We’ve pontificated a lot about what it means to be a man – what Biblical manhood looks like, how it behaves in relation to its environment, and the ways in which it has been perverted and distorted over the years. But the problem with these sorts of posts is that in and of themselves, they do not actually solve any problems.
At the end of the day, millions of women and children need strong, godly men in their lives now more than ever. And men? It’s all very well and good to tell them to step up, to pick up the slack, and to stop acting like boys. But what men everywhere really need is Jesus. They need the gospel, and they need salvation.
Sadly, decades of altar calls and evangelism crusades have left us with a distorted picture of kneeling before an altar or praying with a camp counselor, reciting a certain combination of words while under the influence of powerful emotional and spiritual feelings. And this, such as it is, is not a bad thing, and praise God that many have come to Him in just this sort of way. But it’s not salvation. It’s not the gospel – at least, not the whole picture.
Some theologians like to take this act of grace that we call salvation and divide it up into three stages or phases: Justification, the once-and-for-all atonement for and absolution of my sins by the blood of Jesus Christ; Sanctification, the continuing work of grace in my life in which Jesus, despite my own halting weakness, continues to make me more and more like Him; and Glorification – the completion and culmination of the work of redemption, both final and unending, when I am at last freed of my flesh and my sin nature and am able to bask for all eternity in the light of Christ’s perfection.
Let me say that these distinctions, such as they are, are helpful in as much as they help us marvel at the work of Christ in redemption. Jesus comes to meet us where we are (Justification) but he does not leave us where we are (Sanctification) and day by day we are being made more like Him, being filled more and more with a longing to be with him and to worship him. And someday, because of His sacrifice, that desire will be fulfilled (Glorification) over and over again, forever and ever in an eternal feast of joy and a completion that becomes more and more complete.
But these distinctions have also more than once proven a stumbling block to those who would seek to justify their own human understanding of the nature of God and of his sovereignty, and who would presume attribute God’s power and ultimate authority to sanctification and glorification, but not to Justification, as though the latter were somehow less an act of sovereign grace than the rest. There are other errors too, but this is one of the most glaring.
This is all a lot of introduction to set up next week’s post, in which I want to talk about the sanctification of the believer specifically within the context of biblical manhood, and what it is for which men should be looking in this regard. But I wanted to begin by establishing the underlying thought process of sanctification as merely one part of the Whole known as the Gospel, lest in focusing on the former we should lose perspective of the latter.
Next week: Becoming a Worshipful Man.
I’m nearing my fourth years as Senior Pastor at Gages Lake Bible Church, which means I’m just beginning. I’m still learning. John Maxwell need not fear. I won’t be dethroning him from the position of Leadership Guru anytime soon.
However, being on the job has taught me a few things about leadership, especially for young guys. Some of these lessons I’ve learned the hard way, others through the wise mentoring of older men. Here are five:
1) Young Leaders Must Resist the “push-off” model of ministry.
In their book, Sifted, Larry Osborne, Francis Chan, and Wayne Cordeiro talk about the tendency of young leaders to get their leadership energy by “pushing off” the perceived mistakes of other ministry models. They use the example of an Olympic Swimmer, who gains forward thrust by pushing off the pool wall. For leaders, it could be their legalistic, fundamentalist background that they despise, so every decision is made through the lens of how their parents or pastors or professors “got it wrong.” Or it could be the desire to be distinct in your community, so you’re going to sell yourself as the “only” version of your ministry in town. I’ve also seen the tendency to “pendulum-swing.” So if the staff culture you left was very lax, you’re tending to enforce a more rigid culture. Or if the staff culture you left was too rigid, you’re “the grace guy.”
The problem with a “push-off” model is that the forward thrust from the pool wall eventually loses energy. You need energy to sustain you in the race. I believe this must come from your own personal walk with the Lord and your own study. I have found that God may use a negative previous environment to push us toward something better, but ultimately our leadership must be based, not on what we don’t like elsewhere, but what God is teaching us in the present.
2) Young Leaders Need Old Guys
There is a fallacy in the world that younger is better. Young leaders have charisma, vision, energy. This is good and God uses this. But there is one vital component to leadership that we young guys lack: wisdom. Wisdom born from experience. And the only place to get this is by subordinating our ego and listening to older men. This means several things. First, we need to realize that we don’t have all the answers, that we are sometimes wrong, and that perhaps the previous generation had some wise and important things to say.
