Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Masculine Crisis - What it Means to Be a Man

Men are in trouble. You can slice and dice the statistics any way you want to, and it comes back with the same result. There is a scourge of fatherlessness among boys and young men. There are daily revelations of male sexual harassment and abuse. There is a gender revolution that has left men without masculine moorings. There are rampant sexual addictions that leave men hamstrung and imprisoned. The phrase “toxic masculinity” has now become standard fare in the public arena.

Gillette's viral commercial on masculinity.

The growing crisis has found a new lightning rod in the Gillette commercial on masculinity. The YouTube version has gone viral with over 25 million views as of today. What is most intriguing though is not the film, but the backlash it has provoked. The negative comments (which outweigh the positive by almost 2 to 1) are in themselves revelatory of a seething anger underneath the surface of many men. It’s the anger of being told what to do and what to be, the anger of being generalized as toxic by definition. Underneath the anger, I sense fear—the fear of being emasculated and the fear of not really knowing what a man is after all. It feels like the fear of a tiger being backed into a corner.

For my part, I find much in the commercial that is redemptive. There is a persuasive uplift in the way it takes on bullying and sexual harassment. It tries to point to a better image of a man, one that uses his power to help and protect others, never to degrade and destroy them. And it rightly suggests that boys are always watching men for their cues on masculinity. What is done in front of them shouts a louder message than anything words could do.

All of this points to some transcendent moral structure that resonates with men. Yes, we should be the defenders and protectors of others. Yes, we should be using our strength to do what is good. Yes, we should bring up our boys into all of this.

But the ending left me with a huge question mark. The call to action is to become the best a man can be. Although well-meaning, the implication is that with a little more elbow grease and a little more sweat equity, we can all become the men we should be. This is the best Gillette can do. But it’s just not enough.

Fortunately, there is more for men.

What I find tragic in all the public forums and news reports about masculinity is not was is said, but what is not said. I have never seen one that points to masculinity as something other than a certain behavior, role, or action. Masculinity is to be found in the world of the seen. But this is a radically different idea from what most men have felt through the ages. From time immemorial, both masculinity and femininity were believed to be spiritual realities in which we participate.

To use the old term of the philosophers, they were metaphysical categories, beyond the physical, beyond the seen. They belong to the world of the unseen. All of the roles and behaviors were to flow out of that prior uniting to those spiritual realities. Temple worship, ancestor worship, and animistic worship of nature all had this underpinning. But it seems in the modern world, we have outgrown the need for such spiritual realities. Or so we think. But the present crisis in masculinity shows we might be mistaken.

Enter Christianity. The biblical worldview both authenticates and transcends what pagan religion affirmed. Masculinity and femininity are spiritual plains of reality that intersect and cut through all of the created order. That’s because they are part of the very being of God Himself. He is both male and female, authenticating and yet transcending both in the mystery of His being. And we are created both male and female to reflect different parts of that being.

Yet there is more. God reveals Himself primarily as masculine in the Bible because His approach to us is masculine in its initiatory character. And that revelation takes form and muscle with the coming of His Son, Jesus. Here we find not toxic masculinity, but masculinity on fire. Jesus came as a man to show men what a true man looked like. He spent His life defending the weak and protecting the helpless. He used His power never for His benefit, but to heal and do good to others.

Jesus was announcing the coming of God’s kingdom. It is the coming of a restored masculinity with Him as the pioneer of that new man.

Jesus is the best a man can be.

In Christian terms, Jesus is the best a man can be. He is the reality in which we are to participate. And then He turns to each of us and says: “If you follow Me, I will make you like Myself.” His invitation is the answer to the masculine crisis. But first, we have to say yes.

by Bill Delvaux is a graduate of Duke University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has been a church planter, a high school Bible teacher, and a running coach. Seven years ago, he pioneered Landmark Journey Ministries to help men find their guide, own their identity, and discover their quest through Christ. His latest book is Heroic: The Surprising Path to True Manhood. His greatest claim to fame is being married to Heidi for 34 years and having two amazing daughters. He and his wife currently reside in Franklin, TN.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Ernest Shackleton and Life’s Greatest Adventure

The ad on the right appeared in the London Times IN 1914 and read:

“Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.” (signed) Shackleton”

Can you imagine anyone answering an advertisement like this? Well, thousands of men from all over the world did. From among them, world famous explorer Ernest Shackleton chose 27 to sail with him to Antarctica on a ship he named Endurance. In the nearly two years they traveled across Antarctica, Shackleton and his men battled the elements and endured hardships in an adventure that defies description.

