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When I hear the word “church”, I think of little old ladies who bake delicious cookies and wear cardigans all year because they’re always cold.  Or I think of a glorified rock concert.  The worship team has sprung “Moves Like Jagger”, and they seem to be more focused about entertaining than glorifying God.  It’s silly.  It’s kitschy.  And I don’t buy it.  It’s not sincere.

The Church is a hard thing.  It’s not just a place.  It’s a group of people.  Many people attend church for community, for accountability, and to grow in their faith.

But on the flipside, many people outside of the Church don’t like churches and wouldn’t be caught dead in one – not even for their own funeral.

I was working with a group of artists recently and our rehearsal space was inside of a church.  Referencing the space, one artist noted (cynically), “Only old people attend church.  They’re the ones who have to worry about life after death.” 

It hurt to hear it, but this guy was right.  Today’s youth are not attending church.  They don’t find it relevant or interesting.  In short, they don’t need it.

LifeWay Research found that seven out of ten Protestants who went to church in high school quit attending church by the age of 23.  And the Barna Group says that six in ten people will leave the Church permanently over an extended period starting at the age of 15.  These are startling statistics, but they accurately reflect the attitude of this generation that says, “The Church is hypocritical, judgmental, and anti-gay.”  And in some ways that’s true.  In a lot of ways, I would agree with them.

I attend church, but I’m embarrassed by the imprint of my own institution.  I hate admitting that I go to church because I’m afraid that it associates me with knitting circles, a political agenda, or a bunch of pretentious haters.

The Church says that we should follow God and live a certain way, but then we don’t actually live that way.  We aren’t living the way we’re supposed to be, myself included.  We’re hypocrites.

The Church also has the stereotype of sharing what we believe from a “You’re Wrong and I’m Right” mentality.  Shouldn’t we leave that to the politicians and hot heads on Fox News?

And the Church seems to be more focused on their PowerPoint presentations than on the people in their congregations and the condition of their hearts.

As someone who looks at their iPhone all day, I can tell you that a PowerPoint presentation is not impressive.  It’s just not.  I mean, isn’t there an app for that?

Upon further examination, I realize – as a judgmental hypocrite – that the Church is filled with people like me because it’s filled with humans.  And humans are sinful.

Sinful beings will say and do things that are contrary to their beliefs.  That’s why we, the Church, humans, you, me… WE NEED JESUS.

He loves us knowing that we’ll make those mistakes.  He saved us from those mistakes.

You can’t blame the Church.  We can’t even look in the mirror and blame ourselves before we feel Jesus tapping us on the shoulder reassuring us that He will never blame us; and that our sins are paid for.

It’s unfair to stop going to church because it’s filled with hypocrites.  Look at any human being and you’ll find a hypocrite, but look at Jesus and you’ll find a Savior.

Maybe for every disgusted and disappointed look you take at the Church, at ourselves, at our hypocrisy and at our sin, you need to take five looks at our Savior, Jesus.

And yet, even if all of us church-going hypocrites came out of the closet and said: “We’re sorry.  We’re sorry for saying one thing and doing another.  We’re sorry for judging you and telling you that you’re wrong.” – even if we acknowledged our faults, we’d still find that today’s youth still aren’t attending church.

Why?  I think it’s because the Church isn’t doing a good job at telling Jesus’ story.  When we get wrapped up in what’s hot and trending, what’s eye-catching and visual, or what’s newsworthy and politically stimulating, we forget who’s story we’re actually telling.

Jesus commands us in Matthew 22:37-39

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

If we remember the root of God’s story, we immediately see that Jesus calls us to be loving – loving our God and loving our neighbor.

This is the story we need to tell.

This is the story the Church needs to reflect.

Because this is the story that today’s youth will hear.

The true story.

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In October 2013, the New York Times featured an article titled, “Turning Education Upside Down.” It’s about flipped schools, in which students watch lectures at home, and then do homework at school.

Please take 5 minutes to read the article by clicking here.

In flipped schools, students view lessons outside class on their computers, tablets or smartphones. Teachers produce their own videos, or assign web content such as TED talks, audio files, or other reading materials that make their points.

At first, teachers would to record 20- or 30-minute video lectures, but they quickly discovered that lessons of 3 to 6 minutes worked better. The key to good learning is a short, memorable presentation that students can rewind and watch over and over if they don’t grasp the concept the first time through.

In flipped schools the classroom is no longer the forum where ideas are introduced – it’s the place where ideas are clarified and put into practice. When students arrive at class they ask questions, do lab work, solve problems, and get personalized instruction from the teacher.

The most exciting aspect of flipped schools is their results. Clintondale High School outside Detroit saw a huge turnaround after it flipped:

“On average we approximated a 30 percent failure rate,” said [Principal Greg] Green. “With flipping, it dropped to under 10 percent.”

Graduation rates rose dramatically, and are now over 90 percent. College attendance went from 63 percent in 2010 to 80 percent in 2012.

