Lost masculinity is a major crisis in both the church and the culture. Men are haunted with gnawing self-doubt about who they are, whether they can measure up, and if they have what it takes.
The disease of lost masculinity and the shame it creates is being treated. Men are self-medicating and anesthetizing themselves in a variety of ways. Some of the medications we use to numb our pain and hide from our shame are devastatingly obvious. Some are so subtle and attractive, that we miss their dangerous side effects. Four of the areas where men hide are alcohol and substance abuse, adultery, pornography, and personal significance (self-idolatry).
This article addresses the need for pastors and church leaders to become proactive and intentional in getting their men out of bondage and into authentic Christlike leadership. The Body of Christ needs men of faith, character, strength, and integrity to be bold and effective guardians and leaders in a fallen culture. Our families need strong husbands and fathers who are men of integrity standing firm in the daily moral and spiritual battles.
Intentional shepherding is active, not passive. Church leaders must go find men who need help and offer them a safe environment where they can confess and be healed. Unlike the standard men’s ministry offerings in today’s churches, this effort must be radical. It begins with confessional leadership from the pastor, his staff, and his elders. They will lead, by example in establishing Men of Integrity groups.
These will be four to six guys (per group) who are totally committed to digging out their sludge deposits, confessing their sins, their fears, and their inadequacies, and getting healed. They will not only meet weekly, but they will relate to each other daily. They will be a true brotherhood.
While each church is different, the need for men to re-establish their biblical manhood is universal. Pastors can be highly effective in this effort by coming down from the pulpit, rolling up their sleeves, and leading by example.
But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” The man replied, “I heard you moving about in the orchard, and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” And the Lord God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave me, she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it.” (Genesis 3:9-12)
We have a major crisis in the church and if we don’t take bold action immediately, the consequences will be catastrophic. It has been a neglected problem for generations, partly because the noble concepts of egalitarianism and equality have taken a position of preeminence over God’s created order. More importantly, we have neglected it because the simple act of identifying it reveals the most terrifying truth about ourselves as men. Because we have failed to address it when it was manageable, we now must attack it with the kind of bold and self-sacrificing actions our fathers and grandfathers undertook at Normandy and Guadalcanal. Yes, the crisis is that serious, the threat to our church is that dire, and the actions we need to take will require us to sacrifice and suffer.
As you look out over your congregations from your pulpits, or glance around your men’s groups each week, the crisis stares back at you. As you preside over your meetings with your associate pastors, elders, and deacons, the crisis lives and breathes before you. And perhaps, as you look in the mirror each morning, the crisis may very well be looking back at you. It is the crisis of our lost manhood and the destruction of our godly masculinity. It is our surrender as bold warriors and protectors of our families, made visible in our weaknesses as husbands and fathers. It is in our compromises with a culture that glorifies lust, self-glorification, and nihilism.
We have accepted the lie that because we have great sermons, small groups, a monthly men’s breakfast, and an annual retreat, then we are building men of character and integrity. We believe that if we have recovery programs, golf ministries, and fishing trips, then our men are being shepherded and discipled. In the meantime, we are preoccupied with budgets, building programs, and ministry meetings. We too are hiding from the disease that has brought this problem to the crisis point – the shame of our manhood.
Gideon said to him, “Pardon me, but if the Lord is with us, why has such disaster overtaken us? Where are all his miraculous deeds our ancestors told us about? They said, ‘Did the Lord not bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to Midian.” Then the Lord himself turned to him and said, “You have the strength. Deliver Israel from the power of the Midianites! Have I not sent you?” Gideon said to him, “But Lord, how can I deliver Israel? Just look! My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my family.” The Lord said to him, “Ah, but I will be with you! You will strike down the whole Midianite army.” (Judges 6:13-16)
Men are haunted with gnawing self-doubt about who they are, whether they can measure up, and if they have what it takes. This ongoing fear of lost purpose and significance doesn’t start during the post-40 mid-life crisis. It begins at childhood. Little boys reveal and act out the foundational questions that will drive and shape their lives. Can I compete? Can I win? Am I strong? Can I make things work? Will I succeed? Can I tame the earth and have dominion over it? Most importantly, is my dad affirming me in my masculinity?
Whether they are tykes or teens, watch boys at play. When these questions enter into their minds, they often respond by throwing their toys, fighting with their friends, or pulling their sisters’ hair. Our sons are screaming and acting out the pain of their diseased maleness in drugs, alcohol, sexual adventure, depression, nihilism, and often suicide. Some hide in sports, violent video games, or live secret lives on the Internet blogs and public website pages.
Years ago, an 18-year-old boy graduating from high school did one of three things: he got a job, joined the Army, or went to college. If he went to college, then once he got out (by graduating or otherwise) he got a job or joined the army. The point is that at 18, ready or not, a boy was expected to be an adult man.
