Most local churches think in terms of missions (foreign and U.S.) and their ministries to children, youth, adults, women, men, singles, families and seniors. To a large extent the typical church’s schedule, staffing, budget and programming are allocated toward these groups. This is done with the intent that each audience will experience, in appropriate ways and to appropriate degrees, the five functions discussed before.
The diagram here suggests what one might find if he looks at the resources and efforts actually directed to each group. This illustration is not based on specific research, but rather is only meant to be representative of what I have observed over the years.
Of course there is a large portion that goes toward “Everyone,” i.e., the congregation generally, not directed specifically toward any particular subgroup(s). Sunday worship services, church socials, baptisms, marriages and funerals would be examples of activities in this category.
How much of the resources and efforts of a typical local church are focused specifically on its men? More particularly, in light of our discussion in an earlier blog, how much resource and effort is aimed intentionally at disciplemaking of men?
Why are these important questions? Because from the blueprint God gives us in Genesis 1 and 2, we can see that His design is for men to be the social and spiritual leaders in His creation. Men are charged with the responsibility of being God’s standard-bearers. Men are to hold to and impart God’s Word, and are to set the Godly social and spiritual direction for their families. We see this before the Fall, as God gives to Adam His command regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And we see God affirming His design after the Fall.
Consider these commands and words of instruction God has given us.
Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the Lord your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.
Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:1-9)
For He established a testimony in Jacob And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers That they should teach them to their children, That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children, That they should put their confidence in God And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments, And not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not prepare its heart And whose spirit was not faithful to God. (Psalm 78:5-8)
When Abram heard that his relative had been taken captive, he led out his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. (Genesis 14:14)
The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2)
Families led and instructed (discipled) by fathers in this way will in turn shape and guide a society toward attaining God’s best and experiencing His blessing. The founding of colonial America, its establishing over the next 156 years, and its first 175 years as a nation are a powerful, albeit imperfect, testament to this truth.
Now please note that none of this is a matter of men being more important than women. God made men and women equal in dignity and worth. It is simply a matter of God’s design, by His sovereign choice. He decided to make the man responsible and accountable for leading his family.
With this responsibility, God gave the man an inherent influence with his wife and children. Of course, the Fall corrupted this design, a corruption that continues today and manifests itself as much or more than ever. But even so, a child’s desire to be like his or her father and to have his or her father’s love and approval is still powerfully present – for better or worse. Repeated research shows this to be true, despite our Godless society’s efforts to deny it. As men go, so goes the family and thus society.
So, can a man today, in a fallen world, learn to fulfill his God-given design as a man, husband, father and leader in his community? And if so, how? The answers are yes through God’s gracious provision to us for this – namely, through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
But Christ’s redemptive work and power in men’s lives doesn’t just happen by chance or by osmosis. It is brought forth into practice through the transformation that a man experiences as he is discipled by one or more spiritually older men who are following Jesus.
This is why I asked about the amount of resource and effort a local church specifically allocates and targets at discipling men. And this is why I question the picture or paradigm of ministry we tend to have in our minds.
Is ministry to men really just one slice of the ministry pie (and all too often a very small, or even nonexistent, one at that)?
Or, should ministry to men be seen as the bull’s eye of the ministry target, more like the illustration shown below?
I submit that, by His design, God sees men in this way, as the bull’s eye of His target.
But guess what? Satan sees men this same way! Consequently, Satan is very content to have the typical local church expend the bulk of its resources and energies on the congregation generally and on children, youth and women specifically. In essence Satan says, “You can put all the shots on target you want. Just let me cover the bull’s eye. And then let’s see who wins the match.”
I believe this is exactly what has been happening throughout the decline of our society that we have witnessed for the past 55 years. By not understanding disciplemaking and its priority (the first flaw we discussed) and by taking our eyes off the bull’s eye of men (this second flaw), we in the Church have allowed Satan to make us and our society essentially man-less and thus leader-less.
Lest I be misunderstood, let me clearly say I am not opposed to nor begrudging of the resources and efforts directed toward children, youth, women, etcetera. I am simply saying that sufficient efforts and resources must be intentionally directed toward discipling men who will then disciple more men. Otherwise, we will never achieve the vibrancy and growth in the Church that we all desire and long for, and that many Christian leaders know our society desperately needs.
As just one illustration, a congregation can have the best youth pastor and the strongest youth program imaginable. And some of the congregation’s youth may go on to be mighty in the Lord. But for most of the youth in that congregation, the strongest predictor of what they will look like spiritually twenty years from now is what their fathers look like spiritually right now. If we want a better future, if we want godly and effective leadership in the next generation, we must disciple men now.