Flipping changes teachers into coaches. It turns classroom time from lecturing to mentoring. The teacher is no longer the “sage on the stage,” but rather the “guide on the side.”

The more I read of the article, the more I began thinking about “flipping” church.

Our current model of church is stage-driven. The centerpiece of Protestant worship is the sermon – a lecture delivered live (or increasingly, via video). We sit passively as the pastor stands in front of us and introduces an idea. Or several ideas.

The problem is, most sermon content is quickly forgotten – because there’s no practical way to reinforce the idea or turn it into action. We’re given no opportunity to discuss the sermon – no place to ask questions or receive personalized instruction and coaching. No way to immediately practice what was preached.

Home groups are supposed to be the answer – but less than half of churchgoers regularly attend a weekly spiritual group. And very few of these groups are dedicated to reinforcing or practicing the content we hear on Sunday.

So what if we flipped the worship service?

What if we watched the lesson at home and then gathered weekly for individual instruction and coaching? For personal support and prayer? For service and fellowship?

What if pastors put their teaching on video, and then used the weekly meeting time to nurture the flock? Or expanding on this idea: what if the pastor distributed daily devotions via e-mail that prepare the flock for the training they will receive on Sunday morning?

I can hear the objections already: what about visitors? What if people don’t watch the video or read the devotions? How can we have a service without a sermon? And what about worship?

Flipping a church would be challenging – but look at the potential rewards: more effective teaching. A chance to turn Sunday morning into a true disciple-making experience. Less stage-time and more life-on-life time. Less passive pew sitting and more doing. The possibilities are endless and exciting.

So what do you think of this idea? Would you join a flipped church? What are its strengths? Its weaknesses? Comment below, or join the conversation on our Facebook page.

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Welcome to the Big Picture Podcast. I’m Joel Fieri and this podcast seeks to begin and hopefully sustain a conversation about current trends, ideas and issues in the Church and greater society.

This week I’m going to follow up with my subject from last week, which caused a bit of discussion in the Backrow Baptist’s family.  On it I talked about the role of men and women in church and the Christian community, and went over the basics of Egalitarianism and Complimentarianism: words that have way too many syllables for a BRB, and I think most other non-theologians.

I made the comment that we’re losing our men and boys to purposelessness and lack of vision, which also reflected a point I made in my previous podcast on Passion vs. Obedience – that women now take the lead in our churches when it comes to worship, relationships and to be honest, just about everything else, except maybe pastoral leadership.

Now the family conversation that came up was about Deborah, a female leader of Israel in the book of Judges (Chapters 4 and 5 if you want to look up the story).

Now here we have the Bible giving us an example of female leadership. Deborah was solid, I like Deborah, and not just because I married a Deborah. She was the faithful leader of Israel at a time when the men were really screwing up and doing evil in the sight of the Lord, which eventually lead to them to be taken captive by the Canaanites.

Then the story goes that Deborah summoned a guy named Barak and told him to take an army and fight the Canaanites, and that the Lord would give them victory.

But Barak said he wouldn’t go without Deborah, to which Deborah replied (I’m paraphrasing) “Okay, I’ll go, but God is not happy with you, Dude!”.

Now eventually Barak does get with the program and leads his men against the Canaanites, and with a little help from another impressive woman named Jael, defeats their King and destroys his army, winning a great victory for Israel.

So after this great victory, Deborah sings a very interesting song in Chapter 5. The song starts off with the phrase “When the princes of Israel take the lead, and the people willingly offer themselves, praise the Lord!” and later in verse 9, she says, “My heart is with Israel’s princes”.

So here’s where I’m going with all this. I think we might be in a moment of time like Israel was with Deborah. Maybe not as severe, but something similar.

Our men and boys are growing more and more disconnected from our churches, families and institutions. They’re retreating into their man-caves, away from their God-given responsibilities as husbands, fathers and leaders of their communities, and into porn, sports and video games.

Don’t believe me? Just Google the phrases  “where are all the good men?” and “men, who needs them?” You might be surprised at what you see, and very surprised to know that it’s affecting our churches, too.

Now this goes against how most of us were raised and taught, and you might think I’m being chauvinistic about this, that I’m saying men are more important or that women are somehow at fault for ‘taking over’.

I don’t think I am.

What I do think is that God challenges men to lead because they NEED the challenge. The sad state of men today is what happens when they are not challenged and counted on to lead.

My favorite thinker on this issue is David Murrow. He’s the leader of a ministry ‘Church For Men’ and author of the book “Why Men Hate Going To Church”.  In that book, Dave spells out the problem of ‘the Gender Gap’ in today’s churches, and he’s not only talking about attendance. In just about every category of spirituality and commitment to church, whether it’s discipleship, prayer, evangelism, teaching Sunday School, tithing or Bible study, women out-number, out-commit and out-perform men.

