Men, Pick Two…

BusinessmanIf you’re a man still in the prime of life, this may apply to you.

I’ve been an adult male for a few decades now, and this is what I’ve learned:

  • You can have a great career.
  • You can be a great husband.
  • You can be a great father.
  • You can be a great man of civic duty.
  • You can be a great friend to other men.
  • You can be a benefactor of the downtrodden.
  • You can be a creator, dreamer, or visionary.
  • You can be a pillar of your church.

In 2014, you can pick two of those, three if you’re a Type A personality.

But the rest you must lay down and leave behind.

Some aspirations alway suffer. I think it is harder than ever to be that kind of man who somehow does all those things in the list. I knew a few men like that, but most of them have passed on. You just don’t see their likes anymore.

It’s not that there’s something wrong with men today. Society is different, and the demands of being male in America have never been so difficult. Most men I know are struggling just to keep their heads above water, and not always in the one area we always think, financially. Men today are weighted down with a level of expectation that their dads and granddads never had to bear,  and someone is always adding more deliverables.

Increasingly, men are making choices that don’t include being a pillar of their church. American churchmen are starting to see that they can’t measure up to whatever demands the Church asks of them. That list seems endless, and curiously, it often consists of the very line items that precede that pillar of the church line. Sure, all noble ideals, but something’s got to give!

I think there are men across this country who plop down into that same old pew on Sunday morning and get a message about how they’re not measuring up to some ideal they never asked to be compared against. Fact is, they compare themselves against that standard Monday through Saturday all on their own, and none of them is really dying to have someone else add to a burden they so crushingly bear all by their lonesome. Yet there they sit, taking it, because they think that this is the abundant life.

While grace is the antidote that that life of burden, too few men ever find a place of respite, and for all the Christian men I know, darned few seem to have found anyone or anything around them dispensing that most precious grace. If anything, grace is a fountain in Shangri-La to most men. They may think it exists, but practical expressions of it feel like a fairy tale.

If I were to have one hope for 2015, it’s that I hope our churches can become bastions of grace and not dispensers of millstones. God knows men everywhere need more of the former and less of the latter.

by Dan EdelenComments (5)

A Place to Fail

Phil Vischer, creator of VeggieTales, built a small Christian animation kingdom called Big Idea and then watched it slip through his fingers. He has told his story to numerous groups. Toward the end of his recounting on his podcast of how it all got away from him, he mentions something about 40-something men that really breaks my heart:

Skye Jethani of Christianity Today chimed in too. His is a refrain I’ve sung before on Cerulean Sanctum:

We Need a Gospel That Speaks to Failure

Still Looking for a Gospel That Speaks to Failure

Mistakes As Sin: Does the Church Need a New Grace?

Steve Went Looking for Grace

I think one reason that grace, the lifeblood of the Church, remains just a concept in most Christians’ lives in the West is because of the very problem Vischer mentions: Anything less than success is considered unworthy of our attention. Therefore, people who fail go wanting, looking for grace, when grace is only afforded to those who triumph in the eyes of the world.

What do you say to the guy who finds the perfect girl—only to lose her to someone else? Or who lands the perfect job—only at a company soon to fail? Or who spends plenty of time with his kids and tries to train them up right—only for them to rebel and complain about him to friends? Or who listens to his heart and goes for his dream—only for it to crumble in loss?

Why don’t we preach a gospel that reaches that guy? Why don’t we practice a gospel that makes a safe place for him to fail? Where is that pool of grace to be found when all of life goes to pieces? And why is it so hard to find in the very place one should expect to find it?

Lastly, what if that guy tries to live by every Christian principle in the Book and still fails?

We need something better than what we’re giving people Sunday in and Sunday out. We may talk about the brokenhearted, but nine times out of 10, that brokenhearted person is someone who failed, often spectacularly. God help us if we have no grace to offer him.

by Dan EdelenComments (3)

Empty Faith: When Manliness, Quiverfull, and Christian Principles Add Up to Nothing

Many people are lamenting the loss of church membership in the U.S., though I’m not convinced those loss numbers are anything but statistical anomalies.

Still, I think something is happening to the quality of Christian practice in this country. In addition, there’s a loss of understanding about what it means to be a Christian, what the Gospel is, how the Church should act, and what the whole point of being a Christian is.

The disintegration of a Christian family is at the core of this article:

“How Playing Good Christian Housewife Almost Killed Me

The author talks about being in the Quiverfull Movement, made famous by the Duggar family. Quiverfull practitioners believe that large families are a blessing from God, so they adhere to a set of Christian principles based around Psalm 127.

While the term fundamentalist comes out in the article, it’s clear to me that Quiverfull is not relegated to old school Baptist churches in line with Jack Hyles and Bob Jones. It’s far more evangelical than some evangelicals care to admit.

And frankly, I see nothing wrong with having a large family. If God blesses you with a large family, fantastic!

But what does trouble me is that despite the author’s protests that she indeed had a great relationship with Jesus, what comes out in the article shows she had a deeper relationship with someone’s idea of core Quiverfull Christian principles.

Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman, laments Tammy Wynette, but being a dad is just as hard. Over at the Familyman podcast with Todd Wilson, we find out that the “Buck Stops with Dad,” and if you’re a man without a job (that section starts at 15:00 into the podcast), well…

The answer? Pick yourself up by your own bootstraps, knuckle down, put your nose to the grindstone, work harder, take three menial jobs, and do it by yourself. Man up. Abide by Christian principles of manliness and fatherhood, read a couple John Eldredge books, and good luck. Because you’re on your own, buddy. Every godly man for himself.

It makes me wonder what the point of being a Christian is.

Nothing in that podcast said anything about what a man should expect from his church when he’s out of a job. It’s likely that this overt omission is because we have churches built on Christian principles, but not a whole of evidence of being those churches being built on Christ.

Amid all that loneliness and despair, someone gets it right…

Over at the Brant & Sherri Podcast, Brant Hansen talks about what happens when churches play church and fail to be the Church (starts at 10:11)…

It seems to me that people aren’t going to the American Church for answers anymore because the Church gave them Christian principles rather than what they showed up to receive. People came looking for a family and for Jesus, and they got a list of disconnected, out-of-context Bible verses instead.

Desperate people walked into church on Sunday, and they got a lesson on how to be a perfect wife/husband/student/employee/taxpayer/American, when every part of their life was falling apart, and they just needed someone to care, to listen, to be Jesus in the flesh for them.

Hurting, needy, broken people do not need Christian principles; they need a community of believers who will do anything necessary to help. But most of all, they need Jesus. Hell is filled with people who lived by Christian principles and yet had no relationship with Jesus.

It staggers me that we can’t get this right.

I’m sure people will listen to Hansen’s podcast and tear up at some point, because what he talks about is what people are dying for. They want to know that someone–anyone–cares enough to make them a part of a “forever family.” They keep looking for that kind of love, acceptance, and support, with Jesus at the center of that caring community, yet they can’t find it anywhere.

by Dan EdelenComments (2)

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