But Weren't The First Disciples All Men?
by Benjamin Lee
Monday night is Man’s Night in our home. Throughout the year 2006, seven groups of men, totalling 38 in all, would take turns to come to our home. While most were Singaporeans, we also had Filipinos, Malaysians and one from Hong Kong. My wife would prepare special treats and drinks and our twins would serve the guys.
It started in December 2005. On a plane trip back from Quito, God spoke to me about men. I thought we had already taught on manhood and our groups already had some men’s activities. But God seemed to say that I needed to make a more concerted effort. So I sat down with the church staff and planned for our first ever men’s conference in May 2006. Personally I would spend Monday nights with key men in church.
Let me start with my journey as a guy in church. I don't get the wedding picture. Ephesians 5 talks about the bride marrying Jesus. But I don’t want to marry a man. Besides, I wouldn't look nice in garters and lace. There is a song by HillSong which goes “Darling of heaven crucified…” It’s weird trying to relate to Jesus as “darling”!
Growing up in an Anglican church, I used to hear terms like “Ladies’ Fellowship” but don’t recall ever hearing about “Men’s Fellowship”. Many of my Sunday school teachers were female. Dedicated ladies gave us our earliest and deepest bonding with Bible stories. We learnt that Jesus was a nice boy, a polite boy, who always obeyed his mom, always brushed his teeth and always put the toilet seat down. I wondered why the priests wore frocks. This ‘feminised’ brand of Christianity was confusing.
So one of the first things I asked the 38 guys was, “Tell me some of the difficulties in discipling men.” Five themes came through:
Men like to apply. Sit-down singing and discussion seem to be more suited to women.
Men count the cost. They do this when deciding to serve. They think, “Ministry means less time to grow in other areas of life”. They feel their calling is their career. If there is a choice between a career-enhancing event and care group, or between getting 4 A’s and serving as care leader, the choice is simple. The career wins out every time.
Men are more practical. Everyone could be crying during worship but he does not feel much except out of place.
Men take time to bond. Many bonded with their mothers when they were boys. Dads were always busy with work. Those boys have grown up and they now say, “Only girls understand me.”
Men do ministry differently. They realise masculine submission and feminine submission to spiritual authority are different. Some rise up to serve but get discouraged - more than women do - when people don’t respond. They encounter guys who tell them, “I spend time at home so I am a godly example to kids,” which is not always helpful.
Then I asked about guys’ needs. The answers were fascinating. It was a combination of what they thought guys needed and what they felt they needed too. Four needs kept surfacing:
Men need spiritual victory. They need a God-thing personally and corporately. It is hearing God’s voice, receiving a prophetic word or healing.
Men need more mature men who are open to them. Then they learn to open up. We are inspired by role models. The church needs to make role models more evident. Guys need to see a man whom they respect, praying and taking Christianity seriously.
Men need to taste victory in ministry. Then they will want to do more for God. We are achievement-oriented.
Men need to taste close friendship. Most men change within the context of friendship.
The final thing I asked was the kind of guy-things that were effective. Sport is a big thing. Our guys do bowling, jogging, soccer, tennis and trekking. The younger guys do LAN gaming, PS2 and XBox. One group is into jamming. Many enjoy projects like helping people move house or planning a challenging event. One group scours the city for good eating places. One had an ‘Amazing Race’ with a rented bus to various locations for competitions that started at 10 pm and ended at 6 am. The one I liked was called ‘Ransom’. It was held on Pulau Ubin involving kidnappers, hostages and rescuers.
Here is the observation. God’s great outdoors often brings out the ‘man’ in us. There is something about corporate Singapore that can rob a man. He doesn’t get out in the fresh air. It’s more than sports and the fresh air. It's about getting outdoors, with people important to you. We need masculine places.
I have learnt a lot from Manly Mondays. More than ever, I believe men want to take Christianity more seriously. Men don’t want to play church. They want to be hot for Jesus. They want their hearts to pump with the things the heart of Jesus pumps with.
The Christian church started with men but currently there are more women in church. This can change. That’s my prayer.
This article first appeared in Impact magazine vol. 31 no. 4 (Aug/Sep 2007). Online: http://www.impact.com.sg/