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.

Your Church and the Facebook Friend Ignore


Facebook friend ignoreCommunity has been a buzzword in contemporary Church circles for the last dozen years, but I have yet to hear of a local church that does it well. Too many churches are lucky if they can find a way to get together once a week, much less three or four. I don’t hear of enough churches where the church members meet in each other’s homes regularly, outside of  the occasional small group.

In fact, my conversations lately have centered around how more and more of us are realizing our primary means of fellowship with other Christians outside of Sunday mornings is through Facebook. Which is why a recent discussion troubled me.

A friend mentioned that she stopped accepting Facebook Friend requests from others at her church. Evidently, she shared something with her carefully selected group of friends and it got back to an elder at her church with whom she was not Facebook friends yet. (I suspect another of her Facebook friends passed it along.) That elder then told the pastor of the church, and my friend ended up getting a pointed little “chat of correction” from the pastor the following Sunday morning.

The upshot is she stopped accepting Facebook Friend requests from everyone at her church.

I could identify. Something similar happened to me. While I haven’t ignored everyone in that circle of fellowship, I’m much more selective of Facebook friend requests as a result. Truthfully, that disappoints me greatly.

Only a fool would think the 21st century Church is immune to gossip. Still, that said, by their nature social networks tend to foster gossip, and I suspect some of you reading this who have been on Facebook for a couple years have been burned by something you wrote in an update. If fellow Christians precipitated the scorching, especially those at your own church, it hurts all the more. No one wants to share an update that they enjoyed a certain book and end up having to defend themselves on Sunday because someone at church found out through the gossip grapevine and took issue with their choice of reading material.

Given how much of our sense of social connection now exists through online means, I wonder if social networks such as Facebook are ultimately damaging our shot at real community. It’s something I’ve pondered for years, and when I get a friend request from someone I’ll chat with in church on Sunday but with whom I’m leery of sharing my Facebook updates outside of church, it makes me wonder if something vital is going unaddressed in our Christian community.

I truly believe a more fully realized community within the Body of Christ exists, but we certainly are not nurturing it as well as we should. And Facebook may not be helping, especially when Facebook friends talk about us in inappropriate ways and to the “wrong” people.

What do you think?

Various Spring Thursday Musings


A variety of thoughts on this sunny April Thursday:

+ I was thinking how power is the modern equivalent of will. We want to have power over all aspects of our lives, with powerlessness one of the most hated of all hateful ideas. But if we take Christ’s “not my will, but yours, be done” and do the word swap, how would it impact the way we live? What does it mean to surrender power to a higher authority in a society where individualism reigns and each person demands the right to control his or her life?

+ In keeping with that thought, whatever happened in the Church to the concept of corporate sin? And how are we worse off for its loss?

+ There is something odd happening in the Church when thousands (or even millions) of American Christians are lamenting Rick Santorum’s leaving the presidential race. A few months ago, not one person was clamoring for Santorum to be president, and yet when it appears he will not be, people are disappointed. As for Mitt Romney, one can say the same thing. I mean, who was screaming for him to occupy the White House? All this becomes even more puzzling when one considers my previous thoughts on power.

+ Not a day goes by when I don’t consider that the general emotional outlook of this country is nowhere near as healthy as it was when I was younger. Yes, yes, yes, “the olden days were better” someone will quote at me with a wink, but still.

+ I get the feeling also that in the rush to be good Christians, we have forgotten Jesus.

+ Now that everyone is on Facebook (and a few lonely souls inhabit Google +), can any of us say our interpersonal relationships are better?

+ Along those lines, the last of my small groups stopped meeting. I used to be part of four or five at a time. Now, none. That makes me sad. Looks like I’ll be bowling alone.

+ So far, 2012 has been a lovely year weatherwise. But here in SW Ohio, we were in the 80s in February, 70s in March, and now 60s in April. Should we expect snow in July?

+ Why is it that so few people seem to be able to commit to anything anymore? What happened to a person’s word? Does that concept mean anything today?

+ It’s sad, but the people who seem to do the most Bible study are often the ones who miss the most obvious portions of the Bible. Or they try like the dickens to explain away the hard parts (or the parts they are failing to live up to) by going all systematic theology on us. Anymore, I don’t have a lot of interest in what the self-labeled scholars are saying. And when someone recommends a recently written book on Christian subjects, my reaction is meh, since I rarely read any that make any astute points that challenge the status quo (or they fail to provide workable solutions when they do post a challenge). In short, people just aren’t using Holy Spirit sense, which is the only kind of spiritual insight that matters.

+ Right now, Alan Knox at The Assembling of the Church is writing one of the best Christian blogs on the Internet. He should be a regular read for everyone, because he is not afraid to touch verboten subjects and question the crazy way we Christians practice the Faith.

+ At The Voice of One Crying Out in Suburbia, Arthur Sido is regularly writing some insightful posts in the same vein as Knox’s.