In an effort to describe why I write my blog and stick to a singular topic stubbornly, I will use the Travel Channels show, Man v. Food as an analogy, no really!
I enjoy watching Adam Richman attempt to consume mass quantities of food, and the entertaining way the show is presented. Each episode features local restaurants and their tantalizing cuisine. Topping off the show is an eating challenge; complete with overhyped drama, a crowd offering encouragement, and a climactic finish that often ends in successfully eating an impossible amount of food.
Sometimes it is a gigantic 4lb. steak, potato, roll, and salad; or a mile high burger stacked with 10 1/4lb patties, along with a hoard of fries and a mega shake, then there is the pizza covered with a fiery concoction of hot sauces, habanero and ghost peppers.
I will tell you what, he begins each eating contest kicking butt, but then he reaches a certain point and starts to bog down on either the chewing, the quantity of food, the fire, whatever. That doesn’t stop him though, even if he has no hope of completing the task in time he pushes right through till the timer strikes zero!
That is the foundation I will use for my blog and what may be perceived as another eating challenge that never ends so to speak. But bear with me a moment please.
I have lived to the ripe old age of 56. In that time, I have spent my childhood, adolescence, teenage, college age, and adult life in the church.
- I have been present for the church work days; mowing the lawn, polishing the brass, vacuuming the carpets and cleaning toilets.
- I have attended a multitude of prayer meetings, thousands of Sunday services and an unknown number of other special events.
- I have driven long distances to see prophets hoping they would single me out for a special dispensation (that actually did happen) and other speakers.
- I have stood in healing lines and been knocked out like a boxer taking an uppercut.
- I have gone through the “laughter”phase (one of many so-called moves of God) in which if you didn’t laugh uncontrollably, you were obviously not flowing in the Spirit. Yeah!
- I have been under controlling, manipulative leaders, and also loving and caring ones!
- I have gone to any different churches; from Baptist to Charismatic, Reformed to Wesleyan, Methodist to Nazarene and non-denominational.
- I have seen it all.
In that time I have formulated some opinions because of my experiences, and so there are undeniable conclusions about which I passionately and relentlessly write.
I am a little like Adam from MvF. I have accepted the challenge to deal with some pretty intense issues, and I cannot and will not let go until I breakthrough. Some tire of my incessant and monotonous ramblings about the church and its approach to the problems that plague many of its members. Its my own version of the afore mentioned show, and it could be called…MAN v CHURCH!
Let me be perfectly clear, I am not out to demean, discredit or discount the church, however, I can’t help but express my deep concern over my experiences there. After all, I have spent the strength of my youth and used the talents and skills of my hands to enhance the churches influence; and yet here I am, beaten and outside of its gates.
I therefor am on a mission, and a dangerous one at that; to plead the case for the silently shamed who are caught in sins that have gone far beyond an altar call or confession to heal and find freedom.
There has been a thread running throughout the majority of my experiences and it is this. The church at large doesn’t have the stomach to face things like the porn phenomenon head on. Make no mistake, porn will destroy the church from the inside out, and the handful of guys that are sneaking into your support group for men, hoping no-one sees them, are a drop in the bucket compared to the epidemic that is exploding and quickly getting out of control.
Like Adam, I start to get bogged down as I work my way through the intimidating task before me, but I am fixated on the challenge!
Admittedly, I haven’t given a ton of solutions in my writings because I have been more focused on raising the alarm than providing the structure of a successful, in-depth mens ministry. If you are a leader in the church you are already way ahead of my knowledge or skill in that area.
I will offer this bit of advice to you if I may; Start somewhere, and do it quickly!
Many churches are not ready chew and digest strong meat and thereby confront this subversive evil. If there hasn’t been a consistent dedication to an authentic and culturally relevant approach to applying our faith in this world, it will be hard to broach this with any hope of an impact that will yield lasting victory. But we must start somewhere, and I have an idea on how that might work.
In my experience working through my personal addiction recovery, I have discovered a good practice for success. Its called, the step before the step.
Let me explain its personal application first. When someone is tempted in the area of pornography, they can be carried away by their lust very quickly if there isn’t a plan in place. Even though we are aware of our weakness, we blindly put ourselves in a position to fail. What is the solution? We know what causes us to lust, we know when and where lust can grab hold of us most of the time. If we are wise and strong, we can head off the temptation before it becomes an unstoppable force. But we must actually be a step ahead of that first step. In realizing how we become entrapped and then slide down the slippery slope of porn, we must put things in place that head off even the first step of starting off in the general direction of that bottomless pit.
What does this mean for the church? Well, the step before the step of talking openly and directly about this sensitive and upsetting subject might be a preaching a series on, for example, building trust with each other. There should be a teaser that the series is preempting an even more important topic to be revealed. The fact is that if your senior leadership isn’t squarely behind this new and brave direction, it will fail and wither away. Be ready for push back and maybe even a few leaving the church.
Heres the deal. In our congregations, many people come and go, few people serve, and even though we have a hand shake moment during the service people don’t really know each other. We preach topical sermons about Biblical characters, tickle their funny bone and share clever anecdotes. We don’t talk about the deep trauma, wounds and resulting sin that are below the outwardly normal surface. We just say “don’t do that!”
People leave and start another week without the tools to win-but what have they really gotten from that service? What is it that will stick with them, challenging them in a specific area-the most impactful, and desperately needy places in their lives as a matter of fact? How can we continue to be more concerned with peoples feelings than their souls and the sickness they live with all the time?
I am wondering how we get deep enough to help change the wrong beliefs people have about themselves and by default, God Himself.
This is the key-We must build trust among God’s people, a trust that gives permission to speak openly; then, through the preaching, teaching and compassionate care of the church, address the deeper unseen issues. The issues that are the real reason we cannot bring a life-changing influence for our own people in the church before we can consider reaching beyond its walls..
Am I saying that we are stuck without the ability to move forward until we deal with this topic in our churches in an honest and open way? Yes I am. Will it take everyone pulling together for it to be successful? Uh-huh! Does that mean we will have to get our hands dirty, and be a part of each others deliverance? You got it! Do I realize the Pandora’s box this will open in families, relationships, and throughout the church? Yep. Do I believe it is an essential key to a vibrant and authentic gathering of believers? Yes, absolutely.
It is time to sit down at the table and partake of the whole meal. We can’t just savor the dessert and call it good. We must take in and digest those hot peppers, eat it all, and leave no crumbs. Until we address the whole body of Christ, and all the issues which are tearing it apart from the inside out, we will not rise up and be the church we have the potential to be.
So the true challenge is this:
Man (Church) Vs. The hidden shameful and crippling sin that we can no longer afford to ignore that silently and relentlessly destroys so many precious people that God loves because we don’t know how to or are afraid to take on the tough issues.
OK? Lets dig in and start eating, the clock is ticking!!!