Don’t we love heroes? They’re the guy or gal that goes above and beyond the call to selflessly sacrifice for the sake of the “mission”. In the darkest hour, they shine bright. The history books praise their valor and we shower them with medals and gifts. They stepped up.
I can remember one of my high school football coaches railing on during a halftime pep-talk shouting, “Who is gonna be the hero?” because, well, someone needed to single-handedly bring us back from a 30 point deficit. Meaning, step up! It’s that simple! Right?
So very wrong.
As a men’s group leader, I can remember almost having the same tone. “You know guys, some of you just need to step up in your families, your jobs, and your churches.” We would watch a video from any men’s devotional series you can think of, and I would spend weeks describing what “stepping up” to the preverbal “life plate” looked like. Then the truth hit. As I looked at my own life, not only was I not doing many of the things I was asking them to do, but I was calling them to do things they had never been trained to do.
It would be foolish to tell a toddler, “You just need to walk better and you won’t fall!” They are completely incapable of physically making their legs work more efficiently. When the modern church calls for men to “step up” we need to be able to precisely define that idea, and recognize that we are responsible for providing the training and equipping they need. It’s heart breaking when beloved brothers in Christ, in a defeated tone tell you, “I can’t lead my wife Biblically. No one has taught me how to use the Bible.” They are trying to walk without the spiritual structure to know how.
“My Training Took Over.”
In the last few weeks, I’ve listened to multiple accounts of men who have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. They all had multiple character qualities in common. What was striking in each of their testimonies was that in the moment they are now revered for, all of them at some point said, “My training took over.”
This is a sticky scenario. How much of the blame is on a person’s unwillingness to learn? How much is the fault of the local church? It’s case-specific. Rob may be a decades old Christian trying everything he can to step up in his respective life arenas, but he’s doing it completely un-biblically while Dan may be a new believer and gave up a long time ago. We need to understand that regardless of who is to blame, both of these men are simply utilizing their existing training to try to work through their respective scenarios. The principle is simple. If our response to a challenge is to rely to our training, then the quality of our training must be competent enough to rely on. In other words, no one is “stepping up” on anything if there is nothing under him to hold him up.
Men in churches need systematic, well-designed, well communicated learning and application opportunities.
The Real Problem
When we look closely at scripture’s teaching on sanctification, what we find is a dually aligned process. God, by way of the Holy Spirit, begins to shape and knead the individual more into the image of Christ. As this is taking place, the Christian works, by way of the spiritual disciplines, to reach for the same godliness that God is shaping them toward.
I’m sure it’s not the intent of people using the phrase, but I’m afraid the message that is implied through the catch phrase, “step up” is one of complete self-reliance. It’s like my football coach saying, “Who’s going to be the hero?” while failing to establish a winning game strategy. There’s no power in it. I may have the will power to read my Bible cover to cover in a year. But without God’s spirit opening my eyes to my need, and revealing the truth of it to me, it’s little more than another good read on my book shelf.
Asking men to do things that only God has the power to do will only frustrate, stigmatize, and ultimately discourage true spiritual growth. Encouraging men with the tools and training to align themselves with what God is doing in them will bring their spirit peace, courage, and they will be able to achieve the daily victories so many of us need.
What are your thoughts? Have you been told to “step-up” without being told how? Leave a comment!