Friday, May 24, 2013

How to Become a "Man Alive"

by Pat Morley, Founder, Man in the Mirror

As stories began to emerge after the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, several survivors from the South Tower mentioned a courageous young man who mysteriously appeared from the smoke and led them to safety. They did not know who this man was who saved their lives, but this they remembered: Wrapped over his mouth and nose was a red bandanna.

For 56 minutes, the man in the red bandanna shouted orders and led people down a
stairwell to safety.“I found the stairs. Follow me,” he would say. He carried one woman down 17 flights of stairs on his back. He set her down and urged others to help her and keep moving down. Then he headed back up.

A badly injured woman was sitting on a radiator, waiting for help, when the man with the red bandanna over his face came running across the room. “Follow me,” he told her. “I know the way out. I will lead you to safety.” He guided her and another group through the mayhem to the stairwell, got them started down toward freedom, and then disappeared back up into the smoke.

He was never seen again.

Six months later, on March 19, 2002, the body of the man with the red bandanna was found intact alongside firefighters in a makeshift command center in the South Tower lobby, buried under 110 stories of rubble.

Slowly, the story began to come out. His name was Welles Crowther. In high school, he was the kid who would feed the puck to the hockey team’s worst player, hoping to give his teammate that first goal. He became a junior volunteer firefighter in Upper Nyack, N.Y., following in his dad’s footsteps.

Crowther graduated from Boston College, where he played lacrosse, always with his trademark red bandanna. His father had always carried a blue bandanna.

After college he worked as an equities trader on the 104th floor of the South Tower. He had a habit of putting change in his pocket in the morning to give to street people on his way to work.

Not long before Sept. 11, Crowther told his father, “I don’t know how much longer I can keep doing this work.” He was restless for more. Crunching numbers for invisible clients just didn’t seem like what he was born to do. He dreamed of becoming a firefighter or public servant.

On Sept. 11, 2001, at the age of 24, Welles Crowther became both—and also a hero, because he was willing to go up while everyone else was coming down.

There Must Be More

This story touches a need deep inside me—something so primal that I find it hard to put into words. But it makes me yearn to feel more alive. And every man with whom I’ve ever shared it has felt the same way.

Like Crowther, we all want to make a contribution and leave the world a better place. It is a primal need—one among many. By “primal,” I mean that as men, we have a raw, restless energy that’s different from women. It needs to be channelled, chiseled, transformed.

Over the last four decades, I’ve met one-on-one with thousands of men over coffee, in restaurants, in offices, online, after Bible studies or just hanging out at the racetrack—men like you. I’ve listened to their stories. I’ve heard what they said and didn’t say. Christian men know—or strongly sense—that we were created to lead powerful lives transformed by Christ.

But something is blocking them.

With a few inspiring exceptions, most men I talk to are confused about what a powerful, transformed life really looks like, regardless of how much “I love Jesus” they’ve got. They have high hopes for what Christianity offers but have little to show for it.

Their instincts are screaming, There must be more!

When men try to put into words what keeps them from feeling fully alive, they invariably describe one or more of these seven symptoms:

  1. “I just feel like I am in this thing all alone.”
  2. “I don’t feel like God cares about me personally—not really.”
  3. “I don’t feel like my life has a purpose. It seems random.”
  4. “I have a lot of destructive behaviors that keep dragging me down.”
  5. “My soul feels dry.”
  6. “My most important relationships are not working.”
  7. “I don’t feel like I’m doing anything that will make a difference and leave the world a better place.”

Do you feel the angst? Do you see yourself on this list? As you can see, as men, our similarities dwarf our differences.

These inner aches and pains—these yearnings—correspond to the seven primal, instinctive needs of men.

What a Man Alive Does Differently

We all know a handful of Christian men we admire more than others. Their faith has become robust and powerful. They’re living lives of influence because their primal needs have been fulfilled. They feel alive. Perhaps you have even witnessed their transformation from spiritual mediocrity. Likewise, you’ve known men who never seem to be able to get it together spiritually. What makes the difference?