Now this would be a big problem just by itself, but I think it’s an even bigger deal because there are Canaanites out there, folks!

Our society and world have now pretty much completed the transition to “post-Christian”, and if you know anything about the “pre-Christian” world, this will eventually mean trouble for us. Big trouble.

It’s actually something we’re promised if we faithfully follow God, and I think the leadership and engagement of Christian men will largely determine how we as a body hold up when it comes. So that’s why I think it might be wise to take a look at Deborah’s story and apply it to our church today.

Deborah took leadership when the men of Israel were weak, to say the least. She had to literally take Barak by the hand and shove him into the battle that God had for HIM, even though he wanted her to fight it for him.

Fortunately, Barak stepped up, and in the end, Deborah knew that the key to Israel’s success and favor with God was that it’s princes, it’s men, were the ones leading.

So here’s my question, can we follow this model today? Can our super-faithful Christian women take their weaker brothers in Christ by the hand and lead them to the front lines in our spiritual battle, a battle for the hearts and minds of a world that doesn’t know, and is hostile to, the saving grace of God and His Son Jesus?

Bigger question – can we as men take up that battle?

And the biggest question – can we both sing a song of praise to God if and when His princes, the men, do take the lead?

That’s the challenge I see in the Big Picture of God’s plan for His Kingdom today.

And with that, the Backrow Baptist is slipping out early to catch the football game, but secretly, and don’t tell him I told you this, he’d rather stay and be challenged and equipped to do battle for God’s Kingdom.

In closing, it’s time for the Great Cloud Of Witnesses, the segment of our podcast where we meet and hear the stories of those who have given, and some who are still giving, their lives by faith in the promises of God, and of whom the world was and is not worthy (if you don’t know that reference, please check out Hebrews chapters 11 and 12 in your Bible).

And to conclude my thoughts on Deborah, there’s no better story of a faithful witness than Henrietta Mears. Let me tell you a little bit about her.

Imagine a chubby lady with thick glasses, dressed in red with a flamboyant hat, multiple rings, and pizzazz!

She speaks with passion and commitment . . . strong, warm, and full of the Bible.

That’s Henrietta Mears, one of the great Christian mentors of the 20th Century. Never marrying, she had hundreds of “spiritual children.” She became Educational Director at Hollywood Presbyterian Church, where God used her deeply in the ministries of Billy Graham, Bill Bright, Dawson Trottman, Richard Halvorsen and Dean Moomaw, among others.

If you don’t know those names, just know that they were men who started ministries that led hundreds of thousands of people to Christ.

They found in this older lady a vision for a great God. She was a model of Christ-centeredness. Billy Graham said, “I doubt if any other woman outside my wife and mother has had such a marked influence on my life. She is certainly one of the greatest Christians I have ever known.” That’s Billy Graham talking.

She was unusually gifted in the ability to identify potential in young people, challenge them with the Great Commission, and training them for the work. Sometimes she was accused of being partial to young men-the leaders of her College Department were known as “Miss Mears’ Boys”. And she frankly admitted that she was partial to them.

Her conviction was that the church needed strong male leadership, and where it was present, young women would follow.

And that’s what made Henrietta Mears a modern-day Deborah.

She wasn’t a martyr, but she did forsake marriage and family for what she knew was the Big Picture of what God required of His ‘princes’, that they lead strongly. And she was there to help equip and encourage them, and also to give them a loving shove into the battle. And for that, she is hereby nominated to the Great Cloud Of Witnesses, of whom the world is not worthy.

For more engaging and encouraging podcasts and videos, visit the E-Squared Media Network at www.e2medianetwork.com.

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Christian bible teaching about how to bring the church back to today's men and boys. How men and boys need to follow Jesus Christ, read scripture, and become a mature Christian, participate in discipleship, and learn then teach the truth about God.

From David Murrow, founder of Church for Men and author of “Why Men Hate Going to Church” and “What Your Husband Isn’t Telling You”:

I attend a lot of men’s conferences. And the constant theme of these events is a call on men to live sacrificial lives. To step up and serve…to be heroes…to lay down their lives for their families, for their communities and for their churches.Man_Video_Game

You hear the same call issued from pulpits. Preachers ask, “Why don’t we have more courageous men?”

The fact is modern society doesn’t need as many courageous men as it once did. And it no longer rewards men for acting like men. To understand this, travel back with me in time.

Since the dawn of the species, humans have been locked in a life-and-death struggle to feed themselves and to fend off invaders. It’s hard for us in 21st century Western society to imagine how hungry and violent the world was until recently. Famine was common. Crop failures meant the death of thousands. Hordes of thugs regularly swept through settlements, sacking, raping and pillaging at will (the Old Testament is full of these accounts). There were no standing armies, police forces or welfare programs to prevent this suffering.

