The Same Message
I’ve been reading a lot about men these days. I just finished The Screwtape Letters and The Abolition of Man by CS Lewis, Happy Happy Happy by Phil Robertson, and am half-way though Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men by Stephen Mansfield.
Mansfield is a New York Times best selling author who writes about history and biographies. CS Lewis was an academic and intellectual giant who taught at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. Phil Robertson, on the other hand, is a redneck from Louisiana and the patriarch on reality show called Duck Dynasty.
And what I found remarkable was that though CS Lewis was writing around the 1950s, and Robertson and Mansfield were writing in 2013, the issues they discuss were remarkably similar. They were worried about men.
Lewis spent a lot of time talking about the consequence of having an educational system that teaches men to deny the universal values that God has placed inside of them (like their courage, conscience and masculinity) in favour of trying to be more relativistic, neutral and contemporary. He calls these men, “Men Without Chests”, meaning men who have no heart, no drive, no passion, no drive, no bravery, and no realization that things have objective value because God created them.
Robertson’s book is what I would call an opinionated autobiography where he tells his own story of how he grew up and came to faith, but also spends a lot of time criticizing the society he has seen rise up around him, especially the men who he sees as “chickified yuppies”.
Mansfield’s book begins with the premise that “The Western World is in a crisis of discarded honor, dubious integrity, and faux manliness.” He then sets out in his book to identify “the virtues, the habits, the disciplines, the duties, the actions of true manhood.”
I didn’t mean to read these four books altogether, nor did I expect to be talking about them on Father’s Day. But, as I was praying about what I should be talking about this Sunday, I came across a couple of verses which, if you get one of the Father’s Day gifts today, you will see printed on your M&M’s.
The first verse comes from Proverbs 14:26 and says
“In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.”
The other verse is Joshua 1:9 which says,
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Each of those authors I mentioned have their own definition of manhood, and solutions to the problems they present, but these two verses sort of summarize what I would call Biblical manhood. One speaks of leading their family in the fear of the Lord, and the other is about having the courage to trust God and go wherever He leads. That, in a nutshell, is Biblical Manhood. To Courageously Follow God and Lead others.
The problem is that today, the Christian Church is doing neither very well.
Boys in Crisis
In preparation for this sermon I re-watched a TED Talk, and re-read a book by a psychologist and professor at Stanford University named Philip Zimbardo, in which he relates a lot of statistics about what he calls “The Demise of Guys”.
He says, “Guys are flaming out academically, wiping out socially with girls and sexually with women.” They have a “fear of intimacy”, he says. Not because they are “traditionally shy”, but because they are “socially awkward”. When they wander around life “they are like a stranger in a foreign land. They don’t know what to say and they don’t know what to do. Especially one on one, [to the] opposite sex.” He says they now prefer what he calls an, “asynchronistic internet world to the spontaneous action of social relationships.”
What is the cause of this? His answer is two-fold. The first problem is “isolation” and the other is what he calls “arousal addiction”. Essentially, we have a generation of boys who are spending a huge amount of time with, “excessive internet, gaming and porn.” He says that “boys brains are being digitally rewired… for change, excitement and constant arousal.” This makes them “totally out of sync in traditional classes and totally out of sync with romantic relationships which build gradually and subtly.” I would add that it also puts them out of sync with the traditional North American church service, and not only romantic relationships but all relationships — including with God. It’s not happening quickly, in 3D Dolby Surround Sound, and bringing them into a state of profound, physical excitement – so they don’t want it or understand it.
Whose fault is that? I don’t think we can totally blame the boys who grew up this way. They didn’t have much of a choice, did they? So, where can we lay the blame?
I don’t want browbeat anyone, or get into the all of the ways that we have raised up a generation of useless men who have no concept of biblical manhood, but it’s Father’s Day, so I feel as though this is a good time to present the problem and hopefully seek a solution.
