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Modern Man in Contemporary Culture
Dan Erickson and Dan Schaffer
As the family goes, so goes the nation." This simple statement reflects the truth that the family is the essential building block of all human society. The question is not, Will we have families? but, What will our families be like? For better or worse, the family is the primary means by which values are taught, morality is established, and sense of identity is formed.
Our government invests billions of dollars each year in the future of our nation through programs that primarily affect children outside the home; meanwhile, the family unit is under attack and is, in many cases, fragmented and without purpose. Studies have shown that one of the main reasons for the breakdown of our families is a lack of proper leadership in the home, especially by husbands and fathers. We might well amend our initial statement to read, "As the father goes, so goes the family, and so goes the nation."
If the church is to be an effective witness and influence in our nation, we must focus our attention on the condition of the family and its leadership. In other words, we must turn our efforts to the development of effective husbands and fathers. This is the greatest opportunity and challenge facing the church in the twenty-first century, because government social programs will never be able to capture men's hearts and mentor them into becoming responsible leaders of their homes.
Unfortunately, most local churches do not know how to train men to be productive leaders. In many congregations, the normal process is for a man to get saved and then be rushed into a ministry position before he is ready. To be effective, however, he must first be trained to lead himself and his family before he can successfully lead the church. The church has a responsibility to teach men how to be spiritual leaders.
The State of Our Nation's Men
Men in our society--including Christian men and pastors--are caught in a web of deception about their masculinity. As counselor Alexander Mitserlisch postulates, "Society has torn the soul of the male, and into this tear the demons have fled--the demons of insecurity, selfishness and despair. Consequently, men do not know who they are as men. Rather, they define themselves by what they do, who they know, or by what they own."
Many men today feel isolated. Studies have shown that most men over thirty do not have close friends. They have colleagues and work associates, golf partners, and maybe a "couples" friend or two, with whom the bond is really between the wives. If they say that they do have a best friend, often it turns out to be a childhood buddy they talk to occasionally or visit every few years.
In a 1993 survey, Dr. Gary Rossberg identified the following influences on men in our society: 1
Regrettably, for most men in our culture, male friendship is a relic of the past. One man spoke for many when he said, "I haven't made a new friend in twenty-five years." This estrangement of men in our culture results in part from a societal standard that discourages true friendships between men. We've been taught to protect ourselves by keeping our adult relationships within certain "safe" parameters. A close companionship between two males who are not relatives is often seen as suspicious or unhealthy. Society has convinced us that a relationship like that of Jonathan and David in the Old Testament is impossible.
Current Beliefs among Nonchurchgoers
According to George Barna, most men who are not involved with a church believe that the church does not offer any lasting value to their lives. The typical adult male in our society is more likely to spend his Sundays watching sports on TV than attending a church service. A majority of unchurched men believe that participating in church life cannot be justified because the return on their investment of time, attention, and energy is too slim.
Despite the negative feedback, Barna also identified seven key factors that unchurched men said would draw them to the church. These factors define the window of opportunity that lies open to the church and sets the parameters for effective men's ministry.
1. Men are looking for meaning and purpose in life.
2. Men are seeking understanding of who they are and what they are thinking.
3. Men want solutions to their everyday problems and difficulties.
4. Men want to know God--who he is and what he means to them.
5. Men want effective men's ministry that touches them where they are.
6. Men want friendships that are built on trust and that will last.
7. Men want help with family issues, especially training for their children.
If our ministry to men is going to be successful, we must develop a system that will help men to form significant and lasting friendships. Without vital relationships between our men, too many men will continue to feel lonely, isolated, and without hope. When building our ministry, we must focus primarily on establishing relationships, not on developing programs. A successful ministry to men will encompass the following key components of a man's life: identity, friendship, God's calling, discipline, marriage and family skills, and stewardship.
Identity. God has placed into each man a longing to be significant, a need to feel that his life counts. Countless men feel inadequate and insecure, no matter how much talent they possess. A man needs to learn how to find his identity in Christ. And every man needs a sense of purpose. Without a godly purpose in life, a man is left to measure his significance and his success by what he owns, what he achieves, and what he controls. The problem with finding his self-worth in his position, possessions, or power is that if he loses his job, his house, or his influence, a man also loses his self-respect.
Friendship. Most men know a lot of people by name or by acquaintance. Conversations with these individuals are light, brief, and nonthreatening. Even in the church, very few men have close friends. For the most part, men are spiritually fed but relationally bankrupt. Ask a group of men to identify their greatest needs, and most of them would respond with the need for close male friendships. The need for intimate, trusting relationships with other men proves to be a compelling need, regardless of race or culture.