Men were particularly valuable in earlier times because they possessed the physical strength to raise crops, hunt animals and fight wars. It’s no exaggeration to say that men held the key to the survival of the human race. If men failed to hunt or farm, women and children starved. If men failed to protect, women and children were slaughtered. If men didn’t do their jobs, all was lost. As such, men were indispensable.

Men have always done society’s dangerous jobs. Humans never even thought of giving these roles to women until recently, because females are typically physically weaker than men. Women were needed to bear, raise and protect children. Men were the “expendable sex”—and so were assigned the jobs that were most likely to kill someone.

But one day, a tribesman got wise. “Why should I hunt beasts that can rip my flesh?” he asked. “Why shouldn’t I run away when a superior enemy threatens? When I’m hungry, why shouldn’t I eat all the food myself, instead of sharing with the rest of the tribe?”

The leaders of the tribe panicked. “If this kind of thinking spreads through the tribe, we’re finished! We need a way of motivating men to overcome their natural fears, so they will become the protectors and providers everyone needs.”

So the leaders hatched a plan. “We’ll play a trick on the men,” they said. “We’ll create a code of manly behavior, and we’ll expect every man to obey it.”

So tribes all over the world developed various versions of the code of manly behavior. Among the expectations of the code:

  • A man is strong
  • A man is brave in the face of danger
  • A man endures suffering
  • A man puts the needs of others first
  • A man is generous
  • A man leaves a legacy

The whole idea behind manliness is to help a man overcome his natural instincts (fear, hunger, loneliness, etc.), so he will do what’s best for the tribe, not for himself. The code convinces men to do things that have the potential to hurt, exhaust or kill them.

Societies made sure every man understood the code. Adolescent boys were subjected to brutal coming-of-age rituals to ensure the code was implanted deep in their hearts.

But here’s the key: men who “stepped up” to these expectations were rewarded lavishly. They got the best homes, the most wives and the choicest foods. They were given the name “hero” and their exploits were memorialized in songs. They got medals and parades when they returned from war. But men who failed to act manly were shunned as cowards. They were treated as outcasts by society.

So for thousands of years, humans all over the globe favored men, in order to motivate them to do the dangerous jobs. Men were given an elevated place in society—including rights and privileges unavailable to women and children.

But then everything began to change—quickly. Set the time machine for AD 1800. A novel technology—the internal combustion engine—gave birth to the Industrial Revolution. A new kind of society was born, one that completely changed how humans protect and provide for themselves. Suddenly, for the first time in history, men were no longer indispensable.

With the rise of machinery, raw muscle power became much less important. Farm implements allowed one man to do the work of twenty. Advances in science increased crop yields dramatically. Never before had food been so abundant, easy to acquire, and relatively cheap compared to income.

Industrialized countries became wealthy enough to create a social safety net. Women could now rely on government welfare programs instead of husbands as their primary providers. Education and vocational opportunities for women multiplied, which increased their income and decreased their dependence on men. Today, for the first time in history a woman can live comfortably and even have children without attaching herself to a man.

In prehistoric times, every man was a warrior—literally. Rival bands frequently raided each other’s camps. Every man was expected to pick up his weapon and repel the invaders. In the age of agriculture, farmers grabbed their implements and went to war to defend their homelands. The Old Testament is full of stories of kings mustering common men to fight the Caananites, the Ammonites, the Amalekites, and various other ites who threatened the nation of Israel.

But in the past 150 years the role of protector has gradually been taken away from common men and given to professionals. The wealth created by industrialization funded the rise of professional, full-time armies and navies. Municipalities established the first public, salaried police forces and fire departments in the 1800s.

As a result, modern men rarely have to defend themselves. Today, the average American male will go his entire life without using a weapon to physically protect his family or property. In some nations it’s illegal to own a gun for self-protection. Battle is becoming rare even among professional soldiers. Fewer than half the U.S. veterans alive today saw combat during their military careers.[1]

Thanks to industrialization, a relatively small number of men can provide us with all the protecting we need. Around the world armies are shrinking because one warrior can wield the power of thousands. Battle machinery such as tanks, planes, bombs and machine guns have greatly amplified the power of one soldier.

The same is true with providing—today we need only a few men to feed us. In 1800, 90 percent of the U.S. labor force was engaged in farming. It took that many hands to sustain our populace. Two hundred years later, U.S. population has grown more than fifty-fold, yet only about 2 percent of Americans work as farmers.

Machines enabled women to become professional protectors and providers for the first time. A female fighter pilot can be just as lethal as a male one. Put a woman behind the wheel of a combine and she can harvest just as much wheat as a man. Physical power is no longer key to the survival of the human race—brainpower is. Men have lost their traditional advantage as protectors and providers for society.

I’m not suggesting society turn back the clock so men can regain their dominance. I’m merely pointing out how quickly industrialization has removed men from their indispensable role as the linchpin of society. Men just aren’t as important as they once were. Suddenly, society can get along quite well with just a handful of them.

