In Praise of Manly Pastors

I recently had a post about some men—mainly pastors—I would recommend other men follow. That prompted the question: Why is masculinity important in a pastor?

Well, there’s a larger theological discussion to be had here. Masculinity is important because excellence is important, and virtue (moral excellence) in a man—of which elders are to be exemplary—is necessarily masculine. Masculinity is important in a pastor because pastoral ministry is, by nature, agonistic, combative, confrontational. It takes courage, grit, fortitude, perseverance.

(Note the header image e.g.—John Calvin barring the Libertines from the Lord’s Table.)

But the simple reason I wanted to point out a few men to be aware of is because, on the practical level, men want to find pastors whom they can follow into battle. It’s that simple. If you’re a wife reading this, you need to understand that while the children’s ministry may be the most important aspect to you for finding a good church, for your husband it will be having a pastor they would follow into battle. They may not consciously word it that way. Perhaps it’s not even the best way to word it. But wives, you should want to go to a church where your husband respects the pastor. The programs, fellowship, coffee, and “atmosphere” may be terrific; but if your husband does not respect your pastor as a man, he won’t last long.

I hope to explain that a little further soon.

The video below is a good example of the need for manly men in the pulpits of America. I don’t link to this video because I endorse Maxwell. I don’t. I disagree with much of his approach and his theological views (including, ironically, his take on masculinity). But he’s hitting a niche precisely because he is accurately pointing out the failing of modern evangelicalism when it comes to masculinity, engaging the world manfully, and, thus, retaining real men in the churches.

This is why we need men like Wilson, Baucham, Cunningham, Conn, Wiley, and others.

In this video, Voddie Baucham explains that one of the primary reasons men aren’t interested in church is because the pastor is not a man they respect and feel they can follow as their leader.

In this article, C.R. Wiley discusses how to get and keep masculine men in the church.

And when we talk about masculine pastors (or men in general), we don’t—or shouldn’t—mean the machismo and posturing that so often is presented as manhood. Alastair Roberts has some helpful thoughts on that in two articles here and here. I’ll leave you with a quote from Wilson’s Future Men. This is essential in our endeavor to not continue losing future men from the church.

Boys should be able to see masculine leadership throughout the life of the church. From the pulpit, to the session of elders, to the choir, boys should be able to see men they respect. They should not see what is too often the case—missing men or silent men just along for the ride. When men go to church simply to sit in the back, they are teaching their boys to do exactly the same thing, if that.

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Learning to be non-androgynous men…

Most Christians—including, unfortunately, many complementarians—speak of men and women as though they are basically interchangeable in every way except with regard to specific formal offices in the church and home. We often act like humans have largely androgynous souls that just happen to get stuffed into gendered bodies. The problems and dangers of that view are myriad, and it comes out in the way pastors and Christian leaders give advice to men—advice that really would be equally as relevant to women.

Where is the gender-specific, real-world, biblical and practical wisdom for men to learn how to cultivate godly masculinity? Where is the biblical doctrine of the household? Where is the fatherly advice that makes men want to be good at being men? Allow me to reiterate a few places to start.

First, I can’t recommend highly enough the project from Michael Foster and Bnonn Tennant called “It’s Good to Be a Man.” Right now, it’s only a Facebook page, but they’re hoping to gain some momentum and start a site to post articles and continue helping men any way they can. I’d love to see them start a podcast. Anyway, even though it’s only a Facebook page right now, I’m telling you these guys are worth following—helpful and real. Set it so that you get notifications everytime they post, and enjoy!

Here’s some more to get you off the ground:

Recommendations for some books, blogs, and podcasts men ought to know about.

Recommendations of some specific men worth following. This is how you really learn and grow—by following men who are already being the kind of men you want to be.


