“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”
Everybody gets it.
When a man's character and conduct become healthy, it changes things. Most directly, the women and children connected to their life and choices suffer less and develop better. Fewer literal and emotional orphans fall prey to evil cultural predators who exploit their loneliness, needs, and insecurities for evil purposes. Negative generational and cultural cycles of chaos, dysfunction, and destruction are interrupted. In the crudest analysis, when native sons have the capacity to act in the interests of others versus solely acting in the interest of themselves, the foundational infrastructures of societies and nations change. Wherever these men go, their character goes with them. Professional, political, social, cultural, and religious infrastructures become the beneficiaries of well-formed men; and, as a consequence, those same organizations become less corrupt and produce fewer cynics. Maybe your family, your country, your community, or your church could use a few more men like this. Men who bring hope by their very presence.
When native sons have the capacity to act in the interests of others, the foundational infrastructures of societies and nations change.
Intuitively, everyone knows that healthy and moral men are like sticks of dynamite: they can create blast zones of life that extend far into the fabric of the society in which they find themselves. Equally true is that those same sticks of dynamite can go off and produce blast zones of death and massive collateral suffering as men self-preserve, self-protect, self-indulge, and seek to be self-important at the expense of others. This powerful and dangerous potential has always been disappointing to a loving Father who watches His sons expectantly, hoping for a healthy expression of His character in the lives of others. Scripture tells us that the blast zones of male character and conduct both break God's heart and boil His blood. “The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress” (Isa. 5:7).
Among the current social commentaries and studies reported, you might have seen or heard these recent features in major periodicals and Web platforms:
For every one of these major news stories, thousands of others were flooding Web channels, blogs, Web sites, local newspapers, and TV outlets that detailed both the spiraling and negative outcomes flowing out of the beliefs and behaviors of men around the world. Pick up the paper or click onto a major news outlet, and within seconds one can lament the men, whether it is sexual violence against women in Uganda and human trafficking in Thailand or Wall Street greed and epidemic fatherlessness in the United States. The information age has virtually crushed the ability of men, male culture, and masculinity worldwide to escape the one thing it has relied on for centuries: staying invisible. Men do not like to be exposed or made to feel guilty; and yet now a very simple but powerful global realization has occurred: suffering makes the news, and the behaviors of men are at the center of most of the suffering.
This is the first factor every church needs to be aware of when it comes to the resonating revival that is coming through men. Pain resonates deeply, and any person, group of people, or organization that successfully reduces suffering through touching and transforming men in their community becomes immediately relevant. As the church attempts to reach people, it should be asking: “What pervasive, unresolved problems can we solve that dramatically impact the people and communities we are trying to reach?”
Answer: mobilize the unactivated men of your church and the yet unsaved men in your community. (We will show you how to do this in Section III.)
In the politically charged arena of global activism, pointing out the Sleeping Giant publicly can be risky. Waiting my turn to speak at a justice conference, I listened to a nationally known expert in human trafficking who told a moving story of her exposure to the child sex trade in Cambodia. The screen behind her flashed scenes from the very streets she walked, which shook her soul and launched her into a deeper involvement with the justice movement. Her research was the second act. Profound and disturbing statistics about human trafficking locally, nationally, and globally had the audience by the throat. Her last plea to the audience was to not sit idly by but to get involved. I listened closely as she outlined simple ways people could get involved from raising awareness to rescuing victims to rehabilitating those rescued.
Any person, group of people, or organization that successfully reduces suffering through touching and transforming men becomes relevant.
The second speaker was the director of an international organization dedicated to helping churches understand and implement orphan care ministries. Like the first woman she, too, was over the top and excellent. Articulate, passionate, and research oriented. The audience was captivated and so was I, especially when she said, “The orphan epidemic is a symptom of the HIV epidemic in Africa where whole generations of parents are being wiped out and the children are made vulnerable and left to take care of themselves.”
It was my turn now.