In fact, I was asked this week to identify some of the more pressing issues facing church ministry today. I came up with a few of them including poor theology, absent spiritual disciplines, financial debt, and rampant distraction and business, but I also said that one big problem in the church is that we have too few good, strong, godly men. Here’s what I wrote:
“North America is in a crisis of not having enough godly, Christian men. Absent fathers, spiking divorce rates, and the pornification of our society are only a few of the problems that have come from ‘The Demise of Guys’ (as one author called it). We need to equip and inspire our older and young men to be godly, scriptural, Christian men and fathers. If we save the men, we will solve many of the problems facing our families and churches.”
I believe that with all my heart. If we can figure out a way to recapture the spirit of Biblical Manhood – to courageously follow God and lead others – then we can solve a lot of the world’s problems. And there are a lot of ministries that are figuring this out too.
Promise Keeper’s Canada has started something called the Fatherless Project, which is a ministry that encourages godly, Christian Men to get involved in the lives of boys without fathers. Let me throw a few more stats at you.
They say that Canada has over 1.5 million single parent families, and over 80% of them are led by women. That means that there are a huge amount of men fathering children and then taking off, leaving the mother to raise the child alone. Statistically 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes. This is a generation raised by single women – the fathers are either useless or gone.
Fatherlessness and a lack of Biblical Manhood isn’t just in the world, it’s a problem in the church too. David Murrow, author of “Why Men Hate Going to Church”, says on his website that in the US, “…women compromise more than 60% of the adults in a typical worship service… [and] some overseas congregations report ten women for every man in attendance…. Men are [statistically] less likely to lead, volunteer and give in the church. They pray less, share their faith less and read their bible less. The men who do go to church seem passive and bored. It’s often impossible to get churchgoing men to do anything other than attend services.” That’s a brutally honest view of the church, and I guarantee that the statistics are even worse in Canada
One article I found in the Vancouver Sun said, “…men have been quietly, but in huge numbers, streaming away from many of North America’s Christian churches…. The typical United Church congregations [in Canada] is 80% female…. [and] two out of three of those filling Catholic pews are female.” Pentecostal, Baptist and Mennonite, congregations aren’t doing as badly, but are mostly full of older, married men. Certainly not young, single men.
Girls Need Fathers Too
Now, I’ve talked a lot about men and boys, but girls are in crisis too. Girls with absent, or ungodly dads, have huge struggles too (also here). A girl without a good, godly father will struggle with a lack of self-confidence, have self-image and body issues, will feel consistently lonely and vulnerable, and try to seek the love they need from other men who will only want to use her and discard her. They won’t have a role model for what a good man is supposed to look like, so they will hook up with idiots, losers, and abusers – because that’s all they’ve known. Then that boy-in-a-man’s-body will lure her into bed with lies, get her pregnant, and take off on her. That’s how it’s going right now – and the reason is because there is a huge lack of good, godly men.
We have a generation of men – and more and more women and girls too – who grew up (and are growing up) isolated from people and distant from the church. They’ve spent so much time on the internet, playing video games, and watching porn by themselves in their rooms, that they have no idea how to even talk to real people. They have been taught by evolutionists and atheists that their life is meaningless, that they have no future beyond death, and that there are no consequences to their actions.
Only a few weeks ago we watched the culmination of this thinking as Elliot Rodger went on a shooting spree, killing six people and them himself. I watched the video he posted and it reads like the endgame of what Satan is driving all young men towards.
Let me quote a little from his video:
“For the last eight years of my life, ever since I hit puberty, I’ve been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection and unfulfilled desires all because girls have never been attracted to me…. I’m 22 years old and I’m still a virgin. I’ve never even kissed a girl. I’ve been through college for two and a half years, more than that actually, and I’m still a virgin. It has been very torturous. College is the time when everyone experiences those things such as sex and fun and pleasure. Within those years, I’ve had to rot in loneliness. It’s not fair.”
This young man has no idea what’s wrong. He’s rich, he’s got the car (he recorded the video sitting in a BMW), he’s a decent-looking guy, and he’s attending a university in California. Every movie he’s ever seen, from Hollywood to internet porn, has conditioned him to believe that women should be throwing themselves at him, but he couldn’t figure out why they weren’t.
