In more than ten years of vocational ministry, there is one thing I’m most concerned about with regard to Christian men. It’s not feminization. It’s not acting like boys rather than men. It’s so much more threatening than all of that.
Here’s what I know. God’s word is powerful. It lays out all of the necessary practices that God has prescribed for boys to grow into courageous, focused, discerning, encouraging, and compassionate leaders. It teaches that there are certain disciplines crucial to our spiritual development from “‘baby Christians” to maturity in our faith. Yet, when I teach in small group settings, there is one thing I’m always challenged on, and that’s growth in those disciplines.
Where has all the growth in godly disciplines gone?
In Luke 11:1, one of Jesus’ disciples said to him, “Lord teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” Stop! Hold the phone! There are three things to take note of here. First, this disciple understood something that few today ever come in contact with. There is a prescribed way that the Lord has taught us to pray. Yes, he hears even the most meager of prayers, but God intends for our praying to align more and more with his will as we mature. Second, prayer is a spiritual discipline. “Lord teach us to pray.” Third, learning to pray is a process (e.g. “as John taught his disciples”).
Teaching men in the church to develop in the spiritual disciplines is critical to the future of the church. Many men in churches view pursuing the development of these disciplines as something only people in ministry should do, when in fact, the pursuit of developing these disciplines should be the norm. It should be normal for the majority of men in the church to gather in prayer throughout the week. It should be common for men in the church to join with each other at various times to discuss, uphold, and submit to God’s word. Instead, in many situations, those things only happen when there has been a tragedy, a loss, or some sort of earth-shaking disagreement.
What’s my biggest concern for Christian men in our time? It’s that so many men are simply not pursuing maturity in Christ. We have traded faithful progress aligned with biblical sanctification for preservation that is aligned with our own comfort.
We are crippled by comfort.
My point is, it’s incredibly difficult for us to scratch our heads in good conscience and wonder why the modern church is scraping for lay leaders, when relatively few of the men that should be in that position have been groomed to be lay leaders. What we are left with are men who are excellent in their respective crafts professionally, but are crippled when it comes to leading in a way that points forward with regard to God’s kingdom.
I was just speaking with someone the other day who, when talking about their community group taking more ministry initiative, said, “I don’t know how in the world we would ever be able to do something like that when the men in our group won’t even pray during group prayer time.” In my opinion, if we want leaders—patriarchs, earth-moving, world-changing men—in our congregations, our focus needs to shift. We need to help men realize that studying, understanding, and teaching the Bible isn’t just for people who go to seminary. We need men to realize that the only way we will ever learn the deepest parts of another man’s heart in our congregation is to pray with him—often. We need to reignite the adventure that is found in following Jesus and help men develop the skills necessary to navigate each life situation according to God’s word, so they can finish the race with strength and fortitude.
The days of sitting on our heels are over.
There has never been a more critical time in our nation for men, not to begin stepping up to change the trend, but rather to begin bearing down on the essentials of their own ability to lead—and preparing for the moment God calls them to do it. The days of sitting on our heels and enjoying the efforts of others fulfilling our ministry responsibilities are over.
What’s the answer? First, we have to remove the stigma that a deep commitment to personal development in the spiritual disciplines is only for the “ultra holy.” Second, we have to commit to placing a laser focus on learning to read—and teach—God’s word well. Finally, it’s time to stop spoon-feeding stunted converts who have been leeching off the church since their profession of faith. We need to help men grow up in Christ by means of tough love and edification.
“The days of sitting on our heels while others fulfill our ministry responsibilities are over.”
What are your thoughts on the decline of lay-leadership in the church? Leave a comment below.