Thursday, January 31, 2013

Faith Works 2-2-13

Faith Works 2-2-13

Jeff Gill


Some things just don't change




With today being Groundhog's Day, I feel like I should write something about one of the most theologically thought-provoking movies ever made, but I've done that before.


See what I did there?


Anyhow, whether your tradition marks this date as Candlemas or you celebrate the Presentation in the Temple or anything else like that for Feb. 2, your faith community probably has a question common to us all: what do we do about the men?


Men's groups are generally harder to keep going and active than women's groups in the church. History and family and a love of personal connection seems to come a little more easily to females, while males . . . don't.


There are exceptions, of course, as there are to all general observations. But it is still the case that for local, regional, and national gatherings, "Women of Faith" is still going strong while "Promise Keepers" has largely fizzled, and for denominational groups, the women's events may be smaller than they were fifty years ago, but in many case the big national men's events simply are no more.


Men and their involvement with the life of the church in worship and leadership is a related concern, and there's a chicken and the egg relationship here. I've had men I greatly respect (hi, Dad!) ask if making women leaders alongside men will result in most of the leadership becoming female . . . and seen that question become a prediction. One can reasonably say "well, if men were only showing up because they had a job to do up in the front, then their commitment wasn't all strong to start with," but it's still one more part of a general disengagement in church life that is rightly and reasonably decried.


A few weeks ago I went to breakfast with "The League of Ordinary Gentlemen," a group of guys from the "Church in the Mall," whose intention is to be a sort of men's group with a contemporary twist, much like their worship.


Their online tag says "Reviving the lost art of gathering around a campfire" under "Est. 2012." Their throwback post-modern take is mitigated by the fact that we gathered at Stacey's Hometown Buffet for an all-you-can-eat buffet, something that arguably none of us, and few men, really need.


But what a draw.


And in fact, there were by our count at least two, maybe three other church men's groups gathered there that morning. And in some churches, an actual or de-facto men's fellowship makes a community breakfast as a contribution-only fundraiser, with the same essential attraction.


Anyhow, we went through the line, sat together around some big tables, prayed, and ate. And we talked about "guy stuff." Yes, guns, and killing animals (appropriately and in season), eating animals (ditto), and sitting around a fire was discussed even if we weren't actually doing so, unless you count a gas log across the room.


Men need a place to gather, whether they know it or not. In the US, men as a specific demographic group have seen their average income go down, adjusted for inflation, EVERY year since 1973. Men are making babies and not bothering with marriage, or even sticking around, in ever increasing numbers, and married men are chasing after women they aren't married to "because, well, you know, she, um, and one thing led to another . . ." and may I just say, as a pastor, and as a male: BS. One thing does NOT lead to another, men make choices, and you made some bad ones.


But lots and lots of men are making those kinds of choices, and acting sheepishly helpless afterwards, because, well, you know, it just happened (I refer again to my earlier prophetic statement: BS!).


I think, in the end, only men can be prophets to other men in a way that we need to hear. Most of us have women, often godly women, in our homes or at least in our lives, who call BS on us in other words but no less clearly. What many of us need are other men to laugh with us, but at our excuses, and say "Man up, dude – God does NOT smile on that kind of decision."


We need men's groups. Maybe at Gobbler's Knob in top hats, or around tables at Stacey's, or in prayer in church basements, or around a fire. Where we can speak honestly to one another.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; he's a fan of gathering around campfires. Tell him where you see men gather at or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.