Category Archives: Christian Missions

Eduardo continued… From “Last Man Standing” the book

Eduardo continued

…When we left Eduardo he was serving out his time in the infamous FEBEM juvenile prison system of Brazil, never hearing from a single “friend,” his only visitor being his mother.  But then he got a letter that would change everything. The letter, came from a an old P.E. teacher from his grade school years, Marcelo, and was accompanied by a photograph of the two of them together with some other boys from one of the many schools he had passed through in his childhood.  Marcelo wrote that he had heard from some friends of the trouble Eduardo had gotten himself into and let him know that he was praying for him and would like to catch up with him upon his release.  It was a simple letter, but it was also the only letter Eduardo would get from anyone throughout his 18-month sentence.

The day of his release came and it wasn’t long after getting home that his so called, “friends” came to welcome him back. Their first order of business was to invite him on a home invasion they were planning in the coming days.  He accepted.  In the mean time he thought he should at least track down Marcelo, this P.E. teacher who he still couldn’t believe remembered him, and thank him for the kind letter.  He found Marcelo, thanked him and, after a little chitchat, was ready to go back home, mission accomplished.  But then Marcelo invited him to come out to a party with some youth from his church.  Eduardo was leery of going to a “church” thing, but Marcelo assured him it was purely social and not a worship service.  He accepted, completely missing that the night of the party was the same night as the planned robbery.

Attending that party with Marcelo, Eduardo was taken aback by the other youth he met.  They were different.  The way they talked to each other and to him was completely foreign to him, but he liked it.  The next day his “friends” came around and asked why he had blown them off and not shown up as planned.  Eduardo made some excuses and rescheduled for another night the following week.  The day of that robbery Marcelo paid an unexpected visit to Eduardo and invited him to join them again for a night out.  This time Eduardo jumped at the chance, completely forgetting that he was “double booking” himself yet again. Once more he had a great time with Marcelo and his new friends and was more and more intrigued by what made them so different.

The next morning the old crew showed up at his home, even more frustrated with being dissed another time.  Eduardo wasn’t so sure of the sincerity of his apology this time, but

Marcelo & Eduardo (center)

Marcelo & Eduardo (center)

rescheduled once more just the same.  The day came and this time it was Eduardo calling Marcelo to ask if he could please come to a worship service being held for the youth at a local church that night.  It was the last time Eduardo would schedule a robbery, because that night, as Marcelo shared the good news of Jesus with the youth gathered together, GOD stole Eduardo’s heart for good.

Eduard at FEBEM

Eduardo outside the juvenile detention center

Soon after, Marcelo introduced Eduardo to Patricia and me at an Open Arms outreach project and we got him plugged in as a volunteer, teaching hip-hop dance to the kids.  Marcelo, Patricia and I have been walking with Eduardo ever since.  He has lived in our home, sharing a room with our boys, when things were going badly in his.  He has shared meals and holidays with our family.  Eduardo has gone on to go to college, has planted (at the time of this writing) three Open Arms outreach projects, has shared his testimony all over Brazil, began an outreach back into the same juvenile facility he spent time in, and has led untold numbers of children and youth to Christ.  Eduardo says today, “After about three months of resisting the temptation of returning to drugs and crime, my so-called “friends” stopped coming around.  Had it not been for my new-found faith in Jesus and friends from Open Arms, I don’t think I would have made it.”

DSC_0251

Eduardo and I at an Open Arms Outreach

Du e Claudia

Eduardo and his bride, Claudia

An interesting footnote to this story of Eduardo is that, on one particular evening soon after his conversion, he was invited with some of the other church youth to a meeting at a house belonging to the family of one of the girls in the youth group, one of his new best friends.  As they arrived at the house Eduardo’s jaw dropped.  It was the very same house he and his crew had planned to rob the day he went to jail, the day a voice inside him said, “Not this house.”  He knew now whom that voice belonged to.