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Men, Not Geldings

I’ve stumbled (over the course of about a year) onto a group of Christian men that I wish I would have known about years ago (some of them haven’t been around that long, but you get my point). The unfortunate—and sometimes unacknowledged—reality in the Christian world is that most of the widely known, popular pastors and teachers are not masculine men. Sure, they might have good things to say; but many men find it hard to look up to them or to really feel like they can follow them because, well, they’re simply not manly.

Additionally, of those who do aim to appeal to men specifically, those who avoid the trap of immorality (which ensnares far too many), often fall prey to the error of artificial machismo on the one hand, or, on the other, of the “emotionally evolved” masculinity that causes men to relate to other men the way women relate to women—and sometimes they fall prey to both these errors.

Another endemic threat is the fact that many “celebrity” pastors and theologians, including conservative men for whom I have much respect and from whom I have learned much, can be prone to follow the winds of cultural pressure. Even those who for the most part have stood strong against cultural and worldly influences, frequently hold to positions or conduct themselves in such a way as to make me hesitant to actually recommend them as men, to men. The pressure to be academically respectable, and to “have a seat at the table” amongst the intellectuals of the world is often overwhelming, and even the most loved and respected theologians and pastors fall prey to the temptation to be found respectable by the world’s standards.

Well, all that to say, I’d like to commend to you a number of relatively lesser-known men who are writing and speaking about things that actually matter to the every-day person and are genuinely helpful to men, specifically, who are seeking to grow in wisdom and follow Christ faithfully amidst the hectic and mundane schedules of modern life.

These particular men minister in overlapping circles, and thus often interact with each other online; that interaction is beneficial and edifying to the curious observer as well, so I would recommend not only following their individual blogs/podcasts, but finding them on Facebook as well and learning from their conversations with one another. Yes… I very much enjoy being a fly on the wall in those discussions.

Fair warning: this crowd is no stranger to controversy (you can read about some of that here). To sum up my thoughts: often I agree with the controversial side, and am glad someone stepped up to say it; the rest of the time, it’s rarely something that would prevent me from recommending these folks (clearly). I’m not recommending them as the most refined and safe theologians, but as real men you can actually look up to—the kind of men you want to spend time with on the weekend just so they might rub off on you.

Additionally, many (if not most) of these men are Presbyterians, thus I will find myself in disagreement with them on various matters of theology and ecclesiology from time to time; however, I have not actually found this to be a hindrance to my learning and benefiting from them, since our philosophy of worship, ministry, and culture is so kindred of spirit, and, as I’ve clarified here, finding someone with whom you agree on every fine point has never been a good standard to have—that way lies madness.

I’ve taken far too much space to get the simple point across: these are some men (in no particular order) I’ve benefited from recently; they are exceptional resources to be aware of, and I’d like to make you aware of them as I think you’ll find them enjoyable as well. As I said before, I wish I could have discovered these men sooner. So then, to the names:

  • Michael Foster — Foster writes from time to time on sexuality, attraction, marriage, and manhood, but not in the typical way. He’s actually talking about the things we know in our gut to be true, but which most Christians just rarely talk about or acknowledge. Most Christians—including, unfortunately, many complementarians—speak of men and women as though they are basically interchangeable. We often act like humans have largely androgynous souls that just happen to get stuffed into gendered bodies. Where is the real-world, sex-specific wisdom for men to learn how to cultivate godly masculinity? Where is the biblical doctrine of the household? I’d say, start with Foster. You can follow him on Facebook here and here to see more of his thoughts. He and Tennant (see below) also started a podcast called “It’s Good to Be a Man” that is well-worth the listen.
  • C.R. Wiley — If you’ve followed my blog at all recently, you probably recognize this name. Wiley is a pastor in Manchester, Connecticut, and he’s written one of my favorite books for young men on building, cultivating, and managing a strong and godly household. His blog, PaterFamilias Today, is a treasure trove on similar topics. Pastor Wiley also recently started an email newsletter that, so far, has been well-worth it. Just send him your email address over Facebook (and follow him while you’re there) and he’ll add you to the subscribers list.
  • Dominic Tennant — Tennant has an exceptional blog, and also is worth following on Facebook for more of his thoughts. If you want to cut straight to the meat, begin your journey with this article, and (unrelated) this series. He also writes and podcasts with Foster on It’s Good to Be a Man.
  • Tim Baly — pastor at Clearnote Church in Bloomington, Indiana; you can hear Baly on Warhorn Media’s podcast The World We Made, and read him at Out of Our Minds. He recently wrote a book called The Grace of Shame, addressing modern Christians’ blind spot when it comes to interacting with and helping homosexuals.
  • Doug Wilson — perhaps the best known name on the list, Wilson is a pastor at Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho. He’s a prolific writer who’s written some of the best pastoral books on marriage and family I’ve read, and he blogs regularly at Blog & Mablog. He also has a podcast I’d highly recommend, called the Plodcast, in which he comments on a current social or political issue, recommends a book, and then discusses a theological word or concept; it’s about 20 minutes total, and well worth it.

