I presented on this topic for the 3rd annual Wyoming District Men’s Retreat this past weekend. What follows are my thoughts which I expanded for the presentation. Sadly, the recording of this was lost due to technical errors.
Being a Man in the Church
2015 Wyoming District Men’s Retreat
Be at Church – The Divine Service as Priority in the Man of God’s Life
There are two reasons Christians go to church, Command and Promise. First the Command – Remember the Sabbath Day by Keeping it Holy. What does this mean? The Small Catechism links this to hearing preaching and learning the word of God. This has to do with attending Church, and really as the history of preaching unfolds, attending Bible Study as well. The average sermon used to be much longer, rivaling the length of modern Bible Study time (and in such times there wasn’t Bible Study), but in the past two centuries we have shortened sermons and added Bible Study as the time when more in depth teaching has occurred. This experiment has probably been for the worse as less people attend Bible Study than Divine Service. Preaching is God’s Word, and the Christian man loves to hear and learn the Word of God. It is God’s Will for you to be in Church and learning the Word of God.
The second reason for Christians to go to church is the Promise. This is language of the Gospel, for it is at church where you hear that word of Gospel (lookup Romans 10:5-17). You hear the absolution (lookup John 20:19-23). You are taught the very word of God (lookup Isaiah 55:6-11). That Word of the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (lookup Romans 1:16-17). Besides this, the Divine Service is a reminder of your baptism (see every sign of the cross in the service, where was that sign first made over you?). This then can remind us of the promises of God concerning our baptism (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Romans 6; Titus 3; Ephesians 5 [how to be a good husband? More on that later]). The Divine Service is also the place for the reception of the Lord’s Supper (lookup Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22; 1 Cor 14). Given and Shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. (How often? How often do you come to church with sins?) In fact, that is what everything in the Church ought to be ordered around – the forgiveness of sins (remember that as leaders). These promises of God should make the Christian man eager to come to church.
Based upon these two, the commandment and the promises of God, when is it acceptable to miss the Divine Service? How can we as men of God teach this to ourselves, our households, and our congregations?
Being an Example to Others
Phil. 3:12-21 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.
Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
SOME STATS ON MEN AND CHURCH… (Caveat about stats… and church growth/3rd Article of the Creed)
- The typical U.S. Congregation draws an adult crowd that’s 61% female, 39% male. This gender gap shows up in all age categories.
- On any given Sunday there are 13 million more adult women than men in America’s churches.
- This Sunday almost 25 percent of married, churchgoing women will worship without their husbands.
- Midweek activities often draw 70 to 80 percent female participants.
- The majority of church employees are women (except for ordained clergy, who are overwhelmingly male).
- Over 70 percent of the boys who are being raised in church will abandon it during their teens and twenties. Many of these boys will never return.
- More than 90 percent of American men believe in God, and five out of six call themselves Christians. But only one out of six attend church on a given Sunday. The average man accepts the reality of Jesus Christ, but fails to see any value in going to church.
- Churches overseas report gender gaps of up to 9 women for every adult man in attendance.
- Christian universities are becoming convents. The typical Christian college in the U.S. enrolls almost 2 women for every 1 man.
- Fewer than 10% of U.S. churches are able to establish or maintain a vibrant men’s ministry.
Church is good for men:
- Churchgoers are more likely to be married and express a higher level of satisfaction with life. Church involvement is the most important predictor of marital stability and happiness. (NOTE ON BOTH SPOUSES IN THE SAME PEW EVERY SUNDAY AND DIVORCE)
- Church involvement moves people out of poverty. Its also correlated with less depression, more self-esteem and greater family and marital happiness.
- Religious participation leads men to become more engaged husbands and fathers.
- Teens with religious fathers are more likely to say they enjoy spending time with dad and that they admire him.
And men are good for the church:
- A study from Hartford Seminary found that the presence of involved men was statistically correlated with church growth, health, and harmony. Meanwhile, a lack of male participation is strongly associated with congregational decline.
– See more at: http://churchformen.com/men-and-church/where-are-the-men/
American Churches are in numerical decline. The youth are gone, and honestly so are many of the people 50 and under (the ones older are there but the Lord is working on taking them home). A man’s presence in church is a blessing to his own household, but also to the household of God. The most influential Sunday School teacher I ever had was a man. Men are examples, “heads” and that is just a created ordering of the world and also is a fact in the Church (whereas the rest of the body is present, the head receives attention). And the absence of men is also an example – a bad one for all those who are there at church (or not if you and your household are not at church). There is a great “traditioning” joy in being an example for imitation of good and godly virtues and practices (NOTE on being a man and confessing sin to others). Some of these virtues and practices include:
Being a man of prayer. Exemplify prayer before, during, and after the Divine Service. Take the time to pray for yourself, your household, and everyone whom God has gathered together for this service. Pray for your pastor, that he might serve faithfully in his conducting the liturgy, preaching, teaching, and administration of the Sacraments.
