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?