Bull Elephants and Shark Wrestlers

continued from  https://lastmanstandingchurch.com/2013/12/14/being-imitators-of-god-continued/

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

In the following chapters we will explore what this might look like in your life.  We will hear testimonies of men and their families who are engaged in the fight in very real and practical ways and hopefully encourage you to step into the fray.

Chapter 5 – Of Bull Elephants and Shark Wrestlers

To begin unpacking Psalm 68:5-6 we need to first explore what it means to be a “Father to fatherless,” the critical role the church can and must play as the last man standing.  We will see how that is reflected in the life of a godly man and, should he be blessed to have one, his family. We will also examine the role for the godly woman and the local Christian congregation in what at first may seem like mostly a “guy thing.”

Elephants behaving badly

Those who know me well know that I love a good story, especially a true one and extra-especially one with dangerous animals involved.  My mother would tell you that not much has changed in that regard over the 42 years of my life.  I am hoping that you like them to because I have a couple I’d like to share with you. This first one made headlines back in 1999 when it appeared in a report by CBS news.  The tale goes something like this,

In South Africa’s Pilanesberg Park, white rhinos began turning up dead in astonishing numbers, nearly forty to be exact.  This was alarming and confusing: alarming because it represented 10% of the whole population of white rhinos, and confusing because the deaths hadn’t been the result of poaching.  The latter was made clear by the fact that the highly valuable ivory horns had not been removed.  A little bit of investigation led the park rangers to the culprits, juvenile male elephants. But why?  This was not normal behavior for juvenile elephants at all. What could possibly have led them, as was subsequently observed, to form into violent groups and rampage through the park, molesting, tormenting and eventually killing white rhinos?  The answer to the question can be found by looking at the history of the park as well as elephant social structure.

For the sake of full disclosure, I am not an expert on elephants, but this story intrigued me so I did some reading.  In elephant “culture” the young are raised by the females of the herd until a certain age.  We’ll call that age adolescence.  At that point the male elephants are pushed out of the group and will seek out the older bull elephants of their family (grandfathers, father and uncles presumably) in the wild where they will essentially, “learn what it means to be a bull elephant,” which, by the way, does not include murdering rhinos.

Street Thugs of the Savannah

So what went wrong at Pilanesberg?  For that answer we need to travel back some twenty years from the time of the rhino killings.  In those days another large reserve in South Africa, Kruger National Park, was having an elephant over-population problem.  A government veterinarian (it just had to be the government right?) developed the ingenious plan to sacrifice the adults, because they were too difficult to move, and instead relocate only the babies. Where to?  To Pilanesberg of course.

When these now “fatherless” baby boy elephants reached adolescence; they went out into the wild to look for their male “kinfolk.” When there were no bull elephants to be found these youngsters stuck together and formed gangs.  Yes, gangs.  Interestingly enough, one of the things older bull elephants do for their juvenile counterparts is to discourage them from mating too young.  This keeps their testosterone in check and, as a result, diminishes some of their more aggressive impulses.  Without older bull elephants to lead the way, the young bulls began mating and seeking to mate at a very young age, stimulating their testosterone levels through the roof and, just like that, dead rhinos and other such mayhem.  Sadly, several of these delinquent elephants were put down before someone finally had a stroke of real genius.

 

Elephant Big Brother Program

Using modified trucks, larger, older bull elephants were trucked in from Kruger Park by rangers.  What happened then must have seemed like a miracle.  A new hierarchy almost immediately emerged as the older bulls quickly established themselves as dominant over the younger, smaller bulls.  Through sparring with the younger elephants, the older bulls successfully discouraged them from being sexually active. This, predictably, lowered testosterone levels and the rhinos, once again, were safe to roam the savannah.  In fact, since the big bulls arrived on the scene, not a single rhino has been molested.

Taking a page out of the playbook

Is this so different from what is happening with fatherless children in communities all around the world?  It is precisely what we described when we talked about “street activity” and the missing “strong man” in our communities. So what is the lesson here?  Fathers are important?  Yes. Youth, and boys in particular, are trouble if left alone without supervision?  Clearly.  We’ve already established that the “strong man” has been tied up and what the ramifications of that are for our children and society.  But this is more than a wild kingdom mirror image of what is happening in our communities and around the world, it is a road map for how the last man standing, the church of Jesus Christ, could and should respond.