Singing the hymns. There is nothing that can beat the sound of men singing. Many pastors could regale many stories of hearing the seminary chapel filled with the sounds of men’s voices. There is something robust and courage inspiring in hearing men bolster out our excellent Lutheran hymns. Hymns are your confession of faith, they are a sacrifice of praise as well (in response to what God has done). Hymns teach. Not singing teaches also. Here, yes, people want to talk about not being able to sing – but singing is learned by doing it.
Exemplifying reverence. At Divine Service, you are in the very presence of God (NOTE: not the same way as in outdoors). This gracious God has promised through His Word that day (spoken through the man who hold His Divine Office) and His Sacraments (based upon His Words of Institution) to grant you the forgiveness of your sins, life, and everlasting salvation. This is the God who created the heavens and the earth. This is the God who controls all of history, directing it for the good of His Church (of which you are a part). This is the God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – a God whom we should fear, love, and trust in above all things. Reverence is expected in such a situation. What we wear at Divine Service, how we act, the motions and gestures we do all say something about what is going on there. These things are important in being an example.
The Example of the Catechism Man
The Catechism provides a good example of manhood. A baptized man of God knows the commandments, what they are, what they mean, what sins they show, what things they institute, what actions they command in relation to God and the neighbor. Obviously in relation to men in Church this includes the Third Commandment. It also means the Fourth Commandment (pastors are included in those “other authorities”). In the age of persecution and so forth, this may also include the Fifth Commandment and others (Seventh). It includes a knowledge of reputation (which men understand reputation well, but get confused as to the content of a Christian reputation). The Catechism Man fears God more than man. The Catechism Man knows the earthly gifts of God included in the First Article of the Creed and also in daily bread. He knows that because of all of this it is his duty to thank and praise, serve and obey God. The Catechism Man knows it is Christ Jesus who has saved him, and is concerned about the proper teaching of who Jesus is and what He has done, because that message is the one which saves. The Catechism Man realizes that the Church is the work of God, the Holy Spirit calling, gathering, etc. and that our entire congregational life (holy Christian Church, the communion of saints) ought to be ordered around the forgiveness of sins leading to the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting [This is the how the Holy Spirit works]. The Catechism Man prays. In private and in public (especially including at Church). He still regards himself as a child of God, even in old age. He listens and learns so that he can know how God’s name is kept holy among us, being taught in its truth and purity. He guards his conduct and fatherly/brotherly helps his brothers and sister in Christ to lead holy lives according to the Word. He knows that one day he will die and so prepares himself for it. He knows the pattern of the Baptized life, daily dying to sin and rising again to newness of life. He knows how to confess his sins (against those he has wronged and also privately to his pastor) and does not refrain from doing so in order to preserve his reputation in front of others (we must fear God more than other men). He knows the treasure of the Lord’s Supper and gladly prepares himself to receive it often.
Can you imagine if this was the example of Christian manhood put before our congregations?
Hearers (disciples [and Catechists])
Luther’s Small Catechism says there are two vocations in the Church, that of preachers and hearers. Preachers are easy to figure out, they are the ones in the pulpit. Hearers similarly are easy, they are the ones in the pews (or chairs if you must). The tasks of the hearer involve more than just hearing (although that is a good start). Actively engaging with the service in listening to hymns, lessons, prayers, and sermons is indeed a good start and goes a long way in letting God work on you as a man in His Church. This involves discipline in putting away the cares and concerns of this world and also possibly still having to deal the family vocations that God has given to you (dads still have to help with kids…). Such listening takes time to develop and grow, but it is the kind of listening that God would have you mature into. This “inward digestion” of the Word of God is important for every single vocation you have. Moving from the milk of the Word (simple doctrines and plain truths) to the meat (more in depth theology and the application of law and gospel in our day to day lives) is a hard thing, but one wrought by God through His Holy Spirit using the Word (where do we hear the Word?). It is God’s Will for you to grow into spiritual maturity (it is very possible to be old in age but immature in the faith). Let’s take a look at the verses that Luther assigned to the task of hearers in the Table of Duties in the Small Catechism (from www.cph.org/catechism):
What the Hearers Owe Their Pastors
The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. 1 Cor. 9:14
Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Gal. 6:6–7
The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” 1 Tim. 5:17–18
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 1 Thess. 5:12–13
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. Heb. 13:17
Luther once said that a Christian is a free lord, subject to none and yet a Christian is also a servant of all, subject to all. Our Christian freedom is meant for service. Being a man is not about domination, but serving. In this we look to the pinnacle of Manhood – Christ Jesus Himself. He who would be greatest among you is not the one with the most stuff or the greatest “machismo” – but the one who serves. This is against the message of the world and what it says for men. In the Christian Congregation this means serving the neighbor (other parishioners and pastors) by serving in any way we have gifts and talents to serve. If you are gifted at fixing things or organizing volunteers, serve as a trustee. If you know the faith well, and are an example of Christian manhood, serve as an elder. If you understand Stewardship, serve on that board. If you know the Gospel well and want others to know it join the Evangelism board and lead that way. If you want little ones to learn the Scriptures, offer to teach Sunday School. We as the Church need more men in these positions, as the example of faithful men doing good work is a great one. Our role as “heads” also means taking positions of authority in our congregations, for it is not good for women to exercise authority over men (according to St. Paul). Step up, volunteer. Say yes to the nomination and encourage each other on in honorable manhood and service in your congregations.
