Why We Urgently Need to Go After the Men in our Congregations
- Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Two-thirds of our congregations are women and children. One-third is men.
But ask yourself: Which category most influences the other? Intuitively, we know the ripple effect men have on the people around them - for better or for worse.
More poignantly, we feel the impact of unhealthy men when we look at families and the root causes of the problems there. The sad reality is that a large proportion of our men cannot give in their relationships what their hearts do not possess.
That is why a pastor I know in Texas targets men on purpose. He bet the health of his church on his plan when he said, "Kenny, if I reach the man, I reach every relationship he has."
Not a bad strategy, but is it biblical? With so much church energy naturally coming from our women and flowing toward our children, it's time to reflect on our ministry (or lack thereof) to the men in our backyards.
Most importantly, what is God's mind in men's ministry? As we’ll see, God is very Purpose-Driven when it comes to men.
Men: God’s Priority
"The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the Garden of His delight. He looked for justice but saw bloodshed; for righteousness but heard cries of distress.” Isaiah 5:7
In the Song of the Vineyard, God talks about his affection for his people and then, interestingly, he singles out the men. As the passage continues, it describes activities (negative ones) that the men of the time engaged in. The context here is clearly men.
So, let's see what his heart is for men...
First, they are "the garden of his delight.” A garden is a place to sow, and a place to go to enjoy what you’ve sown. A garden is a place of refreshment, and a place of beauty that ministers to us. Lastly, a garden is a place of productivity and fruitfulness. To God, the men of Judah represented the possibility of all these things.
Second, "he looked for justice… for righteousness.” When God turned to the Garden of His Delight, he was looking for something specific. His father’s heart is revealed in this text as he looks for his own character to be reproduced in his men.
Why do you think we feel so full as fathers when our sons aspire to be like us, imitate us, and develop the good character qualities they see in us?
Third, the consequences of undeveloped character in men became disastrous for the faith-community they inhabited. If you continue reading this text, you see sick characters diving into sicker conduct producing broken relationships. Greed, materialism, hedonism, narcissism, callousness to spiritual things, and moral relativism reeked havoc on the community, and these things were unleashed through the men!
As a shepherd of men, I believe God has given me a special trust: to work in His Garden and grow the men.
Some questions I ask myself are: What does He see when He ventures over to the 'Saddleback Section' of the Garden of His Delight? Is He seeing His character being reproduced? Am I raising up men whom God can take pride in and feel full of joy over? Are the men of Saddleback, like the men of Judah, unable to escape the deadly influence of the world because God's character remains undeveloped in them?
I want God's every look into our 'Saddleback Garden' to be progressively pleasing. More importantly, I am discovering that God wants the vine of men's ministry to be productive for the entire church, and I believe he wants that for your church also.
Men: God’s Agents for Corporate Renewal
“If you will return, O Israel, return to me. If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ then the nations will be blessed by him and in him they will glory.”
“This is what the Lord says to the men of Judah and to Jerusalem: Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts, you men of Judah and the people of Jerusalem or my wrath will break out and burn like fire because of the evil you have done – burn with no one to quench it.” Jeremiah 4:1-4
God's goal is corporate renewal and repentance. He wants His people to be living proof of His power and goodness. In fact, He wants unbelievers to begin believing in Him because of what they see among His people.
Who does God select to lead this charge? What's the process?
The men need to accept this challenge by deepening their commitment to God, modeling repentance, and by ceasing to invest their energies in ungodly pursuits (sowing among thorns).
This, God says, will ignite revival and accelerate evangelism among the nations, or else it will ignite a different sort of fire - his judgment.
Men: We Must Go After Them
“So I will go the leaders [men] and speak to them, surely they know the way of the Lord, the requirements of their God. But with one accord they too had broken off the yoke and torn off the bonds. Therefore a lion will attack them, a leopard will lie in wait near their towns to tear to pieces any who venture out for their rebellion is great and their backslidings many. They are well fed lusty stallions each neighing for another man’s wife.” Jeremiah 5:5-8
Just one chapter later in Jeremiah, we see the consequences for men when they give up on the being connected a faith-community. Just one step out the door is you-know-who; they become lunch for the devil. Isolated and spiritually bankrupt, the options narrow, and they soon choose to become lesser men and to simply serve their appetites.
Frankly, this is the condition of the church worldwide. Women (according to church pollster George Barna) remain the backbone of the church.
If you could take a satellite image of the church, it would show little pin-pricks of truly living, breathing men's communities amidst the neon oceans of women's ministries -- and the women, our wives, are burning out as they try to be the spiritual leaders in the church and in the home.
Proportionally, men are missing from ministry. As if in one accord, they're choosing NOT to identify with the Christian men's culture because, frankly, what they've seen in most churches simply isn't compelling enough to hold their attention. There's no challenge, no adventure, no risk, and no edge, and so business, sports, and recreation become the substitutes.
A Virtual Mirror Image
There's a haunting parallel between the men of Judah and the men of the new millennium.
In fact, nine out of 10 men in the church say their number one disconnect from God is lust, fantasy, and sexual acting out (Consider: "... well-fed, lusty stallions, each neighing for another man's wife...”).
Many churches are coming to grips with these realities and, fortunately, there are ministries like Every Man Ministries (www.everymanministries.com) to help formulate and execute a plan to build a community of men within any congregation.
Kenny Luck is the Men's Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. He is also the Founder and President of Every Man Ministries which helps churches worldwide develop and grow healthy men's communities. Please visit www.everymanministries.com for more information.
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