After this rant about womens’ ministry stirred up some good questions and this post had us all wrestling with what to do about it, I asked my friend, Ed Cyzewski, if he would like to write a guy’s perspective on mens’ ministries. Thankfully, he steered clear of discussing pancake breakfasts.
Ed is funny, rather sarcastic, deeply theological and a tremendous encourager. He wrote Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life (which is fantastic) as well as several other ebooks. He is a freelance writer and theologian currently living in Ohio but you can find him at In a Mirror Dimly. You can also follow him on Twitter @edcyzewski.
Men’s Ministry for Guys Who Don’t Want to Kill Stuff
I used to work at this church where the men’s ministry routinely took trips into the woods in order to shoot stuff. The youth pastor had the enjoyable task of flushing out the deer for the waiting marksmen. He’s now working somewhere else.
No, they never got him.
I made sure they never got me either because I’ve always avoided men’s ministry. I find it almost impossible to believe I share common ancestry with the guys who are into mixed martial arts and anything else that involves beating the hell out of another human being. Tying MMA into a sermon is as incompatible with Christianity as comparing following Jesus with soldiers attacking an enemy combatant.
Men’s ministry lacks metaphors and activities for guys like me. I was the last guy picked for anything involving sports. I opted for the tiny barbells at the gym. It took me years to forgive my college roommate for tackling me “just for the fun of it.” I’m not an aggressive guy. If you’re the kind of guy wondering, “Could I take this guy?” The answer most certainly is: yes.
When we moved to a new home in Columbus, OH this month, one of my first purchases was a bunch of pansies for the front porch. I also spend my evenings hanging in the living room with my wife and our house rabbits. I feel like that says quite enough about me.
My penchant for pansies aside, I generally find that I exist in a separate universe from the “men’s ministry” dudes who use fighting, military, wrestling, and weight-lifting metaphors for the Christian walk or plan events around aggressive activities.
It’s not that I feel left out. I’ve just stopped paying attention to all of that stuff. I don’t write this to trash such macho groups—though I’m not beyond poking a bit of fun at both of us. Hey, if you want to chase deer out of the woods on your men’s retreat, go for it. If an MMA analogy helped you get saved, then the Lord bless you. I’m writing this because I suspect that there are other guys out there who feel a heck of a lot more comfortable speaking of Christianity in terms of planting and nurturing rather than attacking, punching, or wearing armor. I know that Paul famously spoke of the armor of God, but amidst our focus on playing soldier for Jesus, I suspect we’re missing a few things.
The Bible Moves Us from Arming to Farming
Ezekiel creates an intriguing image of swords being smashed into ploughshares. In God’s ideal future for us, we’ll stop fighting one another. Instead we’ll fight hunger. While God certainly used military metaphors and tactics in the Old Testament, I’m captivated by the thought that fighting and weapons will one day be made obsolete.
Perhaps more nurturing, less militaristic metaphors and activities would help us discover a thing or two about God’s hopes and dreams for us.
Jesus Regularly Used Gardening Metaphors
There’s something about the comparison of the Kingdom to a mustard seed that always gets me. This tiny seed creates such a different picture and series of emotions when compared to fighting. Quietly slipping a seed into the ground, watering it, and letting it grow naturally is about as unaggressive as it gets.
I don’t expect anyone to read this and perform a men’s ministry overhaul. In fact, I’m not even so sure that guys like me need a separate men’s ministry. I’m just fine with having a small group and some guys I can talk to from time to time. But if you like practical suggestions with your blog posts, here’s something to consider:
What if we sought ways to protect others rather ourselves?
What would it look like minister to others like a farmer planting mustard seeds?
We can waste a lot of time creating false dichotomies. At this point in time, I get the sense that one version of “masculinity” in men’s ministry has grown to the point that it’s almost a parody of itself.
Spiritual warfare is tough business, and perhaps military metaphors work occasionally. It’s not like we need to cleanse Christianity from such notions. We’re more in a place where we need to restore some balance and affirm the guys who feel like they don’t fit.
My guess is that the really extroverted, competitive guys who go in for aggressive, high adrenaline activities also feel comfortable leading other men. The guys like me who prefer to plant garlic bulbs in the fall and make blueberry jam in the summer are left to sit on their porches with their pansies.
You’re welcome to grab a seat by my side, provided you don’t punch me.
Ed Cyzewski writes imperfect and sometimes sarcastic blog posts about following Jesus at www.inamirrordimly.com. He is the author of Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday Life, among other books. If you try to punch Ed, his rabbits will go Monty Python on you.