Our neighborhoods are overflowing with fatherless children, both boys and girls, who are in desperate need of interested adults: in need of a provider, protector, teacher and friend.  Remember what we said previously, it cannot be just any old mentor but a godly father figure, one who is committed to modeling a Christ centered life, is equipped for the battle and one who is engaged in actively teaching the truth within the context of a loving and safe relationship.

These children are waiting for the old bull elephants to come and put things straight.  Whether they realize it or not, these “youth gone wild” are desperate for an old bull to come along and say, “Whoa there boys, not the rhino’s. That’s not how we roll. You follow me and I’ll show you the way it’s done.”

Fatherless girls need to hear an old bull say, “Sweetheart, you are precious in GOD’s eyes. You are loved. Don’t let those young bulls fool you into giving away your heart.  Don’t throw yourself at them. Give them time to mature.  Stick with me and I’ll protect you and value you for who you are, not what you can do for me.” 

Several studies published over the last twenty years have focused on children identified as “students at risk” for behaviors ranging from out-of-wedlock pregnancy, drug use, and alcohol abuse.  The students who did not get involved in those behaviors identified one common reason; someone took a personal interest in them in such a way that they felt loved and connected.  Children at-risk are in need of some old bulls to ride in and say to Satan and his workers, as Jesus did in Matthew 18:6, “If anyone causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” Can it make a difference?  Can you make a difference? Let’s see.

Christmas edition – Remembering God Part 6

You can see the original post on the Reston Bible Church blog,

http://blog.restonbible.org/2013/12/remembering-god-part-6-in-traditions-memorials/

At the start of this series, I began by laying out four things we risk when we do not remember who God is and all that He has done.  These were:

  • Falling into idolatry/trusting ourselves or our possessions (Deut. 8:13-14)
  • Never growing in trust of/faith in God (Isa. 40:20-21)
  • Stumbling into sin and suffering the Father’s discipline (Deut. 8:19)
  • Forfeiting a generation to the enemy (Judges 2:10-11)

So how do we, as parents, make sure that our family is all about remembering God?  So far we’ve looked at remembering Himin the Word, in song, and in prayer and in fellowship. This post, I’d like us to look at how the people of God remember him in our traditions and memorials.

In the modern Bible church movement there has, in my estimation, been an almost complete purge of tradition, ceremony, and memorial from church life.  In our defense, I think that this has largely been a reaction to “traditionalism.”  This I will define as the elevation of a tradition, or memorial, to the point where the original meaning and intent are lost.  It is often replaced by the wholesale worship of the tradition itself.  A rejection of such idolatry is just and right.  I am afraid, however, that we have thrown the baby out with the bath water, so to speak.

Wouldn’t a more conservative approach be to recapture the true meaning and purpose of tradition and memorial in our lives?  To answer this question we must first understand the answer to two other questions.  First, where did we get our traditions, memorials, or ceremonies?  The second is why did we get them?  Let’s look to scripture as our guide.

“Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’  tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
(Joshua 4:4-7)

And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” (Luke 22:19)

These are only two of many, many examples you can find in both the Old and New Testaments, but I think they answer our two questions. Tradition and memorial are gifts to us, ordained, and in many cases commanded, by God. God intended their use as a tool for helping us to remember who He is and all that He has done for us throughout history.

Tradition and memorial are gifts to us, ordained – and in many cases, commanded – by God.

Does this mean that the only traditions or memorials that are okay are the ones explicit in Scripture?  I would say no.  You can also find places in scripture where a memorial or altar is erected, without direct instructions from God, in order to worship Him and remember something specific He had done.

Two RBC families come to mind when I think of creating tradition and memorial.  The first family told me a story of their “Memorial Shelf.”  This is a prominent shelf where they display items that remind them of something specific God did on their behalf in answer to prayer.  To most people it might look like a shelf full of junk.  But they always ask, “what is the story with all that stuff?” and then this faithful family can tell them the stories of God’s grace and mercy in their lives.

