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Daren Streblow and Thor Ramsey

Daren: Joining me this week is my long-time friend, host of the Bananas television program, seen on many of the Thou Shalt Laugh series and not a part of a brand new that’s coming out, I’m very excited to have him on. Thor Ramsey, welcome back to the show sir, how are you?

Thor: I’m good Daren, It’s always a pleasure to chat with you my friend.

Daren: Yeah? What makes it pleasant chatting with me? I want to know because my wife doesn’t always feel that way so I’m just curious.Daren Streblow and Thor Ramsey

Thor: I think it’s just because she takes Minnesotans for granted then, because you’re nice, fine, friendly, and kind people over there. It’s the Minnesota friendship which I was taught the last time I was there, in fact I was there recently, and anyone will give you directions, if not to there home.

Daren: There’s a limit to our friendliness.

Thor: It’s discerning friendship that’s what it is.

Daren: It doesn’t go much deeper than self-righteousness, but it’s there, and it’s kind of pleasant if you stay on that side. You just gotta know what side to stay on. You’re a mid-westerner originally, Nebraska right, and then you moved to L.A I believe a long time ago.

Thor: L.A is very much more impressive than saying “Canyon Lake, California” Where most people are like “Where is that?” Lets just say Los Angeles. When those lights are shinning it looks like the spotlights looking for prisoners but they’re really looking for stars, we live right there, we live right under that light that’s shinning to highlight George Clooney’s face.

Daren: Do you ever run into people out there, like at the grocery store and go “That’s a famous person”

Thor: You do actually, to be honest.

Daren: And that’s why you live there right, because you worship those people.

Thor: Exactly, you wanna go to a public men’s room and go “Look who I’m standing next to, amazing”

Daren: You are no “Respecter of Persons” You love everybody.

Thor: We went to a theatre and we brought our daughter. Disney has these premiers in a theatre next to Grauman’s, It’s a famous movie theatre but they do these big production shows before the movie itself comes out, and I was going to the restroom and there was a famous person right next to me. You kind of joke about it, you say “There he is”

Daren: Did you say hi to Leland or did you wait till later?

Thor: No that was a Canadian premier of the twentieth episode of the Trailer Park Boys.

Daren: But speaking of famous, speaking of you, this movie, Youth Group movie, tell me all about it, do you call it Youth Group Movie or Youth Group, what’s the title now?

Thor: It’s called Youth Group, and it’s a movie. You can call it Youth Group The Movie and that way we will be the definitive movie about youth groups forever.

Daren: Well, to distinguish you among the many thousands of movies about youth groups is pretty pioneering, a look at youth groups from your prospective, and I understand you wrote it.

Thor: I did, I wrote this about eight years ago, I wrote a script called Youth Group, it’s a comedy about a youth pastor in crisis. What I started doing since I wrote the script I thought “Let me get together, let me network with other people who want to make films. So I started networking with a group of people, I mean it’s Los Angeles, everyone has a camera, you wanna make a film then you just need to meet up with your Starbucks barista and they’re in your crew! Once they help you with your film then you’ll help them with their film. Long story short, we made these short films, there’s a thing out here called the 168 Film Festival, it’s a Christian based film festival where you have a week to write, shoot, and edit a ten-minute movie. I think we made about six or seven of those together, the director of Youth Group Christopher Shaw, him and I had worked on these short films together, so we got a crew together for one day and everyone basically works for free, they were really working for granola bars and one Subway sandwich that everyone shared. So we shot a trailer, we took some scenes and we shot two minutes of a trailer that you can see online. Now, the movie didn’t exist yet, but we shot the trailer because a lot of times when you’re pitching a movie to people it’s better to show them.

Daren: When you were shooting this, did you actually plan on making a movie or was it a kind of a “Make em’ laugh with the trailer kind of thing” And it grew out of that?

Thor: No, we wanted to make the movie, so we shot the trailer to try to get investors, it’s an industry, it’s a business so even if you want to do it for what ever reason you want to make your movie for, and we were just trying to make a funny movie set in the Christian evangelical world, that was our goal.

Daren: Kind of an un-explored world, wouldn’t you say?

Thor: I think so, and even when they have explored it they’ve explored it from and outsiders’ perspective and they always get it wrong, like they are apart of this world and we love these people, we’re not making fun of these people. There’s tenderness in all the comedy and that’s were you want to pour the comedy and the laughter. So this was about eight years ago, I go from stand up comedy which I started in 1987 and I still do comedy events but long story short I was a part of a church plant and this was around the time I was working on the script. I was a part of a church plant, I was not the lead pastor but I was just one of the elders. We moved to the city Redlands with the lead pastor to help plant the church and that church is running strong now. I started preaching once a month basically and there’s this thing, like, if you’re not doing what God calls you to do you’re just not gonna find it fulfilling.