Today, male adulthood has been postponed. Adolescence now extends through college. It is common to see late-twenties, early-thirties men dress, act, and talk like teenagers. Instead of eagerly embracing their roles as grown adult men, they live as overgrown, self-indulgent, self-centered children. Their masculinity is postponed and their adulthood is deferred.
The disease of lost masculinity plagues today’s adult men. The children of the sexual revolution of the 1960’s and 1970’s are desperately seeking significance and purpose in their jobs and careers. The latchkey kids of the 1980’s are now new husbands and dads who hire nannies to raise their children. The children of the opulent and abundant 1990’s, today’s teens, are feasting on the decadence of MTV, graphically violent videos, sexually depraved music, and a culture that celebrates self-indulgence. How many times are we shocked when seemingly nice, quiet, good boys walk into school with weapons and kill their teachers and friends?
The disease of lost masculinity and the shame it creates is being treated. Men are self-medicating and anesthetizing themselves in a variety of ways. Some of the medications we use to numb our pain and hide from our shame are devastatingly obvious. Some are so subtle and attractive, that we miss their dangerous side effects.
Noah, a man of the soil, began to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of the wine, he got drunk and uncovered himself inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers who were outside. Shem and Japheth took the garment and placed it on their shoulders. Then they walked in backwards and covered up their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his drunken stupor he learned what his youngest son had done to him. So he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves he will be to his brothers.” (Genesis 9:20-25)
Alcohol and drug abuse have broken up families, destroyed marriages, and plunged children into the living hell of danger, loneliness, and mistrust. Men numb their feelings of stress, inadequacy, and shame by daily drinking or binge drinking. Inebriation can release inhibitions resulting in risky, dangerous, or socially unacceptable behavior. It also heightens a man’s feelings of depression and worthlessness. Many crimes are committed during periods of intoxication. Domestic violence increases when alcohol abuse is present.
Children who grow up in alcoholic families have a distorted sense of reality. They are recruited early in life to engage in the family cover-up of what is going on inside the four walls of their homes. They learn that pretense is reality and reality is pretense. Life inside their homes revolves around the unpredictable behavior of the boozer and user. They never comprehend an authentic understanding of themselves, often becoming little adults in children’s bodies. Sadly, they seek love and acceptance in all the wrong places, become vulnerable to predators, and spiral downward into destructive lifestyles.
Because an alcoholic household is built on the foundations of deceit, fantasy, betrayal, and untrustworthiness, the child’s view of God and His character is likewise distorted. If the children can’t trust the fathers they see to love and care for them, how can the trust the Father they can’t see?
In the spring of the year, at the time when kings normally conduct wars, David sent out Joab with his officers and the entire Israelite army. They defeated the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed behind in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of his palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. Now this woman was very attractive. So David sent someone to inquire about the woman. The messenger said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” David sent some messengers to get her. She came to him and he had sexual relations with her. (Now at that time she was in the process of purifying herself from her menstrual uncleanness.) Then she returned to her home. The woman conceived and then sent word to David saying, “I’m pregnant.” (2 Samuel 11:1-5)
Married men who hunger for significance and signs of affirmation often find themselves drawn to relationships with other women. In many cases, the diseased man doesn’t look for an adulterous affair. Often, though, a man who is desperate for relief from his shame and pain will succumb to a smile, a casual comment, or someone who will simply listen to him. The cycle shifts from business meetings with her to lunches together. Small talk leads to emotional sharing. Company projects go late into evening work sessions. Business trips are planned. You get the picture. Perhaps this man didn’t go looking for “it”. But in his isolation and shame, “it” found him and he surrendered.
Not all men wind up in adulterous affairs. But a different kind of unfaithfulness has blasted into our homes and offices. It is the explosion of another type of self-medication and anesthesia against the shame of lost masculinity. Unlike the affects of alcohol and drug abuse that are obvious in the abusers’ staggering and incoherence, this medication shows no blatant physical signs. Unlike a physical affair, a man can avoid the danger of another woman threatening his marriage. He can indulge in it for hours on end, day after day, and year after year and the signs are so subtle that they can be missed.
You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into hell. If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is better to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:27-30)
The biggest business on the Internet is pornography. A man, alone with himself and in his darkest moment, is one click away from living vicariously in a world of lust and a sea of toxic taboos. A man, alone in a hotel room hundreds of miles away from his wife and kids, is one push of the remote control button away from filth. Just as alcohol and drugs warp and infect the mind, so too does pornography. Pornographic images release powerful chemicals in the brain that create a euphoria that addicts the user. Images are burned into the consciousness like fire burns scars on the skin.
Pornography is everywhere. Sexual depravity is on television, billboards, and advertisements. It is in movies, magazines, song lyrics, and the catalogues in your mailbox. It pops up on computer screens and unsolicited e-mails. When you walk through the mall, do you notice the sexually provocative fashions in the windows? Do you see the stores that feature models, mannequins, and pictures that are blatantly sexual? Your kids are seeing this? These images are being chiseled into their developing minds. The sexual escapades of celebrities and public figures are received by the culture with lurid pleasure rather than moral outrage. Sexual sin has become normalized.
