Church Planter: The Man, The Message, The Mission
We live in a world full of males who have prolonged their adolescence. They are neither boys nor men. They live, suspended as it were, between childhood and adulthood, between growing up and being grown-ups. Let’s call this kind of male Moy, a hybrid of both man and boy. Moy is juvenile because there has been an entire niche created for him to live in the lusts of youth. The accompanying culture not only tolerates this behavior but encourages it and endorses it. (Consider magazines like Maxim or movies like Wedding Crashers.) This kind of male is everywhere, including the church and even, frighteningly, vocational ministry.
Moy may be a frightening reality in the church, but he is the best thing that ever happened to the video game industry. Almost half (about 48 percent) of American males between the ages of eighteen to thirty-four play video games every day—for almost three hours. The average video game buyer is thirty-seven years old. In 2005, 95 percent of computer game buyers and 84 percent of console game buyers were over the age of eighteen. Halo 3 grossed over three hundred million dollars in the U.S. in its first week, and more than one million people played Halo 3 on Xbox Live in the first twenty hours. Astonishingly, 75 percent of American heads-of-households play computer and video games.
It may be troubling to look at how Moy spends his money, but it is appalling to see how he relates to women. One needs only to follow Moy to “da club” to see what he thinks of and wants from the opposite sex. Again the stats tell the story.
There are 9.7 million Americans living with an unmarried different sex partner and 1.2 million Americans living with a same-sex partner. Every second $3,075.64 is being spent on pornography, 28,258 Internet users view pornography, and 372 Internet users type adult search terms into search engines. Every thirty-nine minutes a new pornographic video is created in the United States.
In the United States, 1.3 women are raped every minute. That results in seventy-eight rapes each hour, 1,872 rapes each day, 56,160 rapes each month, and 683,280 rapes each year. One out of every three American women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. The United States has the world’s highest rape rate of the countries that publish such statistics. It’s four times higher than Germany, thirteen times higher than England, and twenty times higher than Japan.
Unfortunately, many young women today have given up trying to find Mr. Right. They are coming to the stark reality that they are probably going to have to settle for Mr. So-So. Moy is good at selling himself as a man, but the reality is that he is just a “man wannabe.” Moy typically doesn’t like absolute truth, but he proves its existence through his continual devolution into junior-high behavior and its accompanying consequences. It is a transcultural reality that assuming the responsibilities of husMoyd and father makes a boy into a man, but Moy doesn’t like responsibility, so he extends his adolescence as long as humanly possible. And by delaying having a family, which is the rite of many cultures’ progress into manhood, Moy is able to set his focus squarely and supremely on himself.
As Moy puts off adulthood, he also puts off marriage. Why bother with a wife and a mortgage when you can live in your parents’ basement, play video games all day, participate in adult sports leagues at night, and barhop every weekend? Hymowitz notes that in 1970, 69 percent of twenty-five-year-old and 85 percent of thirty-year-old white men were married; in 2000 only 33 percent and 58 percent were, respectively. And the data suggests this trend is not slowing. I think this is one of the reasons young men love watching mixed martial arts. They project themselves onto these “superheroes,” men who are everything they are not: incredibly disciplined, courageous risk-takers who have the genuine respect of their peers. It’s as if watching real men in danger taps into the brain chemistry responsible for what we call masculinity. Curiously, the testosterone and adrenaline that encourage men to seek danger and risk are rarely tapped into for honorable purposes like lifelong marriage and parenting. Instead Moy settles for virtual reality and virtual relationships.
Some men cease fondling themselves, the game controller, or the TV remote and actually participate in adult sports leagues, including the child playground game kickball.18 Perhaps one major catalyst for young men’s love for recreational sports is that it replicates the kind of challenge and competitiveness sorely lacking from their own personal, professional, and spiritual lives. One author called team sports a “civilized substitute for war,” which would explain why so many men only seem to come alive emotionally on the inside and feel connected socially on the outside to their fellow “weekend warriors.” It has become mainstream to be an adult boy.
The masculine journey from boyhood to manhood lies largely in the transition from engaging physically by inflicting pain to engaging emotionally by absorbing emotional pain and persevering through it. Boys must learn how to use their physical strength more passively than actively as they progress to manhood and become what David Gilmore calls “real men.” Real men “give more than they take . . . are generous, even to the point of sacrifice.” Being a man is about being tough and tender.
I have three beautiful daughters who have not only stolen my heart but seem to walk around with it and toss it back and forth between them like a plaything, all the while taunting me with the fact that I’ll never be able to get it back from them! But I also have a son, Drew, and because of my keen awareness of and pastoral interaction with the cultural influence of Moys, I know that my work is cut out for me when it comes to raising a godly man. As with all of us dads with similar aspirations, my only hope is the Holy Spirit. So I recently wrote a little prayer that reflects the kind of men we need. Drew and I pray this prayer together almost every night. It is a prayer for him and for me:
God, make me a man with thick skin and a soft heart.
Make me a man who is tough and tender.
Make me tough so I can handle life.
Make me tender so I can love people.
God, make me a man.
All of this is to say that we have a couple of generations of males who were not raised by men, and the result is a prolonged male adolescence. In a culture where the influence of godly men is desperately needed, this void results in a legitimate cultural crisis. We are not going to solve it by ignoring Moy and hoping that he eventually grows up. We are not going to solve the problem by simply telling women that they should take up the slack. We might solve the problem by modeling biblical manhood and calling adult boys to forsake their youthful lusts and become the men that God is calling them to be in the context of the local church. This call should come from godly men and women sitting in the pews and, specifically, from the pulpit of God’s church. The models should be men of God.