very wrong...  that the enemy is somehow using spiritual leaders to abuse those who are under them and that this is spiritual abuse, which is abuse of power...  recognizing our battle is not against flesh and blood...

I have had friends who have experienced spiritual abuse from Church leadership ask me "where have all the good men gone?"  "where are the good men in the Church?"  I know you are there and I know you want to be a man of God, so please speak up and do what is right! 

one of my prayers for 2016 is that we the Church will do the right thing..   Yes, it will be hard, and there has been and will be failure, but own up to it, deal with it, learn from it and grow stronger through it, instead of hiding it.

 *** tell your wife... this has been debated, with some recovery programs encouraging men to wait until they are porn free for 6 months to do so as well as the conventional counsel of the world, which pastors will use as well, will advise not to tell at all ...  I disagree and here is something from Lewis Smede's Forgive and Forget P11… Patronizing husbands lie to wives to spare them the pain of knowing the truth.EOQ  the truth will set you free!  confess your sins to one another, and you will be healed... that verse has been twisted in various ways to avoid telling the wife.   So men, do the right thing!  I'm praying for you as part of the Bride of Christ...  and the Bride has made herself ready...

 

 

Community Builder

Bev...

Thank you for your words (and Star Wars quote). I can see the passion you have as you write this. There is an old proverb (I do not know the exact author) that says "Evil triumphs when good men do nothing." My aim in this short post was to encourage men of faith to stand up to be good solid men of faith. With time between now and when this was posted, I believe that there has been some backlash because of remembering abuses happening over centuries of bad theology and wrongful interpretation of key passage. I believe that this is in some ways propagated by popular pastors today such as Tim Keller in his book on marriage (I wanted to throw that book across the room when I read it for a class). Strong women of faith have stood up and served and this should not only be applauded, it needs to be encouraged. At the same time, as you said "Where have all the Godly men gone?" 

Right now I am leading a Men's Bible study for which I am writing the curriculum, and it's on the book of Judges called How NOT to be a Man of God. We look at the areas of how men need to stand up and serve and lead as well again, along side the women that God has raised up. 

How can we encourage men of faith to stand up along with women of faith and lead together? For we are all one in Christ Jesus. 

Participant

Bless your heart, Joshua, yes, abusive behavior in the Church is an area that is especially on my heart over the last several years, as God has opened my eyes in a variety of ways to the extent of this that has been going on in the Church...  and I'm sure I've not even seen the tip of the iceberg.  This is such a huge issue, and it has been so well hidden...  personally, I've been blessed and protected and I thank God for that, but it also made me very naive and unaware... until 2011, God started bringing a number of situations to my attention and the eyes of my heart was opened to see these patterns of abuse and cover-up via manipulation and deception going on on our watch.  And then finding out how bringing this into the light is a threat to leaders.  I'm still processing that part =(  It's been one of those "unwritten rules" that it's not talked about (that would be gossip right? =( see #3 of things not to say to someone who has been hurt by the Church) because I really had very little idea before 4 years ago, and when you do talk about it, you run into opposition and resistance that is unbelievable, including accusations of gossip, slander, and divisiveness.

Here's another quote from Bonhoeffer:  “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”  This is our watch!

and here are several more difficult, but insightful posts from Boz Tchividjian:

http://boz.religionnews.com/2015/12/07/spotlight-its-not-just-a-catholic-problem/  (this is a very sobering movie that every Christian leader needs to watch on the abuse of power in the Church, covering up wrong doing at the expense of those abused)

and these 2 articles about patterns of abuse that nails what a friend experienced in the CRC...  and it makes me wonder how often varying degrees of these patterns are occurring at the expense of those who were harmed and violated, because we/CRC are very good at keeping this kind of thing hidden, under the rug, as much as possible (think non-disclosure agreements/NDA's)... God's way is to bring these patterns of abuse into the light.  As one pastor said to me, "confidentiality is killing us"...  and I have nothing good to say about NDA's.  anyway, lots of thoughts, this is a huge topic, but praying for the Spirit to work in all our hearts, His way, His wisdom for the Church to walk more fully in the potential He has for us...  we need to be open and obedient to Him.  Walking in holiness is a key part of walking in the power of the HOLY Spirit.

http://boz.religionnews.com/2015/05/15/a-grand-deception-the-successful-...

http://boz.religionnews.com/2015/08/28/false-narratives-of-christian-lea...

 

oh, in case you aren't familiar with this sermon, this is my favorite sermon that I've ever heard from the book of Judges, I read it several times a year, sometimes more often (there are audio options as well if you prefer)...  Paris Reidhead and 10 Shekels and a shirt based on Judges 17/18

http://www.parisreidheadbibleteachingministries.org/pdf/tenshekels.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

Participant

=) thanks for your graciousness of my ignorance re Star Wars details... I was informed by my family that it was a rogue storm trooper, not a droid...  so I apologize for my inaccurate description... 

Participant

this thread hit my email again today because someone recently left a comment... I'm going to add this video clip =)  it's the star wars quote... 

https://getyarn.io/yarn-clip/dfb9e1e8-b65f-48e4-968a-305340c8df0c

 

Community Builder

One item I would like to address concerning this blog post: In no way do I at all advocate nor meant to inadvertently advocate any form of abuse of power by men in anyway shape or form. This post has revealed that there is not only much pain still being afflicted upon people today in the use of God's Word, there is also much of it being covered up. Having seen this form of abuse on my own family growing up, I find it abhorrent. 

My purpose for this post was to state that we have to raise men of faith who are willing and able to stand up and be strong against the tides of terror, evil, and the darkness of this world, to be willing to put on the full armor of God. Though he is a secular (and someone pagan) author, Robert Bly states it well that the man was made to throw down the sword in fear of causing war. Yet, he states, the sword can do more good guarding and protecting than it will causing war. The sword I desire for men to pick up is the Sword of the Spirit to fight by standing firm in the Word of God. This means standing up against abuse, against injustice, and to be willing to toss around some money changing tables if need be. 

In the Old Testament, God is frequently called a mighty warrior--not because he defeats the enemies of the people of Israel but because he fights for and protects the people of Israel. 

I think maybe look for an upcoming post by me on God being a mighty warrior who fights for his people. 

Looking at what it means to be a man of God is very important to me. Here's some posts on my personal blog I've done over time:

https://spiritualmusclehead.wordpress.com/2012/01/17/hunting-for-wooly-m...

https://spiritualmusclehead.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/of-nice-and-men/

https://spiritualmusclehead.wordpress.com/2015/03/12/am-i-a-good-man/

And a geeky one for good measure: https://spiritualmusclehead.wordpress.com/2011/09/18/the-sins-i-mean-gee...

Community Builder

May all of God's children, both men and women, put on the full armor of God, that we may stand firm in Christ, that each member of the body may become all that he or she was meant to be. May we all be free to love God with our whole our heart, soul, mind and strength. May we all be free to love our neighbor as ourselves, which means standing with those who are oppressed, against all forms of injustice. This calling in Christ takes great courage and dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit, which he has granted to all of his children. He alone is our strength, our protection, and our source of grace for each day. 

I am a bi vocational pastor and I am trying to figure out how to engage men spiritually and train them to be men of faith and leadership.

 

 

I am a bi vocational pastor and I am trying to figure out how to engage men spiritually and train them to be men of faith and leadership.

 

Ye I am interested in forming men of faith reaching out to men.