Men who view pornography, including those who linger over racy lingerie catalogues, often think it’s a minor sin that doesn’t harm anyone. They believe that since they aren’t committing outright adultery, then they’re off the sin hook. In Matthew 5:27-30 (above), Jesus sets us straight that lust in the heart IS adultery.
So, what other sins does the viewer of pornography commit? Let’s check it out against the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:2-17.
“You shall have no other gods before me ” (v.3).
If you don’t think pornographic images are “gods”, then read 1 and 2 Kings and Jeremiah.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is on the earth beneath or that is in the water below. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, responding to the transgression of fathers by dealing with children to the third and fourth generations of those who reject me, and showing covenant faithfulness to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” (v.4-6).
Pornography is outright idolatry, period. It’s not the only form of idolatry, but it is an idol. Idolatry is a sin that has consequences for our children, grandchildren – down to the fourth generation. It is not the quiet little secret sin that only affects the viewer. It destroys generations.
“You shall not murder” (v. 13).
You might think this is a bit of a stretch. But, the people who are performing in pornographic images and videos are being infected with fatal diseases of the body, soul, mind, and heart. Intentional killing is taking place. A man being entertained by this behavior is an accessory to the crime of murder.
“You shall not commit adultery” (v.14).
We covered this earlier. Pornography is adultery.
“You shall not steal” (v. 15).
When a man entertains himself by watching other people commit acts of public fornication, he is stealing their human dignity. Even though the performers may be consenting to their behavior, it is still a theft. God created sexuality for a husband and his wife. Within the marriage, it is holy. Fornication, adultery, and pornography steal the holiness from sexuality. A man watching it is a thief. He is stealing from God and stealing from his wife. He desecrates the holiness of his marriage, the dignity of his wife, and her need to trust him.
“You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor” (v. 16).
Pornography involves lying and deceit. Men who view pornography on the Internet, at seedy theaters, reading magazines, or on TV, do so in secret. They hide when they do it. They lie about it.
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that belongs to your neighbor” (v. 17).
Lusting after another woman, or the image of another woman, is covetousness, plain and simple.
A man is one mouse click away from breaking seven of God’s Ten Commandments. He is one remote control button away from violating 70% of God’s laws. He has stepped into an abyss that puts a wall of separation between him and God, mocks Christ’s death on the cross, and vilifies his wife and his marriage.
If that man is on your staff or in your pew, you have to go get him. As James tells is in chapter 5:19-20, “My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone turns him back, he should know that the one who turns a sinner back from his wandering path will save that person’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”
If you have ever been a lifeguard, you know that one of the hazards of the job is the threat of being drowned by the person you are trying to save. But, as you sat in that guard chair and peered out into the surf, you knew that if someone started to go down, your job was to go get him and bring him back. We must go get them and bring them back.
Perhaps the subtlest method of self-medication and anesthetization is causing some of the most widespread damage within the family, church, and culture. It is so subtle that it has become acceptable. It is so acceptable that it has become virtuous. It is so seemingly virtuous that we measure true success by it. It looks so attractive that we often look for it when we select our church leaders. It is so alluring that the “best” of us have become perpetually intoxicated by it. A man can be sober, faithful, sexually pure, and a pillar of moral behavior. But he can still be an addict. I will confess that I am an addict and will risk offending you by saying that you are one too! It is vicious and pernicious. But it looks so wonderful. It is our search for personal significance, attention, and affirmation by pleasing those of this world who have become our masters, instead of Christ our Lord.
When we think about workaholics, we often conjure up the image of the CEO of a Fortune 500 company who is on his third wife, works 24 hours a day, and has kids who hate him. Perhaps we think about our own bosses who are virtually married to their jobs, work from 7:00 in the morning until 9:00 at night, take work home with them on the weekends, and expect us to do the same if we want the promotion or the bonus. For many of these men, the lure of wealth and power drive their lives. As successful as these men may seem, so often the consequences of their workaholic addiction show up in their loneliness, isolation, broken marriages, and emptiness. They are surrounded by legions of acquaintances, but no real friends. Their entourages are comprised of people who want to take from them, not to feed them.
It is a mistake to believe that the workaholic only exists in the secular world. He is in your church. He is your elder, your deacon, your ministry leader, your stewardship chairman, and your small group leader. His mission and ministry may very well be a significant factor in the growth of your church. Perhaps you depend on him to keep your church running well. His day job is a tradesman, a salesman, a government worker, a vice president, or retired.