Jesus calls us into THE hazardous mission to Planet Earth. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was martyred for his faith by Nazi Germany, wrote “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” In John 6 when Jesus laid out the cost of signing up for life’s greatest adventure with Him, most of those who claimed to be his followers turned back. And they still do today. But there’s that handful who stick it out and say like Peter -- Lord, you're the only one who has anything lasting, anything that really matters. You offer life and we want to be fully alive.

Men, it is those few who look at the hardships, count the cost and still sign on for the expedition who like Peter and the other disciples would change the world. Jesus calls us into his great mission and his great adventure. Like Ernest Shackleton sending out his ad, Jesus talks straight about the "hazards and honor" for those who will risk it all for Him. Wherever you might be in your journey, remember - the easy road, the popular road never leads to anything that really matters. In fact, Jesus said it leads to destruction. So if you want to be fully alive, set sail with the real “Master and Commander” and make a difference that counts forever.

Discipling Young Men

The idea of pouring into younger disciples was engrained in me from the very beginning of my Christian life. But in the last two decades, I have seen more specifically the need to focus on training men.

Every follower of Christ, should be taught to obey everything Christ has commanded. Yet God places a special burden of leadership on men, and there is no better way for men to be prepared to shoulder that burden than in the context of a committed mentoring relationship with a godly man in a local church.


There is a systematic, Satanic attack on the very concept of gender, and with it, gender-based roles at home and in all society. Leaders in the church need to be very aware of the nature and seriousness of this attack and rise up to meet the challenge with good, biblical ministry to both men and women.

Because of this, boys don’t enter the world knowing how to be godly men; they have to be trained into it. Of course, the primary training role for that formation should be the boy’s father. He is to disciple his son every day in the Word of the Lord and in the pattern of godly living.

But while godly fathers are by far the best disciplers of young men into Christ-like manhood, spiritual fathers can play a vital role as well. This is where a mentor, a pastor, or a discipler can step in and take the young man beyond where his father has left off. In a day of rampant absenteeism among biological fathers, the next generation of spiritual leaders is yearning for godly men to step up and serve as an adoptive spiritual father.


1) Conform them to the “two patterns.”

The New Testament reveals two “patterns” of discipleship to which every disciple must conform: the pattern of sound teaching (2 Tim 1:13) and the pattern of godly living (Phil 3:16). There must be a doctrinal/biblical/bookish side as well as a “life on life,” role-modeling side.

According to the first pattern, we must saturate men’s hearts in Scripture and in sound theology. Use the classics from church history: Calvin’s Institutes, the writings of the Puritans, the sermons of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and so forth.

The second “pattern” (example of godly living) is worth an extra comment when it comes to manhood. Young men may very well never have seen a godly husband love his wife as Christ loves the church (Ephesians 5:25), or a godly father bring up his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). It would be excellent to have a disciple regularly observing the home life of his mentor, because some things cannot be learned but by example. This is why Paul says, “Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).

When it comes to church leadership, opportunities for this abound:

  • allow them to watch you meet with a grieving family as you prepare a funeral;
  • take them with you to conferences at which you may be speaking;
  • have them with you when writing your sermon;
  • spend time with them on your knees in praying through the church directory;
  • take them with you to the hospital;
  • lead them in outreach activities in the community.

In order to shape the hearts and lives of future leaders, these two patterns must be employed.

2) Impart a vision of godly leadership.

Make this vision of leadership plain: God is raising up men to lead at home and in the church. In both the Old and New Testaments, God establishes men to lead his people in every generation, and that should be a clear goal of your discipleship relationship.

In the context of discipling relationship, your goal is to help a younger brother understand that the church needs wise leaders who will teach sound doctrine and shepherd Christ’s flock in humility and strength (Acts 20:17-38; 1 Peter 5:1-4). God may be raising him up, preparing him to be a part of a godly group of elders who will lead the church. And this leadership must be along biblical lines if we are to achieve the Great Commission Christ entrusted to us.