To ask, “What do men who lead powerful, transformed lives do?” would be misleading. Why? Because lukewarm men are just as likely to do a lot of those same things: attend church, serve on a committee and send kids to youth group.

The right question to ask is, “What do men who lead powerful, transformed lives do differently than their lukewarm counterparts?” In business, we call these the differentiated success factors.

To imitate what most professing Christian men do wouldn’t be helpful. What we want to know is, “What are the guys who really have it together doing that the guys who live in spiritual mediocrity don’t do? What differentiates strong men from those guys who always seem to be looking in from the outside? What do successful Christian men do that unsuccessful Christian men fail to do?”

Where Do We Go From Here?

What I’m proposing is a huge promise—not from me, but from God’s Word. Jesus said it Himself: “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10).

That’s quite a promise.

You don’t have to settle for being half-alive. You can heal each of your inner aches and pains. You can be the good soil. You can be transformed. God will change your life one verse at a time.

It’s not self-indulgent for you to become the man God created you to be. In fact, it’s your destiny to lead a powerful life transformed by Christ—not without ongoing opposition, but equipped and trained with the power to prevail.

I’m going to show you how God has provided ways for you to transform that raw, restless energy you feel into a powerful spiritual life. We’re going to flesh out each one of these seven primal needs:

  1. To feel like you don’t have to do life alone
  2. To believe—really believe—that God loves and cares about you personally
  3. To understand how your life has a purpose, that your life is not random
  4. To break free from the destructive behaviors that keep dragging you down
  5. To satisfy your soul’s thirst for transcendence, awe, and communion
  6. To love and be loved without reservation
  7. To make a contribution and leave the world a better place 

We’ll explore how it feels when your life is not going right, what makes that so hard and what to do about it.

I’m praying that God will satisfy your hunger for a powerful, transformed life and will supernaturally elevate you to a whole new level of feeling alive ... from which you refuse to return.

We are part of something bigger than ourselves, you and I. We share a common bond. And there are others too—millions of us, everywhere. Men unwilling to settle for spiritual mediocrity, men unwilling to settle for anything less than becoming fully alive.

Let’s go get it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Manhood Restored: A Conversation with Eric Mason

by Trevin Wax

Eric Mason is the pastor of Epiphany Fellowship in Philadelphia and the author of Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole, I first met Eric when he served on the advisory council for The Gospel Project. He’s a powerful preacher who loves his church, his family, and his community. Today, I’ve invited him to the blog for a discussion about God’s vision of manhood.

Trevin Wax: Men’s movements have been a permanent fixture in the evangelical landscape for the
past two decades. Why? 

Eric Mason: The absence of men in churches. Even where there are men present in local churches, there seems to be a passivity of presence.

In light of the absence of leadership, there has been everything from Promise Keepers to some of the new manhood movements – Dr. Evans’ Kingdom Man, the whole Men’s Fraternity, etc. This is a phenomenal need and each variation has added its own flair to it. Kostenberger’s God, Marriage, and Family deals with the family as a whole with a special emphasis on the theology of family and the life of men. I think it is the best book on men written in the last twenty years. I also can’t leave out Family Life and their contribution. Everywhere I hear the similar issues from the past generations, and these issues have given rise to these movements.

Trevin Wax: What do you think is missing from some of the strategies and principles coming out of the men’s movement?

Eric Mason: At times, we’ve needed to see more vulnerability from leaders. When we are honest about our failures, we help others understand the gospel more effectively. When we are honest about our failures, we can believe God and repent of our sins and turn toward Him because He is faithful. I am not talking about any of the men I’ve mentioned in particular. All of us tend toward moralistic teaching how-tos – how to do this, how to do that, how to be a better husband, how to be a better wife, and while those things have their place, we need a theological framework that sets that up.
I think on the other end we’ve had highly theological works that left men in a daze. We have this beastly theological grid, and especially for some of the younger generations that love intellectualism and robust theology, they’re at a loss with how to apply all their theological terminology. There can be a struggle to live it out.