He’s the guy sitting in the pew halfway from the back, or maybe in the front row. He is a member of your church because you were successful in bringing him in, getting him into the intro class, and maybe even baptizing him. He is the guy in Sunday school class who has all the answers, or sits quietly in the back. He is the guy who shows up most Sundays, but doesn’t have time for fellowship, small groups, Wednesday night suppers, or volunteering. He might even be you.
Again, turning to James 4:4-6 (who minces no words on these issues), we see his stern chastisement. . . . do you not know that friendship with the world means hostility toward God? So whoever decides to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy. Or do you think the scripture means nothing when it says, “The spirit that God caused to live within us has an envious yearning”? But he gives greater grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.”
These men all have one thing in common. They are busy. They are desperately searching for success as the salve to heal their wounded masculinity. They are hiding in their work so that their “real” selves never get exposed. They are posing as experts, leaders, workers, and holy men because they are ashamed of who they think they really are. They have a lot to say, but rarely listen. They can teach a class, but have no idea if the class is learning or growing. They can quote scripture, but never ask how God is working in the listener’s life. They are dedicated to doing the Lord’s work, but worry about how much impact they are having.
A man’s search for personal significance can lead him down the road to physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual disaster. If he is searching for it within the church, his witness will suffer, and his decisions will negatively impact his congregation’s faithfulness to the Gospel and his relationship with Christ will be compromised. He will teach his Sunday school class, drawing attention to himself and not Christ. He will lead the worship team, drawing adulation to himself and not to Christ. He will preach on Sunday, showing off his oratory but not showing Christ. Instead of calling on the Holy Spirit, he will try to be the Holy Spirit. Instead of being humble and broken, he becomes prideful and stubborn. The apostle Paul addresses this with the church in Philippi. His harshest rebuke is for those who are in ministry for their own ambitious purposes.
Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. The latter do so from love because they know that I am placed here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, because they think they can cause trouble for me in my imprisonment. (Philippians 1:15-17)
Paul goes on to remind us what our attitude, motivation, and intention must be if we are to be authentic followers of Christ and His ambassadors in the culture and in the church.
Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had. (Philippians 2:3-5)
Being a workaholic, engaging in ministry for selfish ambition, or seeking personal significance ahead of glorifying God are forms of idolatry and deceit. Many of us engage in these sins as ways to hide, just as some hide in a bottle or in the Internet.
Consider this. There are men in your congregation, on your staff, leading groups, or serving as elders or deacons who are so diseased that they have succumbed to lust, pornography, flirtatious relationships, and outright adultery. Do you know who they are? There are men in your congregation, on your staff, leading groups, or serving as elders or deacons who are hiding in churches, at work, in their hobbies, or in front of the TV set because they have been shamed out of their God given responsibilities to be strong leaders in their families, churches, and communities. Do you know who they are?
Like the tsunami that devastated Indonesia, moral depravity and corruption is sweeping across our culture with lightening speed. We have become anesthetized and desensitized to it. Even if we pull the plug on the TV and filter our Internet connections, look at the catalogues pouring into our mailboxes each day. Look at the fashions that kids are wearing to school. Listen to the lyrics our children are listening to on their iPods. It’s not just “out there” in the culture. It’s in your church. It is time to do something about it. We must get our men back on the battlefield.
Getting our men out of their shame and freeing them from their bondage to sin requires intentional shepherding and mentoring. It means we must change our thinking about how we are managing church life and congregational growth. It means we must shift from managing systems to personally ministering to men. It is low-profile work that needs to be done in the trenches! It is getting men to pull off their masks, reveal their true selves, confess their darkest secret sins, and be healed by the power of the Holy Spirit working through an intentional shepherd and mentor. This is dirty work and there is no glamour in it.
Then Jesus went throughout all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were bewildered and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:35-38)
God’s people were bewildered and helpless. Jesus had compassion on them because they had no shepherd.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not a shepherd and does not own sheep, sees the wolf coming and abandons the sheep and runs away. So the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them. Because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep, he runs away. (John 10:11-13)
Jesus defines what it means to be the good shepherd – to lay down one’s life for his sheep. He is the good shepherd and proves it later at Golgotha.
Then when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these do?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus told him, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus said a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus told him, “Shepherd my sheep.” Jesus said a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” and said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus replied, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17)
As He was about to return to His Father, Jesus passes the mantle of shepherding to Peter, and ultimately us. “Feed my lambs”, “shepherd my sheep”, “feed my sheep”. Shepherding – Jesus clearly shows the need for it, precisely defines it in His words and deeds, and commissions His leaders to do it.
We must not miss the fundamental lessons taught to us by Jesus. Spiritual growth must be an intimate, one-on-one interdependence in which we get to know each other at a deep level, confess our sins one to another, hold each other accountable, and, together, stand firm against the forces of temptation that tear men apart in their hearts and souls.
