I’m super excited to have Jess Connolly on the show this week! She has a new book out, Dance Stand Run, but you may know her from her last great book that she co-authored called Wild and Free. When I first heard the title of Jess’s new book, I wasn’t sure what to expect — but, WOW! was I was blown away! She talks about the balance of pursuing holiness and resting in grace. It is such an important message for us today.
It’s so easy to not give ourselves enough grace when we mess up. Yet, on the flip side, we can also almost abuse grace and not learn (and change) from our mistakes. Jess so beautifully encourages us on how to dance in the grace that we’ve been given, how to stand in our holiness, and how to run on the mission that God calls us to.
I was just so thrilled to talk to Jess about her new book, and I cannot wait for you to listen in. I hope you will be so encouraged!
Jess says she’s a big believer in creating quiet in her life. Be sure to listen in to hear more on this.
Get ready for a great interview — get your own Simply Joyful Podcast mug HERE!
The wild and free girls are the holiness girls. —Jess Connolly
This book came about from praying “What part do I have in this?” —Jess Connolly
I was hiding my holiness and forgetting about it. —Jess Connolly
Dancing in Grace. Standing on holy ground . Running on holy mission. —Jess Connolly
Women are feeling the need to strive more than ever. — Jess Connolly
Why are we so hesitant to embrace grace? — Jess Connolly
We are meant to walk in His holiness. —Kristi Clover
It’s not 50/50 — it’s 100/100. —Jess Connolly
Stop swinging from grace to truth and just be in both. —Jess Connolly
Try it, you’ll like it. —Jess Connolly
It’s just worth it. —Jess Connolly
Talk to Him at every point in your day. —Jess Connolly
If we stop at holiness, we just are separate from everyone. —Jess Connolly
Mission means making disciples. Bringing people with you as you are on your way to meet Jesus. —Jess Connolly
Jess Connolly is a gal who wants to leave her world more in awe of God than she found it. She’s the founder of All Good Things Collective, the co-founder of The Influence Network, and she is passionate about using her words to point women to Jesus through writing and speaking. She is the author of Dance, Stand, Run (October 2017) and the coauthor of the bestseller Wild and Free (May 2016). She and her husband planted Gospel Community, a church in Charleston, SC where they live with their four wild kids and their sweet dog.
Thank you, Rend Collective for allowing me to use your incredible song “The Joy of the Lord is My Strength”! This song has so much special meaning to me and it highlights the theme verse for my podcast — Nehemiah 8:10. Be sure to check out their music! They are such a fun band to listen to…and to see live.
(This podcast is by Kristi Clover. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)
When Christians gather, they spend the bulk of their time watching stage presentations. Worship services. Seminars. Classes. Conferences. Workshops. All the while, they interact with someone standing in front of them – either speaking or leading them in song.
The early Christians did meet to hear sermons and teaching. But their focus seemed to be outside the walls of the church — serving God adventurously, working in small teams. I can’t imagine they spent more than 80% of their time listening to people sing, teach and preach – as we do today.
Why is the modern Christian life so stage-driven? Because it keeps things tidy. We like tidy churches. And we punish pastors when things get untidy.
Ministry is messy. It’s a lot easier and safer to create stage presentations for Christians to consume than it is to send them out to work together.
Proverbs 14:4 says,
“Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.”
In other words, if you want a fruitful ministry, you’re going to create some mess.
Pastors live in this tension. Most clergy really do want their members building relationships with one another and ministering in the community. But the more God’s people get together and serve outside the church, the more opportunities arise for conflict, misunderstanding, and even immorality.
The muck often lands in the pastor’s lap. In heavily conflicted churches, clergymen may spend 10 hours a week or more keeping the sheep from attacking one another – or from leaving the flock in anger.
Doing the work of Jesus has always strained relationships. Read the epistles. The Apostle Paul mentions several fallings-out with his associates. So sharp were these disputes that even a mighty disciple like Paul saw no other option but to part company. Whenever two or three are gathered, conflict arises.
You can trace this thorn all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Adam had a perfect existence, but he was lonely. So God sent a second person. In short order, all hell broke loose.
