Thinking About Church Masculinity

Standard

Wednesday nights I teach a men’s Bible study. We have been going through the video series Men’s Fraternity. Now I’m not a fan of “rah-rah I’m a man” sort of things. Popular Christian author John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart caused me to shy away from hypermasculinity. As a guy who is not super physical, I’m just not into his gospel.

Erwin McManus wrote a short book called The Barbarian Way. This book helped begin the healing process from the damage Eldredge caused:

Somewhere along the way the movement of Jesus Christ became civilized as Christianity… We created a religion using the name of Jesus Christ and convinced ourselves that God’s optimal desire for our lives was to insulate us in a spiritual bubble where we risk nothing, sacrifice nothing, lose nothing, worry about nothing. I wonder how many of us have lost our barbarian way and have become embittered with God, confused in our faith because God doesn’t come through the way we think He should.

Donald Miller’s book Father Fiction also helped refine my thoughts on masculinity– you can read those here and here–. Miller concludes, in a humorous way, that men know that they are men by the way God designed them (anatomy). Most other Christian men’s books try and come up with some sort of vague definition on what being a man looks like. I find this confusing, not helpful, and destructive.

mens-fraternity-940x410

Men’s Fraternity has been a good series so far. The content is relevant and applicable. But, I have disliked the format that the series forms.

Wednesday night looks like this:

  • We get together (many of the guys coming in late).
  • We have an hour and a half to watch the video and discuss.
  • We end up starting 30 minutes late due to the guys wanting to talk.
  • We start the video. The videos vary in length from 45 minutes to 50 minutes at max.
  • We Watch the video.
  • We then have 15-20 minutes to discuss.

I find it unnatural to walk into a room, sit down, and watch a video with a group of guys I haven’t talked with, at all. I have no clue how their week has gone, how they are doing on a personal level, etc. There is no chance to build relationships.

I am currently debating on whether to summarize the video’s material and then lead a more pointed discussion or even go back to our read a book of the Bible and have a discussion format. We’ll see what happens.

You Will Be Tested

Quote

“Like a ship at sea, you will be tested, and the storms will reveal the weak places in you as a man. They already have. How else do you account for the anger you feel, the fear, the vulnerability to certain temptations? Why can’t you marry the girl? Having married, why can’t you handle her emotions? Why haven’t you found your life’s mission? Why do financial crises send you into a rage or depression? You know what I speak of. And so our basic approach to life comes down to this: we stay in what we can handle, and steer clear of everything else. We engage where we feel we can or we must–as at work–and we hold back where we feel sure to fail, as in the deep waters of relating to our wife or our children, and in our spirituality.” – Fathered By God, John Eldredge, pp 6 and 7

Fight: Winning the Battles That Matter Most by Craig Groeschel

Standard

_140_245_Book.901.cover

“…within every man, God has planted a divine desire to fight for righteousness.” – Fight, p.13

As king of the flannelgraph boards, the Biblical/historical figure of Sampson is one that many a young boy wishes to be. Set apart by God from birth, Sampson is the original superhero. Fight, by pastor Craig Groeschel, examines the life of Sampson in parallel to the modern Christian male. Both have been created by God in His image; both are prone to utter and complete failure. Groeschel goes out of his way to point out that Sampson’s failures, like ours, are never due to one time events. Like the falling blocks in a game of Tetris, our decisions stack up and can eventually lead us down a road to ruin. However, like Sampson, we are never beyond God’s redemptive power.

Fight is organized into 3-4 page chapters. I enjoyed these easy to digest chunks of truth. My biggest and only complaint with the book was the unneeded machoism that permeates throughout. Much like John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart, Groeschel felt the need to add blanket gender assumptions such as:

“Think about it this way. There are two kinds of movies: chick flicks and, well, everything else. Do chick flicks inspire men? Do they make them want to be stronger, braver, better men?What about in Pride and Prejudice when Keira Knightley’s character says to her new husband, “You may only call me ‘Mrs. Darcy’ when you are completely and perfectly and incandescently happy.” And he responds with, “Then how are you this evening…Mrs. Darcy?” and kisses her on the forehead. And then, “Mrs. Darcy,” as he kisses her on the cheek. And then, “Mrs. Darcy,” as he kisses her on the nose. Again, if you’re a guy, you have no idea what I’m talking about right? Or if you do know, you’re trying hard to forget.” (page 14)

Despite comments such as the one found above, I enjoyed my time reading Fight. Craig does a fantastic job going beyond the Sampson depicted in Sunday school flannelgraphs and digs into the heart of what made him a man. I highly recommend this book.

I was given a copy of this book by BookSneeze. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.