In July, I enjoyed a weekend at Bethany College in West Virginia, talking with 225 men who were there for one simple reason: They wanted to encourage one another in faith, and gather ideas to help light a fire under their friends back home.
The experience was especially rewarding because I’ve been thinking and praying about what’s missing in the average mainstream churchgoing man. What’s keeping personal faith out of the “life-charged” realm and firmly planted in the yawn cycle of ho-hum religion?
In 1854, writer and philosopher Henry David Thoreau famously observed that most people fail to embrace life in all of its fullness. “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” he wrote, “What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.”
Thoreau’s contemporary, Oliver Wendell Holmes, expressed a similar sentiment, and he might have been talking about today’s Christian men when he wrote, “Alas for those that never sing, but die with all their music in them” (The Voiceless, 1858)
So I’ve been asking this question: “How can our song find its voice?” Or, put another way, “What’s stopping men from engaging the Gospel in such a way that we live the Good News out loud?” (For crying out loud).
A list of ideas emerged, priorities it’s critical that men pay attention to if we want to be leaders in strengthening our faith community rather than spectators watching the church we say we love sink into irrelevancy.
Top of the list is “Jesus,” and how a dynamic, living relationship with the risen Christ must drive everything else in our lives as men of faith. Then, thinking about how challenging Jesus can be, words like “passion” and “transformation” immediately stand in stark contrast to business as usual at a slowly dying congregation.
Eventually, my list cycled down to 10 words, each associated with the charge of life that faith in Christ unfailingly brings. Jesus, excellence, passion, capacity, Scripture, holiness, clarity, prayer and transformation, authenticity and community.
Some folk at the West Virginia event spoke about resuscitating men’s ministry models from their youth, couching the conversation in terms of “The Good Old Days.” But my Jesus isn’t in the resuscitation business; the Lord of Life is in the business of resurrection, of re-creation, and of new life!
“I am the resurrection and the life!” Jesus said (John 11:25). Paul put it this way: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
It’s time Christian men engaged the truth about the Gospel of Love and lived as if our faith actually means something. This world is hungry for good news! One reason Jesus continues to resonate throughout the ages is the fact that the Lord was — is — simply brimming over with vibrant life.
Life! Not politics; not in-fighting; not holier-than-thou; not self-righteousness. Instead, the Gospel message is the story of irrepressible life.
Our opportunity as Jesus-followers is to live in such a way that Christ’s light and life spill out from us from the moment we wake up every morning and invite God’s kind of life to live through us.
And that, good Presbyterian men, is how to save this church.
DEREK MAUL writes for a variety of print and online news outlets. His fifth book, “10 Life-Charged Words: Real Faith for Men” was released by Upper Room Books in July and is available at Amazon.com and Cokesbury. Follow his blog at derekmaul.wordpress.com