So, for me, preaching started taking up my desire instead of stand up. I still do stand up… and I’m still hilarious! (sarcastic humble brag). But, as I started preaching nearly every Sunday, it made it impossible to travel around and do stand up on Saturday nights.

To make a long story short, the buddy of mine who put together the trailer together – Christopher Shaw – was a social media madman! I thought he was overdoing it, but it turned out that Chris’ tweets caught the eye of Stephen Baldwin!

After seeing our trailer, Stephen asked for a couple meetings with us, which was absolutely surreal! We were in the middle of Los Angeles, on the rooftop café at a quaint little L.A. hotel, meeting with Stephen Baldwin who had just come from a meeting with Mel Gibson about one of his projects, and in the middle of it, Stephen’s daughter walked up to us with her friends who happened to have acted on Hannah Montana (which was one of my daughter’s favorite shows), and they wanted to talk to Stephen real quick before jaunting over to Will Smith’s house to hang out with Will’s son.

The sensation was the same as if someone were to ask you, “Did you just see that kangaroo hopping down the street on a pogo stick bouncing a basketball on its head?”

I don’t believe that I just witnessed that… but yeah, I think I actually did just see that!

That’s what our Stephen Baldwin meeting was like.

But, for Stephen and his family, this was simply everyday life.

Anyway, Stephen and his manager loved our script. It was the comedy they had been looking for. So they shopped it around. They shopped it around for three years!

In those three years, I transitioned to preaching every week. Stand up comedy was pretty much in my rear view mirror (albeit sometimes just in the back seat). Nonetheless, my identity of being a “famous” stand up comedian within the Christian sub-culture of America was a thing of the past. My own popularity and success wasn’t a concern of mine at all anymore.

In fact, I remember standing in my kitchen and praying, “God, only have this movie made if it brings glory to you. Not me.”

What’s incredible is that years before that moment, I would have hung my entire career and identity on that one script. But, God had molded me and matured me away from that.

And shortly after that, we received a phone call saying that the film was fully funded!

We shot it last July, and it was such an incredible experience. Yet, no one ever really realizes what all it takes to get a movie made until they are part of it. (sometimes even when they are a part of it).

Seriously, just getting a movie completed is a miracle, itself!

But, by God’s grace, it’s completed and now we are in the process of working out distribution.

Daren: Youth Group, THE MOVIE! You can follow along with the film’s progress and see Thor’s teaser trailer on Youth Group’s Facebook page.

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Stinkin’ selfish!

That’s what you are if you take your kids to a small church. No wait, you’re not… it’s been retracted, but too late for some.

I’m Joel Fieri, and this is part three of my reaction to Andy Stanley’s year so far, here on The Big Picture podcast. Pastor Andy Stanley did it again recently in yet another sermon that went viral online. In parts one and two of this series, I discussed why – even though his concerns were valid – I didn’t particularly care for his viral video call for my generation of folks over 45 to “knock it off!” in voicing our concerns about politics and culture.

That video was well received and widely shared in the Christian community. It got lots and lots of “Amens” and “likes”, so my disapproving voice was against the grain for most.

But in a subsequent sermon in February, Pastor Stanley drew the wrath of most every one when he said this:

“So, when I hear adults say, ‘I don’t like a big church. I like about 200. I want to know everybody.’

I say, ‘You are so stinkin’ selfish! You care nothing about the next generation. All you care about is you and your five friends. You don’t care about your kids, anybody else’s kids..’

I’m saying, if you don’t go to a church large enough where you can have enough middle schoolers and high schoolers to separate them so they can have small groups and grow up the local church, you are a selfish adult. Get over it. Find yourself a big ol’ church where your kids can connect with a bunch of people and grow up and love the local church.

Instead, what you do… Can you tell I’m passionate about this?

I’m sick of this. I hear this all the time: ‘Well, I just don’t like a big church.’

Well, look… here’s what you do: you drag your kids to a church they hate.”

Another pretty harsh pronouncement.

Image: Jon Hawkins

Image: Jon Hawkins

“Stinkin’ selfish”?

“You care nothing about the next generation”?

Wow!

Not surprisingly, the reaction to this was swift and fierce, especially from small church pastors and attendees. And to his credit, Pastor Stanley quickly (and I think sincerely) apologized.

All seems to be forgiven, for most at least.

But I have an interest and even a personal stake in what he said, because what he described here is almost exactly the decision my wife and I made a few years back regarding our children.

When we were first married we attended a small church that my wife and her two children had attended, with her late husband, for years. It was a great church, full of loving people who had taken my wife and the kids under their wings and loved them tremendously through their loss. There was a deep bond between the beautiful Christian folks at that church and my family. They were very accepting of me and welcomed me into their family of believers.

There was one problem, however. It became more and more evident that our kids, especially our fourth grade son, were finding the church pretty much as irrelevant and boring as Pastor Stanley described.

Through no fault of their own, the little church’s Sunday school and youth ministries weren’t equipped to engage our son. With no boys his age involved, he had no one to connect with, and we felt that we were, indeed, bringing him to a church he hated.

