The Herald Weekly Vol XV : 14

The Strengthening Of The Men In Our Families And Church

I have been reading a collection of talks compiled into a book entitled “Men for Christ”. This compilation was joyfully put together in anticipation of Mt Carmel B-P Church’s Jubilee Year Celebration in 2017. It records a rich tapestry of vibrant men’s ministry in God’s work. Mt Carmel B-P Church was the result of a pioneer Man for Christ, Uncle Robert Ong, a young deacon in Life Church who started a Sunday School for neighbourhood kids living in the Redhill/Bukit Merah area in 1958. Initial attendance fluctuated between 6 to 12 children, but he persevered.

It reminds me of my earlier days in Sembawang B-P Church, which originated from a Sunday School started in the neighbourhood filled with kids from British families stationed in Singapore before the withdrawal of British military troops in 1967. The Sunday School started in the verandah of a Christian couple’s home (the husband was a deacon in Life Church), and later grew into a local family church a few doors away.

The work of God grew strong in Singapore in the 1950s and 1960s. Husbands, fathers, brothers and sons were strengthened through Sunday School education and Bible training, and they were willing to set time aside to be involved in the growth of the church. Truly, “our families and churches will be so much stronger if we learned to be better and more godly husbands, fathers, sons and brothers. We will be better models of male discipleship to the next generation” says Bishop Emeritus Robert Solomon (Bishop of Methodist Church in Singapore, 2000 – 2012).

In his talk, Male Spirituality: Implications For Our Church’s Men’s Ministry, he mentions how he is much encouraged by the forming of men’s groups in many churches, who gather in fellowship groups to encourage each other to rediscover the core of Christian discipleship.

Dr Solomon mentions universal aspects which all male disciples of Jesus Christ have in common: (a) all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23); (b) all have common needs for food, rest and the need to be loved, and (c) all responded to the call to discipleship in Jesus Christ, to take up the cross and follow HIM.

He also highlights some differences between men and women – biological, psychological differences, moral development and spiritual differences. Women conserve their strength and often outlive the men. They are much wired up between the right and left sides of the brain, and tend to be more holistic in their outlook than the men. Men, on the other hand, tend to focus on one thing at a time, and tend to be less verbal, and therefore look at things differently from their female counterparts. Men prefer to talk about moral issues while the women prefer to take action about issues they are concerned with. Men fight for justice, but women care less about the right or wrong of things, preferring to ask “what are we going to do about this?”

Churches tend to have more women – at prayer meetings, teaching in Sunday School, attending Song and Praise Session. Men prefer to watch football or join others for food or drinks. But would this determine the gender population in heaven? Hopefully not! The men who are mainly at work should have more contacts and friends, and should be doing more reaching out in evangelistic efforts. Do the male and female differences affect the way brothers and sisters in Christ perceive the church, and their involvement in church programmes or activities?

In trying to understand why there is lesser male involvement in church, Dr Solomon suggests things which men can do about their own spirituality and to make the ministry to men more effective.

1 We all need to improve in our ministry to men. We need to re-examine programmes in church which may repel rather than attract men to church. Keith Drury in his book, Money, Sex and Spiritual Power suggests that ‘the feminization of religion probably started in Sunday School…most men in church refused to work with children as many still do. They figured children’s work was women’s work…men were absent during our earliest and deepest bonding with Bible stories.”

2 The earliest impressions we have while growing up in church is the feminine input in our lives about God and the Bible and religion. We had few male models in our lives, thus skewing and distorting our understanding of God, the church, the Bible and Christian discipleship. Thus, the Sunday School needs to be open to the men too. There is a great need for male models of Christian discipleship. Men should be teaching the children! It involves mentoring – raising a new generation in the Christian faith. How can the brothers in Church provide good models for the young boys and men to follow?

3 Men are afraid of spending too much time just sitting down to talk about relationships. Men get connected by tasks, whereas women get connected through relational communication. Perhaps, men need to talk about their relationships. How can men improve in relating to others in church – to children, to young people and other adult men? What about our relationships with our spouses, children and friends?

4 We need to redeem our maleness. The Bible mentions certain things about masculinity which are good; but also reveals male weaknesses which should be addressed. The male disciples were seen as fighting for position and privilege (Mk 10:35-37; Lk 9:46-48). Men tend to be obsessed with tools and techniques – exactly how men function daily, but these also cause them to dysfunction. Simon Peter took out his sword (his ‘tool’) when he saw Jesus being arrested, and his ‘technique’ to solve the presenting problem was to cut off the ear of the High Priest’s servant. Jesus healed the servant’s ear and reminded Peter (Jn 18:10-11) that his tool and technique was not God’s way of handling crisis. Note that the disciples later ran away (Mk 14:50) because they were uncomfortable facing conflict without their tools and techniques. We need to examine how we can put away our so-called ‘tools’ and ‘techniques’ and apply God’s wisdom in solving problems at home, school, at work or church.

5 Dealing with male sins. The seven deadly sins, the chief of which is pride, followed by envy, anger, sloth, greed, lust and gluttony. While pride lists as the chief sin among women, the men however had to deal with their top sin – lust. In the present days of Internet influence and other social media, obedience in Christian discipleship seems even more difficult. Pornography, addiction to devices (the ubiquitous handphones, ipads, and other acquistions) food, obsessive activity, or secret vices, can truly hinder our spiritual growth in church, at home or in the office. How can we ask God to help us in our areas of weakness to become better disciples of Christ?

As we appreciate some of the issues highlighted by Dr Solomon, I pray that God will speak to the Christian men in our midst, including myself, to wholeheartedly and seriously consider God’s calling to discipleship again. Our Lord Jesus, a man Himself, is the best model for us to follow. So, brothers, let us emulate Him in our daily lives, and bring glory to His name. (Sisters in Christ, pray for us, and give us your support!)

Pastor Bob Phee

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