This means that we as men in the church need to be in the know. Take interest in what is going on in your congregation, in the circuit, in the district, in the synod. As you use your American Citizenship to keep informed about the goings on in our country, use your citizenship of the kingdom of God to take interest in how things are going on in that Kingdom on earth. There is nothing more helpful in congregational, district, and synodical matters than a steadfast layman who knows what is happening and is willing to help in the ways required.
Yes, men in the church should be givers. Men are the head of the household, directing the household’s priorities in how resources are spent. This means first and foremost the support of the congregation to which the Holy Spirit has place you into. So set aside a portion of the firstfruits. Give cheerfully knowing full well what this offering supports – where would you be without the preached Word? Where would your household be? Where would the other members be? Where would the new members be? How valuable is true teaching of the Scriptures? How about Holy Baptism? Just how great is it to have the resource of a man of God who will pronounce absolution to you after every confession? How precious is the body and blood of Jesus given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins? God’s treasures, from Christ to you in the Church – what dollar amount can be placed on making sure that the needs of the pastor and the congregation are met? Firstfruits, not last fruits. The first item in our budget (even just the one in your mind) should not be mortgage, insurance, light bills, car payments, or even the grocery bill. It should be our firstfruit, proportionate offering to our congregation. God is more generous than you are, and He will never let you out give Him. Repent of thinking that what you have is what you have earned for yourself. It is all a gift of God, your jobs have been given to you by Him to serve your neighbors. The paycheck is meant to support this body and life, but it is also meant to be given to the Church.
Defenders of the Faith (Confessors) and Protectors of the Faithful
Men are used to hearing about themselves as defenders and protectors, and it is no different in the church, except the defense and protection is against false teachers and false teachings. In the Scriptures, it is very clear that God is concerned about His people being led astray. Women in particular are mentioned as being susceptible to this delusion (2 Tim 3:6; Gen 3?). It is the Christian man’s vocation to protect against this. This of course implies knowing the truth (get your Catechism out, study the Scriptures, ask your pastor to teach the Lutheran Confessions). So men defend and protect and in this join in a category of Christians called “confessors”. Confessors are Christians who confess the faith boldly and courageously for the sake of others. Even in the face of pressure to give up the faith (or even small parts of it), confessors stand firm (see Ephesians 6). This is what God has called you to do as a man in His Church.
There is another side to leadership in the Church, and we hinted at it already in the “example” section. A Christian man leads in weakness and service. We do not approach from above, but instead from below. When someone is caught in actual sin, we humbly approach them, knowing that the same Original Sin and corruption resides in us. We honor those older than us and treat everyone as someone more deserving of the higher place or better seat. We rejoice in weakness, so that the strength of Christ may be even more present. We do not rule like the Gentiles, lording our authority over one another, but we use whatever authority God has given us to serve the others. As Paul admonishes – let this mind dwell in you… Philippians 2:1-11
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Being a Man with a clean conscience
All of the various callings we have will no doubt produce guilt over not doing things well or enough. Original Sin is still alive and well (the Old Adam is a good swimmer). This means that actual sins will manifest in our lives as Christian Men in the Church. We will fail to study, listen, and confess as we should. We will seek to dominate through power than serve with authority. We will fail to serve on boards in Christian love. We will not guard and protect our women and children as we should. These failures are more than that – they are sins. Examine your lives in your congregations according to the Ten Commandments? You will find much sin. This sin, if left to fester will spoil the conscience. Behind each revealed is the temptation to self-justify, either in works to make up for it, or in denying the sin altogether, or in many other ways. No effort to justify our sin will suffice before God in heaven. The only justification that avails before God in heaven is that which is worked by Jesus Christ. And what He has done is given freely by grace and is received by faith (itself a gift of God). A clean conscience is very important to being a man in the congregation, as in leading and serving a clean conscience allows for a good confession of the faith. A clean conscience will allow us to be better men, husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, hearers, citizens, bosses and workers.