Of course, laypeople can make messes without even leaving the church building. How about that Sunday school teacher who quoted Oprah to her class? Or the men’s ministry leader who played a movie clip that contained the f-word? Or the two boys in youth group who got into a fistfight? Within minutes the pastor has a Category 5 hurricane to deal with.
After a few years in the ministry pastors begin to wise up. It’s much safer to keep their parishioners at the church, sitting in rows, tightly controlling what they do and hear.
This is why most churches program a series of low-risk, stage-driven activities such as worship services, classes and seminars. These allow people to learn about their faith without actually practicing it. And the one-way lecture format lets the pastor control the message and minimize the possibility of misunderstanding. Believers rarely if ever exercise their faith outside the church, virtually eliminating the possibility of a mishap.
This also may explain why clergymen are reluctant to share the podium and pulpit. Pastors hate to clean up someone else’s mess. And have you noticed how your pastor glazes over when you suggest a new program or ministry? He’s not hearing you – he’s quickly calculating how ugly things could get if the program goes sideways.
Stage-driven Christianity produces happy pastors and docile congregations. If Christians are focused on a stage, then they are not focused on one another. The less God’s people interact, the less likely they are to kill each other.
To clarify: I’m not saying that stage-driven Christianity is a bad thing. I love great sermons, challenging teaching and a well-crafted worship service. Heck, I’m a professional speaker. I just spent the last two weeks standing on stage, leading men’s rallies and conference events.
Jesus was often quite theatrical in his presentations. He preached on a mountain and from a boat. He had a flair for the dramatic.
The answer is not to eliminate stage-driven Christianity, but to complement it with more action. Men change when they actually practice their faith. Away from the church. In league with other men.
Modern seekers are not necessarily looking for a stage presentation with a clever sermon and a hot praise band. Thom and Joani Schultz believe that people today are seeking four acts of love: radical hospitality, fearless conversation, genuine humility, and divine anticipation. These are hard to deliver in a forum where every chair is pointed at a stage.
So, what is needed?
Christ’s life was full of conflict and messes. As his disciples, how can we expect anything different?
What happens when you put an archery range inside an abandoned grocery store and call it a church?
Brandon Smith started a church in Oak Grove, MO – 30 minutes east of downtown Kansas City. In the past five years, his church – Paradise Outfitter Ministries – has grown from 15 to more than 500 weekly attendees. They’ve had to expand to four weekly services in order to accommodate the crush of new members. Amazingly, close to 70% of the congregation consists of folks who had no connection to church at all prior to visiting Paradise Outfitter. Brandon is not stealing sheep. He’s making disciples.
I visited Brandon at his church, I learned what makes his church unique and some of the exciting things God is doing in Oak Grove. The first thing that jumped out at me coincides with something that I have joked about for years, but Brandon has actually put in place – walls full of dead animals. It’s definitely a hunters and sportsman’s church!
Here’s what Brandon had to say about Paradise Outfitter Ministries:
It started about six years ago at my house with just a half dozen or so of us. Attendance just went up and down like an airplane that couldn’t take off. We were nomadic. We ended up in a resort at one point, but it just didn’t take off. By the time we came here at what was an abandoned grocery store, we were at about ten people. So, we remodeled the building, planning on a wild game supper for 350 people. So, we held the wild game supper in February, we began worshipping here in March, and opened the archery range in April.
The archery range was really part of the dream from the beginning. Because we knew that if we could create a space where people could hang out, it would make a huge difference. Men would begin to make friendships without forcing them into what felt like a “church culture”. So, we started opening the archery range before and after worship without requiring anything from anybody – they didn’t have to come to church or attend any of our events – they could just show up before or after services and shoot in the range. Soon thereafter, we started some leagues, and now we run about 90 people in our archery leagues.
The leagues are technically separate from the church, organizationally, but they offer opportunities for the men and women of our congregation to connect with and make relationships with the people of our community. Eventually, just through these friendships, deeper connections are made and people move from only coming by our building as part of the archery leagues to coming to church and getting to know who God is. It simply is a very natural connection point and allows people to just hang out. Often times, people are hanging around more than an hour after our worship services talking and fellowshipping with one another.