Finally, a young man should understand that you expect him to be doing this same type of discipling of young men when he is “fully trained” (Luke 6:40).

3) Warn about the two failure modes of male leaders: tyranny and abdication.

Some husbands and church leaders embrace their role as leaders with an ungodly ambition. They make tyrannical decisions that ruin the lives of their families and churches. Such men are abusive, and the people they lead do not flourish under their leadership.

To combat this failure, we must teach young men the principles of servant leadership that Jesus espoused in Matthew 20:25-28. Leaders serve the people they lead, and we must display that.

On the other hand, the far more common error for men is abdication. Adam was put in the Garden of Eden “to serve and protect it” (literal translation of Genesis 2:15). “Protect” implies an encroaching evil, and that manifested itself in Satan’s treacherous attack on the mind of Adam’s wife in the very next chapter. Eve did all the talking. Adam, “who was with her” (Gen 3:6), stood there and did nothing. Far more husbands and fathers, and possible church leaders, abdicate their responsibilities than use their position as tyrants.

Therefore, we must teach young men to step up to embrace the role of leadership with courage and humility. Again, your own role modeling of this cheerful willingness to lead in the pattern of Christ is vital. The young men need to see you leading both at home and in the church, neither as a tyrant, nor as a coward. Your own hospitality plays a critical role in this: have them over frequently to watch your patterns of gentle leadership with your children, and the loving way you encourage your wife.

4) Engender godly ambition based on 1 Timothy 3:1.

Paul says, “If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a good thing.” This is a godly ambition for the future, and every young man in the church should have it. Even if God does not bless the man with the gift of teaching necessary to the office, the rest of the attributes listed in 1 Timothy 3:2-4 are common to all Christian men: above reproach, husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money, managing his family (children) well.

These virtues provide a roadmap for discipling young men. And even if they don’t show themselves as gifted teachers, they can still receive the same training as other future elders, because that doctrinal instruction will serve them well as future husbands and fathers.

So, a mature mentor should wisely implant a burning coal of godly ambition to be a future elder in the young man’s heart, and then fan it into flame as a central goal of his discipleship.

5) Give them opportunities to serve, then evaluate their service.

The discipler should constantly seek specific ministry tasks he can entrust to his disciple, appropriate to his level of development. That might involve opportunities to teach, evangelize, lead prayer meetings, do menial support tasks, plan events, or run do the AV booth.

Perhaps you can entrust a man with a Wednesday night Bible study, and then take notes on how he did. In general you want to give gentle and loving feedback.

Or allow a man to organize a summer outreach event. He can research what other churches have done to connect with lost people, and let him come up with an idea, organize, and run it. Then evaluate the event, emphasizing the positive aspects, but giving clear guidance on ways to grow.

When evaluating performance, it’s vital for the mentor to be super-encouraging as a rule. The disciple truly yearns for the approval of his “spiritual father.” And so consistent words of love and admiration (like Paul does for Timothy) are essential to the relationship. Having said that, good, specific, and constructive criticism is also required.

6) Challenge them to memorize Scripture.

No discipline has been more helpful in the process of my spiritual maturity than the memorization of extended portions of Scripture. This commitment is quite doable, and will pay back huge interest for the investment made.

Scripture memorization will help a young man in his own personal walk with Christ, in his evangelism, in his (present or future) marriage and parenting, and in his ministry of the Word. This has been a central pillar of my discipleship of young men for decades.

7) Identify a “pipeline” of future leaders in your local church.

Be watching some men who may have the requisite characteristics to be a future disciple: faithful, available, teachable. A healthy local church will have an ongoing pattern of discipling young men as future husbands, fathers, and church leaders.

8) Pray daily for their growth.

Follow the patterns of the apostle Paul in praying for spiritual development in your disciples. Pray Ephesians 1:15-19 and 3:14-21 for them. Pray Philippians 1:9-11 and Colossians 1:9-14 as well. Let your disciples hear you praying these things for them, and encourage them to pray them for you as well.


Discipling eager young men for future leadership in the home and the church is one of the most sweetly rewarding aspects of ministry that I’ve ever encountered. May God richly bless your efforts as you pour into the next generation of leaders of the glorious church of Jesus Christ!

By Andy Davis is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina