At Christian churches across the United States, it seems that there is a disproportionate number of men and women. I’m no advocate of affirmative action, but this long trend is disturbing. More recently, it struck me not as some failure on the part of the church, but as stations and posts that have been neglected, abandoned, or deserted.
Perhaps churches have a responsibility to serve men better than they have. But that’s not the whole story. The rest of the story, to borrow an appropriate phrase from Paul Harvey, is that Christian men have an equally great responsibility to man their stations. Not only do they have divinely-assigned tasks in the workforce, but also in the home and in the church. Those are the places where God has put them and given them a special, vital role. In some cases, men seem to be more interested in recreation than in any of these things, and in other cases, Christian men have forgotten one or more of these areas of responsibility.
Much has been said and written to criticize the biblically-defined roles of men and women under God’s moral law and the ordering of His Church. Much of this comes from the feminist tradition, especially since the sexual revolution. It seems less concerned about what’s good for men and women, and more concerned about erasing any notion that they are distinct from one another. Perhaps Christian men on the whole have bought into this. Whether or not they have, the fact remains that God has given them a distinct place in the Church, and in general they are going AWOL. Instead, churches are filled with women and children, with very few men. It’s little wonder that the children — especially boys — also drift away from the Church as they get older, since the men who ought to be guiding them are generally not there. It’s no wonder that some women would like to take the place given to men, when that place is mostly empty.
Take a lesson from Tolkien. In The Lord of the Rings, the Shire enjoyed centuries of peace and safety in an otherwise dangerous and hostile world because the Dunedain, the Rangers of the north, worked tirelessly and selflessly to protect its borders, while the men of Gondor stood bravely at their watch against the evil power growing in the east. If those men had not been so faithful and doughty, the Shire and much else that is good and fair would have perished long before the story began.
Or take a lesson from history. Time and time again, men both young and old answered the call from their comfortable homes to defend their loved ones against forces often greater in strength, and in circumstances both dark and grim. It was not a sense of ease or self-preservation that drew them, but love for their wives, their children, their neighbors, their homeland, and their way of life. Many even fought to preserve a place for their faith and the freedom to live by it all week long, raising their children and grandchildren to trust the Word of God. Some failed despite valiant effort, but knowing that the effort alone was worth the risk. Others succeeded, and many of us have enjoyed the benefits of their great efforts. Make no mistake: we are engaged in such a war. Though it may at times be less bloody, the stakes are higher and more lasting.
Or take a lesson from Holy Scripture. Ephesians 6:4: “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” And Luke 12:35-36: “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately.” In too many churches and Christian homes, the lamps are dim. If they burn still, then all too often it is to the credit of faithful women who have taken up the fight not only for themselves, but in place of their missing husbands and fathers.
We men should pray that God would forgive our disregard for things that are more important than our own comfort and recreation, and help us to once again assume our places as guards and sentinels on the walls of Zion. Will you be a man or a child? We need to lead our families to church weekly, and especially in the seasons when the Church celebrates the person and work of Christ. We need to lead our churches in keeping their priorities straight and advancing the mission with which the Church has been entrusted. None should be more eager for prayer and repentance, or better examples of the same. None should be better students of God’s Word, or more motivated teachers in word and deed.
May God forgive our faint hearts and supply what we lack, that His church, our families, and houses may be blessed. Christ is our example, and His mercy is our reason.