So, our building is basically divided in half: one half is the archery range with about 20 targets; and the other half is an open area with 12’ high ceilings and close to two dozen mounted animal heads. We wanted to dress up the walls so that when people came through the doors, they didn’t look in and say, “Ah, typical church”. If they don’t instantly figure out that we are what we say we are – typically judging and making their first impressions off of what they see – then we’re sunk. Some of our mounts are done locally, but others were donated and flown from as far away as Alaska, including our moose and caribou. We even have African game animals (a kudu and a wildebeest) that were donated by the guys at Hodgdon Powders when they heard what we were doing here.
During our worship services, the congregation sits on fold-up camp chairs and enjoy a very casual, relaxed worship atmosphere. Even our cross is unique to what we have going here. One of the ladies from our church who is very creative with rustic décor grabbed all of our sheds that we had laying around and made an “antler cross”.
The bottom line is that when people from our community come by, they feel relaxed and at home. Most of the people who attend are church were previously not connected to a church in any way, shape or form. They may have attended church as a child, but they currently didn’t have anywhere where they called their “church home”. Or, some of those who did, had a rough exit from wherever it was they previously attended.
So, often times, when people walk into our building, they come in with a predetermined idea of what to expect. Therefore, just upon seeing the unique and relaxed environment that we have here, offers an opportunity for them to lower their guard some and for us to connect with them, whether its through a common love of hunting, fishing, or just an appreciation for the outdoors.
We offer five weekly worship services on Wednesday nights, Thursday nights (which was our original meeting time, since most unchurched outdoorsmen are going to be out hunting or fishing on Sunday mornings), Sunday evening, and two Sunday mornings, each with about 70-120 people attending regularly. The crazy thing is that we never even dreamed of having a Sunday morning service, much less all this.
Our church is not only unique based on the décor and buildings. We almost always offer free meals to open the service with, then we’ll break into a song to get peoples’ attention. It may be something by Third Day, or even something secular like Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” or Travis Tritt’s “Great Day to Be Alive”. We just want some thing that will get their attention and says, “Hey, for the next 50 minutes, if you give us your attention, we’ll try to be as quality as possible.” After the song, we do announcements and let people know, in a light-hearted lay-back fashion, what we’re doing around here. Announcements are followed by a worship set of about three songs. We know that most unchurched men are uncomfortable singing, but they do typically enjoy quality music, so there’s a fine line between overdoing the music and engaging them through worship songs. That being said, our song choices range from stuff that’s on the radio this week to age-old hymns that some of them were brought up on as kids. And, we often do songs that focus on the majesty and power of Jesus Christ. In other words, we try to stay away from a set full of love songs.
After the music, we typically have our message time, which often begins with an outdoor story which transitions into a Bible story and always leads to a real-world, contemporary application of God’s Word. We then wrap things up with a closing song and an opportunity for people to respond and seek out someone in the congregation, whether it be me, one of our other pastors or someone they met over dinner or at the range, to talk about how they can begin their personal connection with Jesus Christ.
One of our governing philosophies is that we prefer to keep our children alongside their parents. So, we offer an archery program for kids that also teaches Bible lessons, and parents are very involved. Also, instead of Vacation Bible School, we have “Hooked for Life”, which is a fishing event where about 100 kids came out to the pond to learn to fish and learn about Jesus. The most amazing part of it is that we had about a 1:1 ratio of adults to kids. I credit a lot of this parental involvement to the fact that kids are part of our weekly worship services. And, while it may be a bit noisy – even chaotic at times – we find that the men, in particular, really appreciate being there with their kids beside them.
You see, outdoorsmen typically really enjoy their family time. They want to be the ones to take their kids on a turkey hunt or deer hunting. So, if they were to walk into a church and the adults go in one direction and the kids go off in another, this goes against the grain of who they are.
I owe a lot of this identity that we’ve developed to the first book that I read when we started the church, John Eldredge’s “Wild at Heart”. John’s book then put me on a search for more inspiration on how to bring the church back to men, which led me to “Why Men Hate Going to Church”, and that is what finally put words to what I was thinking about how a church could look like if it were angled toward men.
For more information about Brandon’s ministry, check out www.paradiseoutfitterministries.com. And, to purchase my book or be part of the ongoing conversation about today’s church, go to www.churchformen.com.