There needs to be a little more realness. In that realness there needs to be a connection and an intersection between theological richness and cultural connectivity to the reality and progression of culture. I’m not dogging any of the movements that I’ve mentioned; I’m just speaking in general. 

Trevin Wax: You write about the impact of daddy deprivation. What do you mean by this and why is it so important?

Eric Mason: Daddy deprivation was a term I got from a pastor named Blake Wilson in Houston about 13 years ago. That phraseology of daddy deprivation was phenomenal to me and I wanted to flesh it out because as time went on, and I began to see an epidemic of fatherlessness.

In the book Fatherless America, David Blankenhorn talks about the category of fatherlessness. Fatherlessness can go all the way from a guy who’s home, he has his family, he works, he provides but he is emotionally, intellectually absent. That’s fatherlessness because there is no active ministry of presence. But then all the way up to the person who abandons their children or had sex with a woman and kind of rolled out on he,r and the kids never knew who their dad was and they grew up without a father.

Daddy deprivation is anything between from those extreme pendulums. The reason I talk about the importance of this is because as a pastor have seen and experienced the impact of daddy deprivation on the lives of men cross-ethnically.

In our own church, Epiphany Fellowship, we’ve got white men, Asian men, Latino men, black men, different types of African, Caribbean, men, people from overseas. I hear many stories from different people about the formation of family. Daddy deprivation is a consistent issue in biblical manhood that needs to be engaged. It’s systemic because fathers were given the theological and spiritual responsibility to lead. In Proverbs, we see the leading of the family along with a mother who is an instructor as well, but the husband takes the visionary leadership in instructing the family.

The gospel restores fatherhood by God giving Himself back to us through the restoring work of Jesus Christ. I’m in a neighborhood where there is a 90 percent single parent home rate. So I feel it a lot more overtly than most.

Trevin Wax: 
You talk about the need for discipleship to include the cultivation of a biblical worldview. What are some of the ways we can prioritize the renewing of the mind as well as the spirit?

Eric Mason: 
Good question. I teach a great deal on discipleship and I didn’t put it all in this book because I’m going to work on another book that will include a full body ministry of discipleship.
Still, I was fascinated by how much the Bible talks about the mind being renewed. Ephesians 4:23 talks about being renewed in the spirit of your mind. 1 Corinthians 2 – the last few verses – talk about having the mind of Christ. Romans 12: 1-2 talks about it. And even in the Old Testament in Ezekiel 30:25-27 you look at how the gospel restores our heart and in restoring our heart, we get a new mind.
How do we cultivate the new mind? Forming the mind of Christ with the Word of God through discipleship. That means discipleship is just not one on one; it’s everything that is provided through the local church to the people of God, and that means every aspect of equipping – from the pulpit to small groups to going on mission trips to men’s time – all those things play a role in discipling. One of the main formats of discipleship in the New Testament are the “one anothers.”

Jesus says that in order to be a disciple you have to deny yourself. That means denying your preferences and embracing God’s way of doing things based on the Word of God. So how do we prioritize things? Deny self, pick up the cross daily and follow Him in ways that create in us a greater sense of a transformation of our way of thinking into His way of thinking.

Trevin Wax: 
You devote a section of your book to restored sexuality. What are the particular temptations we are facing today and how does the gospel aid us in our fight against sexual sin?

Eric Mason: 
Men believe lies that go back to worldview and strongholds. I have a message on strongholds out of Judges 6 that defines strongholds as things that assert themselves against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10). This belief that the enemy has a better handle on sexuality than God causes us to give ourselves over to fallen forms of sex because we don’t believe God has our good in mind even though He created the whole thing. That’s why in 1 Corinthians, Paul utilizes the gospel as the means by which we’re motivated to have sanctified sex and move away from illicit forms. In the book, I talk in detail about some practical ways to embrace a gospel centered worldview as it relates to sex, because I think everything is a belief issue.

Check out the first chapter of the book by clicking here: Manhood Restored Pastor Eric Mason Chapter 1