I started by saying how much I loved and admired the first two speakers but then said, “But I have to respectfully disagree with their solutions.” You could hear a pin drop. I carefully went on to explain that we can raise awareness of these issues, we can rescue and restore people, as well as rehabilitate and reintegrate the victims into society. “All of these,” I went on to say, “need to be done, but these are reactions not solutions.” At this point my neck was stretched so far out in that room you could have cut off my head with a pair of scissors. So I took a big, deep breath and let it out: “The eight-hunderd-pound gorilla in the room when it comes to the church worldwide and its ability to deliver social justice will be directly related to its ability to effectively evangelize, equip, disciple, and deploy men to reach other men. You can skim the surface of an oil spill all day long, feel good about your work, and point to all the oil you have scooped up. But until you cap that well below the surface, it is fantasy to think you have made real progress toward a solution.” I wasn't done with my little rant. “Ninety-nine percent of the energy, investment, and activism is spent on the reaction side to broken male culture with no attempts on anyone's part to actually go after the man himself. That is why we need a church-to-church movement that helps men get into a relationship with God, get healthy as a man, get strong as a believer, and get going into his community. Do that and you take away demand, deal with the source, and deliver hope that goes beyond relief to sustainable generational impact. When God's people do that in combination with the other efforts, then we can begin to use the word solution. Helping victims of broken male culture is not the solution. Changed men with changed identities and a higher allegiance who are able to rise above the cultures that have trained them to make others suffer will be the time we can truly celebrate.” Then something shocking happened: spontaneous and continuous applause.
Everyone MOST definitely gets it.
We need a church-to-church movement that helps men get into a relationship with God.
I was dazzled.
I was only twenty-four years old when my dad loaned me money so that I could have enough to buy a stone that, to this day, rests proudly on my wife's left ring finger. I had never done anything like this before, and I was afraid of getting ripped off. This was big. As the jeweler popped the hood of his briefcase, I was expecting to see a small bag holding the diamonds, but instead he produced a thick, black-velvet place mat. After moving the briefcase over to the side, the jeweler slid the place mat directly in front of me and asked, “Are you ready to find the diamond that is going to go on your bride's finger?” No words. My smile back said it all. Then, like stars lighting up a jet black night, he slowly moved the bag from left to right across the black velvet, depositing tens of thousands of dollars worth of diamonds in front of me. What a showman and, I confess, what an effect. Against that black velvet I could see every cut and every facet of every diamond without struggling. Without that pad every diamond would have lost it's glory, but with it each stone put forth it's own unique sparkle. The blackness was necessary for the brilliance.
As I have traveled the world, I have found God to be somewhat like my jeweler friend when it comes to how He chooses to bring His glory and salvation among men in particular. The black backdrop of men cooperating with evil provides the contrast for a shining movement of men who stand out and manifest the glory of God through their transformation.
First, and most painfully, the black backdrop.
These statistics do not begin to touch the secondary cesspools of injustice connected to the pornography, massage parlor, or sexual tourism industries. They also do not consider the largest and most widely accepted injustice connected to broken male culture—fatherlessness. In metro urban America teen drug use, incarceration, unwed teen pregnancy, and high school drop-out rates all quadruple in the face of a 70 percent rate of fatherless homes, according to the National Center for Fathering. From Bangkok to Wall Street, broken male culture is the wallpaper of modern journalism and human-interest stories. These metrics and movements as well as the monies that must be invested to support them have one thing in common: they are all painful outcomes related to male behavior currently covering the world.
The blast zone of these stories relates to millions of dissatisfied and disaffected women worldwide, who have been hurt or made to feel like second-class citizens. They are making news as well, actively seeking and achieving independence from men in these areas:
For the first time in world history, women outnumber men in both undergraduate and graduate degrees, in managerial positions, and in qualifying for the high-growth job sectors for the foreseeable future. Aggressive feminism asserts that men have actually become the new “ball and chain.” Hollywood is banking on omega male for big box-office results, a new brand of man that is funny, hopelessly adolescent, and unable to be responsible.
Hollywood is banking on omega male for big box-office results.
It's a heyday for misogynists.
All the negative exposure and isolating trends have added dark emotions to dark circumstances for men. Completely lacking moral authority, feeling no longer needed or able to provide, and not being turned to for emotional support, men around the world are running more than scared. In response, they are either withdrawing completely, filling with anger, or reacting with passivity—all of which cause more suffering.
Can it get any worse?
According to statistical experts, there are 2.1 billion Christians in the world. This means that there are between 500,000,000 and 700,000,000 affiliated Christian men roaming planet Earth.
