Lonely Christian Men

Standard

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.

Always Lifting

Standard

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.

Unity: A Failed Prayer of Jesus?

Standard

Shortly before He was crucified for your sins and mine, Jesus prayed this prayer:

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. ”
—John 17:20-23 ESV

Unity gets a bad rap in some Christian circles. Being an “ecumenist” is tantamount to denying the Lord publicly, at least in the eyes of some.

But can anyone look at the Christian Church today and say, “Jesus’ prayer was answered! Just look at all the unity Christians enjoy”?

Silly question, especially given the thousands of denominations that exist.

On the list of grievous sins most Christians carry around in their heads—murder, sexual perversion, stealing, lying, envy, pride—I don’t think disunity makes it into the top 100.

Look at the importance Jesus gives unity, though! He considers it the sign by which the world knows that He was truly sent by God, proving that He wasn’t just another in the long line of self-appointed holy men spouting nice aphorisms suitable for a bumper sticker.  And that unity of those who claim to love God verifies how much God loves the people of the world too (our favorite verse, John 3:16, and all that, right?).

Doesn’t that sound like it’s of the utmost importance? Yet unity is given the shortest of all shrifts. Being seen as always being correct trumps all efforts at unity, as if it were impossible to find unity if people are in different places in their walk with God and see life from different perspectives as a result.

What if disunity among Christians was the worst sin of all, since it undermines the very proof that Jesus is who He said He is and discredits the claim of God to love? Given the importance of those two bedrock beliefs in the Christian faith, how could disunity NOT be one of the most grievous of all possible sins? The perception of the character of God Himself is at stake when we are not unified, isn’t it? Doesn’t disunity within the Church even tear at the reality of the Trinity of God?

Yet who out there is striving to make unity important? Which well-known church leaders are working toward unity more than anything else, rather than separating themselves and their fans into tinier and tinier fragments of the Church Universal? Which disgruntled churchgoers are making unity the most important consideration for STAYING in a less-than-ideal church, rather than bolting like so many others do?

Fact is, too many of us Christians could not care less about unity.

My question then: Is the lack of importance we ascribe to maintaining unity within the Body of Christ making Jesus’ prayer for unity fail?