Young energetic leaders tend to think that the old guys are washed up, that they are out of touch with today’s generation. And maybe some of them are, but for the most part, older, experienced pastors are fonts of spiritual wisdom. Use them. I’ve made it a practice to cultivate relationships with some experienced pastors. Why? Because they know things I just don’t know. They now the Word. They’ve made difficult choices. They’ve wrestled with the discouragements and fears that come my way.
I think every young pastor should have at least one, if not two or three older pastors who are speaking into his life. He’s woefully under-equipped if he does not.
3) We Must Die to Our Messiah Complex
If you’re a young guy in ministry, somewhere along the line you felt you were the answer to what the world needs. Or at least the answer to what your church or your community needs. But the truth is that you are not the answer. Jesus is the answer and you and me are simply humble representatives. We may have gifts and talents, but those too were created and distributed by God.
And here’s what I’ve discovered: People sense when you have too high an opinion of yourself. It creates a frustrating and chaotic leadership environment. It shuts off your ability to listen, learn, grow, and apologize. The Scripture reminds us in many places that God “resists” the proud but “gives grace” to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 1:5). My friend, you and I need grace in our ministry. We don’t need God’s resistance.
The bottom line is that gospel ministry is a privilege, a stewardship. It was here long before we arrived on the planet and will be long after we are gone. I’ve learned that the sooner I get over myself, the easier and better it is for me to lead. You’ve got to die to yourself.
4) You are responsible for the culture you create
Someone once said that sons do in excess what fathers do in moderation. This is true in leadership. I recently preached through the book of James. What struck me as I studied James 3 is just how pointed this chapter is for Christian leaders. At the end of the chapter, James contrasts two different Christian cultures. One is characterized by chaos, dissension, fear, and strife. The other by peace, love, harmony, and joy. James is quick to remind us that the former is not a leadership culture that reflects Heaven, but earth. In other words, if you’re culture is constantly beset by strife, there is a leadership problem. Leaders set the tone. What we emphasize, what we celebrate, what gets us angry is what we are telling people we believe is most important.
I’ve seen this played out vividly. Faithful church members will act on those things we have told them are most important to God. So if we find that people our churches are overly legalistic, it’s not enough to say, “Well, that’s not what I meant or intended.” There’s a communication problem. They’re getting the wrong message. On the flipside, if we find people are casual about church or flippant about following God, it’s not enough to say, “People just don’t get it.” No, they do get it, we’re just delivering the wrong message.
I’m not saying a leader is responsible for every action of those who follow him. People make their own choices. But I am saying that the words we say, the emphases we make, the actions we model–have far greater impact than we realize.
5) You Must Put the Work In
There is no app, no download, no program that will enable us to circumvent hard work. Yes, we’re fueled by the Holy Spirit. Yes, our ministry is grace-driven. But God does not reward laziness. God honors hard work. This means we’ll have to study on some Saturdays when we’d rather be watching sports. We’ll have to travel to the hospital when we’d rather be reading a good book. This means we’ll need to get our hands dirty with some areas of ministry that are “not our gifting.” Good messages require lots of study and hard work. There is no shortcut. Discipleship requires time and effort and money and patience. A loving family means an investment of our best time and efforts. Prayer and Bible study require discipline.
The ministry requires late nights and sweat and toil. Paul said that he “worked harder than them all (1 Corinthians 15:10). I don’t think he was bragging, just letting people know that doing God’s work requires . . . work. It’s not evil. It’s not belittling. Work honors God. Pastors can be workaholics, but pastors can also be lazy. We must fight both tendencies.
I’m a pastor who writes, but I know I’m not alone. In fact, many, many pastors around the world supplement their teaching ministry with a writing ministry. God blessed me with a writing ministry before I assumed the pulpit at Gages Lake Bible Church almost four years ago, but it has only been enhanced as I’ve now got the perspective of a pastor and increased time in the Word of God.
But not everyone is sure pastors should write books. There are legitimate reasons perhaps. Maybe it takes time away from the ministry (though it doesn’t have to). Maybe it confuses the vocational calling (are you a pastor or a writer?). I’ve had pastors tell me I shouldn’t write another book. I’ve had pastors tell me I shouldn’t stop writing.
