The global church can be a great institution, one that has more potential opportunity to make long lasting change than anything else. It really is the hope of the world and at the same time carries with it, I believe, an ultimate truth that cannot be compared.
With the rise of the ‘global village’ and the ever-changing society that we live in, it stands to reason that sometimes things pervade our church and that includes aspects of culture that are particularly undesirable. It is the responsibility of the church to resist, at all costs, aspects of culture that maintain the status quo of inequality, racism, class stratification and so on. It is the responsibility of the global church to have an activist branch that lobbies politicians, revitalises equality in culture, fights against social injustice and celebrates freedom. Just like we already celebrate freedom from Sin, we should fight for a chance to be able to celebrate freedom from all of the above negative things too.
As always, there is rhetoric in constant motion within the church about what it is that defines us as men and women. However, sometimes the discourse that some within the church, whether leaders or not, choose to use can be corrosive and prop up lad culture, inequality, and injustice. Almost all the time, these things are done in naivety and with a good heart – which makes the problem even more dangerous.
It has become apparent that there is an increasing notion that to be a man you need to have a job, be the sole bread winner, and therefore be fiscally stable. At the same time, men are expected to aim to be a leader of some description, get married, have a family, act selflessly all the time and be ‘strong’. The type of image you expect Chuck Norris to be if he were an advert for the church…
Don’t get me wrong, all of the above are great things. Wonderful things; and the world would be a better place should all men be like that. It is not wrong to encourage men to be better and strive to improve themselves, but when all of the above is thrown upon any male individual and they are told that “This is what it means to be a man” then the picture looks somewhat unrealistic. Equally, it fosters a generation of men who only operate on the micro, local level and don’t get involved in national or international focus outside of the church as well as inside it.
We lament, as Christians, about the crisis of dwindling numbers of men in church. Increasingly, we are seeing less men stick at it and as a result ‘fall away’ from the church community. Yet, it’s at this very point that we see the problem, masked in holiness and good intentions, but actually inherently evil and misleading. Men that leave the church as a result of not living up to the above are seen as men that ‘did not choose responsibility’ or ‘failed to grasp what it was to be a man’. Before all of this happens, comparisons are drawn to some of cultures ‘best’ men. Driscoll, Virgo, Chan to name some of the big names, but also the local ‘men’ in your church too.
All those men are good examples of what it is to have faith, as a man. Now that is the difference. They are not good examples of what it is to ‘be a man’. Each man is different and has a unique identity in Christ. Why does the church insist on comparing men to other men in the church when we already have the perfect display of manliness in Jesus Christ?
We are pushing men out of the church. We know that. But the problem, friends, is much more severe. In perpetuating this culture of comparison and gender stereotyping we are continuously propping up sexism, racism, facism… and most people would disagree with me on that. Alas, it all starts somewhere. Jokes, flippant comments and a lack of understanding of what culture does to people means that the church, unfortunately, is only replicating itself. The church fails to catch working class people, politically minded activists, the LGBT community, students, and young men and women effectively. At the same time, we are training the men and women that we do have to continue to gender stereotype, act as lads, support a system that is full of inequality and put pressure on them to be fiscally stable in a fiscally unstable economic climate.
So here’s the solution:
Let’s look at Jesus for what He actually is. The perfect man. Let’s stop comparing our men and women to others in the church and just look at the source then it would be so much easier for these people to change. Jesus supported equality and danced against injustice. The church needs to scratch deeper than surface level and look at what and how it really makes change in society and accept that, whether it had good intentions or not, sometimes having a model for manliness that doesn’t consider the individual, like Jesus always did, is unrealistic.
Things need to change. Society needs to change. The church is not immune. Let’s be the trend setters and the culture shifters first time round… just for once. I’m bored of playing catch up with wider society when it comes to being relevant.
We can do better than this, because our God is better than this.