The second family created their own tradition at Christmas.  It involves the dad doing a dramatic reading of the Luke account of the birth of Jesus.  As they get to each new character in the account the children must go out and find that figure for the nativity.  When they find it is always sitting with a pile of gifts, one for each person in the family, and they open those gifts before moving on in the story.  They’ve told me this can take all day but the emphasis on the true gift of God in Jesus is rich in this family tradition and is never lost.

What am I getting at?  God gave us tradition as a tool to help us and our children and their children, to remember.  We must not forget and we must not allow the next generation to forget either.  Don’t let traditionalism rob you of this God ordained tool.  Embrace the historic traditions, make up your own, set up memorials, but don’t ever lose the reason behind the tool.

It is my prayer that, as you’ve read through this series of devotions on remembering God, you have discovered new ways for you and your family to make remembrance a vital part of your spiritual lives.  In song, in prayer, in the Word, in fellowship, and in tradition – being careful, “so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” (Deuteronomy 4:9)

May your Christmas be one of blessed memories,

Mike Meyers, Director of Children’s Ministry

Being Imitators of God

Be imitators of GOD, therefore, as dearly loved children”

Ephesians 5:1 (emphasis added)

 The Sincerest Form of Flattery

I am a simple man, not a great theologian, and I tend to read and understand scripture in a straightforward way. The Bible makes plain that, when we are reborn in Christ, we are called to be “imitators of GOD,” that is, imitators of his communicable character attributes, those attributes GOD “shares” with his adopted children. We can know the character of our GOD because it is clearly revealed in scripture. God is loving, patient, kind, good, joyful, faithful, forgiving, generous, courageous, and holy just to name a few. These are traits we should strive to imitate.

As “dearly loved children” we are also to imitate the things the Father does. Jesus says in John 5:19, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”  Does this carry over to the adopted sons (believers) as well? Jesus implies that it does when he goes on to say in John 14:12, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”

A GOD size assignment

Be “imitators” of GOD.  Now, if you are like me, that is an amazing and yet frightening command.  To be honest, at first glance it sounds like yet another impossibly high bar to jump and frankly a little burdensome. For me it ranks right up there with, “Be holy as I am holy,” in terms of potentially discouraging expectations. But at closer examination, it really is the promise of living in the presence and power of our Father, enjoying his company and learning while working at his side.

Notice what Jesus did not say.  He did not say, “anyone who has faith in me will be required to do what I have been doing. Or be required to do even greater things than these.” Instead, Jesus uses an affirmative statement, saying that anyone who has faith in me “will” do what I have been doing and “will” do even greater things.  The idea here is that, as adopted children of GOD, walking in the Spirit, we will want to be imitators of our Father, not forced, and that we are empowered by Christ himself, to do these things.  That should be exciting and encouraging news. What dearly loved child doesn’t want to imitate dad?

Dad is at your side

Let’s look even more closely at part of that statement.  Jesus said, “Whatever the Father does the Son also does.” If you were blessed with a good relationship with your father perhaps you recall “working” alongside him in the shop or singing with him in the choir or pushing the lawn mower with him.  You might remember that no matter what you did, Dad always seemed to make the work you did together turn out well. You might recall the sense of being stronger and more capable with Dad by your side.

If you’re a dad then you’ve seen the other side of the coin. One spring Saturday several years ago, I stood preparing to stain the deck and backyard fence of our townhouse.  I had borrowed our neighbors paint gun to make things move along a little faster.  All was going according to plan until my oldest son Michael, then just four years old, showed up and, with his most earnest and eager face on, asked if he could help me paint.  I was all too familiar with this kind of “help” and I knew it was going to make my job a lot more difficult, but I couldn’t say no.  I didn’t want to say no.  I wanted to give my son a chance to work with his Dad just as I had with mine.  So, after several hours, we succeeded in painting the fence, the deck, the grass, part of our aluminum siding and one of my neighbors’ trees. Was it the easiest way? No. Could I have done it better alone? No doubt. But it was a day that neither of us has forgotten.

