Lonely Christian Men


Man aloneLast night, I got together with a friend I had not seen in about six or seven years. We shot the breeze on the porch of a pub and talked science fiction, trivia contests, copyright laws, and work. Reconnecting felt good.

Somewhere I read that by the time a man reaches his mid-40s, he has one close friend, the kind who would be there no matter the situation. Peripheral friends account for another two or three, at most.

Unlike women, who seem to keep their friends and add to them readily, men get married, have kids, and gradually so immerse themselves in their families that many of their friendships wither and die. One day, a man wakes up and wonders where all the the other guys he hung with vanished to.

For men, it’s all too easy to let friends gradually drift away.

I wish I could say that in the Church it was better, but I wonder about that. When I watch people who don’t know Jesus, it seems that the very lack of Him in their lives forces them to reach out, to value friendship just a wee bit more. I know a lot of Christian men who, if asked in confidence, would confess they are lonely.

In talking with this friend last night, we both noted how hard it was to get any group of people together. Everyone is so scheduled. Some have bought into a cocoon mentality and can’t seem to break out. Instead of doing anything as a group with friends, we instead pursue hobbies that can work without a group or we fall into a routine of only doing activities with our wives or kids.

Some of this is surely because of the guilt ladeled out by many parachurch organizations and some churches that contend that if we’re not spending time with our families, then we’re poor fathers and husbands. I think a lot of Christian men feel that oppressive burden. They can’t determine how much is enough or too little, so they spend all their time with their wife and kids, just to be safe—just to be “Christian.”

This is, in part, a lie.

Jesus said this:

“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. ”
—Matthew 12:25b ESV

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat…”
—Luke 22:31 ESV

I am increasingly aware that the Good can be the enemy of the Best. There is too much in today’s church that appears Good on the surface, but it wars against the Best, ultimately hurting Christians and churches. Because so few Christians are actually listening to the Holy Spirit, that Best goes missing, while the Good prevails.

It is good that a man spends time with his wife and family, but the Church begins to hurt when men do not gather together regularly as just men. The lonely Christian man is a symptom of a breakdown in fellowship that is hurting our churches.

Some churches may offer a large group gathering for men every now and then. While that’s a start, it is no substitute for getting together more regularly. It’s also not a replacement for small groups of men gathering for a more intimate fellowship. Larger groups tend to stifle the kind of relational intimacy that men are dying for.

Whether large or small, groups of Christian men getting together offer the chance for men to get down on their knees together and pray the way men pray. Men and women pray differently, and it is to the shame of men that the prayers groups in most churches are comprised almost entirely of elderly women.

In reference to those Bible verses above, division is a bad thing. And Christian men are too often divided/separated by the world. We have believed lies about responsibilities that prevent us from getting together, and the result is that the Church limps along because men are off being individuals at a time when we should be united.

A house divided cannnot stand. Keep men apart; that’s the Enemy’s strategy.

Back in the 1990s, the whole men’s movement was a welcome awakening, but it was so heavily commercialized that it was doomed to fail. Too many moneychangers saw it as an opportunity to make some moolah, and love of money has a way of dooming many worthwhile Christian ministries.

In addition, the men’s movement of the 1990s was too national. It needed to be localized, and it never was, so it was doomed there too.

Christian men don’t need a commercialized, national movement. We need to cultivate friendships with other men on a local level. And as Christians, we need to rediscover what it means to be standing in the gap and covering each other’s backs.

Time is running out for us to do this. But too few recognize this because we are not getting together to discuss and counter it in the way that only Christian men can.

Onward, Christian Hermits?


And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
—Acts 2:46-47 ESV

After church yesterday, a friend and I discussed the reality that for many people, their primary source of human contact is Facebook. Alone at duskIn truth, the discussion was more of a lament for what has been lost.

All the small groups my friend and I were a part of are defunct.

I’ll let that sentence stand by itself because it serves as a testament to where we are in our society today. Social media have been a boon for connecting people who are distant, but it seems to have become detrimental to relationships within driving distance. We no longer meet face to face but instead enjoy the distancing mechanisms of technology. Our high-tech gizmoes help us keep up with others to the level we feel comfortable, and they give us the ability to walk away on our time schedule without feeling bad about disconnecting.

Our time schedule.

The early Church decided that meeting together every day mattered. We envy their closeness to the Holy Spirit. I wonder if there is a connection. Hmm.

The Acts passage above said that the number saved grew rapidly. You wouldn’t think that hanging out together would be evangelistic, but some synergistic sharing of Christ happened nonetheless.

The Acts passage notes that people thought positively about the Church because of its strong emphasis on connecting with others and being obviously friendly and social. How different from the PR the Church in America “enjoys” today.

Of course, there was also that “iron sharpens iron” thing. I guess the modern replacement is flaming each other in an online post’s comment thread. Less a sharpening and more a tempering, I guess. Temper, temper…

I think if you really pressed Christians today, few would be able to give a spiritual reasons why getting together daily is worthwhile. I think most see wisdom only in meeting once a week, twice at most. Wouldn’t want to overdo a good thing.

That reticence makes me wonder, though.

For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
—2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV

If God is love, and love is the highest expression of a complete Christian life—as noted in the Peter passage above—how is it we can barely stand to be together once a week? What does it say about our effectiveness and fruitfulness in Jesus if meeting together once a week is all we can muster?

Perhaps for all our talk of community and brotherly love and affection, we don’t really like each other all that much. If we truly do, wouldn’t getting together more often be a priority?

More and more Christians think we are in the last days of The Last Days. A verse that speaks to that:

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
—Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV

How is it then, if the Final Day is indeed drawing near, that we seem to be getting together less often rather than more? Does our reticence to meet actually reflect a willful disobedience? Have we all secretly fallen under the spell of the “powerful delusion” the Bible warns of, with our lack of meeting a physical expression of our mental dissonance?

Talk of mental health issues have dominated the Godblogosphere in the wake of the suicide of the son of noted pastor Rick Warren. I wonder how many mental health cases could be healed without medicine by the simple act of people fellowshipping more regularly.

Can we admit that something is wrong with the way we interact today?

A different friend confessed to me a couple years ago that he felt a greater kinship to the people with whom he plays board games. That affinity group bore each other’s burdens better and dispensed more grace than the Christian small groups he had been part of. What a sad indictment!

I can think of no greater distinguishing mark of the Church than the idea that no collection of individuals exhibits deeper love for its members. So, is this the case?

We wonder why people are increasingly eschewing Church. Perhaps our community and fellowship issues are ground zero for revival.

Always Lifting


Intercessory prayerOne of the great prayer traditions that may go missing in the frenzy of contemporary life is intercessory prayer in the moment.

When God brings someone to mind, stop. Take time to picture that person in your thoughts and recall the very best of his or her character and giftings. Thank God for that person.  Ask the Lord to equip and use that person fully. Then recall any of that person’s struggles and lift them up to the Lord for resolution. And if God brings to your prayer any concern that appears to be sourced in Him and beyond what you might know in the natural about that person, pray it through.

One of my great concerns for the Body of Christ today is that we are becoming a loose, disjointed entity, with all the parts going on their merry way, losing connection to each other and subsequently to the Head.

Always lifting. Be that person who considers others at all times, and lift them up to the Lord.

No more simple exercise exists, yet it is one we Christians practice all too infrequently as the pressing needs of the day crowd out our concern for others.

Live differently. Pray differently.