Friday, October 18, 2013

Is UFC 166 the Answer to Our Masculinity Problem? Masculinity, Ministry, and the cultural slide. How Should We Respond?

I read an article recently about a famous Evangelical leader who was being parodied as appealing to men to be more alpha.  In the satirical piece, he was quoted as saying, “The problem with our churches today is that the lead pastor is some sissy boy who wears cardigan sweaters, has The Carpenters dialed in on his iPod, gets his hair cut at a salon instead of a barber shop, hasn’t been to an Ultimate Fighting match, works out on an elliptical machine instead of going to isolated regions of Russia like in Rocky IV in order to harvest lumber with his teeth, and generally swishes around like Jack from Three’s Company whenever Mr. Roper was around.”  The article went on to poke fun at men who bash on guys who don't spend every waking moment doing "masculine" things like changing the oil, watching football, beating their bare chest in front of the latest UFC 166, 

or Muy Thai stick fighting.  There's a crisis in the church today; we have a skewed understanding of true masculinity, which this article highlighted by exaggerating some of the views that are out there.

I believe in men being masculine, but we would be wise to find out what truly makes a man masculine? From examining scripture, I have four observations.
1. We need a healthy balanced definition of Masculinity. Webster defines the word masculine as "having qualities appropriate to or usually associated with a man." It is also defined as "courageous, bold, or strong."  Nothing about violence, machismo, or emotional distance, which some of these aforementioned activities can involve.  Do we need macho guys in the pulpit or men who are connected to their families, and wives in particular.  I have found that even the act of watching football can isolate me for a complete weekend (not to mention Thursday and Monday night). Some wives are virtually widowed in the Fall; I call them "football widows."  Is masculinity now equated with violence such as UFC, and football? Both of these have made me more violent over the years (and I have played football for 10 years of my life). Jesus shows us true masculinity.  The scriptures say about Jesus in Isaiah 53:9, "He had done NO VIOLENCE, and there was no deceit in his mouth." The scriptures also talk about doing violence to our wives in Malachi 2:16. The prophet says, "The man who hates and divorces his wife," says the Lord, The God of Israel, "Does violence to the one he should protect," says the Lord almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful."  Could unfaithfulness include loving a sport or hobby more than our spouse?  I think there should be a healthy balance of strength, and boldness, kindness, and tenderness in the biblical definition of masculinity, rather than the masculinity litmus test being your ability to bash someone's face in on UFC 166. Here are some other scriptures for your perusal: Ps. 11:5, Pr. 13:2, Is. 59:7, Matt. 11:12, Jer. 22:3; Ps 119:37.

2. Men in ministry need to be spirit filled and humble. We don't need men in ministry who are more effeminate; we don't need "studs" either.  I remember years ago our student ministry decided to stop attending a very popular camp with our students because of this very issue. We attended this camp for years, and then as I began looking around at their staff, they were all studs and studdettes.  There was not one minority, disabled, unattractive, or "un-cool" person on their staff from year to year. It was an unreal picture of the kingdom of God. Jesus ministered to the odd, hurting, needy, marginalized, leprous. He reached prostitutes, people with disabilities, the sick, and tax-collectors. It also seems like the biblical definition of the 'elder' or 'overseer' seems to fly in the face of what I am going to call the "new evangelical masculinity." I would actually consider this definition the height of masculinity.  In 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Paul writes that a church leader "must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil."  This passage seems to be the antithesis of the description of manliness that we're hearing from several evangelical church leaders lately.

3. We need leaders whose masculinity is evidenced in part by their transformational ministry. Transformational leaders are connected emotionally (to people and the Lord).  They feel deeply, act deeply, and worship affectionately.  Men, where is your affection for the savior? We go to concerts and get crazy, or a baseball game, or for that matter play video games for countless hours, but where is our excitement to worship Christ?  A.W. Tozer said, "Any man (or woman) who is bored or turned off by worship is not ready for heaven."  So my question to you is not, Are you a masculine leader? But, do you have a living, humble, needy, celebratory, affectionate, meditative, worshipful, loving, and tender, communion with Christ? If so, you are masculine by his standards.  If we say No to any of these things, and say "I'm not a very emotional person" then we may need to examine our hearts.  We need to pray and ask him to change us into a emotionally connected servant leaders, like Jesus our master.  I'll give you a few instances of how our master was compassionate, affectionate and emotional: Matthew 14:10-18; Matthew 20:30-34; Mark 8:1-6; Luke 7:12-15; Philippians 2:1-3; Matthew 9:36-38; Mark 1:40-42; Mark 6:34; John 11:32-38; Luke 19:36-41; James 4:9, 10; Matthew 13:15; I Thessalonians 2:1-19.

4. We need men who serve faithfully rather than seeking to be superstars in the church. For example, we don't need more multi-site churches beaming sermons into their venue via satellite.  As we're seeking to lead other men, we can give them opportunities to lead and invest in them. We can give them feedback and encourage them when they take those opportunities.  They will speak with their feet and walk out the door if we don't provide opportunities to express their pastoral gifting in this way.  We need more men of average intelligence, and average teaching skills, to be preaching the not-so-average gospel in the not-so-average power of the Holy Spirit!  Our men need to be empowered through training and service.  The "big ministry" and personality-centered ministry concept gives young men the impression that if they have only 200 or fewer people in their church, they're not adequate or successful in ministry.  Success is not how many butts are in our seats.  There are so many men out there who appear "average" in other people's estimation, but they're not average because they minister week in, and week out in the Holy Spirit's power!

In conclusion, I wholly disagree that the problem with the church today is not enough "masculine" men in ministry; we don't have enough men who call on the name of the best man in all of human history, the most humane and mighty man, Jesus.  No, not the most interesting man in the world from the Dos Equis commercials.  

No, "that one," the one who did seemingly un-masculine things.  He let evil men savagely disfigure him by beating him in the face and pulling his beard, the symbol of a Jewish man's masculinity.  He then let them put him on a cruel cross to do the most masculine act in all of history!  He took responsibility!  He took responsibility for your sin and mine.  That man is the ultimate measure of masculinity.  May we all as men measure up to that man Christ, "who emptied himself taking the form of a bond-servant; and being made in the likeness of men, being found in appearance as a man, he humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."  Can we all follow the example of Christ? Then and only then will we measure up as masculine men, and if that isn't very masculine in our culture, then I'm not masculine, and I don't want to be.  I want to be like Christ!
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