Just as political uprisings have been dominating the news cycle across the Middle East, a similar dynamic is invading men's cultures across the globe, making a powerful case that not only is all not lost but that there is a huge upside to healthy, faith-led male counterculture. I see it in the Glovimo movement (which stands for Glory in Virginity Movement) in Uganda that has statistically lowered the HIV infection rate. I see it in the Joshua Generation movement in Brazil where young Christian men by the thousands are sending a new message to their culture by committing to a Christ-centered life of marital fidelity. I see it in the Sons of Congo movement where more than six thousand young men and boys are forming groups to be mentored spiritually and socially in Christ. I see it in the more than eight thousand men in small groups at my own church. I see men being called by the Holy Spirit into the justice movement. I see thousands of churches across the globe being called to invest in conferences and programs for its men. I see pastors turning to and telling their men how needed they are for the mission. I see men in small groups and life groups subgrouping to study the Word as men, talking honestly and accelerating their growth. I see waves of good men making good decisions out of strong convictions about right and wrong in the little spaces of everyday life. I see men of the church humbly forming ranks around their pastors and making themselves available for leader development and deployment. I see women and children in awe over the changes in their husbands and dads. I see men winning over temptation. I see men disciplining themselves toward relationships. I see men leading their families by example. I see men honoring women. I see men aggressively entering dark injustices and confronting evil in the open. What do we call a healthy men's culture where consistency of convictions is prevalent in numbers among men, bringing justice—and with justice, bringing hope?
I see waves of good men making good decisions out of strong convictions about right and wrong in the little spaces of everyday life.
You call that a solution.
The hope of the world is the local church, and the hope of the local church in this moment of history is the power of Christ residing in its men.
The hope of the world is the local church.
It's not that our sisters in Christ are inadequate to the fulfillment of the church's mission in this hour. Not at all. In fact, their patience and perseverance spiritually with us is going to be richly rewarded. Instead, it's that men who name the name of Jesus and have a heart for Him must also grow a spine for Him. There is nothing more pathetic than a Christian man who has a heart for God but no spine. How can it be that there are hundreds of millions of “Christian men,” and yet the world cannot distinguish them from the larger culture? Jesus Christ entered a broken male culture not unlike the ones that foster so much pain today and promptly started breaking the rules. While the first-century Jewish man thanked God that he wasn't a woman, a child, or a Gentile, Jesus made a point to connect with and bring dignity to all three. He had a spine. He spoke with the Samaritan woman. He had a spine. He told the disciples to let the children come. He had a spine. He defended the woman caught in adultery and stood between her and stones. He had a spine. He touched the physically unacceptable. He had a spine. He touched the ethnically unacceptable. He had a spine. He associated with the morally unacceptable. He had a spine.
There is nothing more pathetic than a Christian man who has a heart for God but no spine.
For the Son of Man, sympathy was not a substitute for action.
Similarly, nothing is more tragic than a church with a heart to do the work of Jesus but no muscle to pull it off. So many churches we have talked to register the same complaint: “We make the call and the men don't show up!” They declare it as if it is a man problem and not a church problem. The church is like the figurative man described in the first chapter of the book of James who fails to see reality when he looks in the mirror and walks away deluded about his condition. In the masculine context deluded is defined as making no deposits in men and then trying to write checks out of that account to advance church initiatives. Churches that are confused over the commitment of its men should take a hard look the church's own commitment to them as a marker. As pastors we can't expect strong energy and expression of our men to come from a weak connection and investment in them. The bottom line with your men is this: We will be showing you in the chapters to come how to change that. Pancake breakfasts and Father's Day mentions don't produce a lot of loyalty.
For the Son of Man, sympathy was not a substitute for action.
Can you blame them?
I was helping a confused church that had a robust weekend attendance come to grips with the low commitment of its men to a certain outreach and fading attendance at their men's meeting. After asking a few questions, I realized the highest vision this church had for its men was limited to attendance at a weekly morning study on campus that had run out of gas. There was no connection of the men's ministry to the larger mission and needs of the church for leaders, no process to take a man there, and no room in the men's circle for the guys who didn't fit the “committed” profile necessary to attend that study. Of course they had a weak response when they announced their outreach needs over the weekend at church. There was no clear vision, no pockets of deep relationships to pull on, and no intentional leader development.
Relational capital is required in order to fund worthy initiatives with the energy and expressions of your men.
This discussion and many like them reflect another huge gorilla in the room of the church: worthy initiatives are not enough. Relational capital is required in order to fund worthy initiatives with the energy and expressions of your men. And relational capital does not materialize overnight. This church had a heart for initiatives and ministries the men could do but not a spine to actually invest in a meaningful vision, clear process, solid tools, and dedicated staff and volunteer structure that loved on the men. Meaningful relationships with your men and among your men are the Ebola virus of a strong men's community and wake the Sleeping Giant already present in your church. And that's the crux of the problem.
You can have men and not “have” them.
So whether you are a man reading this book who is ready to move from affiliated to activated or you are a pastor or men's leader who is ready to move your men from the audience to the army through meaningful relationships and a strong process, prepare to be both encouraged and challenged. This book is written to support the local church pastor as the local church pastor supports and invests in his men.
Now it's time to spark the resonating revival.
The Activated Man: Dangerous but Good