Be of good cheer, GOD isn’t loading another expectation on you; He is inviting you to participate with Him at his work.  It’s a heavenly “take your child to work day” invitation.

So what?

So how does all of this discussion impact the knock-down drag-out fight for the souls of the worlds children?

After reading Psalm 68:5-6, the answer should come into focus.

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,

is GOD in his holy dwelling.

GOD sets the lonely in families”

Psalm 68:5-6a

Continued…God is in your corner: Come out swinging!

Continued… (click for part one)

There is a place beyond our church walls where the fight is even more intense, a bare knuckle place where the potential for heartbreak and frustration are only off-set by the enormous blessings to be enjoyed.  It is a place of a most Christ-like sacrifice where the object of your gift is powerless to give anything in return.

Prepare your Heart

We have analyzed the dire situation the children are in and developed intelligence regarding our enemy and the damage he has been able to inflict, now what? If you are committed to the fight, you must equip yourself for the confrontation, because, make no mistake; Satan will not give up this ground easily. Thankfully, in addition to the Bible, there are some excellent resources available to us. The following books have influenced my journey profoundly and I trust that they will prepare your heart as well.

For the man who is seeking to become what GOD designed him to be, I recommend, “Tender Warrior” by Stu Weber as a great place to start. For parents and church leaders wishing to do better at raising a generation that knows the Lord, I would suggest, “Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions” by George Barna, “Sacred Parenting” by Gary Thomas, “Shepherding a child’s heart” by Tedd Tripp, “Bringing up boys” and “Bringing up Girls” by Dr. James Dobson and “Parenting Beyond your Capacity” by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof. These are just a few of the many amazing books, written by gifted, godly men who have looked deeply into scripture regarding these subjects. I have read them each at least once and recommend them all highly to those of you who are now awakening to some of the shocking information we’ve just reviewed together.

Moving Beyond

From here on out we are moving into uncharted territory. As I have said before, it isn’t enough to simply care for, physically and spiritually, our children and the children in our church family. These roles of course, are biblical, foundational and well established throughout Christian literature and the Church in greater or lesser degrees since the resurrection of Christ. But is that where our responsibility ends? I believe GOD’s answer is no.

The fact is that the fatherless outside the church far outnumber our own children and the majority of the children born in the world today are born into non-Christian homes.

Everything we have learned about children in our families and the church leads us inevitably to the children in our community and the world. Circling the wagons to make a stand leaves the majority of the world’s future generations outside the circle.  Are you willing to give them up without a fight?  Is that how we operate, as the Church of Jesus, the “Last man standing?”  I hope the answer is no because if you think Satan puts up a fight when we start spiritually leading our own children, you haven’t seen anything.  The moment we move beyond the boundaries of the church family we enter into hostile territory indeed. But that is exactly where I believe God is calling us. If not us, then who?

More posts @ Reston Bible Church Blog

http://blog.restonbible.org/2013/11/remembering-god-part-1-introduction/

http://blog.restonbible.org/2013/11/remembering-god-part-2-his-word/

http://blog.restonbible.org/2013/12/remembering-god-part-3-in-song/

 

 

 

God is in your corner: Come out swinging!

From Chapter Four of, “Last man standing”

“You are coming to fight against me with a sword, a spear and a javelin. But I’m coming against you in the name of the Lord who rules over all. He is the God of the armies of Israel. He’s the one you have dared to fight against.

1 Samuel 17:45

Let’s come up and take a breath for a moment. Are you feeling a little overwhelmed? Take heart, I have been where you are.  It’s a lot to take in.  We have learned of the special place children hold in the heart of GOD and how He has commanded his people to take seriously the task of teaching them.  We have explored the very unique way we as GOD’s creation are “wired” and why that “wiring” makes it critical as parents and the church to reach all children early with quality, relational discipleship.  We have exposed Satan’s strategy for leaving the children in your family, church, neighborhood and around the world vulnerable to his plans by tying up the “strong man.”