In a little less than 200 years society went from lauding men’s accomplishments to holding them in contempt, particularly among the intelligentsia. The PC crowd sneers at men who fight wars, men who carry guns, men who cut down trees, and men who drill for oil. We no longer expect men to subdue the earth; instead, they’re supposed to live in harmony with it.

The feminist storyline has metastasized from “equal rights for women” to “men are the oppressors of women.” There’s a great deal of hatred and suspicion directed toward men on university campuses. It’s just assumed that men are responsible for every modern ill: war, environmental degradation, economic inequality, and the exploitation of various victim groups. If only women were in charge, we’d be living in a peaceful, egalitarian eco-paradise.

Men are no longer society’s greatest asset; they are its biggest problem. Each day men become a little less necessary. Guys sense this, and as their value diminishes we see them withdrawing from the workforce, the church, civic organizations, and from public life in general.

I’m not blaming women for any of this. I merely want you to see how much men’s value to society has fallen—and how quickly it fell. The Atlantic magazine recently printed an article titled, The End of Men:

“Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women?”

Men will step up when they are rewarded for doing so. It’s always been this way. When families appreciate men, they will step up. When church needs men, they will step up. Not even Jesus laid down his life without the promise of a greater reward.

For more information about Dave’s ministry, check out www.ChurchForMen.com

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Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle and founder of the Acts 29 church-planting network, has endured withering criticism from both conservatives and liberals, Christians and non-Christians, even as his church has become one of the largest and most influential in the nation.

Mars Hill has been compared to a cult. Left wing outlets such as Slate and Huffington Post have been scathing in their critiques. There’s an entire web site devoted to Driscoll’s downfall, recording every controversial statement the church planter utters.

Megablogger Rachel Held Evans called Driscoll a “bully” for poking fun at the effeminacy of some worship leaders, and launched a letter writing campaign against him. A number of prominent pastors have called Driscoll to account for his occasional swearing, including Ed Young and John MacArthur, who declared the Seattle pastor, “unfit for the ministry.” Driscoll recently managed to offend every preacher in England by calling them “cowards.”

As I read the critiques, a question keeps popping into my head: Wouldn’t people accuse Jesus of these same things if he were to walk among us today?

In fact, they did.

Read John 10:20: Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” Even his own family thought he was insane, and tried to take charge of him (Mark 3:20). Christ and his disciples so angered people they lived under constant threat of arrest and death.

Discipleship has always upset people. It still does today.

The point of this blog entry is not to justify everything Mark Driscoll says, does or believes.  The accusations lodged against Mars Hill Church by former elders, if true, are disturbing to say the least. And simply being controversial is no sign of Christlikeness.

Whether you agree with Driscoll’s methods or not, a larger question remains: Is Mark a bully, or is he loving people exactly as Jesus did – with a “father love” we no longer recognize as love?

Many believers see God as a two-act play: the ferocious Old Testament God and the gentle New Testament God. The fire-and-brimstone God of the ancients has been replaced with gentle Jesus, meek and mild. It’s almost as if God was “born again” after the book of Malichi.

But the Bible presents just one God, and He is often just as “mean and wild” in the back of the book as he is in the front. Both God the Father and God the Son are plenty harsh throughout the New Testament. Here are a few examples:

God proclaimed Jesus as “his beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Then He immediately cast that beloved son into the wilderness for a brutal testing. (Matthew 3-4)

Jesus rebuked adoring crowds, calling them “a wicked and perverse generation.” (Matthew 17:17)

Christ ridiculed his own disciples, calling them “dull” (more accurately translated, “stupid.”) Matthew 15:16.

Jesus called a desperate Canaanite woman and her people “dogs.” (Matthew 15:21-28)

God struck dead a couple that made a generous gift to the church after they fudged on the amount. (Acts 5)

Of course we can’t forget the Pharisees, Jesus’ perennial foil. The Gospels contain page after page of stinging rebukes, curses and condemnations for these religious know-it-alls.

Reason with me. Did God love Jesus? The crowds? The Canaanite woman? Ananias and Sapphira? The Pharisees?

Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. And this is how he treated people he deeply loved. He dealt with them through deprivation. Rebukes. Insults. The death penalty.

What’s going on here? How could God be so mean to people he loved so intently? People he wanted to bless? People whose repentance he sought?

He was practicing father love.

When Jesus swung the whip and cleared the temple? Father love. When he called the Pharisees “whitewashed tombs?” Father love. When he accused his dinner host of murdering the prophets? Father love.

Father love is like a vaccination: it causes momentary pain, but promotes long-term health. We hate to be on the receiving end of a needle, but we know we need it. And we’re better for it.

We are a generation of Christians nursed on mother love. We expect God to bless us, comfort us and accept us as we are. Our sermons, songs and self-help books reinforce this idea. We expect nothing but kindness from fellow believers, and when we are treated harshly in the church we freak out.

