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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Podles on Honor

In light of my recent posts on honor, here and here, discussing the nature of honor and the importance of seeking honor for and from God, you may be interested in the talk Lee Podles’ gave at the 2018 Touchstone conference. You have to be a subscriber to Touchstone to access the session right now. But that’s also well worth your while. Here it is: “Honorable Men & the Honor of God: The Centrality of Honor in Masculinity & Christianity.”

I’d also commend to you C.R. Wiley’s session on piety from the same conference.

And to learn even more about the honor culture of the New Testament, why it matters for reading our Bibles, and why it’s a shame we’ve lost so much of that culture and understanding, I highly recommend this fascinating work by David de Silva: Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture.

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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Resources for the Study of Gender Roles

In my recent introductory survey of gender roles and sundry, I promised a list of resources for further study of the issue of gender roles in the home and church, complementarianism vs. egalitarianism, feminism, etc. As promised (though far later than planned) I have begun to compile a list of resources I have found helpful in the past, and hope you may find them beneficial as well. I’m sure I will add to the list in the future, and would be delighted to hear about other great resources you may know of.


9Marks:

Gene Cunningham:

Bible.org:

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood:

John MacArthur:

Phil Johnson:

Michael Patton:

Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry:

Al Mohler:

  • Dr. Mohler has some good articles and discussions on his blog. Instead of linking the many excellent articles individually, I’ll allow you to find what you wish in his categories on Manhood, Womanhood, and Marriage.

Matt Walsh:

Greg Koukl:

Douglas Moo:

Tender Warrior

In light of my article on staying power, I thought it may be beneficial to share some excerpts from a book by Stu Weber (from whom I gained much of my ideas for that post, as I’m sure you’ll see). The title of the book is Tender Warrior, and I would highly recommend it to every man reading this, especially a husband or soon-to-be husband. In fact, I know of a couple women who have read the book and benefited greatly from it as well, so I guess I would recommend it to everyone! I think you’ll find it indispensable.


Now these are the heads of the mighty men whom David had, who gave him strong support in his kingdom…They took their stand in the midst of the plot and defended it” (1 Chronicles 11:10,14). “In ancient times Homer, Virgil, and even the inspired chronicles of Israel celebrated the deeds of mighty men of valor, who possessed the stamina to fight from sunup to sundown and slay their ten thousands” (World Magazine, 5-22-2004, p. 47). We still need these men.

Wake up Call

How many times can a man hear a wake-up call without waking up?  Some men, I suppose, never do. This man almost didn’t. I’ve had two major wake-up calls at two crossroads in my life. Neither was much like the gentle ring of an alarm clock. Both were more akin to the crack of a two-by-four across the back of my skull. But I guess you could say I hit the ‘snooze’ button twice before coming awake. Some fifteen years into my marriage I experienced my second life-changing wake up call, it flashed out of Linda’s eyes. For the first time in all our years together, I saw anger there. Deep anger. Hot anger. It was absolutely clear—there would be some changes in our relationship.

It is so easy to snooze through life, or, what the Bible calls, “drifting away” (Hebrews 2:1); “being dead even while she lives” (1 Timothy 5:6); “held captive by the devil” (2 Timothy 2:26); “living in darkness” (Acts 26:20); or simply being “lost” (Luke 19:10).  Even Christians are admonished to “awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11); “so let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober” (1 Thessalonians 5:6).

Men Who Have Vision

Looking ahead.  Giving direction.  Anticipating needs.  Defining the destination.  What makes a man?  First, foremost, and above all else, it is vision.  A vision for something larger than himself.  As men we often misplace our vision.   We focus myopically on houses and cars and stock portfolios and bank accounts and piling up stuff.  We imagine status and security in these things, when in fact there is no status or security if you don’t have relationships.  Too many guys squander their vision—and then wonder why they lose their families.  It’s the all too common downside to superficial definitions of success, and don’t let anyone snow you, nothing makes up for the failure of a family.

The Pillars of Manhood

The Head:  Both men and women were given the command to “subdue” the earth, and “rule over” the entire physical creation (Genesis 1:28).   The male is the one who is given the primary responsibility to rule.  A man rules and leads his family (Genesis 18:19).  Husbands are the head of the wife (Ephesians 5:23).  It is the male Christian who preaches to both genders (1 Timothy 2:12), and is to preach with all authority (Titus 2:15).  It is the male who shepherds the flock, tending, feeding, guiding, and protecting it from the wolves (1 Timothy 3:1-2; 1 Peter 5:1-3).

Initiator: At his core a man is an initiator, one who moves forward, advances toward the horizon, leads.  At the core of masculinity is initiation, the provision of direction, security, stability, and connectionSadly, some men lack this initiative, especially in the realm of providing spiritual, moral, emotional, and financial leadership for their families. A man without initiative is like a compass without a needle or a boat without a rudder.

Warrior:  A warrior is a protector.  Whether he’s stepping on intruding bugs or checking out the sounds that go ‘bump’ in the night.  Whether he’s confronting a habitually abusive Little League coach or shining a flashlight into a spooky basement.  Whether he is shoveling snow or helping women and children into the last life boat on the Titanic.  Men stand tallest when they are protecting and defending.  A warrior is one who possesses high moral standards, and holds to high principles.  He is willing to live by them, stand for them, spend himself for them, and if necessary die for them.  Ever notice how aloof a man can appear at times?  Could it be that the warrior in him is a little out of sync?  (1 Timothy 1:3; 4:6-7; 5:19-21; 6:12 “Fight the good fight of the faith”; 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline”; 2 Timothy 2:3,9; Titus 1:9).

Teacher:  A man is supposed to know things.  Like how a car runs.  Or the inner workings of a hair dryer.  Or the capitol of Nepal.  Or how many legs are on a spider.  Or how many miles to the next rest stop.  Or when the weather will turn.  It’s up to him to maintain a working knowledge of why electricity flows, dogs bark, birds migrate, hamsters die, trees lose their leaves, dads lose their hair, and girls down the street “act weird.”

And far more importantly than these subjects, a man is supposed to know God’s will and be able to impart this teaching to his family and others (Psalm 78:3; Ephesians 6:4).  More men need to see themselves as “teachers”.  Men should be able to teach “life.”  Men need to be able to distinguish truth from error (Hebrews 5:12-14), and correct children when they get on the wrong path.  They need to have the answers to the common questions of life (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and they need to know how life works.  Here was what Phyllis Therous wrote, “Small boys learn to be large men in the presence of large men who care about small boys.”

Friend:  Manhood means keeping commitments. He also must have the courage to rebuke when necessary (Proverbs 27:6).

Staying Power: Many men in our culture lack one of the marks of a man, that is, patience, steadfastness, endurance, and forbearance.  Have you noticed how badly men run in our culture?  One-third of American children are not living with their natural fathers.  Over fifteen million kids are growing up in homes without any father.  Seventy percent of men in prison grew up without a father.  It used to be, “women and children first”, but now it has become “me first”.  In contrast, godly men stand by their promises.

When marriage isn’t fun—stay in it.
When parenting is over your head—stay at it.
When work is crushing your spirit—don’t let it beat you.
When the local church is overwhelmed with pettiness—stay by it.
When your children let you down—pick them up.
When you wife goes through a six-month mood swing—live with it.

Real men stay, stay, and stay.  The heart of such power is sacrifice (Philippians 2:3-4; Luke 14:26; 9:23; Hebrews 12:1-4; James 1:2-4; 5:8-11), and genuine love for God and the people who need you (1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love is patient… love bear all things, endures all things”). Thus God still needs men who will stop running and take their stand in the midst of the plot and defend it against the Philistines until the sundown.