So now is the big moment when we should be asking ourselves, “What do I do with this information?” Will I reorder my priorities so that I am fully engaged in discipling my children? Will I engage my church leadership to encourage them to make our biblical instruction and treatment of children more robust and effective? Will I get more involved in encouraging other men in the church to follow me in this?  I pray that the answer to all of these questions is a resounding “Yes!”  But there is more.  There is a place beyond our church walls where the fight is even more intense, a bare knuckle place where the potential for heartbreak and frustration are only off-set by the enormous blessings to be enjoyed.  It is a place of a most Christ-like sacrifice where the object of your gift is powerless to give anything in return.

to be continued…

 

Strong man down (the conclusion) – “Who is the last man standing?”

“By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.

Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace.” I also told them about the gracious hand of my GOD on me and what the king had said to me.

   They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work.” Nehemiah 2:13-18

    Our assessment is complete and the news is not good.  It is downright discouraging to be exact.  I echo Nehemiah when I ask, “Do you see the trouble we are in?”

You may be asking yourself now, “Why did I pick up this book?  There is enough bad news in the world to wallow in and now this!” That could not be further from my intention here but I believe it is important to not understate the gravity of the situation, and to make clear the truth that the answer lies with us, the body of Jesus Christ, the Church.

The body of Christ is the “last man standing”

While leading a team from a church in Brazil on a mission to work with children in a neighborhood that had grown up around the city trash dump, one of our team members and a dear friend, upon seeing the poverty, unsanitary conditions and widespread fatherlessness, commented, “Where is our government!? Why is this allowed to go on?” My answer to him, and others that might think that the government, or any other institution, holds the key, is this, “The root of the problems of fatherlessness, poverty and crime are not only, or even primarily, physical, educational or financial, but spiritual, and the church of Jesus alone is capable of answering all of these needs.”

Civil Servants of the Kingdom

The responsibility for addressing these needs does indeed belong to the government, but not the earthly one my friend had in mind.  The job belongs to the civil servants of GOD’s Kingdom and that means you and me.  If you are a man reading this you might be thinking, “Here we go, another thing I am responsible for.” But let me assure you, this is not another hammer to pound men over the head with.  We have enough of those today.  These are GOD sized problems that no one of us alone, man or woman, can completely remedy.  The answers lie with the whole family of GOD empowered by the grace of God through Christ.  Nehemiah did not call only on the men to stand in the gap and rebuild the walls, but rather for the men to lead their families in this great endeavor.

“Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows.” Nehemiah 4:13 (emphasis added)

We have done it before.  Just consider this excerpt from an article written by Timothy Larsen for the web site Christianhistory.net about the early Sunday school movement.

“By the mid-19th century, Sunday school attendance was a near universal aspect of childhood. Even parents who did not regularly attend church themselves generally insisted that their children go to Sunday school. Working-class families were grateful for this opportunity to receive an education. They also looked forward to annual highlights such as prize days, parades, and picnics, which came to mark the calendars of their lives as much as more traditional seasonal holidays.

Religious education was, of course, always also a core component. The Bible was the textbook used for learning to read. Likewise, many children learned to write by copying out passages from the Scriptures. A basic catechism was also taught, as were spiritual practices such as prayer and hymn singing. Inculcating Christian morality and virtues was another goal of the movement. Sunday school pupils often graduated to become Sunday school teachers, thereby gaining an experience of leadership not to be found elsewhere in their lives.”

Far from gloom and doom, my hearts desire is to hear the Church of Jesus Christ say with gusto, “Let us start rebuilding,” and begin the good work of reestablishing our defenses and going on the offensive for the hearts of children in GOD’s Kingdom.

 

“I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land…” Ezekiel 22:30a

Strong man down, continued (part 3)

We are losing ground in…

The Church

Where should we find a bulwark against the plan of Satan to take down the “Strong man” defense system? Who is the “last man standing,” that GOD put in place if not the Church of Jesus Christ?  The Church and its men should be an impenetrable fortress, protecting their children from the enemy of their souls.  Beyond that it should be a source of reinforcements for the families and communities who are losing their fathers.  Certainly in the Church we should find men, followers of Christ, committed to fulfilling their role of provider, protector, teacher and friend.

