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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The Gospel of Social Justice

“Specifically, we are deeply concerned that values borrowed from secular culture are currently undermining Scripture in the areas of race and ethnicity, manhood and womanhood, and human sexuality. The Bible’s teaching on each of these subjects is being challenged under the broad and somewhat nebulous rubric of concern for “social justice.” If the doctrines of God’s Word are not uncompromisingly reasserted and defended at these points, there is every reason to anticipate that these dangerous ideas and corrupted moral values will spread their influence into other realms of biblical doctrines and principles.” — The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel

The topic of so-called “social justice” has exploded on the evangelical scene in recent months. There has been a subtle yet dangerous conversation growing amongst evangelical leaders, including many conservative evangelical pastors and theologians for whom I have great respect, concerning the issue of social justice—tying it perilously close to the very essence of the gospel itself.

In some ways, this has been going on for several years, with leaders like Tim Keller and Russell Moore being on the cutting edge of evangelical compromise with progressivist ideology. But the roots have spread into almost every corner of the evangelical world of late, making the issue of social justice something significant enough, and often complicated and confusing enough, that a few strong, conservative men have found it necessary to take a stand for the pure gospel.

A few of those men, including Voddie Baucham, John MacArthur, Josh Buice, and Phil Johnson, recently met in Dallas to compose a statement of official affirmations and denials, in the format of the Chicago statements, addressing their primary concerns and the dangers of the social justice movement, the biblical truth of the gospel, and the proper Christian response to this growing movement. This will probably become a very important statement (already being dubbed by some “the Dallas Statement”—I hope that sticks), and it will certainly separate out those who are willing to stand for the truth of God’s Word over against man’s word, and those who are willing to reinterpret God’s Word for the sake of “respectability” and having a seat at the secular table.

The one critique I have, at this point, is the way they use the term “racism” in article XIV, with little definition or clarification. This is a word that’s been weaponized to make Christians, white people, and men, feel guilty for being so, and thus required to apologize perpetually for sins they didn’t commit in order to atone for their existence in a condition they didn’t choose (and if you have the combination of all three—Christian white man—you’re probably the literal spawn of Satan). Anyway, racism is a rather muddled word these days, so some clarification would have been helpful. For a good discussion of the issue of racism and racial “reconciliation” or harmony, see Doug Wilson’s book of essays entitled Black and Tan.

For more information on the issue of social justice from a biblical perspective, I’d recommend this series from John MacArthur, and this article from Religious Affections. Religious Affections also has some links to other relevant articles in that post; I promise if you follow the links you will find a goldmine of information on the Christian perspective on culture, cultural engagement, and related issues. You may also find this article helpful, in which Josh Buice explains why he partook in the project and attached his name and reputation to the statement. Doug Wilson has posted his thoughts on the statement and related issure here. And, lastly, I have a post coming up soon in which I’ll point you to a number of articles that deal well with the question specifically of the church’s responsibility to the poor.

There will, undoubtedly, be a great deal of criticism aimed at this statement and the men who’ve written it. I’m sure there are some critiques that will be legitimate. It would have been beneficial if they had gone deeper into several of the issues addressed; but overall, the statement is well-written as far as it goes, and it will be helpful in what it does touch on. There have already been accusations of divisiveness hurled at these men, and certainly there will be some division as a result of this statement and the surrounding conversation—after all, doctrine divides precisely because truth is, by definition, exclusive.

Yet I’m thankful for the stand these men have taken, and I think this statement, despite any potential shortcomings, will still serve as an important document to spark conversation and reflection, and give valuable expression to the biblical worldview that many Christians know in their hearts to be true, but would have a difficult time articulating themselves had not wise men come together to clearly defend the purity of the gospel in an age when believers want their ears tickled and their feelings validated.

The other unfortunate reality you may notice is the lack of any more of the prominent, respected pastors and theologians as drafters or signers. The sad reason for this absence is that these very same prominent and respected Christian leaders are the ones who are giving in to the compromise, and leading the slide toward progressive, soft, trendy, “respectable” Christianity. It shouldn’t be a surprise that many Christian leaders have not signed the statement. They are the reason a statement like this is even necessary in the first place.

I’ll come back to update this post as I learn more. There’s also now, due to popular demand (myself being one of those who requested a copy to share), a PDF copy of the statement available for download to save, share, post at your church, etc.

I encourage you to take the time to read this important statement, and, if you’re a pastor and you believe you’re able, to add your name to it.

“Our hope is the clear sounding of the gospel. We must be heralds of truth—not political ideas or cultural trends… Far too often people are unwilling to stand for the gospel publicly because they are afraid of rebuke, criticism, and the loss of support for their ministry. Many people are willing to work long hours on their ministry strategy in order to protect their brand and their image, but they’re unwilling to subject themselves to heavy criticism that could potentially cause their brand to lose support in the end. Interestingly enough, Jude never says to protect your ministry strategy. The calling for Christians is to contend for the gospel. Jesus never promised us an easy life without trouble. In fact, he promised us much worse.” — Josh Buice

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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. I also listen to his podcast, Practical Ecclesiology, for interesting interviews about practical topics related to church life. He’s hoping to start a podcast soon to discuss his thoughts on manhood—I’m looking forward to that.
  • 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.
  • 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. He’s also quite enjoyable to follow on Facebook.
  • 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, Andrew Dionne, Dean Abbot, and Steven Wedgeworth. 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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