Common story: First Church gets a new minister – Pastor Joe. He’s not a very good communicator. People start leaving. Within two years attendance has dropped by half. Giving is down by a third. First Church descends into a malaise. Eventually Pastor Joe is fired and the search for his replacement begins.
A year later First Church hires a new minister – Pastor Daniel. He’s a great communicator. The church immediately starts growing. Happy days are here again. People love Pastor Daniel.
Why did this happen to First Church? Nothing else changed. The building remained the same. The worship times remained the same. The ministry programs remained the same. The key staff remained the same. The only thing that changed was the pastor. Yet First Church’s attendance and giving rose and fell in direct response to the quality of the preacher.
Can I be brutally honest? When it comes to church attendance, nothing matters as much as the ability of the pastor to deliver good sermons. If a pastor is a good speaker, the church grows. If he’s bad at his job the church shrinks.
Sounds unspiritual – but it’s true. It shouldn’t be this way – but it is. Each week is a referendum on the pastor’s ability to deliver an inspiring sermon.
Admit it – you’ve gotten into the car with your spouse and begun critiquing the sermon before you’re out of the church parking lot. Or you’ve been asked, “How was church?” What do you talk about? The sermon.
Let’s be real: Protestants judge the quality of a worship service largely by the power of the sermon to move them. Nothing else comes close.
This is why the right minister can cause a church to sink or soar.
I liken it to a football team: an NFL squad has 53 men, but the team’s fortunes rise and fall on the talents of one man – the quarterback. If he can deliver lots of touchdowns, the team wins. If he can’t, the team loses. Granted, the signal-caller must have good players around him, but as the 2012 Washington Redskins learned, a great QB means everything.
The same is true with church attendance. When it comes to numbers, nothing matters as much as the ability of the pastor to deliver engaging sermons. Preaching is everything.
It pains me to write these words. In an ideal world, what SHOULD matter is prayer, the presence of the Spirit, the love of the people for one another and the church’s ministry in the community. In that ideal world a church should be able to take out one preacher and install another without a hiccup.
And while we’re at it, why does the size of a church even matter? Jesus would choose a church of 12 sold-out disciples over a church of 12,000 passive pew-sitters any day.
We can argue these points until Christ returns, but this podcast is about attendance. Numbers. And when it comes to putting men in pews, nothing matters more than pastoral quality. Every other consideration pales in comparison.
This wasn’t always the case.
In medieval times there was only one church in a given area, or parish. If your parish priest offered boring homilies, you were stuck.
After the Reformation, sermons became the centerpiece of Protestant worship, as they are today. Some preachers were interesting, and others were boring. But until the 1950s, that didn’t matter much. Christians were mostly loyal to their denominations. If you were born a Methodist you attended the Methodist church in your area. If pastor was a lousy preacher you endured it. You never even thought of going to another church because you were Methodist and that was that.
Fast forward to today. Parishioners are no longer loyal to their denominations.
Here’s my story: I was born and baptized Lutheran. As a young man I attended an Assemblies of God Sunday school. I came to know Christ in a Free Methodist Church. In college I joined a Baptist church, where I was married. I moved to Alaska and became a Presbyterian, and ten years ago I joined a non-denominational megachurch, which I still attend today (although I visited a small Lutheran church this summer and loved it).
This kind of religious switching would have been unusual a century ago, but today it’s common. People move to new cities. They have automobiles that will take them to a church (and a pastor) they connect with. People are less loyal to institutions.
Because parishioners now have access to better preaching (live or through the media) they are less willing to put up with boring, rambling, irrelevant preaching. This has led modern congregants to evaluate their churches based on the sermon. They stay or go based on whether they “are being fed.” If the messages consistently lag, they seek out another church that offers them more.
Many of you are seeing red by this point. “Today’s churchgoers are so shallow. They treat God’s holy church like a product to be consumed!” you may be thinking. And you’re right.
But this is the reality in today’s world. People come to church expecting to receive something from God. If they don’t, they move on. Can we blame them? People came to Jesus – and they always received.
Although we may condemn them as consumers, today’s parishioners choose a church with great care. The decision to leave a church is often a difficult one, fraught with emotion, doubt and uncertainty.
