The church of Jesus Christ in America today is afflicted with a terrible malady: the passivity of its men.
Whether due to widespread spiritual lukewarmness, ignorance about the church’s mission, a general fear of responsibility, the malaise of false humility, a sense of aimlessness and incompetence, or the stiff-arming of adulthood, young men and men overall generally expect someone else to do the work and pick up the slack. We are waiting for the next guy to charge the hill, step up to the plate, and grab the bull by the horns. And we continue to sit back as the church at large maintains our most convenient excuse: a substantial clergy-laity distinction where the “full-time” ministers are expected to do most of the work.
As men, we have generally allowed ourselves to have low leadership ambitions — in the home, in the church, and in the society. We are not interested in high expectations and heavy responsibilities. We want to keep our aims low and our lives light. This is not to say that we should be overly ambitious or selfishly ambitious; only that we should be much more ambitious than we are, and for far purer aims than we are.
If every young man is exhorted to be “self-controlled,” (Titus 2:6) “fearing God and keeping His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13); if every older man is urged to be “sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness” (Titus 2:2); if “every man” (παντα ανθρωπον) is meant to be “warned,” “taught,” and “presented mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28); and if every man is a “joint” within the body of Christ who must be “working properly” in order to “make the body grow” (Ephesians 4:15-16) — then every man ought to be bending and stretching and exercising and pulling his weight for the mission of God to be accomplished in the church, and through the church to the world.
This means that your church may have pews, but it has no bench. There are no substitutes and no practice players. Men, we are not spectators. We are participants. And not only are we participants — we are leaders and influencers and guides. We are to sincerely and humbly and courageously and selflessly lay our lives down by performing the highest duty of spiritual leadership — service.
The drama of redemption is not just meant to be read or watched or heard or learned or even memorized and internalized. It is meant to be lived. We stand on the living stage of redemptive history. One day we will walk the halls of heaven, but today we live in the last days, holding the line in our local-church outposts scattered throughout the cursed earth until Jesus comes to make all things new. And we have a role to play in these community outposts — as men, as mentors, as husbands, as fathers, as role models and instructors and leaders and organizers and mobilizers and evangelists. Not our pastors. Not our professors. Not our favorite authors and internet preachers. Us.
How many different ways can I say it? If you are a man, you are a leader. You may not be a great leader or a good leader or even a grown leader, but you are a leader, by nature and by calling. The question is only who, how, when, and in what direction you will lead.
If you want to know who is meant to have foremost influence in your church, in your home, in your dorm, and in your community and workplace, don’t turn to Piper or MacArthur, Mahaney or Mohler, Keller or Carson, Chandler or Tripp, or Dever, Duncan, and DeYoung. Look in the mirror.
This is an army. And the question at hand is not whether its men will be soldiers. The question is what kind of soldiers we will be. We have already been enlisted, and the battle is raging around us and above us and within us. Our Commander in Chief is invincible, our commission is clear, and our cause is the very hope of the world.
What would our churches look like if, this summer, every single man in your local church — regardless of age or position — yielded to the guidance and power of the Spirit and resolved by the grace of God to serve his family, church, and community by humbly and courageously leading those around him to see the gospel more clearly, worship Christ more passionately, obey God more specifically, love others more sacrificially, and disciple younger men more intentionally to do the same?
What if every man among us, this summer, re-read the sacred Scriptures, freely confessed our sins of laziness and lust and passivity and fear and faithlessness, rejoiced afresh in the forgiveness and freedom of Christ, threw off our besetting guilt and haunting regrets and spiritual disillusionment, re-prioritized our lives, our time, our friendships, our marriages, and our finances, established masculine relationships of encouragement and accountability, and pled with God daily to revamp our vision of His grand story of redemption and to reinvigorate our labors for His mission?
By God’s grace and for His glory, may we find out soon — every man.