As I noted, the above men will often interact with each other on Facebook—that’s worth following. A couple of other men you’ll see associated with these, whom I don’t follow as much but are still worth knowing, include: Eric Conn, Toby Sumpter, Jake Mentzel, Peter Jones, and Andrew Dionne. There are a few other men I would similarly recommend following, but who don’t interact in these same circles. One that I’ll include in this post would be Voddie Baucham. You can find some good sermons and clips on YouTube, but his current messages can be heard on SermonAudio.

I’m sure there are more to include, but I hope you find this group of men encouraging, instructive, and edifying. I thank the Lord for grounded, manly pastors, helping men to be men of God. Do you have any others you would add to the list?


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Theology of the Household

As a follow up to the topics discussed in the series on family, church, and priorities (find the series here), and for a more fully developed understanding of the household economy as discussed here—as an organic economy rather than a collective of fragmented individuals (more on that to come)—I definitely recommend listening to this video in which Alastair Roberts discusses the biblical teaching on family and household.

Federal Husbands and Masculine Responsibility

I’ve been reading Federal Husband, by Doug Wilson. It has been, far and away, one of the best books on being a husband and father I’ve ever read. It’s challenging, insightful, and convicting. Here’s one of my favorite quotes:

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This short book is unlike any other you’ve ever read on godly manhood and marriage. I highly recommend every man, married or single, purchase a copy and take Wilson’s instruction to heart. Get Federal Husband here. Wilson’s wife also has an excellent companion book on being a wife and mother called The Fruit of Her Hands.

Man of the House

In his seminal work, Man of the House, pastor C.R. Wiley explains what it takes to build and manage a sustainable and godly household. Here are just a couple of my favorite quotes.

“One reason there is a crisis of authority in many households is that everyone knows that there is nothing to lose, because nothing is at stake. (Just what is the head of the house in charge of, the television remote control?)… The best way to reinvest household headship with authority is by giving households something worthwhile to do.”

“When buddy-dad befriends his kids he’s actually abdicating fatherhood, at least temporarily. It is usually an unconscious decision, and sometimes he comes to regret it, usually when discipline is called for. Often, that’s when buddy-dad realizes that no one takes him seriously.”

“Perhaps the thing that distinguishes a just man from a tyrant more than anything else is self-mastery… Few things are more terrifying than a strong man who can control everything except himself.”

“Domestic tranquility is best secured through the wide distribution of coercive force—not by giving the officials in charge exclusive right to it. The police should supplement rather than replace household self-defense. And there should always be enough coercive force distributed throughout a community to hold a police force accountable.”

“By separating children from parents, and locating them in age-specific cohorts, public schoolchildren are made to overvalue the opinions of their peers and devalue the convictions of their parents.”

“If you’ve ever said, ‘I don’t want to be a burden to my children’ then you need to get over yourself. If you live so long, you will be a burden, if not to your children, then to the children of other people.”

This book is short, but packed full of wisdom. Buy it, read it, start taking responsibility, and be the man of the house! Get Man of the House here.