Word to an Elder–And to Us All


I’ve been going to our church’s Sunday evening meeting rather than to the morning one. My son enjoys the teaching for teens more because it allows for interaction that a one-way sermon lacks. (Churches, take note.)

During the adult teaching, one of our church elders sat beside me. Afterward, he asked me a question:

“So Dan, what’s the word?”

He may have been asking how things were going with me, but I’d been ruminating on something all day, and it seemed like now was the right time to share it.

“I think we need to love people where they’re at,” I replied. “Not by some standard we impose on them or by our hopes for where we want them to be, but just as they are in that face-to-face moment with us.”

Men huggingEarlier in the day, I was thinking about a wonderful, Spirit-filled man who has since gone on to glory. He always wanted better for others, but he never approached people with that as his primary touchpoint. He met them where they were. In whatever sin they were ensnared. In their sadness or in their joy. In their fullness or in their need. He loved them in the moment, and he was loved by them for that reason.

Later that day, during worship time before the teaching, I thought about where we are as a society and how many people miss out on a relationship with God because they see Christians as a group of people with impossibly high standards. They don’t see Christians as capable of loving people in the moment, with no other expectations.

This elder and I are both in our 50s, with life experience similarities. Right now, I know a lot of men our age who are dying inside because circumstances weigh on them. Today, no demographic commits suicide at a higher rate (and increasing exponentially) than middle-aged, white males. It’s not hard to see why. Many have been laid off at that point in their careers when they should be stepping into the next level of career success; instead they find themselves unwanted, reduced to flipping burgers to make ends meet, and not even succeeding at that. Others are dealing with illness, either in themselves, their spouse, or their parents, and trying to be a caregiver and work a 60-hour week is grinding them down to a nub. Others grabbed for the brass ring and not only missed it, but they fell off the carousel entirely and can’t find a way to get back on. Others struggle with understanding what God put them on earth to do, especially if their map to purpose dried up and blew away, and they see nothing on the horizon except infirmity and uselessness.

These men often feel no one cares about them. That they’re used up. Done. Finished. Kaput. And no one tells them otherwise. Or they feel they need to be a fount of knowledge and wisdom, but they can’t immediately answer the questions they’re asked or meet the demands of others. Everyone expects something great now, and sometimes being great is for another day and not this second.

I looked at this elder, and I wondered if this is how he felt in that moment. I wondered if my word was for him.

Then I realized it’s for us all.

Love the people in front of you for who they are. Not for what they can do for you. Not for what you want them to be.

Husbands, wives, children, coworkers, bosses, cashiers at the grocery store, mailmen, garbage collectors, politicians, neighbors, strangers–hope for the best for them, but love them where they are.

None of us is good enough. Even in those rare times of greatness, peak performance may exist only for today or for this week. Tomorrow, we may only rise to the level of middling. Next week, we may utterly fail. Or not. Neither failure nor success should matter.

Love people for where they are right now.

Your unconditional love and mine may be what another needs to become what God hopes he or she will be.

Men, Go Deep


Few plays in sports capture more excitement than a QB rearing back on his heels to launch a long bomb to a receiver deep downfield. The football hangs in the air, taunting fans, and raising adrenaline levels all over the stadium. Everything depends on what happens next.

Many of us men will recall days of backyard football, where we barked out plays in small huddles. Some of those plays were complex and needed a Ph.D. in neighborhood sports to decipher. Inevitably, though, one of those plays consisted of telling the fastest guy, “You go deep.”

We need deep. We need someone who is out there in case all else fails. When no other options exist, you can count on that one guy in the next Zip code, the one you sent deep, to save the day.

“Men, go deep.”

If I have a word for this year, it’s that.

What I say here isn’t specifically in the Bible, so you can take it for what it’s worth, but I think God made men to be deep. Deeper than women.

God gave women the gift of breadth. They have a social gifting that pulls in people from all realms and crosses social boundaries more easily. They are the roots of the tree that spread out to the dripline to capture the rain and find nourishment.

But God gives men the gift of depth, of being the taproot of the tree, the anchor, the leading edge, the part that goes where other parts don’t, that explores the boundaries yet holds it all fast. Being deep means you dwell in many places alone and unaccompanied. God alone can see you. God alone knows and understands your function.

I believe with all my heart that the combined social and theological crisis of our generation is a lack of men who are deep. Deeply rooted in God. Deeply committed to truth. Deeply in love with their Savior and not with anything or anyone else. Men who are deep because of their devotion to the only One who matters.

Men, go deep.

I say all this because it is my experience in this life. While I have met a few deep women, they are of a different quality than the deep men I have known. And those deep men are an increasing rarity.

Feminism hurt men more than we know. Whatever women gained by the feminist movement, men lost in kind. It was not a win-win. And when men don’t win, women don’t either. I think many feminists of those early days of the movement would look around today and wonder what happened to men.

Men don’t have any heroes anymore beyond fictional ones. Why are comic book superheroes our transcendent role models today? Because real men aren’t.

One could argue that younger men today manage successfully to dwell in the shadow of the full bloom of feminism’s flower, yet one could argue equally that young men today have responded by retreating into infantalism, stuck in the mode of Peter Pan, dealing with our cultural and societal experiment by forever staying 12 years old. Forever shying away from digging down.

But men go deep.

I don’t think there has ever been a time in human history when the clarion call for men has been more clear and loud. God calls for men to go deep in Him.

The challenge for men who heed that call is that no aspect of our culture or society supports depth. All of it, every shred, caters to shallowness. All of it is arrayed against God. Every little bit.

Men who go deep will have no support. Not from other men. Not from their wives. Not from their children. No one will understand the man who goes deep–except God.

If we want to point a finger at our churches and ask why there is no power, no revelation, no vision, no transcendence, no fire at all, it’s because of a dearth of deep men. Period. You can stop right there, because that’s the answer for almost everything that ails us.

Prostrate before GodYou can’t fake deep. You can’t look in the eyes of a shallow man and find wisdom, only in the eyes of the deep. And there are fewer men with that piercing, penetrating depth today, so good luck finding them.

Instead, you be that man. Go deep.

God holds out His hands to any man who will pull himself away from myriad distractions that hinder to instead find respite in the Him and go deep. You can’t buy depth. It comes only from intimate time spent with God away from the rest of the world. It means turning back to God every moment of every day. Again and again. It means having zero confidence in oneself, none, but taking it all back to God and operating out of His Spirit’s empowering alone. No substitute exists.

Men today want to be inoffensive, liked, entertained, in control, and successful by the world’s standards. Theirs is a wide, well-trod path.

The man who goes deep into God will be misunderstood, chastised, and even hated. Often by people who should instead be supporting his desire for God and the deep places God alone can take him. We used to have men like that. Used to.

Such men are our only hope.

Because the clock has wound down. It’s fourth and 25. Without a man open way downfield, there will be little chance for victory.

“Men, go deep.”

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.