So my wife and I made a gut-wrenching decision to leave that wonderful little church and attend the local mega church in the area, which offered all the youth group options we could ask for.

My wife endured the feelings of guilt, and the sense that she somehow betrayed her loving church family. It was an extremely un-selfish decision on her part, but also the right one.

So I get what Pastor Stanley is saying. We lived what he’s saying. For us, he’s dead-on right!

So where did he go wrong?

Most people would say he made a crude, judgmental and offensive blanket statement against any church that wasn’t like his, or at least as large as his (which means, since his is the largest church in America… every other church in America). And they’d be right.

Andy Stanley even said so in his apology.

Quote; “The negative reaction to the clip from last weekend’s message is entirely justified. Heck, even I was offended by what I said! I apologize.”

But what would lead him to say something so offensive even to him? He’s been in ministry for years. He’s the son of Charles Stanley, no less. He knows better!

As you might expect, I have a “Big Picture” take on why this happened. I found a big clue in his offensive rant that I haven’t heard anyone pick up on. It’s in the middle of his talk where he interrupted himself and said, “…can you tell I’m passionate about this?…”

Yes Pastor Stanley, I can tell you’re passionate, and I think THAT was your mistake.

You allowed your passion to lead you to lose focus and to lose control of your emotions, and you let loose some long-held frustrations toward your fellow believers.

And after blurting them out, you posted them on the internet for all the world to hear.

Judging by your apology, you didn’t realize or even hear what you were really saying.

That’s what passion can do!

Anyone who’s heard this podcast before has heard me express my concern over how an over-emphasis on passion – as in the “Passion for God” movement, or having a “passionate relationship with Jesus”, or even “finding your passion” in ministry – has taken root in today’s Christian culture.

The Bible does mention passion, a bit. It’s a legitimate human emotion. The few times it is mentioned (nine times in my preferred translation), we’re warned against being led by it, and in no uncertain terms.

Passion burns. Passion leads us astray, causing even a well-respected pastor to say things he wouldn’t otherwise. I’ve never seen a church split that wasn’t fueled by passionate beliefs on both sides. How many divorces, legal battles and political fights are ignited by passion?

Now, once again, let me say that this is all unsolicited advice I’m giving here, but I think this why God’s word warns against following our passions, and the good Pastor Stanley’s regrettably offensive tirade serves as a good example as to why.

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Welcome to the Big Picture Podcast, I’m Joel Fieri and I’m back to hopefully bring come clarity and keep the conversation going about what’s happening today in the Church and greater society. And, I’m not alone this week. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dave Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church and host of the Church for Men podcast, along with e2 media network’s own Jefferson Drexler, to discuss the “Feminization of Today’s Church”. With so many people today hesitant to stand up and say there is something tragically wrong with the course most churches are heading toward, the three of us tackle some tough issues head on… like men are prone to do. So, without further ado, here’s part four of our roundtable discussion…

DAVE: Men won’t put up with a church that has “squishy” rules.   They just won’t. Because, like I’ve said, men will sacrifice relationships on the altar of rules.

JOEL: And, ultimately a church or society with “squishy” rules – where we are heading – is not a safe place. And most women want to be safe, above all. So, it’s in the best interest of women to have their men be strong and in leadership. It’s good for the men as well. Men need to see men up on stage and in leadership. Even the guys who don’t want to step out and lead, if they see a strong man stepping up and leading, they will follow.Dave Joel Jefferson

JEFFERSON: Ok, but so we don’t sit here and sound like three curmudgeons who are just pointing fingers and saying, “This is wrong with the Church… and this is wrong… and this is wrong…” What are some steps that today’s church leaders can make after they take a hard, honest look in the mirror? What are some things that churches should institute now in order to change the unhealthy direction they are headed in?

JOEL: I think it starts with the church leaders’ personal walks with God. As men, Christian leaders need to come to grips with this trend. They need to read God’s Word and be obedient in their own lives to God’s commands. And, honestly, people need to start praying for their churches. By lifting up our churches, families, and communities, we will inevitably become more engaged. We also need to put away fear. Especially the fear of “making waves” by possibly offending someone and the fear of criticism that may come our way. To change the direction of our Church is scary, but to see it go in an apostate direction is even scarier. Without a healthy Church to turn to, where else is there to go?

Finally, we need to realize that we know the final score and we are on the winning team. That means something. So, don’t be afraid to step out in leadership.

JEFFERSON: Is that what you’ve seen, Dave? Is fear of the unknown or fear of potential risks stopping churches from making the changes they need to make in order to secure their long-standing?

DAVE: Well sure. Because, once a church reaches a certain size, it has a certain donor base. Then 20% of the donor base covers 80% of the Pastor’s salary. He will know who those people are. So, as long as he can keep those people happy, giving, and volunteering, he can “make his nut” for the next week.