Let me quote him a little more:
“And girls, all I ever wanted was to love you, and to be loved by you. I’ve wanted a girlfriend, I’ve wanted sex, I’ve wanted love, affection, adoration. You think I’m unworthy of it. That’s a crime that can never be forgiven. If I can’t have you, girls, I will destroy you. You denied me a happy life, and in turn, I will deny all of you life. It’s only fair.”
Yes, this guy is clearly a psychopath with some serious problems, but his life and words read like the perfect game plan of what Satan and society is trying to mould men into being. I can hear the voice of the demon:
“If you devote yourself to achieving wealth, power, and being physically attractive, then all that you desire will come to you.
You will be sexually and relationally fulfilled.
You’ve been watching porn since you were 10 and I have taught you that men and women are merely objects.
If you press the right buttons they will do whatever you want – instantly and perfectly.
Women will fall for you, men will obey you. And you will be satisfied.
If they don’t do what you want, then there is something wrong with them.
You should shame them, call them cold, heartless, stupid, and frigid until they give you what you want.
And if you can’t get what you want – take it.
You deserve it.
It’s their fault for making you feel that way, for dressing that way, for enticing you, and not fulfilling your desires.
But if they won’t give it, and you can’t take it – then there must be something wrong with you!
You need more money, more power, better looks. What, you can’t get more?
Then it’s hopeless.
You will never feel fulfilled, you will never get what you so deeply desire – you will never feel love.
And what is the point in living if you cannot feel love.
So go, punish them. And then end your pain.
There’s no consequence anyway.
You’re just evolved scum and to scum you will return.”
This is the record that is playing over and over in the minds of girls and boys, men and women, all over the world –in our homes and our neighbourhood.
“You are an object.
You are an animal.
Fulfill your animal desires.
If you are not powerful or beautiful, you are worthless.
This is all there is.
Seek pleasure and if you cannot get it, take it or kill yourself.”
And the only ones who are going to be able to stand in the way, and shout louder than this voice is us – Christians. And who are the ones who have been given the responsibility to lead their church, lead their families, and stand between the women and children and the flaming-arrows of Satan? Who are the examples, guides, protectors and provider? Christian men. (Ephesians 5:22-25; 2 Timothy 3:4; 1 Corinthians 15:58, 16:13; 1 Peter 3:7; 1 Timothy 5:8)
Be Strong and Courageous
So, what is the solution? Society will presents ideas like changing the way schools approach educating boys and telling parents to turn off the computer and send the kid outside to get some exercise and use their imagination. Those are good ideas, but they are not the solution. I believe that the answer to the problem is in the Christian Church. These boys don’t need special education training or an exercise program. They don’t need Ritalin or Adderall to calm them down so they can act more like girls. What these boys need (and girls too) are Good, Christian Fathers. We need to recapture the next generation of boys so they can be good dads.
As I said before, I believe the answer to this epidemic of dying churches, uninspired worship, decrepit evangelism, broken families, aborted babies, lost boys and destroyed girls, is to find a way, as a church to teach, equip and inspire men toward Biblical Manhood.
We need to teach young men (and the lost older ones) how to courageously follow God and lead others in faith. We need to teach them how to pray, study and serve like Jesus did. We need to show them how to lead their families, their church, and their own spirits, in courageous obedience of the Spirit of God. This why I read those verses before.
Proverbs 14:26 says:
“In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.”
Those are the words of a father to a son. Not just a biological father, but a spiritual father. One who knows his words will reverberate through generations and to generations of father and families. He implores the fathers of his generation and the ones that come after, to realize that children need a place of “refuge”.
When everything turns dark and scary, and the thunder crashes, and the stranger is knocking at the door – who does the family turn to. Father. He is their refuge. And who does the Father turn to? “In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence…” The wife and kids are protected because the man is the protector. And where does the man get that strength? From God.
The other verse, Joshua 1:9, are the words of God to Joshua right before he assumes command of Israel after Moses died. He’s probably scared spitless and needs a pep-talk and a reminder of his responsibilities.