If we are sincere in our commitment to lead men to Christ and help them to be Christlike, then we must do it the way He shepherded and mentored His disciples. If we are sincere about getting men to be sexually pure, then we must mentor them the way Paul did the men of Corinth. If we are sincere about helping men find their significance in doing God’s work and being in relationship with Him, then we must give them a forum in which they can examine their ambitions and motivations. If we are to present the church to Our Lord as the spotless bride He requires, then our men must be bold, effective, courageous, and sacrificial warriors who valiantly guard her against corruption, filth, divided loyalties, and false teachings. They must do the same in growing and protecting their families, loving their wives as Christ loved the church, and caring for their children so that they may not be caused to stumble.
Jesus did not assemble a 4,000-member congregation or preach at stadium events. In fact, He had very few converts during His public life. He had twelve men with whom He shared life intimately, three of which at a deep, personal level. The Gospels do not record Jesus drilling Scripture memorization into their heads. They do record Jesus revealing Himself to them and changing their lives from the inside out.
Jesus ministry was on foot. He went to the people and met them where they were. Whether it was a powerful and affluent Nicodemus, a paralyzed man on a mat, a Samaritan woman at the well, or a prostitute about to be stoned, He went right into their pain, their sins, their shame, and their thirst for hope. He was intentional in His shepherding, compassionate in His healing, and steadfast in His exhortations to “go and sin no more”. As His followers, obeying His Great Commission, why would we conduct ourselves in ways other than His model?
Confession brings mercy: The one who covers his transgressions will not prosper, but whoever confesses them and forsakes them will find mercy. (Proverbs 28:13)
Confession brings healing: So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness. (James 5:16)
Confession brings cleansing and forgiveness: If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)
As Christians, we scorn confession. We’re great at pointing out the sins of others, but we fail miserably at revealing our own. Jesus commands us to take the logs out of our own eyes before we take the specks out of someone else’s eyes (Matthew 7:3-5). But, we don’t do that. We claim that our sins are between us and God, thank you, please butt out. We act and dress “churchy”, making sure we have donned our masks of holiness and piety on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings.
But, is the church really a safe place for someone to come in and confess? Most people confess or come clean after they have been “busted”. How many people come before their brothers and sisters in Christ and confess substance abuse, adultery, pornography, or self-idolatry? If they did, be honest and accurately describe how they would be treated in your church. Would your church reach out in Christ’s love and compassion with healing? Or would there be gossip, shunning, and outrage? Does the secular world do a better job at compassion than Christ’s church?
If we want men to come clean and get healed, we have to provide an environment of safety and authentic compassion. Remember, their sins and the shame of their lost manhood are intertwined. It will be tough enough to get them to confess in a safe environment and risk personal disgrace. In an unsafe environment, they risk more shame and personal condemnation. Pastors and church leaders must provide the environment through modeling authentic confessional leadership. You must have the faith and the guts to be open and honest about yourself. You must show the way by your example. You must demonstrate both the courage and the humility to confess openly.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way. (Psalm 139:23-24)
Intentional shepherding and radical mentoring must be launched from the pulpit. You must be ready, willing, and committed to true confessional leadership because we are all in this together. If you are struggling with your personal significance as a pastor, how you appear before the congregation, what the elders or legacy families think about you, or whom you might drive away by truthful preaching, then confess it. It is a sin of pride that is masking your feelings of fear and shame over your manhood. Congregations are weary of pastors who confess sins like eating an extra piece of apple pie or doing 60 in a 55 mph zone. If you are a man, then you are worried about your adequacy, your significance, your legacy, and how you stack up against other men. If you haven’t succumbed to it, then you are surely tempted by it and have agonized over it.
Pick someone whom you trust and ask him to tell you what he sees in you – the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you are going to call men to confess and be shepherded, you will need to model confessional leadership. Leaders almost always fall into the trap of being isolated. They tend to surround themselves with people who agree with them. Avoid this lethal mistake by meeting with a couple of men each week for the sole purpose of checking each other out. Ask each other hard questions about purity, workaholism, and self-idolatry.
Find men in your congregation who sincerely want to “get real”. They might be on your staff or elder board. Or, it might be that guy sitting in the back pew. Let them know that you are committed to having a safe environment where men can come clean and unburden themselves. Meet with them weekly for the sole purpose of practicing confession. There should be no “church talk” (budgets, ministries, or leaking roofs). Shepherd them by listening, not fixing. Before a man can be healed, his disease must be known. Resist the temptation to administer the quick fix or think about what you’re going to say next. This will be awkward. You will be scared to death to hear another man’s secret sin. You will fear revealing your own.
You are looking for men who you can teach, through experience, to be authentic shepherds and mentors. You’re not looking for bible instructors. You want empathetic listeners. You can help them to be powerful listeners by blessing them with your powerful listening. Start with a handful of men, even if it is only one or two. If you have another pastor or elder who shares your sincerity, commitment, courage, and openness, then you can have a parallel group. Keep in mind that your job is not to teach Scripture memorization or theology. Another ministry should be doing this. Your job is to shepherd and mentor them at the point of their masculinity so they can do the same with other men.