Church hopping is less common than you might think. And thank God for that. But it does happen.
I have a friend in Texas (let’s call him Roger) whose church planted “daughter church” in a nearby town. Roger and his family agreed to move to the daughter church to help it get started.
This “church plant” started with much enthusiasm but quickly began to sputter. Attendance dropped by 75% over the first year as the fledgling congregation struggled with its music and preaching.
Roger attended faithfully. He volunteered. He prayed. But the poor sermons exacted a toll on his walk with God. “Honestly, I wanted to be a good soldier and stick it out, but I finally had to be honest with myself – I was dying spiritually,” Roger said. “The worship was lifeless. The sermons just weren’t reaching me. In nine months I didn’t hear anything from the pulpit I hadn’t heard a thousand times.”
Roger eventually made the painful decision to abandon the church plant and return to the mother church. “I felt like a traitor,” he said. “But I’m regularly hearing from God again back in my home church. I know I’m being selfish, but I go to church to meet with God. If that’s not happening what’s the sense in going?”
Here are some questions for you to grapple with:
I’m noticing a growing trend – Christian men quietly admitting they do not like going to church.
More than half of the committed Christian men I talk to, when asked, will tell me they do not like churchgoing.
They come to me after I speak. They admit their dissatisfaction in hushed tones.
They love God – but hate going to church.
These are not malcontents who’d rather be golfing on Sunday. These are the good guys. Guys who’ve left much behind to follow Jesus. Guys who love their wives and kids. Many are deacons and elders. Some teach Sunday school.
Some are even pastors. Some are nationally known Christian leaders. If I shared their names you’d be shocked.
Most of these men are faithful churchgoers – yet they freely admit they don’t get much from it.
Most are longtime churchgoers who are simply tired of the routine. The act of churchgoing – going to a building, singing songs, hearing a sermon, eating the cracker and drinking the juice, dropping the check into the plate, socializing and heading back to the car – is leaving them particularly dry. They see church as ineffective, focused on the wrong things, or hypocritical.
Sometimes quality is the issue – but not always. Many of these restless men attend dynamic churches with fantastic preaching and music. They have good friends in the church. In fact one man said, “I absolutely love my church. I just don’t like going to it.”
Furthermore, these men sense that God has more for them – but they can’t seem to find what they’re looking for within the existing structures of church.
So what’s going on here? Is this a trend, or am I just hearing these complaints because I wrote a book titled, “Why Men Hate Going to Church?”
And how about you? Are you a person who loves God but hates going to church? Would you like an alternative to the Sunday morning “God show?”
HOW TO DO GREATER THINGS THAN EVEN JESUS DID
In John chapter 14, Jesus said something outrageous:
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these.”
Say what? We will do greater things than Jesus?
Yes we can. In fact, we already do.
You say, “David, what are you talking about? Jesus raised the dead and healed the sick!”
Yes he did. And every day, Christian-chartered hospitals around the globe heal thousands, and even bring a few back from the dead.
You say, “Jesus fed five thousand.”
Yes he did. And every day, Christian relief organizations feed millions.
You say, “Jesus preached truth to multitudes.”
Yes he did. And every year, Christian churches proclaim eternal truth to billions.
You say, “Jesus commanded the forces of nature.”
Yes he did. And every year, scientists unlock the secrets of nature at universities that were chartered as Christian institutions.
You say, “Jesus befriended the lowly.”
Yes he did. And every day Christian organizations such as Salvation Army help people in desperate straits get their lives together. Prison ministers care for the incarcerated. Chaplains comfort the sick and dying.
Taking in strangers? Habitat for Humanity. Clothing the naked? Samaritan’s Purse. Casting out demons? Counseling and prayer ministries.
Jesus told us we would do greater things than he did. This scripture has been fulfilled in our time.
Best of all, Jesus wants you in on the action. He wants to work through you to accomplish greater things than He did.
Miracles still happen. This year, volunteer in your local church or parachurch organization. See what God can do through you.