Like all fathers who look at their children, and spiritual fathers who look at the next generation of men: He has a good idea of where he needs, and what he has to do, but he hasn’t taken the first step yet. He knows there are battles before him, and that things are going to be rough for a while. And what are the words of God for him?
Look at Joshua 1:2-9:
“Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
God knows the trials ahead. Three times God says, “Be strong and courageous.” And He’ll say it even more times. He knows that Joshua and his big-family are going to have to fight huge battles, be challenged in their faith, and face enemies way too large for them to even consider going against without God’s help. And God knows that the people are going to mess it all up, shrink back when they should charge forward, and will need miraculous provision to see it all happen.
And so, over and over again, God tells Joshua – the new leader of Israel – their human father, to “be strong and courageous”. I love how he says it in verse 6, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.” One of my commentaries explains this verse this way, “The need for Joshua to be strong and resolute was acute because he was the instrument for the people to inherit the land. The Hebrew grammatical construction here highlights Joshua himself: if he, of all people, was weak and irresolute, then the cause was in deep trouble.” (Howard, D. M., Jr. (1998). Joshua (Vol. 5, p. 85).)
In the same way, men, we who are biological fathers, adoptive fathers, or spiritual fathers – which covers all of us, by the way – if we, of all people, are weak and irresolute, our church, families and nation is in deep trouble. We know that’s true because we are seeing the fruit of it already.
What We Can Do
So what ought we to do? I realize that the cause looks hopeless, but it is not. Here are a few suggestions for what we can do, as a church, to turn things around.
1. Ladies, Pray for The Men. This first one is for the women. Pray for your men. Your husbands, sons, fathers and grandfathers. Pray that God will send the Holy Spirit to convict them, grow them, change them, strengthen them and turn them into courageous Christian Men who will courageously follow God and lead others. Pray that they will be godly, biblical leaders in your home, your church and your neighbourhoods. Pray that God will send boys and men to this church, and that the men here would take up the challenge to mentor them in the faith.
2. Men, be Good Fathers. Live out your biblical manhood! Be strong and courageous to follow God and lead others.If God has given you sons or daughters, you have a great blessing. Psalm 127:3-5 says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” Be thankful for the children you have and see them as a heritage, a reward, and weapons of light in this dark world!
Be a Christian man. Get clean, get pure, get help from God and others. Put down your distractions and sins and “Train up your child in the way he should go…” (Proverbs 22:6). You don’t have long, and this whole world is working against you.
I remind you of the command from the Apostle Paul that your job is not to simply be a harsh tone of discipline, or to exercise authority over your child, but to carefully and lovingly train them. He says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
And I remind you of Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:5-6 which speak of how serious God takes the training and raising up of young disciples:
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
Take your position as father and spiritual trainer seriously. You will be judged for it in the end.
3. Men, find and care for other’s children (and, may I say, especially boys). I’ve already stated the case for how dangerous the life of a child, boy or girl, is without a father. There are still some children within the walls of our church – and they need the influence of men. Sign up to teach Sunday school, adopt them as friends, speak into their lives on purpose.
And there are other young men who desperately need mentoring. Seek them out, build a relationship with them using whatever tenuous thread you can find. They need you so desperately – whether they want to admit it or not.
But don’t just look inside the church, look outside as well – or maybe especially. Whether it’s Promise Keeper’s Fatherless Project or The Boys and Girls Club or whatever, go and find some men and boys to get into the lives of. Let me say this loud and clear: THEY ARE NOT GOING TO COME TO YOU.
They’ve looked at your religion and see only ridiculous rules and soul-crushing boredom, and want no part of it. They’ve been taught to distrust authority figures, so they don’t want pastors, teachers, parents or mentors to guide them. They seek direction and ultimate meaning from their peers and popular culture, which you know is a terrible idea, but they think it’s the greatest! These young people are just making it up as they go along, guided by foolish peers, internet lies, and demonic temptations – and Satan is having a field day. You must go to them. They will not come to you.