I’m a bit biased, given my years in publishing prior to the pastorate, but I happen to think writing, in some form or another, is good for every pastor. Here’s five reasons why I think pastors should write:
1) You join a long traditional dating back to the early church. You could argue that the first pastors were writers. James, whom many believe was the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, wrote the book of James. Obviously He was under the inspiration of the Spirit of God (and we are, most certainly, not). But perhaps James is a better book for us today because James wrote from the perspective of a pastor. Read Paul’s epistles. They echo the heart of a pastor/church planter. And then you just continue the line from the Apostles thru the Church Fathers and to the Reformation and continue on through today. If pastors never wrote anything, our theological libraries would be 90% empty. We’d have no commentaries, no classics, no great works. We’d have no sermon anthologies, no great quotes from men like Spurgeon and Tozer to supplement our preaching. Check the commentaries you frequently use in your study. Yep, most of those guys were pastors. So, yes, I’m glad pastors have always been writers. I’d be stuck if they weren’t.
2) You preserve God’s work in you beyond your generation. Perhaps you won’t be the next Wiersbe or MacArthur or Hughes. Maybe nobody would publish your exegetical thoughts as a commentary. Still, if you organize your writings and work, somebody in the next generation will benefit. It may be the intern whose notes you lend. It could be your grandchildren who will glean gospel truth from your study. You never know how God will use the work He did in you beyond your lifetime. Did Spurgeon know he’d be valuable resource, even in the 21st Century? Did Wesley and Luther and Calvin? Even though you’re preaching is not creating something new–you’re continuing the line of orthodoxy–you’re unique perspective and God’s unique shaping of your soul can inspire others in future years to pursue Christ. So write.
3) You inspire others in this generation
Again, not every pastor has the talent or time or desire to write full-length books or articles. But perhaps you might blog or even create a newsletter or something in which you can send short, Scripture-laden thoughts to inspire others. You never know how God may use you to inspire others in your generation. I have to say that I regularly read the blogs of several pastors and their work is valuable to my ministry. These are men who have some years in the ministry. They write with a keen sense of the calling that you can’t find outside of pulpit ministry. Men like Ray Pritchard, Brian Croft, Jared Wilson, Paul Tautges, and others are helping this young preacher today. Most of the contributors to valuable content such as The Gospel Coalition or Leadership Journal are active pastors. Some young pastor or ministry leader might read a blog you wrote and find new direction. Some struggling young teen might be led to repentance and faith. Some single mother might find a dose of inspiration to get her through her day. Writing is a way you can use the study and prep you already do for ministry and extend it in such as way as to bless others in the body of Christ.
4) You find better clarity of thought
I find that writing helps me clarify my thoughts. In this way writing helps my preaching and preaching helps my writing. I happen to preach from a full manuscript (though I adlib and self-edit as I deliver). Completing a full manuscript takes extra time and much work every week, but it is rewarding because I feel that my thoughts are well organized before I get into the pulpit. Now that may not work for you, especially if you (unlike me) are good on your feet. However, you may consider doing what guys like Ray Pritchard have done and writing out your full sermon the week after you deliver it.
Getting words on paper really helps clarify your message and your thoughts.
5) You can better communicate with your own people
Let’s face it, you can’t say all you want to say to your people in a 30-45 minute sermon once a week. There are notes and research and study and application from every text that will stay on the cutting room floor. So something like a blog or newsletter is a way of communicating those ideas as well. Writing is also a great way to express ideas that may not fit into your message, but may be good for the life of your church. So you might consider starting a blog or using social networks like Facebook or Twitter or even creating a church newsletter.
There are a thousand other reasons why I write and why I think its a good idea for pastors. These were just the five that made the most sense to me.
In Living Like a King, we’ll be examining the kings of Israel and Judah during the Divided Kingdom period. We’ll look at the good, the bad, and the ugly, and from them we’ll learn together what kind of men we ought – or ought not – to be.
In last week’s post, we discussed the choice that each of us are given as men to choose what kind of man we will be: whether we will demand the respect and submission of those around us, or whether we will choose to lead and serve them with kindness. Rehoboam chose the former. He chose to demand the respect and obedience he’d never really earned.
…”My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” (1Ki 12:14)
And this is the characteristic of masculinity out of control: it is always looking to up the ante; it is always looking to flex its muscles. This is one of two extremes of manliness – the other being the fearful, weak man – which we should strive to avoid. To help us do that, in today’s post I want to identify the characteristics of masculinity out of control. I want to nail these down, not so that you can look at other people in your life and say “yeah, he’s got a problem.” Instead, I want you to look for these tendencies in your own heart.