Before launching intentional shepherding from your pulpit, you will want a buy-in from your elders. You will want them to do more than just give formal permission. You want them involved personally. Each one of them has the disease in one form or another. They must understand that if the men in their church are going to be authentic followers of Jesus Christ, picking up their crosses daily, offering themselves as living sacrifices, protecting the Bride from filth, and leading their families through an unforgiving battlefield to Christ, then the temple must be cleansed. Otherwise, they will preside over a social club with a Christian theme, not Christ’s church.
Your deacons are critical to this process. In most churches, the deacons are in charge of congregational care. They have been selected for their positions partly because they have had a deep involvement in your church for a long time. Call them together and get them involved personally. Confessional leadership and intentional personal shepherding will now be part of their job.
At this point, you have made your personal commitment and are willing to live and lead confessional leadership and personal shepherding and mentoring. You have your own accountability group with whom you meet weekly. A couple of guys have emerged from your congregation who are sincere about reaching out to other men. Your elders and deacons are not only behind you, but they are committed to lead by example. Now what? It’s time to cleanse the temple.
In 2 Chronicles 29, Hezekiah becomes king of Judah, succeeding Ahaz, his father. Ahaz was notorious for worshipping false idols, compromising his integrity, and bartering with the Assyrian kings. He ultimately raided the temple of all its utensils, kept them for himself, closed the temple doors, and made altars to himself. His unfaithfulness to the LORD resulted in death, destruction, and disgrace to God’s people.
Hezekiah sought to bring the people of Judah back to worshipping the LORD and restoring them to obedience. The first thing he did as king was to open the temple doors and repair them. He brought the priests and Levites together and gave them this command:
Then he said to them, "Listen to me, O Levites. Consecrate yourselves now, and consecrate the house of the LORD, the God of your fathers, and carry the uncleanness out from the holy place. (2 Chronicles 29:4-5)
Hezekiah exhorts his leaders to purify themselves and to cleanse their hearts. It is only with clean hearts and purified minds that they can go about the serious business of consecrating the LORD’s temple. In that process, we note that any and all uncleanness is carried out – removed from God’s presence.
For our fathers have been unfaithful and have done evil in the sight of the LORD our God, and have forsaken Him and turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the LORD, and have turned their backs. They have also shut the doors of the porch and put out the lamps, and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the holy place to the God of Israel. (2 Chronicles 29:6-7)
The next thing Hezekiah does is confess the sins of his nation. In fact, he is confessing the sins of his own father. What is impressive about this confession is the specific details. Often, what we pass off as public confession in our worship services are rather bland generalizations. Wouldn’t it be radical to actually confess to the congregation that your church has tolerated sexual sin by not addressing it directly, by pretending that it doesn’t exist, and by not giving men a safe forum to confess it and get healed?
Therefore the wrath of the LORD was against Judah and Jerusalem, and He has made them an object of terror, of horror, and of hissing, as you see with your own eyes. For behold, our fathers have fallen by the sword, and our sons and our daughters and our wives are in captivity for this. (2 Chronicles 29:8-9)
These verses are frightening. Because they have compromised with the culture and turned a blind eye to besetting sin, the LORD’s wrath is visited upon them in the form of terror and horror. Look at what’s next. The father’s are gone – dead. They died by the sword of the culture with which they compromised. Their wives and children are now slaves to the people with whom Hezekiah’s father compromised. Sound familiar?
Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the LORD God of Israel, that His burning anger may turn away from us. My sons, do not be negligent now, for the LORD has chosen you to stand before Him, to minister to Him, and to be His ministers and burn incense." (2 Chronicles 29: 9-11)
Here’s the call to leadership. Men, do not neglect your responsibilities. God chose you to stand before Him – to minister TO Him and FOR Him. If you make a covenant of faithfulness to Him alone, and carry it out, perhaps God’s wrath will be turned away.
So the priests went in to the inner part of the house of the LORD to cleanse it, and every unclean thing which they found in the temple of the LORD they brought out to the court of the house of the LORD. Then the Levites received it to carry out to the Kidron valley. Now they began the consecration on the first day of the first month, and on the eighth day of the month they entered the porch of the LORD. Then they consecrated the house of the LORD in eight days, and finished on the sixteenth day of the first month. (2 Chronicles 29:16-7)
When we do God’s work His way, a lot can be accomplished in a short period of time. For sixteen years, the LORD’s temple was abused, desecrated, raided, and finally closed. Imagine an abandoned building in your city that has been neglected and vandalized over the years. How fast could it be rehabilitated? The temple was cleansed and reopened for worship in sixteen days.