So, the economic incentive is to sweep things under the rug and keep the key givers happy. Strictly speaking from a monetary perspective, there is not a lot of value in bringing in new people unless they bring in more giving.

So, once a church transitions from a “growth phase” to a “plateau phase”, it becomes more essential that the pastor keep everyone happy, especially the key giver and volunteers. This becomes a disincentive to growth, change, innovation and dealing with the church’s problems.

But, your original question was in regards to practical, baby-steps that a church can take. Joel focused on the Spiritual: Prayer, the Bible, Obedience, etc. Those are all very, very important. But I would say that if a church wants to be more welcoming to men, the first thing they should do is to go out and find some 22-to-30-year-old guys from outside the congregation – and a wide variety of types (construction workers, bikers, I.T. guys, programmers, etc.) – and invite them to walk through the church’s space and get their honest opinions of the church’s facilities.

Tell them, “We’re not going to try to convert you or anything, we just want you to come to our church service and tell us, through the eyes of a young man, what is it we can do better? How can we help you relate?”

Those guys will give you a fount of wisdom!

And then, have the courage to make the changes that are necessary to get that guy in the door – and get him to stay long enough to hear the Gospel.

The problem is that so many times, guys come into church with their defenses immediately raised so that they don’t even hear the Gospel when it’s given. They just sit there and think, “When can I get out of here? When is that guy in the skinny jeans gonna stop singing? When is this interminable sermon about the Ten Commandments gonna be over?” He’s just counting the minutes until he’s out the door.

But, if you created an environment that engages him, as a man, then he’s not going to be counting the ceiling tiles. He will be engaged in the service and the Gospel message. It’s about creating an environment where a man can be a man and engage with the Gospel as a man.

If you can do that, your church will grow.

The secret of the megachurches is not the “hot band”, it’s not the praise guy with the goatee, it’s not the pastor with the hot sermons… it’s the fact that they’ve created an environment where men will stay long enough to hear the Gospel.

JOEL: I would also add that the key is discipleship. And most churches have gotten so far away from that. Dave, you and I were a part of the era of the American church when one-on-one discipleship was THE THING. The Master Plan of Evangelism was Jesus’ plan: to invest personally in men. I know you talk a lot about the Ten Minute Sermon – Hey Pastor, instead of taking all those hours throughout your week to write your hour-long sermon, why not take a shorter amount time and write a ten minute sermon, and then spend the rest of your time in your week discipling and investing in men? Then, they will turn around and disciple other men, themselves. That’s Jesus’ model.

But, we’ve abandoned that.

DAVE: Because today’s church model is more efficient at reaching more people.

JOEL: Right. It’s become a numbers game. And, actually, Jesus took care of that, too. He did a lot of miracles that pulled in a lot of numbers, but then He pulled aside 72 to follow Him closely. And out of that 72, He chose twelve to be His disciples. And even out of His disciples, He pulled aside Peter, John and James as His closest confidants. And even from those three, He chose Peter to build His Church upon.

But, it all starts with a church getting its men engaged, especially the twenty-somethings in your congregation by having the older men disciple them.

I always tell my wife, the thing that made me the man I am today were the older men in my church who, when I was a knuckle-headed twenty-something dummy, taught me how to obediently follow God, study the Bible, treat a woman, and work as unto the Lord. Without those older men, I don’t know where I’d be today.

JEFFERSON: I find the dichotomy so interesting: Our goal is to bring the Church back to men, to raise men up as leaders, and to have them bring their families. Yet, two of the key elements I’m hearing from the two of you are AESTHETICS (the environment) and RELATIONSHIPS (discipleship). And, when most people think about aesthetics, they think, “Let’s make the building look pretty.” That’s how we ended up with all the felt banners and iris flowers adorning our church stages.

DAVE: Okay, but I gotta push back on that. The aesthetics are secondary to the Spiritual. The Spiritual ALWAYS trumps that practical. If the Holy Spirit is alive in a church, the pastor can come out wearing lipstick and drag, and the men will stay.

IT’S ALL ABOUT GOD.

But, all things being equal, practical things do matter. Because, by addressing the practical things, you remove the distractions that cause men to count the seconds before the service is over.

JOEL: You need to subjugate the aesthetics to the overall mission. And, the mission is: To win people to Christ, teaching them to obey all that He has commanded.

DAVE: The example I always give is this: Let’s go to Phoenix, AZ. Here’s a wonderful, little community church that is preaching the Gospel. It’s January, and they have a huge missions budget. They give thousands of dollars each month to missions. It’s wonderful.

Then their air conditioning goes out.

They’ve got a decision – we can fix the air conditioner, or we can continue to give thousands of dollars to mission.

Now, what would Jesus do? He would give money to missions. And, so they decide to forgo fixing the air conditioner. And then January turns into February. It’s getting a little warmer, but it’s okay. Eventually, April comes and it’s about 90 degrees outside. They notice that their crowd is becoming a little bit smaller, but that’s okay because they are still doing what Jesus would have them do.

