Sunday, March 9, 2008

When I became a man, I gave up childish ways

Every day I receive a new e-mail from Christianity Today magazine. Today was an article titled, "Wanted: Young Men in the Church." Its thesis is that the church is sorely lacking in young, single men because this demographic wants to, in large measure, live self-centered and irresponsible lives--that is, until the reality-checks of marriage and children sinks in.

I found this article somewhat surprising, honestly. My friend Craig and I were talking just today about how, even as young as we are (26 and 24, respectively), we want to tackle life's demands in responsible, mature wisdom, not in blissful ignorance. We were talking about how we once thought that our parents and all adults seemed to know what they were doing, had their acts together, had life figured out. I realize now that that's not true at all. Most of the time I feel clueless and overwhelmed. I wish I could drive home and have my parents take care of everything. But they can't. And I really wouldn't want that, anyway. Counsel from them is good, but I've never been one to take handouts; there's little dignity in that.

Responsibility and leadership are tough. Being a man of integrity and character is even tougher. But I don't want to be some drifter through life, never having a clue what I want to do and letting the latest whim decide my choices. If that were so, my name would be Joey, Ross, or Chandler; but as it is, it's Andrew: literally, "masculine" or "courageous, strong". At the end of a lengthy letter urging the worldly Corinthian neophyte Christians toward a life of obedient discipleship, St. Paul sums it up with this final exhortation:

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. (16:13)

"Act like men." "Be Andrew," it might say. The fact is, the church needs men as leaders, and not just married men. Read through 1 Corinthians, and you'll find men at the root of most of the problems and disorder and sinfulness. A leading church-planting pastor in the Seattle area, Mark Driscoll, made a video in which he urged pastors: "Win the men, win the church." He too laments how young men are more concerned with playing X-Box and "banging their girlfriends" (Driscoll is known for being bluntly graphic) than with a life of missional, self-denying, cross-carrying discipleship.

But I wonder: What is causing this? Is it John Eldredge and salvation as a "sacred romance"? (Which is ironic, considering he wrote Wild at Heart not only to show that he knows more about books and movies than about the Bible, but also to urge men to be more manly.) That may be. But I think the fact comes back to the sin in our hearts. It takes sacrifice and a lot of prayer to be a discerning, bold male. We want to be lazy, so why bother? And there's no difference between men and women, right? So who does that make me? And if Mom and Dad are willing to take me under their wing, then why bother being responsible?

Of course I am over-simplifying these things--an act I myself despise. There is one place to start: with myself. Who wants to be immature and irresponsible? I, for one, do not. "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways" (1 Cor. 13:11).


Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

An interesting article Drew, as was its subtitle, "Delayed marriage forecasts an impending crisis".

It reminds me of a comment a friend of ours, on the pastoral staff at Piper’s church, made to Brad when he, Val and O were there for a mission trip this past summer. He said that their problem was not a lack of godly young men but a lack of initiative on their part in seeking spouses among the many godly young women sitting on separate rows.

Our friend had apparently taken the young men aside and told them to get on with their lives and unless God had given them the gift of singleness, they’d better be actively looking for the spouse God was providing for them, à la Prov 18:22 – hence my interest in the subtitle of the article. Apparently this same phenomenon has been noticed and addressed locally at another large, evangelical church (Harvest Bible/James McDonald/Joe Stowell).

I both like and agree with your statement that “it takes sacrifice and a lot of prayer to be a discerning, bold male”, so I wonder what is lacking in these young men that causes them not to be bold. Eldredge and choices based on feelings alone – yes, perhaps. Sin – certainly; it’s so much easier to just consider oneself and what is easiest at the time. However, what I really wonder is if my generation has instilled in them an intrinsic fear that God is not sufficient to get them through courtship and marriage successfully because they have seen so many of us fail so miserably. I think it induces a need for control – a sure fire plan with a lot of answers when what God desires is a dependent faith in who He is – the one who never leaves or forsakes us, the one who will lead and guide us every step of the way – only just one step at a time because that is all true faith needs. What a sad legacy to leave our children, fear that God is not sufficient for every need of life. My generation owes yours a huge apology I think.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Andrew, I like the article from CT. I do have to say I'm leary of these attempts to masculinize the gospel and make men, men. I heard someone read a paper on this at Cornerstone University, and heard someone else on Moody radio, who had written a book on this, being interviewed.

I'm afraid that all too often it's not the image of God in Jesus that is conveyed, but rather some American, or other worldly ideal.

The kind of manhood Jesus calls us to is, when struck, to turn the other cheek. When asked to go one mile to go the second mile. To love our enemies, praying for and doing good to them. To bless those who curse us. Etc., etc. The way of Jesus.

So I haven't been impressed at all, yet, with that kind of talk.

Blessings on and through you, in Jesus.

And AMEN! to Susan's comment.

Halfmom, AKA, Susan said...

Andrew - nope - that's what the candy coating is for - to keep the chocolate from melting. Besides you know me, I'm a cold, hard and inhospitable woman!

As to soul food - I thought it might be wise for me to cook for you so that we could put some leftovers in your freezer.

Doesn't sound like meal planning and cooking is your greatest strength! Besides - cookies can only take you so far, even if they have M&Ms or white raisins in them!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Notwithstanding my comment, I really do appreciate your grappling with this. It's only through struggle that we grow, even as we learn by faith to simply grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I believe we will find this answer only in Jesus himself, and in him as human and God. We are certainly different from each other, including the genders, and we need to live out what we are in God and in Christ. Only God can open that up for us, and only by faith as we endeavor to walk by the Spirit according to the truth of God's word.

You are thinking good thoughts, so keep that up, brother. Let's keep moving towards that goal of the heavenward calling for us in Christ Jesus.

Ted M. Gossard said...

...and I pray too, for you, that God will let you simply enjoy the good gifts he has for each of us. (James 1:16-17) This can help us in becoming the person, and man God wants us to be, in Jesus, sanctified by the word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4:4-5).

I pray you'll be much better rounded in your life, than I have been.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Also, Andrew, I pick up in this posting that you're strugglijg to choose well in following God's will for you in Jesus.

ESI's good post here might be helpful for you in this.