So where are they?  Again, some recent sociological research provides less than encouraging news for those children suffering on the front lines of fatherlessness.  It is not my purpose here to theorize on the causes (that is one bull’s-eye I do not wish to paint on my back), but the reality is stark as it regards men in the Church.

“Are males really less religious than females? Most of the studies made on the question seem to indicate that they are, and this appears to be true for all the Christian churches, denominations, and sects in western civilization.” [1]– James H. Fitcher,

“women are twice as likely to attend a church service during any given week. Women are also 50 percent more likely than men to say they are ‘religious’ and to state that they are ‘absolutely committed’ to the Christian faith.” – George Barna,

“Church attendance in the United States is about 60 percent female and 40 percent male. The more liberal the denomination, the higher the percentage of females.”[2]      – Leon J. Podles,

“Women, more often than not, take the lead role in the spiritual life of the family,” “Women typically emerge as the primary — or only — spiritual mentor and role model for family members. And that puts a tremendous burden on wives and mothers.” – George Barna[3]

 

The news out of Western Europe is much the same, and in Brazil the numbers are almost identical, with the ratio of Christian women to men at roughly 57/43% according to the IBGE – Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatístic in their 2000 census report.

While good people can disagree as to the cause of the masculinity deficit in the church, whether it is the feminization of sermons, worship and teaching in the church, liberal theology, a lack of vision driven churches or a generally feminized view of Christ and Christianity dating back to before the Reformation, there can be no disagreement over the plain fact that many Christian churches in the world today are not producing “strong men,” and those that are, by and large, are not sending them out into the world to stand in the gap for children who have been left defenseless by Satan’s schemes.


[1] James H. Fichter, “Why Aren’t Males So Holy?”Integrity (May 1955): p. 3.

[2] Leon J. Podles, “Missing Fathers of the Church”

[3] George Barna,Index of Leading Spiritual Indicators(Dallas: Word Publishing, 1996),p.87.

 

Stong man down, continued part 2

We are losing ground in…

The Community

What happens in a community where adult men, fathers, are absent?  In poor or “high-risk” communities elevated rates of drug abuse and incarceration among the male population lead to a downward spiral of community disintegration.  As adult men disappear from the community there is an increase in “street activity” where traditional community structures are replaced with informal ones such as street gangs and other criminal organizations.  These groups further promote the drug culture leading to even more incarceration and violence, and the further fragmentation of families and community structures.  This leads to a mostly misplaced distrust of police among children who watch their fathers and neighbors arrested. This in turn grows in to a general distrust of community authorities. Convicts are less “employable” upon release, further stimulating the economic sub-culture of drugs and prostitution.  Rather than counting on the community to assist in rearing and disciplining children, parents that remain are forced into a protective stance. In her paper entitled, “Bearing the Burden: How Incarceration Weakens Inner-City Communities”, Joan Moore, Ph.D. of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee writes about these special challenges.

“There is a voluminous body of literature on the perils of child-rearing in communities with high levels of street activity. Parents in high-risk neighborhoods expend an enormous amount of effort sheltering and protecting their children (Williams & Kornblum, 1994). Constructive neighborhood networks become very important for effective parenting. In their absence, parents “must be super motivated, that is, exceptionally adept at working the system and unusually diligent in monitoring their offspring . . . avoiding the omnipresent dangers [rather] than cultivating scarce opportunities” (Furstenberg, 1993, p. 255). Effective parenting is quite different in such communities compared with low-risk neighborhoods.”

In communities where fatherlessness is rampant, or in other words, where the command and control structure, the defensive systems, have been compromised, those left behind have to fend for themselves in an “every man for his self” struggle for survival.  This is a cycle that, if not broken by some outside intervention, will continue and grow unchecked.  A playground for Satan’s plans to kill, steal and destroy.