Is there air conditioning in the Bible? No.

Is there missions and evangelism in the Bible? Yes.

So, the church continues to “do what Jesus would do” with their money.

And then July hits. It’s 110 outside and 114 inside the church building. And the crowd that was 200 in January is now down to 20.

They lost sight of the practical in search of the Spiritual.

So, what I say is this: the Spiritual is ALWAYS more important. But, if you don’t get the practical right, your people will leave you. So, we have to pay attention to these practical things.

 

Thanks for listening to the Big Picture Podcast regarding the problems and possible solutions facing today’s Church. If you enjoyed this week’s episode, please check out our other podcasts and videos on the e2 media network, leave a few comments, and tell your friends about us. Be blessed!

 

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Big Picture Slider

Welcome to the Big Picture Podcast, I’m Joel Fieri and I’m back to hopefully bring come clarity and keep the conversation going about what’s happening today in the Church and greater society.
And, I’m not alone this week. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dave Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church and host of the Church for Men podcast, along with e2 media network’s own Jefferson Drexler, to discuss the “Feminization of Today’s Church”. With so many people today hesitant to stand up and say there is something tragically wrong with the course most churches are heading toward, the three of us tackle some tough issues head on… like men are prone to do. So, without further ado, here’s part four of our roundtable discussion…

JEFFERSON:   Is the Church an entity that has problems regarding men stepping up less in leadership roles, or are we on a trajectory?  In other words, are these issues merely bumps on the road that can be fixed while the Church stays the course in a Godly direction, or has the damage that was done 20-30 years ago put us on an entirely different map?

DAVE:  The good news is that churches are beginning to figure this out.  For instance, Sunday School has become much more “guy friendly”.  When I was a kid, the Sunday School rules were: sit still, color within the lines, and memorize your verses. Today, most Sunday School classes are a more kinetic experience.  Many young boys (including my grandsons) absolutely love going to Sunday School!

The problem remains at Youth Group.  Throughout the country, Youth Group used to be boy-friendly.  Now, it’s becoming girl and artistic boy friendly.  So, we’re eliminating and entire class of boys and it’s well documented that society follows “the jock”.  What “the jock” does, the school does.  The same applies at Youth Group.  So, if the jock stops attending Youth Group because there is nothing there for him, the others stop attending as wel.

Thank God for Fellowship of Christian Athletes and other organizations that are doing great work with jocks.  However, even they are having problems integrating teenage athletic leaders into the local church.  This is because of the new brand of spirituality that is preached, the methods churches demand their congregants to worship, etc.  It’s been feminized.

However, especially at American mega churches, corporate worship services have become more man-friendly.  Churches like Saddleback Church and North Coast Church in Southern California intentionally target their methods and ministries in a “guy-oriented” fashion.  The same goes for Christ Church of the Valley in Phoenix.  20 years ago, they made a decision to start being intentional on focusing on men.  Over that time, their congregation has grown from 1,000 to 24,000 people.

When churches focus on men, the churches grow.

But, this often begs the question, “If you focus on men, what happens to the women and children?”  The truth is that the women and children love it.  The truth is that the most attractive thing to a Godly woman is a Godly man.  And when the men depart from the church, glory departs with them.  And the women don’t want to go to those churches.  Eventually, it becomes a bunch of women providing hospice care for a dying congregation.

JEFFERSON:  So, there seems to be a mislabel that says if we allow all this testosterone into our congregation, then a community of people getting along and feeling nice toward one another will go away.

DAVE:  There’s going to be conflict either way.  If you have a church with a strong “guy presence”, the conflict will be right out front.  This will blow up, but then things will be settled.  In a female dominated church, all the conflict will occur under the surface, and will never be truly resolved.

There’s a false belief in the church and in society at large that women are virtuous and men are flawed.  Along the same lines, maternal ways are better and paternal ways of doing things are bad.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the Church.  We lead this movement.

JEFFERSON: There seems to be a purveying mindset of: “Can’t we all just get along? Can’t we just keep the waters smooth?  And, with the waters smooth, we can make it through the next week.”

This seems to be a huge priority within our culture, especially within today’s Church.

Or, as Jeff Allen often says, “Happy Wife / Happy Life”.

So, as guys, don’t we have a natural inclination to acquiesce a bit in order to smooth the waters, make our wives happy and then we’re happy?

DAVE:  Well, there’s no purpose in stirring up conflict for conflict’s sake.  But, the fact is that conflict always comes.  And, in the Church, we almost always deal with it in a feminine way.  We try to smooth ruffled feathers, instead of dealing with conflict the way Jesus did.

Jesus actually accelerated conflict.

Think about this: Jesus was invited to the home of a Pharisee for dinner.  Now, if I were Jesus, I would have walked in and said, “Wow! That lamb smells delicious!”  But, Jesus didn’t do that.   The Pharisees asked Him about ceremonial washing, noticing that His disciples didn’t participate in it before eating.  It was an honest question.  Now, instead of complimenting His host on the meal being served and then offering up a nice response to the question, Jesus tears into the Pharisee.  He blames His host and the Pharisee’s ancestors for killing the prophets.