I think you get the picture. Our Christian men need to get back on the field, put on the full armor of God, and fight for the church and their families. They have been shamed into silence and passivity and are hiding in alcohol abuse, sexual adventurism, pornography, and personal significance. These are all sins and the consequences will destroy our churches and our families. We need to change our thinking and embrace confessional leadership and intentional shepherding. We need to go find them, reach out to them, and mentor them one-on-one. We must do so confessionally and vulnerably for two reasons: First, because we need it. Second, so they know they have a safe place to confess and heal.
Earlier, we said that you need to launch this from the pulpit. Your whole congregation needs to know that this is a prime issue and you mean business in attacking it. Then, you might do something radical. End your worship service twenty minutes early and dismiss all the women and the boys under eighteen. Tell the men they have to stay. Close the doors.
Come down from the platform, look them in the eye, and let them know that things have changed. You know, and they know, that at least half of them are looking at pornography. You know, and they know, that many of them are using some kind of substance as a crutch. You know, and they know that some of them are in some kind of an unhealthy relationship with a woman other than their wife. You know, and they know, that all of them are desperately searching for significance in the wrong places and in the wrong ways.
Remind them that these sins are like barbed wire on a battlefield. In warfare, barbed wire is strewn across battlefields in loose coils. As a soldier advances, he becomes entangled in it. The sharp barbs cut into his clothing and trap him like a fish with a hook in its mouth. The more he tries to extricate himself, the more tangled he becomes. He becomes a stationary target. His only way out is for another soldier to come onto the battlefield, cut the wire, and pull him out.
Let them know that if they insist on being members, they must get into confessional small men’s groups. No excuses. If they claim to be too busy, nail them! That’s like saying you can’t go to your AA meetings because you have too many cocktail parties on your schedule. Hezekiah only needed sixteen weeks to cleanse and re-open the temple. Tell your men that over the next ninety days you are all going to work together to cleanse the Holy Spirit’s temple. Make sure you have a covenant of confidentiality that is enforceable by strict church discipline.
Get your small group leaders on board. And be honest and discerning. If you have small group leaders who are growing their little fiefdoms within your church, they are not right to lead these groups. They can be members in someone else’s group. You want humble, empathetic, transparent listeners who aren’t looking for significance. Your group leaders are not fixers or counselors. They are listeners and shepherds. They help a man unburden himself. Keep these groups small – six at the most. Your leaders need to have additional contact with them between weekly sessions to encourage them.
Make sure that you, your staff, your elders, and your deacons are meeting with these leaders weekly. Listen to them. Shepherd them. Mentor them. Help them facilitate their groups. Discuss problem situations with them. Build them up. This will be tough duty and they will need all the support and empathy you can muster. Don’t send them out on the battlefield alone. Their hearts, minds, and souls will need continuous nourishment, empathy, and advice.
In his series on Leadership Qualities, Dr. Ken Boa writes about integrity,
“Biblical integrity is not just doing the right thing; it’s a matter of having the right heart and allowing the person you are on the inside to match the person you are on the outside. This is how God is. This is how his people should be. Perhaps a good word to think of is ‘consistency’. There must be consistency between what is inside and what is outside. God is totally consistent. His actions and behaviors always match his character and nature. And his goal for us is nothing less. Christ’s objective for his disciples is to make us disciplined people.”
In his section on character, Dr. Boa further states that “Character is not a matter of outward technique but of inner reality. God is concerned with what you are really like when no one else is looking.”
Our job is to build men of integrity, starting with the inside. Men who are fully integrated and have the right heart – the new heart God promised them when they were born again – will be men of character. They will be men who can be trusted to be fearless warriors in the spiritual and cultural battles raging all around their families, their communities, and their church.
Men of Integrity know who they are in Christ. They know who God created them to be. They are not defined by their culture, their shortcomings, their failures, their careers, or their past sins. They are defined as bondservants to Christ, led by the Holy Spirit, and living for the glory of God their Father. With their masculinity intact, they wear the full armor of God and stand firm in the days of evil. Men of Integrity are humble, not proud. They are fueled by God’s strength and not their own power. They are courageous and compassionate. They have strong hands and tender hearts.
To you, your elders, your deacons, and the guys who are committed to getting real and getting raw, here’s your challenge. Start Men of Integrity groups. These will not be your typical coffee klatches on Friday mornings or your monthly bacon and eggs fellowships. They will not be your typical plug and play, hit and run, Sunday school or Wednesday night studies.
These will be four to six guys (per group) who are totally committed to digging out their sludge deposits, confessing their sins, their fears, and their inadequacies, and getting healed. They will not only meet weekly, but they will relate to each other daily. They will be a true brotherhood. And you will set the example by doing it yourself. You will risk every fear and insecurity you have as the leader of your congregation to be the good shepherd you were called and commanded to be.
In his article entitled “When Tragedy Strikes”, Jeff Miller reflects on the horrific attacks on September, 11th, 2001, and the lessons we have forgotten. He asks us to, “Be broken; lay aside your pride in His presence. Be humble. Have you wept? Have you humbled yourself before God in response to recent events? Consider the words of Peter in 1 Peter 5:6: ‘And God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under His mighty hand’.”