While some of us certainly have more than others, I think somewhere in each man’s heart is the desire and the potential to be a Rehoboam – to say “I want. I will. My way.” We do this to our families, to our friends, to our employees – even to God.
First, Masculinity out of Control ignores godly counsel. Specifically, it ignores any counsel it does not want to hear. For Rehoboam, that means ignoring his father’s advisors after seeking counsel from them.
Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, “How do you advise me to answer this people?”
And they said to him, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.”
But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him. (1Ki 12:6-8)
Think about this for a moment. Despite all of his flaws, the Bible tells us that God gave Solomon more wisdom than anyone who had ever lived. And yet Solomon himself surrounded himself with wise men. What’s more, the wisest man who ever lived wrote on the value of receiving godly counsel:
A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might, for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory. (Pro 24:5-6)
Chances are, if Solomon thought you were wise enough to be giving advice to him, the wisest man who ever lived, you probably had something to say that was worth hearing. And so these men do – they tell Rehoboam how to keep his kingdom and earn the love and respect of the entire nation. But Rehoboam abandons this godly counsel. Why? Ultimately, because it isn’t what he wants to hear. He doesn’t want to humble himself. He doesn’t want to acquiesce. Rehoboam already knows what he wants to do – now he just needs to find counselors who will justify it.
Secondly, masculinity out of control seeks the approval of its peers. Rehoboam goes to the young men he’s grown up with and they tell him exactly what he wants to hear.
Men are constantly looking for validation. Very much of what we do in our workplace, in sports, and even through outlets such as video games is ultimately centered around receiving the validation, approval, and respect of a community through our performance. While that’s not necessarily wrong, the problem arises when we make our Christianity into a sport. We engage in ministry opportunities and activities or dig for spiritual truths, not as a means for growing closer to God, but to impress or earn the approval of our peers.
One of the most disastrous things that can happen for any group of young men is for them to all band together and call that “accountability” or “community”, without seeking the counsel and help of wise, godly men, who have already obtained victory over some of the same struggles those young men will face. Put another way – it gets you nowhere with God to impress people who are just as ineffective and just as immature as you are.
In next week’s post, we’ll discuss the remaining attributes of masculinity out of control: the demand for respect and the disdain for servant-hood.
Masculinity out of control demands respect. Nowhere do we see this more clearly than in Rehoboam:
So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king said, “Come to me again the third day.” And the king answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel that the old men had given him, he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” (1Ki 12:12-14)
Respect is the foundation for all male relationships. We need a certain level of respect from our peers; a respect for who we are, what we can do, and where we have gotten in life. From our wives, the need is even greater. We need our wives to respect us both as competent leaders and proficient lovers. We need them to respect our capabilities as a man and believe in us in ways that we ourselves may not. Every man wants the love of his wife too, but given the choice, he will always choose her respect.
The respect of those under authority to us can be the hardest to win, especially if we, like Rehoboam, lack the experience or credentials to immediately command what we may consider to be our due. And so, like so many new husbands and bosses, Rehoboam demands that nation of Israel treat him with more respect and give him more work than they gave his father. This is not an insignificant demand, given the fact that Rehoboam’s father was none other than Solomon.
The demand for respect comes in three stages. First, there is the verbal demand – “You WILL show me the respect you deserve.” Then comes the bullying or manipulation. In an employer, this may take the form of threatening write-ups or other action if the employee does not yield the respect demanded. In a husband, this may involve denying a wife’s emotional needs as a way of punishing her. Finally there is the physical force. The ultimate, final expression of masculinity out of control is for a man to force his will upon another via his superior physical size and strength.
And as masculinity out of control demands respect, it equally rejects the role of servant. Here is what the counselors of Solomon – and these men were counselors to the wisest man who ever lived – here is what they told Rehoboam:
“If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.”
This is the biblical principle of servant-leadership. It is most perfectly modeled for us in Jesus Christ who, although He was God incarnate, “humbled himself” and “took the form of a servant.” Masculinity out of control rejects this because it requires humility. Godly servant-leadership wins the respect of those around it by meeting their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs in a way that demonstrates the love of Christ. Put another way, servant-leadership is about others. Masculinity out of control is about self.
And that brings us to the heart of the issue. Masculinity out of control is essentially immaturity. It is stunted growth. It is a boy who has grown all the muscles and desires of a grown man without growing the self-control necessary to govern and control his actions and impulses.
In the next post in this series, we’ll begin a look at the biblical model of the Worshipful Man and how we can make that our goal.