For more information about David’s ministry, visit www.ChurchForMen.com
And, for more engaging and encouraging podcasts and videos, check out the E-Squared Media Network at www.e2medianetwork.com
Imagine a church that meets outdoors. Rain or shine. Next to a fishing hole. Around a campfire. There’s no shortage of men in this church. In fact, guys come early to go fishing – and stay late to talk around the fire.
Sound like a little bit of heaven? It’s called The Sportsman’s Church, and it meets every Sunday night in Victoria, Texas, 125 miles southwest of Houston.
Bring your bible – and your fishing pole.
The founder of Sportsman’s church is Glen Dry. He was working part time on a church staff when an idea hit him: start a church that targets the camo crowd.
Glen already had numerous irons in the fire. He’s a busy father to 3 active kids. Starting a church was the last thing he wanted to do.
“I didn’t want to be a church planter, but I’ve learned that obedience is a lot better than misery,” Dry said.
The Sportsman’s Church launched February 3, 2013. The church meets on Sunday nights so outdoorsmen have the weekend free to do what they love.
“It’s gospel centered, relationship centered and also very man-centered,” Dry said.
In just 14 months the church has grown from a handful of worshippers to more than 100 in regular attendance.
Attendance varies depending on the weather — because the church has no walls. The worshippers gather under a pavilion – whether it’s 40 degrees or 100 degrees. “The good thing about this is I’ve got a church of people who want to be there,” Dry says.
Worshippers start to assemble at 5 p.m. Sunday on a party deck. The church provides snacks and soft drinks. The band starts playing a little after 5. Then Glen shares a hunting story or a testimony. Hunters and fishermen are allowed to share their stories (thou shalt not lie!).
Glen shares a short message (15-20 minutes). The service (or Bonfire, as it’s called) wraps up a little after 6 pm, but hardly anyone goes home. Instead, they gather around campfires and visit until dark. “If we kept the lights on they’d probably stay all night,” Dry said.
“It’s exciting to see people coming to church not just for a show, but they are coming for the relationships, and I believe, to experience God in those relationships,” Dry said.
The church is hoping to keep meeting outdoors, but they are looking at an indoor option for the coldest winter days. Even if they do eventually move indoors, they’re looking for a light, airy facility where they can bring the outdoors in.
One of the great strengths of the Sportsman’s church model is how inexpensive it is. There’s no building to rent. Glen owns the lot where the church meets – and he doesn’t take a salary from the church. “There is hardly any overhead in this church,” Dry said. The congregation has grown without much advertising because it offers such a unique approach. Sportsmen are a tight community who are used to doing things together, so they’re not shy about inviting their friends.
The church offers Camo Kids on Wednesday nights, and Critter Care for babies. The Student ministry is known as “Wild Life.” They blow stuff up, shoot arrows into targets and draw Biblical lessons from the outdoors. In addition, the church offers midweek small groups called Campfires.
Every week Dry has men coming up to him, saying, “This is what’s been missing in my life. I can relax in this environment and be a man and bring my family.”
“I’m baptizing guys I’d have never dreamed I’d see in church,” Dry said. “They don’t fit into the traditional church culture America has created. So this is just a great option for them.”
To learn more about The Sportsman’s Church, click here.
Have you heard of Men’s Fraternity? It’s the world’s most popular men’s discipleship curriculum. Thousands of churches around the globe have used this much-loved video series to challenge their men.
Men’s Fraternity began in the early 1990s. Pastor Robert Lewis of Fellowship Bible Church in Little Rock saw his men returning from Promise Keepers rallies excited about their faith. But there were few resources to disciple them.
So one Sunday Lewis announced that he was going to offer an early morning weekly talk on men’s issues. He rented an old gymnasium and expected maybe 50 guys to show up. To his amazement more than 300 men packed the gym that first morning. By the end of the first year, a thousand men were attending his weekly talks.
Men’s Fraternity was born.
Lewis eventually videotaped his sessions and began distributing them on VHS, and later on DVD. The videos been viewed by millions of men around the world.
A few years ago, Lewis and his creative team began to brainstorm: How can we make Men’s Fraternity more relevant to today’s busy young man?
They came up with a concept called “33 – The Series” The number 33 refers to Authentic Manhood as Modeled by Jesus in his 33 years on earth.