Instead of examining our own lives, we default to the role of victim. “He couldn’t possibly be speaking for God, because he was so unloving,” we think. We often judge the appropriateness of another believer’s actions not by sober assessment – but how those actions make us feel about ourselves.

Now don’t get me wrong. We need mother love in the church. We must comfort the hurting. Men in particular need to learn to be gentle, patient and kind.

Yet as wonderful as mother love is, it will never propel us to something higher. If we are accepted as we are we will never change. If we are comforted but never challenged, our lives will accomplish little.

Of course, not all harshness is love. There is no place in the church for abuse, misuse of authority and egotism. When church leaders consolidate power and surround themselves with sycophants, this is a sign of danger.

How can we introduce healthy father love back into the church? First, we must grapple with these fundamental questions:

If a pastor seems to offend both believers and non-believers at every turn, is this a sign of strength or weakness? Godliness or carnality?

Is it ever appropriate for a minister to make fun of someone? If so, how might this benefit the body of Christ?

Is there room in today’s church for a leader who is harsh, salty and shockingly frank in his language?

Does God expect ministers of the gospel to guard their speech, never saying what they really think (like politicians)? Or should they let fly, regardless of the consequences?

Where do we draw the line between a pastor/elder who is exercising father love and one who is abusing his power?

Should churches adopt specific behavioral standards, and should they be allowed to discipline and “shun” members who fail to meet these standards?

The next time you hear an account of some pastor who’s in hot water for saying or doing something controversial or hurtful, withhold judgment. Get the facts. And consider the possibility that this leader may be exercising a kind of love that’s frightening but necessary. A kind of love that young men respect – and desperately need.

Mark Driscoll is human. He’ll make mistakes. I’d encourage you to judge him not by the latest controversial thing that pops out of his mouth – but by the tens of thousands of young men who are following Jesus because of the ministry of his church.

For more information about Dave’s ministry, check out www.ChurchForMen.com

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I attend a lot of men’s conferences. And the constant theme of these events is a call on men to live sacrificial lives. To step up and serve…to be heroes…to lay down their lives for their families, for their communities and for their churches.

You hear the same call issued from pulpits. Preachers ask, “Why don’t we have more courageous men?”

The fact is modern society doesn’t need as many courageous men as it once did. And it no longer rewards men for acting like men. To understand this, travel back with me in time.

Since the dawn of the species, humans have been locked in a life-and-death struggle to feed themselves and to fend off invaders. It’s hard for us in 21st century Western society to imagine how hungry and violent the world was until recently. Famine was common. Crop failures meant the death of thousands. Hordes of thugs regularly swept through settlements, sacking, raping and pillaging at will (the Old Testament is full of these accounts). There were no standing armies, police forces or welfare programs to prevent this suffering.

Men were particularly valuable in earlier times because they possessed the physical strength to raise crops, hunt animals and fight wars. It’s no exaggeration to say that men held the key to the survival of the human race. If men failed to hunt or farm, women and children starved. If men failed to protect, women and children were slaughtered. If men didn’t do their jobs, all was lost. As such, men were indispensable.

Men have always done society’s dangerous jobs. Humans never even thought of giving these roles to women until recently, because females are typically physically weaker than men. Women were needed to bear, raise and protect children. Men were the “expendable sex”—and so were assigned the jobs that were most likely to kill someone.

But one day, a tribesman got wise. “Why should I hunt beasts that can rip my flesh?” he asked. “Why shouldn’t I run away when a superior enemy threatens? When I’m hungry, why shouldn’t I eat all the food myself, instead of sharing with the rest of the tribe?”

The leaders of the tribe panicked. “If this kind of thinking spreads through the tribe, we’re finished! We need a way of motivating men to overcome their natural fears, so they will become the protectors and providers everyone needs.”

So the leaders hatched a plan. “We’ll play a trick on the men,” they said. “We’ll create a code of manly behavior, and we’ll expect every man to obey it.”

So tribes all over the world developed various versions of the code of manly behavior. Among the expectations of the code:

  • A man is strong
  • A man is brave in the face of danger
  • A man endures suffering
  • A man puts the needs of others first
  • A man is generous
  • A man leaves a legacy

The whole idea behind manliness is to help a man overcome his natural instincts (fear, hunger, loneliness, etc.), so he will do what’s best for the tribe, not for himself. The code convinces men to do things that have the potential to hurt, exhaust or kill them.

Societies made sure every man understood the code. Adolescent boys were subjected to brutal coming-of-age rituals to ensure the code was implanted deep in their hearts.

But here’s the key: men who “stepped up” to these expectations were rewarded lavishly. They got the best homes, the most wives and the choicest foods. They were given the name “hero” and their exploits were memorialized in songs. They got medals and parades when they returned from war. But men who failed to act manly were shunned as cowards. They were treated as outcasts by society.

So for thousands of years, humans all over the globe favored men, in order to motivate them to do the dangerous jobs. Men were given an elevated place in society—including rights and privileges unavailable to women and children.