Imagine going to a dinner party where the host is accused of murder!

Yet, this is how Jesus dealt with conflict.

He accelerated it and got to the root of the problem.  And He did it quickly.  We don’t do that in the Church.  We deal with conflict in a feminine way and sweep things under the rug.  But, men eventually get tired of this.  Men want to take matters out into the parking lot, fight it out, declare a winner, and move on.  And, if none of this is an option, men quit altogether.

JOEL: Right.  And, as long as a winner is declared and a man knows he did his best, even if he loses, he’ll stick with it because he knows the conflict was dealt with fairly.

DAVE:  Exactly.  About 75% of the time, the guy will stick.

JEFFERSON: How does all this pertain to the compromising of truth?

DAVE: Let me put it this way, typically older women will sacrifice rules upon the altar of relationships. Men will typically sacrifice relationships on the altar of rules.

Now, the reason why it is so easy to slip into the feminized direction is because when Jesus came to earth, He encountered a culture that was choking on rules. He then introduced grace, love and forgiveness – all more feminine attributes. And so, it’s easy for us to say, “Oh, Jesus was fighting against this overly-masculinized, legalistic, rules-oriented culture. And we can follow that doctrine right off the edge of a figurative cliff. Then, we’ll fall right off into an equally bad heresy: sacrificing rules on the altar of relationship.  This is what is happening in too many mainline churches, and it’s about to happen in far too many churches at large.

The way to keep your church healthy is to keep a balance between rules and relationships. Jesus didn’t say, “Hey, I came to do away with the Law, so live however you want.”

No. What He actually said was, “I haven’t come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.

So, how to we keep this balance? A church that is steadfast in Christianity’ rules, but loving to people will attract men.

JOEL: It also largely comes down to the question of how “love” is defined. Dave has written about the differences between “Father love” and “Mother love”. Too many times, “following the rules” is viewed as “unloving”. Somehow, it’s not loving to expect Christians to obey God’s commands.

But, this goes against Jesus’ own words. In John 15 alone, He said nine different times, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments. Don’t say you love me if you refuse to obey my commands.”

Then, when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, He pleaded, “Father, make them one so that the world will know that You sent Me”. And, after His resurrection when Jesus gave us the Great Commission, He said, “Go into all the world preaching the Gospel, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded.” That’s how we show our love for one another and for Jesus. It’s not an emotion – a gooey feeling in my heart – it’s trusting God enough to do what He says to do.

So, we need to break free of the more feminine concept of “love being a positive emotion, everybody being nice to each other and affirming one another”. Men naturally know when they are fighting for what is right. They are okay with hashing through a tough situation in order to root out a problem. But, culture – even Christian culture – keeps telling men to stop trying to solve their wives’ problems. Sometimes, I wish the experts would say, “you know… women, God put that man in your life. Maybe you need his help to solve your problem as I designed him to do.” It goes both ways.

We need to get back to the mindset of, “If we are a loving Church, then that means we are obeying Jesus’ commands in how we treat each other and how we relate to the world in preaching the Gospel.

 

Thanks for listening to the Big Picture Podcast. Dave, Jefferson and I will continue our discussion over the next several weeks regarding the problems and possible solutions facing today’s Church.
If you enjoyed this week’s episode, please check out our other podcasts and videos on the e2 media network, leave a few comments, and tell your friends about us.
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Big Picture Slider

Welcome to the Big Picture Podcast, I’m Joel Fieri and I’m back to hopefully bring come clarity and keep the conversation going about what’s happening today in the Church and greater society.
And, I’m not alone this week. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dave Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church and host of the Church for Men podcast, along with e2 media network’s own Jefferson Drexler, to discuss the “Feminization of Today’s Church”. With so many people today hesitant to stand up and say there is something tragically wrong with the course most churches are heading toward, the three of us tackle some tough issues head on… like men are prone to do. So, without further ado, here’s part three of our roundtable discussion…

DAVE: The modern Church system is designed to weed out the “jock” men during their childhoods; so that by the time they are 18, they don’t participate in church. How do we do this? It starts in Sunday School. When I was a young man, the skills you needed in Sunday School were: to color inside the lines; sit quietly; memorize Bible verses; and be able to speak and articulate ideas. If you put a seven-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl in a place where those are the rules, the girl will almost always win.

Then you get to Youth Group. Now, Youth Group used to be “guy-oriented”. In the 1970’s, every Youth Leader was a man. He was usually a jock. He was the kind of guy you hung on and he’d throw you against the wall and shove pizza in your mouth. It was a testosterone fest and guys loved it.