33 – The Series offers many of the same teachings as the original Men’s Fraternity – but in a package that’s more relevant to today’s man:
Rick Caldwell is executive director of Authentic Manhood, distributor of Men’s Fraternity and 33 – The Series. Caldwell says that 33 has expanded the reach of this teaching. It’s finding a home in different kinds of churches, in military installations, and even in jails. “We just got a note from a guy in Trinidad, who’s using it in the correctional system,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell’s son recently returned from Afghanistan, where troops were watching the 33 videos on their smartphones and iPads. Thirty-three is available on military bases around the world.
“We’re also seeing huge success in the African-American community, because one of our presenters on the 33 team is a prominent African-American pastor,” Caldwell said.
Each year, Authentic Manhood donates all the proceeds from DVD and online sales to an organization that plants five new churches. The first thing these church planters do is offer 33 – The Series in their communities and advertise for men to join. These men are the foundation upon which these churches are planted.
Volumes 1, 2, 3 and 4 of 33 are now available online and on DVD. Each volume is six sessions. During the next year the final two volumes will be produced. After that, “we’ll explore what men need to be doing,” Caldwell said.
Donald Miller is the latest high-powered Christian man to admit he rarely attends church. The author of bestsellers, “Blue Like Jazz,” and “Searching for God Knows What” recently said he rarely attends worship services, and feels no connection to God while singing in church.
I also cited the work of Dr. Michael Lindsay, who interviewed 360 of America’s most prominent evangelicals, 90 percent of whom were men. These well-known believers included athletes, CEOs, Hollywood stars, and two US presidents. Lindsay “was shocked to find that more than half—60%—had low levels of commitment to their denominations and congregations. Some were members in name only; others had actively disengaged from church life.”
This got me to thinking: if the twelve apostles were alive today, would they attend church services? Perhaps. But I suspect their leader, Simon Peter, might be one of those high-powered men who went missing.
Jesus placed three men in his inner circle: Peter, James and John. I’ve heard it taught that this triad represents the three dimensions of a man’s soul: James, the mind; Peter, the will; and John, the emotions. Every man possesses these three, but one tends to dominate.
For example, I am a James. I am a deep thinker. Always have been. I live in the world of ideas. I read about two hours a day and write at least an hour a day (unless I’m working on a book, in which case both those numbers rise).
The problem with being James is that I’m not Peter. I have many great ideas, but lack the will to bring them to fruition. I’m often afraid to “step out of the boat” and follow my Lord in faith. When I face opposition I tend to back off – not move forward.
The other problem with being James is that I’m not John. I often run roughshod over people and hurt their feelings. As church services become more focused on emotion, I feel less excited about attending them.
I know many Christians who, like me, are James. We love to debate theology and ideas. Doctrines and beliefs are paramount. James loves nothing better than a meaty sermon that makes you think.
I also know a lot of Johns in the church. They are deep lovers. Johns are emotionally perceptive and into relationships. They are compassionate and they really enjoy praise and worship and the way it makes them feel connected to the divine.
But where are the Peters? Where are the impulsive men who act first and think later? As Dr. Lindsay’s research found, the modern church is very short on these types of men.
Dr. Mels Carbonnel has administered personality tests to thousands of Christians over the past thirty years. While about 62 percent of Americans have passive personalities, about 85 percent of the churchgoers whom Carbonnel has tested fall into the passive category.(On the well-known DISC test, the passive personalities are the S and C)
Put another way – in the broader society, potential Peters make up 38% of the populace. In the church, that number is just 15%.
What are the implications of this imbalance? Any institution so heavily tilted toward passive personalities will itself become passive. It will tend to value tradition and stability over innovation and growth. Anyone who’s served in leadership in a local church knows this is true.
Jesus put Peter in charge of the early church. What was he showing us? Without a bias toward action, the church dies.
Yet today’s church is practically bereft of Peters. We meet. We argue. We defend our turf. We love one another – but often fail to reach the world.
So where are all the Peters? Why are they leaving the institutional church? And how can we get them back? I’d welcome your ideas.
In my next post I explore the reasons Peter has left the building. For more discussion on this issue leave a comment below, or join the conversation on my Facebook page.
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.
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:
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.
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