But then everything began to change—quickly. Set the time machine for AD 1800. A novel technology—the internal combustion engine—gave birth to the Industrial Revolution. A new kind of society was born, one that completely changed how humans protect and provide for themselves. Suddenly, for the first time in history, men were no longer indispensable.

With the rise of machinery, raw muscle power became much less important. Farm implements allowed one man to do the work of twenty. Advances in science increased crop yields dramatically. Never before had food been so abundant, easy to acquire, and relatively cheap compared to income.

Industrialized countries became wealthy enough to create a social safety net. Women could now rely on government welfare programs instead of husbands as their primary providers. Education and vocational opportunities for women multiplied, which increased their income and decreased their dependence on men. Today, for the first time in history a woman can live comfortably and even have children without attaching herself to a man.

In prehistoric times, every man was a warrior—literally. Rival bands frequently raided each other’s camps. Every man was expected to pick up his weapon and repel the invaders. In the age of agriculture, farmers grabbed their implements and went to war to defend their homelands. The Old Testament is full of stories of kings mustering common men to fight the Caananites, the Ammonites, the Amalekites, and various other ites who threatened the nation of Israel.

But in the past 150 years the role of protector has gradually been taken away from common men and given to professionals. The wealth created by industrialization funded the rise of professional, full-time armies and navies. Municipalities established the first public, salaried police forces and fire departments in the 1800s.

As a result, modern men rarely have to defend themselves. Today, the average American male will go his entire life without using a weapon to physically protect his family or property. In some nations it’s illegal to own a gun for self-protection. Battle is becoming rare even among professional soldiers. Fewer than half the U.S. veterans alive today saw combat during their military careers.[1]

Thanks to industrialization, a relatively small number of men can provide us with all the protecting we need. Around the world armies are shrinking because one warrior can wield the power of thousands. Battle machinery such as tanks, planes, bombs and machine guns have greatly amplified the power of one soldier.

The same is true with providing—today we need only a few men to feed us. In 1800, 90 percent of the U.S. labor force was engaged in farming. It took that many hands to sustain our populace. Two hundred years later, U.S. population has grown more than fifty-fold, yet only about 2 percent of Americans work as farmers.

Machines enabled women to become professional protectors and providers for the first time. A female fighter pilot can be just as lethal as a male one. Put a woman behind the wheel of a combine and she can harvest just as much wheat as a man. Physical power is no longer key to the survival of the human race—brainpower is. Men have lost their traditional advantage as protectors and providers for society.

I’m not suggesting society turn back the clock so men can regain their dominance. I’m merely pointing out how quickly industrialization has removed men from their indispensable role as the linchpin of society. Men just aren’t as important as they once were. Suddenly, society can get along quite well with just a handful of them.

In a little less than 200 years society went from lauding men’s accomplishments to holding them in contempt, particularly among the intelligentsia. The PC crowd sneers at men who fight wars, men who carry guns, men who cut down trees, and men who drill for oil. We no longer expect men to subdue the earth; instead, they’re supposed to live in harmony with it.

The feminist storyline has metastasized from “equal rights for women” to “men are the oppressors of women.” There’s a great deal of hatred and suspicion directed toward men on university campuses. It’s just assumed that men are responsible for every modern ill: war, environmental degradation, economic inequality, and the exploitation of various victim groups. If only women were in charge, we’d be living in a peaceful, egalitarian eco-paradise.

Men are no longer society’s greatest asset; they are its biggest problem. Each day men become a little less necessary. Guys sense this, and as their value diminishes we see them withdrawing from the workforce, the church, civic organizations, and from public life in general.

I’m not blaming women for any of this. I merely want you to see how much men’s value to society has fallen—and how quickly it fell. The Atlantic magazine recently printed an article titled, The End of Men:

“Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women?”

Men will step up when they are rewarded for doing so. It’s always been this way. When families appreciate men, they will step up. When church needs men, they will step up. Not even Jesus laid down his life without the promise of a greater reward.

For more information about Dave’s ministry, check out www.ChurchForMen.com

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Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle and founder of the Acts 29 church-planting network, has endured withering criticism from both conservatives and liberals, Christians and non-Christians, even as his church has become one of the largest and most influential in the nation.

Mars Hill has been compared to a cult. Left wing outlets such as Slate and Huffington Post have been scathing in their critiques. There’s an entire web site devoted to Driscoll’s downfall, recording every controversial statement the church planter utters.

Megablogger Rachel Held Evans called Driscoll a “bully” for poking fun at the effeminacy of some worship leaders, and launched a letter writing campaign against him. A number of prominent pastors have called Driscoll to account for his occasional swearing, including Ed Young and John MacArthur, who declared the Seattle pastor, “unfit for the ministry.” Driscoll recently managed to offend every preacher in England by calling them “cowards.”