Love flowing from Love and how a man does good for his family, friends, coworkers, and community.
As a Christian man attending Divine Service (get there) you are being taken care of in so many ways in order to serve others. The forgiveness of sins which grants the clean conscience is invaluable in the service of others. Besides that, the motivation of having love for the neighbor is also fueled by having God’s love shown to you. First He loves us, then we are able to love others (not in a self-serving way as we did prior to Christ). How can you love your wife better? Receive God’s love in the Divine Service. How can you love your kids better? Receive God’s love in the Divine Service. How can you love anyone better? Receive God’s love in the Divine Service.
THE MOTIVES AND QUALIFICATIONS OF A GENUINE CHURCH MEMBER
Walther’s Words of Welcome to New Members (who in his day would have been only men)
by C.F.W. Walther
By signing the constitution of our congregation, you have shown that you approve of it and have solemnly promised to abide in it. In the name of the congregation I welcome you as voting members. Permit me to add a few remarks.
Only that is a good deed which is promoted by proper motives and performed in a proper spirit. Alms, for example, are good deeds only when given out of love, not under pressure or merely to make people believe that you are a Christian. Diligence in our earthly calling is a good deed only when it issues from the desire to please God, who wills that we eat our daily bread in the sweat of the brow, and not because you wish to gain riches.
The same holds true with respect to joining a Christian congregation. That, too, is a good deed only if we do so because it is Christ’s will that believers unite in proclaiming His Word, conducting public worship, and building and spreading His kingdom. The same step would be sinful if taken for the sake of earthly gain, as we read of Simon, the sorcerer, who joined the Christian congregation in Samaria to enrich himself in a material way. (Acts 8)
What has been said holds true also in the case of those who unite with a truly Evangelical Lutheran congregation. And this step is a good deed only if they wish to join such a congregation in preference to a congregation of another denomination because they are convinced that only the Evangelical Lutheran Church teaches the pure, unadulterated doctrine of God’s Word. Were someone, however, to seek voting membership in a Lutheran congregation simply because he was born and reared in its midst, or to please his parents, or because his friends are members of that congregation, or because the location of its church makes it convenient to attend its services, he would not perform a good deed, even though God may have led him into that church for the purpose of making him a true Lutheran, in other words, an orthodox Christian.
What has been said emphasizes three factors that are essential in the make-up of a genuine member of a Lutheran congregation.
- A genuine member of a Lutheran congregation must have a thorough understanding of pure Lutheran doctrine or at least must desire to grow in the knowledge of it. Such a one will imitate the Bereans in searching the Scriptures daily, he will not lay aside his Catechism when he has completed his elementary school training, but throughout his life continue to review it in order that he may understand it better and become more thoroughly grounded in it. He will read other good orthodox books and periodicals to become ever more firmly established in the pure doctrine. In Hebrews 5 those Christians who are neglectful in this point are censured. We read: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. “
- A member of a Lutheran congregation must be able to defend his faith and to prove its correctness from God’s Word. St. Peter writes, I Peter 3:15: “Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asks a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” A sad state of affairs is revealed when members of a Lutheran congregation, asked about their faith, say, “You will have to ask my pastor about that.“
- A member of a Lutheran congregation should be able to distinguish pure doctrine from false doctrines. Only spineless Lutherans can say: “What do I care about doctrinal controversies! They do not concern me in the least. I’ll let those who are more learned than I am bother their heads about such matters.” They may even be offended when they observe that religious leaders engage in doctrinal disputes. A genuine Lutheran will not forget that in the Epistle of Jude also lay Christians are admonished “earnestly to contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints.” What is more, Christ warns all Christians: “Beware of false prophets.” And St. John writes in his first epistle: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God, because many false prophets are gone out into the world.“
It is a settled fact that whoever is indifferent to false doctrine is indifferent also to pure doctrine and his soul’s salvation, and has no right to bear the name Lutheran and the name of Christ.
From: Church Membership: Addresses and Prayers at the meeting of the Evangelical Lutheran Joint Congregation of St. Louis, MO., and Its Board of Elders, by Dr. C.F.W. Walther, CPH, St. Louis, MO. 1931.
Hebrews 5:12 has been amended by the pagemaster from the original translation to the NASB for clarity.