Today, about half of the Youth Leaders that are graduating from Bible Colleges and Seminary are female. And, another thing that we’ve seen is a rise of praise and worship in Youth Groups. When I was a kid, praise and worship at Youth Group was a couple of songs on a guitar:

Give me gas in my Ford,

Keep me truckin’ for the Lord,

Keep me truckin’ for the Lord, I pray…

Dumb songs that everybody could sing… just stupid songs. And then we’d get to the message, and then more pizza! Every week, it was a big “win” for the guys. Now, Youth Group is becoming a music-centric experience: 20 – 40 minutes of singing led by a Youth Praise Band. So, what that’s doing is eliminating the non-musical guy.

Image: Joel Bedford

Image: Joel Bedford

The guy who loves music, plays in the band, knits his own hat, and is totally into coffee-culture… he’s totally into Youth Group. But the guy that isn’t into that? We’re eliminating the high-testosterone, high-achievement type guy. He’s going out of church. So, by the time they have reached 18, we’ve pretty much eliminated most of the guys who would typically be more toward the “manly” side of the scale.

JOEL: What you’re talking about describes my son. He’s a baseball player. He’s very competitive. He’s very much a right-and-wrong, black-and-white kind of guy. He sees a lot of what’s happening in our culture and he doesn’t understand why in the world something that is obviously so wrong continues to go on. He can’t sit through those long worship sessions. He went to camp and said that they sang for 45 minutes, while he and his buddies secretly played on their phones. So, he and his buddies don’t have a place at church. They have a place on the ballfield or on the basketball court. But outside of that, they know that they are Christians and they shouldn’t be doing the things that the other guys are doing, so really the only other option is video games – a world that is still paternalistic, filled with conflict where there are winners and losers. If you lose, you pick a new character and go at it again, much like the pick-up basketball games we used to play. Those types of games are now on screens. And that’s where he retreats into; because he doesn’t have the answer at church and he knows not to go out with the guys who are drinking or doing whatever else.

JEFFERSON: And that is turning into the 28/30-year-olds who are still playing video games and that’s where they are finding where they can be comfortable.

JOEL: Yes, and we see more and more men disengaging into that world. And there are not a lot of women out there who are that concerned about it.

DAVE: You ask any 15-year-old Christian gal, “What’s the dating scene like in the Church?” and her face will fall and she will tell you it’s not good. Right here in Southern California, I know a 26-year-old gal who is an absolute knock-out. I don’t care how Christ-like you are, if this gal walked past you, you would have a nice long look. Nevertheless, she has been on ZERO dates. She’s never been asked out by someone at church. This is because there are almost no “men” left in the Church – young men who are dateable material, who have goals and dreams, and understand that our mandate is to subdue the earth. Instead, there are all these guys who want to sit around and drink coffee, knit their own hats and play in the worship band.

And they are absolutely clueless.

My daughters dated these guys. I was not impressed.

So, what we’ve done is we have screened out the guys with ambition and the guys with a modicum of testosterone. So, now there’s a saying:

The men in the Church are like parking spaces. The good ones are either already taken, or they’re handicap.

So, we may not have a problem now, but we will have a gaping problem in about 30 years when these guys are asked to step up and lead in the Church and they’re just not there.

JEFFERSON: That all also plays into the phenomenon you’ve been talking about, Joel, known as MGTOW.

JOEL: MGTOW – Men Going Their Own Way. It’s really a worldly, much harsher version of men in church disengaging entirely.

DAVE: For our listeners’ sake, MGTOW is a philosophy that men should not marry or engage with women at all, but just do their own thing, because of the divorce rate, and expenses of punitive and family laws after divorce.

JOEL: Right. As I said, it’s secular and much harsher with no sense of a Judeo/Christian moral compass. Where, at least in the Church there is a sense of guys saying, “I’m a Christ-follower, so I’m supposed to be different”.

DAVE: Are you seeing MGTOW in the Church?

JOEL: It’s not named MGTOW, but in many of the young men that I talk to and many of my son’s friends, there is a sense of “I’m not ever going to get married. Why would I? I’d lose my freedom. The chances of divorce are too large…”

DAVE: You’re seeing that at church?

JOEL: Yeah. And I think your example of the young lady shows that there is a sense of it and that’s why she isn’t getting any dates. If she’s the hottest thing going, then the guys who see her are either thinking, “She’s out of my league” because guys have been told that they don’t measure up to women (women are smarter, they’re better leaders, they are more spiritual). “Therefore, why would I ask her out?” Or, the guys are just so into their video games and other hobbies that finding a wife and having a family just isn’t in their world.

DAVE: And you know what? We have baptized this. In 1996, a guy by the name of Joshua Harris wrote a book called I Kissed Dating Goodbye. That book has done more to destroy the future of Christianity than any other book I can think of.

JOEL: When I was single, it ruined one of my relationships.

DAVE: So, for those of you who have not read this book, don’t read the book.

JOEL: Yeah, I would recommend staying away from it.