As I read the critiques, a question keeps popping into my head: Wouldn’t people accuse Jesus of these same things if he were to walk among us today?

In fact, they did.

Read John 10:20: Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” Even his own family thought he was insane, and tried to take charge of him (Mark 3:20). Christ and his disciples so angered people they lived under constant threat of arrest and death.

Discipleship has always upset people. It still does today.

The point of this blog entry is not to justify everything Mark Driscoll says, does or believes.  The accusations lodged against Mars Hill Church by former elders, if true, are disturbing to say the least. And simply being controversial is no sign of Christlikeness.

Whether you agree with Driscoll’s methods or not, a larger question remains: Is Mark a bully, or is he loving people exactly as Jesus did – with a “father love” we no longer recognize as love?

Many believers see God as a two-act play: the ferocious Old Testament God and the gentle New Testament God. The fire-and-brimstone God of the ancients has been replaced with gentle Jesus, meek and mild. It’s almost as if God was “born again” after the book of Malichi.

But the Bible presents just one God, and He is often just as “mean and wild” in the back of the book as he is in the front. Both God the Father and God the Son are plenty harsh throughout the New Testament. Here are a few examples:

God proclaimed Jesus as “his beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Then He immediately cast that beloved son into the wilderness for a brutal testing. (Matthew 3-4)

Jesus rebuked adoring crowds, calling them “a wicked and perverse generation.” (Matthew 17:17)

Christ ridiculed his own disciples, calling them “dull” (more accurately translated, “stupid.”) Matthew 15:16.

Jesus called a desperate Canaanite woman and her people “dogs.” (Matthew 15:21-28)

God struck dead a couple that made a generous gift to the church after they fudged on the amount. (Acts 5)

Of course we can’t forget the Pharisees, Jesus’ perennial foil. The Gospels contain page after page of stinging rebukes, curses and condemnations for these religious know-it-alls.

Reason with me. Did God love Jesus? The crowds? The Canaanite woman? Ananias and Sapphira? The Pharisees?

Yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. And this is how he treated people he deeply loved. He dealt with them through deprivation. Rebukes. Insults. The death penalty.

What’s going on here? How could God be so mean to people he loved so intently? People he wanted to bless? People whose repentance he sought?

He was practicing father love.

When Jesus swung the whip and cleared the temple? Father love. When he called the Pharisees “whitewashed tombs?” Father love. When he accused his dinner host of murdering the prophets? Father love.

Father love is like a vaccination: it causes momentary pain, but promotes long-term health. We hate to be on the receiving end of a needle, but we know we need it. And we’re better for it.

We are a generation of Christians nursed on mother love. We expect God to bless us, comfort us and accept us as we are. Our sermons, songs and self-help books reinforce this idea. We expect nothing but kindness from fellow believers, and when we are treated harshly in the church we freak out.

Instead of examining our own lives, we default to the role of victim. “He couldn’t possibly be speaking for God, because he was so unloving,” we think. We often judge the appropriateness of another believer’s actions not by sober assessment – but how those actions make us feel about ourselves.

Now don’t get me wrong. We need mother love in the church. We must comfort the hurting. Men in particular need to learn to be gentle, patient and kind.

Yet as wonderful as mother love is, it will never propel us to something higher. If we are accepted as we are we will never change. If we are comforted but never challenged, our lives will accomplish little.

Of course, not all harshness is love. There is no place in the church for abuse, misuse of authority and egotism. When church leaders consolidate power and surround themselves with sycophants, this is a sign of danger.

How can we introduce healthy father love back into the church? First, we must grapple with these fundamental questions:

If a pastor seems to offend both believers and non-believers at every turn, is this a sign of strength or weakness? Godliness or carnality?

Is it ever appropriate for a minister to make fun of someone? If so, how might this benefit the body of Christ?

Is there room in today’s church for a leader who is harsh, salty and shockingly frank in his language?

Does God expect ministers of the gospel to guard their speech, never saying what they really think (like politicians)? Or should they let fly, regardless of the consequences?

Where do we draw the line between a pastor/elder who is exercising father love and one who is abusing his power?

Should churches adopt specific behavioral standards, and should they be allowed to discipline and “shun” members who fail to meet these standards?

The next time you hear an account of some pastor who’s in hot water for saying or doing something controversial or hurtful, withhold judgment. Get the facts. And consider the possibility that this leader may be exercising a kind of love that’s frightening but necessary. A kind of love that young men respect – and desperately need.

Mark Driscoll is human. He’ll make mistakes. I’d encourage you to judge him not by the latest controversial thing that pops out of his mouth – but by the tens of thousands of young men who are following Jesus because of the ministry of his church.

For more information about Dave’s ministry, check out www.ChurchForMen.com

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e² media network™ offers weekly podcasts aimed at edifying and equipping Christ followers in regards to evangelical Christian Church dynamics, Church leadership and Spiritual maturity throughout the Church at large.
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