Perhaps no one has more assiduously—and gleefully—documented the disappearance of men than Hanna Rosin. In her 2010 book, The End of Men, and in subsequent articles, Rosin has traced the disappearance of men, as defined by traditional roles and responsibilities. And she argues it is a good thing.
The data she marshals is alarming, if not altogether depressing. In fact, she’s argued men are obsolete, and that we should realize this obsolescence is an established condition. Among the data she cites:
- In the U.S., 1/5th of able-bodied men are not working.
- In the West, including the U.S., roughly 60% of college graduates are women. Women also earn 60% of all master’s degrees.
- Educationally, boys lag behind girls essentially from the cradle onward.
- In 2009, the U.S. workforce became majority women.
- Of the 15 job categories marked for growth in the decade ahead, men will dominate only two: janitorial work and computer engineering.
Rosin has a point, and it is an alarming one. While we recognize the challenges such statistics indicate for a society, as Christians our primary concern is not the country or the culture—it is the home and the church. If the latter are healthy, the former will be healthier.
Many churches are bereft of male leadership, and many congregations exist in a settled fog over what biblical manhood should look like. Pop evangelicalism has not offered much of a corrective. Even within the church, much of the teaching on manhood has sent us toward two different, unhelpful poles.
One pole has, in essence, said that to be a better man, men should be more like women: more thoughtful, more caring, more romantic; always mindful of expressions of romance and dutifully carrying them out.
Alternately, the other pole at times sounds more like a beer commercial than biblical masculinity. It glorifies machismo, celebrates gruffness, and honors the strong arm.
Through this, the church needs to recover biblical manhood, Christian masculinity—what we might think of as sanctified testosterone.
Where there is a lack of men—mature, godly men—the church will invariably suffer. The church in want of biblical, masculine service and leadership is an anemic church.
Problems in Corinth
A lack of mature, biblical manhood was one of the central problems of the Corinthian church. The church was mired in a host of sins, including sexual immorality, dissension, doctrinal error, charismatic confusion, and internal litigation, all of which were exasperated by a lack of biblical leadership.
Men within the church were engaged in effeminacy, fornication, perversion, passivity, and—to borrow a modern phrase—protracted adolescence. These besetting sins are perennial ones, showing up in every generation like a never-dying plague upon the church.
Time and again, Paul chastised these believers, especially their men for their immaturity. The Apostle wrote:
- And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able.
- What do you desire? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?
- When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
- Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.
Act Like Men
As Paul wrapped up I Corinthians, he issued a series of parting commands. He directly calls them to, “act like men.” “Act like men” means to be mature and sober-minded. It means to demonstrate maturation, courage, biblical strength and spiritual confidence.
The Corinthian church had men – or rather, males – but not MEN. And it was ruinous. When men don’t act like men, the church’s spiritual infrastructure collapses.
There is a defined role of leadership, authority, and protection men in the church must play. For them, and their roles, there is no substitute. When they are absent from the call of duty, disaster follows. That is why the church must work to strengthen its men and seek to cultivate biblical manhood within the congregation. Consider five proposals toward that end.
Five Proposals to Cultivate Biblical Manhood in our Churches
First, as preachers, we must speak consistently and confidently about the beauty of complementarity. We should hold biblical complementarianism high with confidence. We must not make light of, or be embarrassed by, Scripture’s clear teaching. We must not denigrate the importance of this truth or of its application in the church. We undermine both when we make light of complementarity.
In 1943, in the middle of WWII, C.S. Lewis penned The Abolition of Man. In it, Lewis wrote,
“And all the time—such is the tragicomedy of our situation—we continue to clamor for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive,’ or ‘dynamism,’ or ‘self-sacrifice,’ or ‘creativity.’ In a sort of ghastly simplicity, we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
In the spirit of Lewis, lets not unwittingly hollow out biblical manhood in our churches by making light of God-ordained gender roles. The issues are too serious to treat in an unserious way.
Second, as preachers, we must be committed to preaching the text of Scripture—whatever it calls us to say—and preaching it with authority. Men need an authoritative word. Weak preaching makes weak men. Small preaching never moves men to great commitment.
Men long for a higher calling. They need a higher purpose. Our hearts leap within us when we see exhibitions of courage, when we hear tales of heroism, when we witness valiant sacrifice. Give men a grander vision for their life, one marked by service, leadership, and devotion to great and noble ends in the Kingdom of Christ.
Third, as preachers, we must maintain clarity in our churches in relation to gender roles. This clarity should accompany both form and function. Do not contort God’s Word by playing word games with titles. If the function is pastoral, calling a person “director” instead of “minister” does not alleviate the error.
As to forms and functions, we must be clear about what men must do. Biblical complementarity is not fundamentally about what opportunities women must forgo, but what responsibilities men must take up.
Fourth, as preachers, let us cultivate gender distinction at all ages. As a child, my home church utilized Royal Ambassadors as discipleship curriculum for young boys and Girls in Action for young girls. RAs and GAs, as they came to be known, have largely given way to other—and often better—modes of children’s activities and discipleship. But I do miss the gender distinction they fostered, through their camaraderie and activities. Distinction does not necessarily mean segregation, but we must be intentional, even at the youngest of ages, to cultivate and channel boys into men and girls into women. After all, as Jesus said, “Have you not heard, God made them male and female?”
Fifth, as preachers, we must intentionally enlist, equip, and empower men into leadership roles in our churches. Biblically, theologically, and logically, the indispensable ingredient to complementarianism is biblical manhood. One of the recurring arguments that undermines male leadership in the church is the absence of biblically-qualified male leaders. Let us determine to make the red herring, “What if there is no man to lead or preach?” an extinct species.
Is Hannah Rosin right? Can society flourish with a diminishing masculinity and the virtual disappearance of men? I think not. More urgently, can the church flourish without the reappearance of men? Absolutely not. Brother pastors, let us recommit ourselves to raising up a generation of godly men, ready to lead and serve the bride of Christ.
*** This past week I was privileged to speak at the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s conference The Beauty of Complementarity on “Complementarity and the Disappearance of Men. This article is a summary of my presentation.
 I Corinthians 3:1-2.
 I Corinthians 4:21.
 I Corinthians 13:11.
 I Corinthians 14:20.
 I Corinthians 16:13.
 C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man.
 Matt. 19:4topicsBiblical Manhood, Complementarianism