DAVE: It set such a high Old Testament bar on dating, basically turned anything beyond hand-holding into rape, and made a generation of single Christians so afraid to date one another that Christians don’t date each other anymore. And if they’re not going to date, how are they going to get married and have Christian kids?

JOEL: And that book and that movement was instilled into so many Christian women and now we see it coming out in our Christian songs. So many of them have the message that: “Jesus is my perfect Lover. Jesus is the One who will never let me down. He’s the perfect Boyfriend.”

Well, there are two things wrong with that on the surface: 1) That’s not who Jesus is and that’s not how you should be looking at Him. 2) For single men, if they want to date a good, Christian woman… they are competing with Jesus! No man can compete with Jesus.

DAVE: Jesus never has bad breath. He’s never late. He never misses an anniversary. He’s perfect.

JOEL: Exactly. So, how can I – as a man – compete with that? If you’re “dating” Jesus, there is no way I will ever measure up. Spiritually, men just can’t win.

And, if men can’t win, we simply won’t play the game. If we know there is no chance of winning, we’ll just go somewhere else.

DAVE: Right. We can’t win in dating relationships. We can’t win in church. So, where exactly are men winning? They’re winning in virtual worlds.

JOEL: And that’s my big fear – that in the future, if society keeps going in this maternal direction, then more and more will come against men and there will be more and more pressure for men to either retreat into their video games and just check out.

 

Thanks for listening to the Big Picture Podcast. Dave, Jefferson and I will continue our discussion over the next several weeks regarding the problems and possible solutions facing today’s Church.
If you enjoyed this week’s episode, please check out our other podcasts and videos on the e2 media network, leave a few comments, and tell your friends about us.
Be blessed!

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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.

Dave Murrow, Joel Fieri and Jefferson Drexler discuss strategies American churches can use to effectively engage the men and boys of their congregations.

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To purchase the entire Summit Lecture Series, Vol. 1 on DVD, go to: summit.org

In light of all the different worldviews previously discussed, how do we evaluate our own worldview?  How do we know what is true?  And how do we connect these truths with the way we live day to day?

Let’s start with a Biblical understanding of “knowledge”.  According to Biblical language, if you didn’t live something out (beliefs, principles, morals, etc.) then you didn’t know it.  The truths of your life were proven by the life you lived.

A classic example of this is the word “virtue”.  Virtue implies a consistency6 between what you know, say and do.  Because our culture has struggled with maintaining a sense of virtue over the years, we found the need to establish more rules to govern our lives in order to restrain behaviors.

If we’re bad people and we want to become better people, we need more rules.  These rules will act like fences and protect us from bad people and bad behaviors.

The problem is that more rules do not necessarily make you a better person.  In fact, often times, the only thing new rules do is make you better at working around the rules.

The antithesis of this is the belief of getting rid of all rules in the name of “freedom”.  Unfortunately, the word “freedom” has been redefined as doing whatever you want whenever you want and wherever you want however you want as if there were no consequences to your actions.  This definition assumes that there is no design to the world.

An analogy of “freedom” conflicting with design is if I wanted to be “free” and drive a 747 airplane through city streets and up a mountain road.  The 747 would get stuck and this “vehicle of my freedom” would actually end up locking me in.  If I really want to see these same mountains in my 747, I should fly in it.  Because a 747 was designed to fly not drive (and, it goes without saying that a car is designed to drive not fly).

You see, if you are designed for something, you are most free when you live out that design, not live in a way contrary to that design.

Another strategy we often use is motivation.  This can be spurred on in a plethora of different methods, but while motivation may get you going in the right direction, it doesn’t keep you going or sustain you.  Motivation is only temporary.

Contrarily, virtue is sometimes doing what you don’t want to do, simply because it is the right thing to do.

The question is:  How do we become the kind of person who does the right thing even when we are not motivated or don’t feel like it?

Incentives (aka bribery) is another motivational technique we often turn to.  However, over the long term, if someone only does the right thing because there is a reward in it for them, they are not virtuous, they are a junkie.

A third solution to replace virtue is education.  How do you fix the world?  Give them an education.  Why is there crime?  Poverty?  Not enough education.

The problem is that, while education indeed has its merits, if it’s not used in the right way, it can actually encourage us to do the wrong or less virtuous thing in the name of doing it more efficiently or more effectively.

A fourth cultural response to replace virtue is self-actualization.

“If you simply look inside yourself, you will find the solution to your problems.  The answer lies within.”

The problem with this idea is that it is too subjective and egocentric.  It’s like sending someone alone into the middle of a forest armed with only a compass that only points to themselves.

The way a compass should work is to point to a fixed direction (north) based on an unmovable reference point.  From there, we can orient ourselves and everything around us.

Likewise, to encourage people to “find themselves” without a clear understanding of God or morality – a fixed reference point that never moves – we end up sending them out in all different sorts of directions.

Without a grasp of God and His design for us, it’s impossible to do the right thing all the time and bring virtue back into our culture.

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