A little over a year ago, I began to process with some friends and mentors the possibility of transitioning out from the church we had planted in New Jersey. Those conversations were littered with questions like, "When is the right time to step away from leadership in a church? "Have I done what I sensed the Lord calling me to do in New Jersey?" "Are things in a position where I can leave things in the capable hands of others?"
I also asked several brothers what they saw in me in terms of my work and ministry. What are the things they saw as my strengths? What are the things they thought that I must continue to engage in order to be faithful to my calling from God?
One of these gentleman, my father-in-law, challenged me to continue the work I do with men in and through the local church. He conveyed to me that he felt like I was gifted to communicate to and inspire men towards the Lord and faithfulness in their lives. I simply agreed as I am persuaded that men, particularly young men, need to be engaged with the gospel. Men need to be lovingly encouraged and exhorted to be servant leaders in their homes, in the church and in the city.
In our day we see plenty of concern for the good work of equality, elevating women and opportunity for all. Yet what is happening among this generation of young men is sobering. I won't go into full detail in this particular blog post, but young men are falling behind and almost every category and attainment. There are fewer male students in college across all groups, fewer men obtaining graduate degrees and many young men lack ambition, confidence and leadership skills to navigate their world.
Psychologist Guy Zimbardo has infamously argued that there is a demise of guys today where boys are struggling socially and flaming out in school (If you have not seen his TED talk, hit it up, its less than 5 min). Additionally, Samuel D. James recent article America's Lost Boys, highlights the lack of ambition in many men to even work. Rather than pursuing something with their time and gifts, they are filling their time with virtual pursuits of entertainment and sensuality and they are quite happy about it. Literally living the dream off of parents or girlfriend while happily doing a whole lot of nothing. Furthermore, I meet men all the time who feel isolated, discouraged and disconnected from their own hearts and pursuit of God. Guys in our day need to be engaged, inspired and encouraged to be more than passive consumers of amusement and called to impact their world with their gifts, strengths and unique calling as men.
As we invest our lives with Power of Change we hope to impact and influence coming post-Christian generations. This means young men, fathers and those who lead them will be a central part of our focus. Or as I like to say, we desire to serve the three Ps: pastors, parents and church planters.
This fall I am doing two men's retreats where my prayer is to call men to servant leadership while encouraging them and exhorting them forward as followers of Christ. Men are in a fight but it is a good fight. God would call us to fight with and for our brothers so that we might stand firm to the end in faithfulness to Jesus and his mission. Man to man we need to be walking together. We need to see older men pointing younger men to the pathways of hard work and faithfulness over time. We need to see younger men inspiring elders with a focus in their passions and zeal. Yet connecting the generations is in no way an easy pursuit. Let me share a quick example.
A few weeks back a friend grabbed me after a Sunday worship gathering to talk about his desire to mentor young guys. He also shared some difficulty he has encountered in the past. The young guys are struggling but usually won't ask for someone to mentor them. The older guys feel like nobody really wants to hear from them but they would love to connect with the younger brothers. It's almost a catch-22 of middle school dance proportions. The younger and the older men seem to be standing on the walls on each side of the room knowing they both need to learn to dance. Men must learn to step across the room and tell another guy that you need his wisdom and input. This is particularly important for men who grew up without or are separated from the wisdom of their Dad.
My own hope is to continue to be an influential friend in the journey for other men. To point them to "the man", Jesus of Nazareth, and the joy of following him in their homes, their church and in their city. It is not an easy path today for guys but with other brothers we might find our way forward by faith. I am convinced that the power of change lies within the power of a God who wants to transform men so that they may reflect his goodness and glory. Furthermore, there are some wonderful byproducts of this pursuit. Namely, women will be served and loved and children might flourish under the care of good men.
The world certainly sees the outcomes of disconnected or abusive masculinity. We have reaped a whirlwind of unguided and unfocused men. The facts of the fatherless are clear and there remain far too many victims of domestic violence. Yet the apostle Paul teaches us something different, "behold I will show you a more excellent way." (1 Corinthians 12:31) We must put before one another the way of love, the way of Jesus and a way in which men use their strength in humility to the glory of God.
That's our story here in our home team family and with Power of Change. We pray that by his power we might be strengthened, protected and kept faithful in and through our work with men. Men matter to God and we want to see them thrive as servant leaders under the headship of Jesus in our day. We hope many others will work and pray to these same ends.