by Rev. Ted Fine
Photos courtesy Rev. Ted Fine
Intimacy can be a tough subject for men. After all, real men are strong, self-sufficient and task-oriented with a special calling to spiritual leadership in the family (I know, not necessarily the politically correct thing to say nowadays, but true nonetheless – Gen 3:16, Proverbs 31:1-31, Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:18, 1 Peter 3:1-7, you get the picture). Women are the intimate creatures in God’s creation, and it’s better to let them do what they do best, and men to do what they do best, right? As it turns out, not so much, according to Scripture. And how (or whether) the Christian chooses to acknowledge that fact has a huge impact on the Church and its effectiveness in carrying out the great commission.
“How in the world,” you may ask, “can male intimacy affect the Church?” One of the more straightforward clues can be found in 1 John 4:7-8: “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” The first thing to notice in John’s exhortation to love is that it is a universal calling: “Everyone who loves is born of God” which means that men are called along with women into loving relationships with God and His created order. I might add that we are called on equal footing with women (Galatians 3:28). That being said, what more intimate expression of the human condition is there than love? The answer is simple: None! Thus, it follows that all Christians have been called to a godly intimacy. If we are not practicing it in every part of our lives, we are not going to be in a right relationship with God, and ultimately, we will fall away from full and faithful participation in the Church.
Here’s where all this plays in to the whole effect-on-the-Church scenario: Studies have shown that the level of a family man’s (full) participation in church (or lack thereof), can have a huge impact on the rest of the family’s participation (by up to as much as an 80% swing in their children’s level of attendance[i]), regardless of the woman’s level of dedication. The takeaway: If men go to church, the vast majority of their children tend to be there with them. That’s not a hit on motherhood by the way. It is simply a fact that speaks directly to the importance of men to the family unit when it comes to their overall participation in the Body of Christ.
The fact is, we (the Church) must be all-in when it comes to having high expectations of unwavering male participation in congregational communities, expectations that begin with intimacy and the love of Christ, though they most certainly do not end there. The universality of intimacy called for in Scripture is not limited to defining male/female equality in things of God. Indeed, it extends to calling for equality in all people everywhere.
Last year, I became involved in the Kingdom Group Men’s Unity Breakfasts, an effort focused not only on engaging Christian men in greater discipleship participation, but also in encouraging cross cultural dialogue on racial disunity, one of the biggest killers of Christian unity in the United States. These gatherings encourage hard conversations, with lots of listening and a willingness to approach others with open hearts and open minds. The really good news is, the men showing up at these breakfasts are open to listening and growing in their understanding of other people’s racial and life experiences. The Bible tells us that the beginning of wisdom is insight (Proverbs 4:7), and insight is the beginning of greater understanding and the breaking down of the walls – walls of fear that keep the children of God separated and weaken the Church of God.
I am looking forward in 2018 to a year of massive headway in race relations and the unity of the church through the efforts of groups like the Kingdom Group, as well as other organizations such as East Feliciana’s own FBIJ (Firm Believers In Jesus) spearheaded by Bishop George Veal. Like the Unity Breakfasts, FBIJ aims at cross cultural experiences, offering monthly opportunities for joint worship between folks who look different from one another.
The bottom line, friends, is that all of these efforts begin with Christian intimacy, and men are not only called into that intimacy along with women, but are actually the ones who should be out in front leading the way to closer, more intimate relationships with one another and with the God of all creation.
 Smith, D. (2014, June 16). Swiss Study shows fathers are important to a child’s chuch attendance. Retrieved from opentheword.org: https://opentheword.org/2014/06/16/swiss-study-shows-fathers-are-important-to-a-childs-church-attendance.