Have you ever heard this phrase? Man up! Stop being a wimp, just be the tough guy. Be a man like Bond, Rambo, Jason Bourne, or Clint Eastwood. It seems, as men we hear this phrase a lot in our lives. When we are told this, we have two general reactions. I can’t do this, so I won’t try! Or, our reaction looks like: I am a man and I will do it. I just need to work harder, act tough, like nothing bothers me.
I have lived in Central and Eastern Europe for almost 10 years and worked with young men in the States before I moved to Europe. No matter where I have lived, this has been my observation of young men around me over the years. I have met a lot of passive young men, and seemingly “macho men” that upon digging deeper reveal that they feel like boys on the inside. What gives? What does being a man really mean? This is a passion of mine and one of the main reasons I am in youth ministry.
I love talking to young men about Bible characters like David and Daniel and what specifically made them men. It is something more than being macho. They had an intentional group of men around them who called them to a higher level. In my experience, young men today believe a contemporary message of acting alone or running solo. This forces them to choose one of two paths: give up or strive harder alone.
Other young men have their clubs, sports teams, or pub friends. These are friends who they are spending time with, but very seldom being intentional with in a way that grows each other. We as men need more than friends, we need companions who challenge us to grow. When my group, “The Mighty Men” started one of the first things we talked about was challenging ourselves to grow. I shared with them that I read 7 chapters in the Bible a day which took me through the Bible twice a year. I challenged them to choose a certain amount of chapters a day. The first said “I will do one.” The second said “I think I could do one as well.” Then one said, “Well if Josh can do 7, I can do 5!” Immediately the other 4 said they would do five chapters as well! I loved the positive peer pressure that challenged these young men to spend time everyday reading five chapters for an entire year. I believe all but one of them have a very good habit today of being in God’s Word.
After building a habit of being in God’s Word, we worked on prayer and disciplined time with God. One of the members of our group kept sharing about how he was sharing the gospel with people at bus stops and that we should do something to share the gospel more. I challenged the group to go to our local mall and share the gospel with young people they met. The first reaction was fear. I challenged them to be bold and trust God. They didn’t need to worry about how others would react. We went down to the mall and split up into twos and began to have conversations hoping to share the gospel. Afterwards, I brought the group together and we reflected on the experience. All of them said that the most significant thing to them was that they were able to be bold and step out of their comfort. This is something that I believe is needed as a man.
When God calls us to something, we choose to step into it with boldness. Don’t do it on your own, have your guys, your friends, your mighty men alongside you in the effort. Being challenged to be reading in God’s Word every day taught us that it is not enough to know what God’s Word says, we need to live by it. Making God’s Word the most important in our lives, teaches us about him and how to relate to others.
Some people believe that youth these days miss being wild, working with their hands and learning practical skills. I think we need to be careful because this can also lead to self-sufficiency on its own. That being said, I do think that these are things that are lacking in young men these days. In small groups I strive to teach the guys I lead to work with their hands, to be practical.
One of my favorite things to do with young men is to work on my old Volkswagen van with some of the guys in our youth. One thing I love about working on old cars is nothing ever goes as planned. These “problems” provide opportunities to learn to be flexible and change. We go on hikes and camp in the outdoors. Recently we had to resort to bivouacking (Sleeping in Hammocks) because there was no room in a cabin on our backpacking route. The guys were afraid to camp in the woods, but learned that we can trust God, even in “risky situations.”
I believe our task as mature men, is to lead this younger generation, to train them up! I am so thankful for the other men in my life, my colleagues and brothers who stand together in this task. I believe God is calling up a young generation of men to storm this world and be men of character and boldness, who correctly handle the Word of truth and live it out!