This is the Thursday night service with all the men at FLY 2013, the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations Youth Convention, held every two years in Estes Park, CO. My wife Amy and I were grateful to both be asked to speak this year. Amy spoke to the girls in the Assembly Hall, and I was with the guys in the Longhouse. This is my message to the guys on July 4, 2013.
The theme of the convention was “Broken,” taken from Isaiah 53. The text we focused on for the evening was Isaiah 53: 10-12.
Yesterday morning, my Greek class felt insurmountable. Status update:
Then, as a timely clarion call to summon my inner manliness, a good friend challenged me with what was to be my favorite Facebook comment of the day:
I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. The day may come when the courage of Lutheran Seminarians fails; when we forsake our Catechisms and break all bonds of fellowship; but it is not this day… An hour of Baptists and shattered shields, when the AFLC comes crashing down… but it is not this day! This day we study Greek! By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand! Seminarians of the west!
In other words, “Man-up Sally.” Sure, there may have been a wee bit of plagiarism involved, but with a tip of the cap to middle earth, it worked. My inner manhood was roused, and tomorrow’s Greek Quiz is GOING DOWN. When men get stirred to action, they are a force. So today, men of the church, I appeal to your core. The church needs you to lead…
Let the record show that I shoot animals.
To up the ante (and by “ante” I mean “sheer manliness”) I wish I could jump them from the trees and do the deed myself with a knife to the jugular… but on a squirrel that spot is hard to find. Also, they’re fast. And jumpy.
But big game is even better. And demolition derbys. Steak – medium rare, thank you very much. Vikings football. Difficulty. Adrenaline. Risk. Danger. Driving with no map, whether I know where I’m going or not… Man stuff.
I sound my barbaric YAWP over the rooftops of the world! (to quote Walt Whittman) That’s how I roll.
So I’ve been increasingly bothered by our Seminary discussion in Pastoral Theology about the current view of “church” (and church leaders) that is held by most of America… and most of the world. Ladies and gentlemen, apparently the local church often has about as much appeal to the modern man as a Pampered Chef party.
The Church, in the view of the world, has suffered a serious bout of wussification over the last few decades. And unfortunately, the view of pastors, on the whole, goes hand in hand with that. They’re seen as soft… overly emotional, non-athletic, and basically not effective in other business areas, so… ministry, I guess. They can’t kick me out of ministry, right? So… yeah.
WHAT IS WRONG?! Whatever happened to “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”? That’s the mission of the Church! On the offensive. Gates don’t advance. Gates can only stand their ground and resist the oncoming assault. The CHURCH is supposed to advance… and forcefully, for that matter. Check out Matthew 11:12…
“From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.”
You know, come to think of it, maybe it’s time to update this verse… “From the days of John the Baptist until, oh… 12 or 13 years ago, maybe… the Kingdom of God was forcefully advancing…”
No. I’m not ready to concede ground here, watching our culture dismiss the Church as irrelevant, or at best, inept. It’s time for the Church to be a place where men lead. Where forceful men advance the Kingdom in the power of the Word of God and the unstoppable force of the Holy Spirit. Have we forgotten that the Commander of Angels is our advocate – and He lives in us to infuse us with supernatural power, courage, and the force of His life-changing Truth? Where are the men of God – rising up to lead their families in the Truth of God, with conviction and prayer-fueled determination? Where are the men of God – rising up to lead their churches by example – raising the next generation of young men to advance the Gospel with an iron resolve, a humble dependence on the Lord, and the courage of their convictions? Where are the men of God hungry to simply lead a Bible study? Instead, when the call goes out to get the job done, the women-folk step up and fill the slots our men aren’t interested in. And it has led to a feminized Church.
*Whoa, wait a minute...* Isn’t this just the kind of gender stereotyping that made the church of the 50’s and 60’s a hotbed of patriarchal chauvinism? Some of you probably think I’m pushing this man thing too hard.
Here’s the deal… I think women can be great leaders, too, and should be. This isn’t a post about gender roles in church – it’s about our mission. Many women have deeply significant ministry to do in the local church. God has wired and gifted many of them to be leaders, teachers, shepherds, mentors… I’m married to one. Don’t think that by calling out the men I am in any way diminishing the value of women in the church. Actually, I’m making my way to a point here that I believe will resonate with y’all, too. And it is this…
People don’t sacrifice their lives for a safe bet.People give their lives for a passion-producing, life-changing, high-stakes mission.
That’s the Gospel. Life and death. Life-changing. A high-stakes rescue mission in hostile territory. And yeah… I think that has special appeal to those of us on the bearded, flannel-wearing, non-direction-asking side of the gender coin. But really, whatever your particular chromosomal mix, who among us wants to lay our life on the line for sappy sing-alongs, some life-improvement bullet points, practical child-rearing advice, and coffee at a mid-week small group session?
Woot. Can I get a woot? Anyone?
I think WAY too many churches have settled for comfortable, safe, easy. And as I’m neck deep in Seminary training, I feel like a racehorse at the gate right now. The amazing DEPTH of the Word of God is overwhelming, and the consistent thread throughout the Old and New Testaments is this: we are all broken and scarred people, but God has provided a remedy in Jesus… I can’t wait to preach it. People are dying for lack of this truth. And to think of a local church on fire for the advancement of the Kingdom… it will require forceful men to lay hold of it.
Pastors, Worship Leaders, men and women of the Church: people right next to you are dying. Literally dying. We have the only remedy. I will lay down my life to tell people that Jesus gave his life for them, and he has a life-changing mission for them to live out. But I will not call them into a safe, wussified life-improvement club. Sure, our church family will stand together in deep authentic community, and we’ll learn how to be better parents, and how to live healthier lives… that’s all good.
But our core mission is disciple making. And it’s life-and-death serious. C’mon men. Step up. And Pastors, let’s call our congregations into a mission that’s worth giving their lives for. Let’s forcefully advance…