We remember that day when courageous men from the New York Fire Department ran into the blazing towers and climbed the steps through a raging inferno to do one thing – save others. Many gave their lives. We recall the handful of brave men who charged the cockpit on Flight 93 and, knowing their own certain death, averted a fourth massive attack. We are under attack today. We need men to courageously risk their lives to protect, build, and cleanse Christ’s bride, His church. We need Men of Integrity who will risk everything they have to protect their wives and children from the moral devastation of the world.
Are you broken? Have you laid aside your pride? Are you humble? Have you wept? Do you want God’s exaltation? It is only with this spirit that we can boldly and effectively rescue, build, and commission God’s men to be His warriors. Our skyscrapers of faith, morality, ethics, and devotion to Jesus Christ are under terrorist attack. God’s people are inside. They are desperate – dying of stench, smoke, and fire. Who will charge up the stairs to rescue them?
If you are ready to pursue a path of confessional leadership, intentional shepherding, and radical mentoring in order to build Men of Integrity, then be prepared for some obstacles. The first challenge you will have is attitude. If you’re still reading this, then your feelings might be ranging from anger and resentment to excitement and enthusiasm. Some guys stopped reading this article ten minutes ago.
Pastors are human. They want to preach topical sermons that will enrich and encourage their congregations. They want to do expository preaching in order to teach the fundamental doctrines of the faith. No one wants to talk about sin – especially when it’s about addiction, sex, and shame. So, the first obstacle is you. Do you want to do this, or not? Do you want to lead confessionally? Do you want to go find men who are mired in sexual sin and self-idolatry and intentionally shepherd them?
You may get resistance and resentment from the men. Talking about shame and secret sin is volatile. We would pray that men would be relieved that there is now a way to freedom and purity. On the other hand, some guys will walk out on you – maybe some of your friends.
Elders and legacy families may fear negative fallout in two areas. First is the image of the church. If your church is buttoned down, middle class, and high on carefully crafted mainstream programs, then a process of rooting out moral decay can be viewed as a threat to that image. You will have to be strong, impassioned, and confident in making the case that the men of their church desperately need this. Second, they might fear a church split. If your church is not used to hearing sermons, or supporting programs, on sin, especially this kind of sin, your leaders will worry about people walking out. The truth is that some people will leave. This is a fiery topic that a lot of people want to avoid.
One thing that is of absolute, critical necessity is an iron clad covenant of confidentiality that each man must sign. What is said in your Men of Integrity groups must never be discussed with anyone outside of the groups. The worst thing that can happen is for a guy to come clean about something in the group and then hear about it from someone else. This covenant must be enforced by strict church discipline. The gossip mills are treacherous in the church. There are people in your congregation who feed on it. They even find ways to do it during prayer meetings. Confidentiality is of prime importance.
Find a good, solid, strong, professional, male Christian counselor. Men of Integrity groups are for confessing, listening, supporting, shepherding, mentoring, and accountability. If someone has a substance addiction he needs professional help. You must support him and hold him accountable. But he also needs someone who knows how to treat life-threatening issues. You cannot do this in your groups.
Some guys may want to take up all the air space in your group. Your leaders will need to learn how to be attentive to an immediate critical need, while making sure that other men are not filibustered out. A man displaying a high need for attention may require some one-on-one time with his leader outside of group time. Also, be careful that some of your men might try to hide in the group by being super fixers to others. A guy who is perpetually ready to minister to others, especially to a high maintenance member, is probably avoiding revealing himself.
There must be a high level of commitment to this process. This issue is so critical to the health of the family and the church that you, your staff, and your men must make it a number one priority. Men must be committed to meet weekly, talk to each other daily, and allow nothing to interfere. In this culture, the clock is a killer. When we get busy, it seems like the first thing that goes is spiritual growth. You hear it all the time. “I just don’t have time to pray”. “There’s no room in my schedule for quiet time”. “I can’t commit to another Bible study.” Well, this about where a man and his family spend eternity. It must come first.
We are here to help you on this journey. Bible.org has many resources for you to use in your Men of Integrity groups or other character building efforts. Please go to the home page and click on MEN 7/52 to find current materials. Some of what we have is listed below. In the coming months, we will be adding more resources for you.
Let us know your successes and your challenges as you launch this important men’s ministry. Call, write, or e-mail us with your questions or concerns. Our contact information link is on the bible.org home page. Please give us your thoughts, comments, and ideas for additional resources.
We are available to help coach and encourage you on this journey. As pastors across the country begin tackling the mission of rebuilding their men, we will help build a network of co-laborers. We will put you in touch with fellow pastors so that you can pray for each other, encourage each other, and share ideas with each other. Above all, we will pray for you, your men, your families, and your church.
May the Lord bless you and protect you;