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A Magnetic Masculione Church

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A MAGNETIC, MASCULINE CHURCH
Acts 6:1-7

Introduction: The botanical life of most trees is amazing.

Often when a tree is damaged and the trunk is cut down, a new shoot will come up out of the stump or roots. As long as the roots are healthy, it will try to live. It will put out new shoots and eventually try to flower and reproduce. It keeps adapting to its circumstances and tries its best to thrive.

Tree I saw at Metolius, growing out of dead trunk.

Perhaps you have also seen the type of tree that is in the middle picture. This piece of wood depicted there is no longer alive. Somewhere thousands of years ago in Arizona, this tree toppled. It stopped living. Slowly over the years, chemicals began to take the place of the living tissues and this wood became stone. We know it as petrified wood, wood that has become stone.

What was once alive and growing and flexible is now dead and rigid. It can no longer grow. It can no longer reproduce. It cannot bear fruit.

It is like many churches. New churches begin as supple and viable. They grow and reproduce. A new church is a risk-taking church. To begin a new church the members must step out in faith and trust God to bless them.

A lot of what I have to say today comes from the book Why Men Hate Going to Church, by David Murrow. 

He states: “A growing church is a risk-taking church.” (p. 76).  This kind of church attracts men. A new church needs men. It needs men to help set up and break down after services meeting in a gym or some other type of building. It needs men to help build the new building. A church that needs physical activity draws men like a magnet. Men have a lot to offer start-up churches. Murrow concludes: “Younger churches seem somewhat more successful in attracting and retaining men. This suggests that as a church ages, it loses its men and is unable to attract more” (Murrow, p. 56).

Christianity has the heritage of Moses, Elijah, David Daniel, Peter & Paul.  They were lions, not lambs. (p. 6)

“As a congregation ages,” Murrow continues, “it begins to value feminine gifts such as nurturing, stability, and close-knit community…Women stay loyal because of the relationships they’ve developed, but the less relational men fall away.

While “more than 90% of men say they believe in God and 5/6 call themselves Christian, only 2/6 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. 

It is not true that men are less religious.  “Male & female participation are roughly equal in Judaism, Buddhism & Hinduism.  In the Islamic world men are publicly & unashamedly religious—often more so than women.  Of the world’s great religions, only Christianity has a consistent, nagging shortage of male practitioners.“ (p. 8)

Men need vision—not just relationships—to stay motivated in church” (pages 56, 57). Without a strong vibrant core of male leadership, the church petrifies. “But when there’s a core of spiritually alive men, the church thrives” (59).

Think about how the church began in Acts 2. Unbelievers saw “A small group of men empowered by the Holy Spirit. This is how the church grew in New Testament times, and it is no different today. Men come to Christ, and by extension, to church when they see other men living under the influence of God’s Spirit” (p. 59)

When the question of leadership arises in the church, it often stops at the pastor. Most members would agree that the pastor is the leader of the church, but it requires the abilities, gifts and talents of more than one person to maintain a healthy church.

We can learn:

I.      A Lesson from the Early Church (vv. 1-2)

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A division arose early in the life of the church that could have brought the whole movement to a halt. The number of disciples was multiplying. Whenever that happens, the devil gets nervous. He tries to do something to stop forward momentum.

The first obstacle that threatened to divide the church was murmuring. Satan had tried persecution and threats, but that did not divide the church. Instead he used murmuring. The word γογγυσμός-gongusmos here means grumbling.

This was the same attitude that the children of Israel had back in the desert. They grumbled about the way God took care of them. They complained about the manna. They complained about the lack of leeks and onions.

They complained about the lack of meat so God sent quail. He sent so much that the Bible says it came out their nostrils (Numbers 11:20).

Satan used the same kind of problem in the early church. It was about food again. Someone began complaining about the other widows. She began to say, “Hey, Doris, look how much food those Hebrew-speaking widows are getting. Look how much we are getting. Hey, Apostles, I’m not being fed here. You better do something about this. You need to stop spending so much time studying the Scriptures and spending so much time leading prayer groups that you neglect your widows. You need to take care of us or we’ll go somewhere else to be fed.”

She probably never talked directly to the Apostles. She probably talked to everyone else in her circle of friends except the Apostles.

Satan has not changed his tactics much today. We have not changed either. We get so hung up on our biological side that we neglect our spiritual side. It never says that they asked the Apostles to stop doing what they were doing, so you must read between the lines. Look at their reaction.

The Apostles responded by keeping a balance. They could have reacted in a pure masculine spirit and said, “Just get over it.” Or they could have done what most pastors would do, try to make everybody happy and take on more than is humanly possible. Instead they called the group together and established a boundary. They looked at the job that had to be done and they said, “It is not right for us to neglect what God has called us to do when somebody else can wait on the tables.”

If they had succumbed to the demands of the people, they would have had no time to wait on God. They would have had no time to lead the disciples. Churches place too many demands on pastors and elders these days. They want the pastor to be with them at the hospital while they are having surgery and be in the office studying for a great sermon on Sunday while he is witnessing to a prospect so the church will grow. They want him to be at every committee meeting so that he will know what is going on and be able to emphasize it from the pulpit.

Then they want him to spend time at home with his family so they can have a healthy family life. In small churches the people become accustomed to the pastor being able to meet everyone’s personal needs.

If a church has over eighty members then it becomes virtually impossible for the pastor to spend time with all of them. If he spent just ½ hour a week with every member, that would be forty hours and nothing else would have been done that week. Instead of being a pastor, he is nothing more than a personal chaplain.

If a church is to grow, it must move beyond this idea. If the church wants to grow, it must let the pastor lead boldly. That in turn will draw in more men who can carry on the work.

A second lesson we learn is to:

II. Develop Lay Leadership (v. 3)

The Apostles set a boundary. They put the burden back on the people of the congregation. They told them to seek out men who could carry out the responsibility of caring for the physical needs of the flock.

They gave them the character requirements for the job. They did not give them a list of job responsibilities so that they could just check off a to-do list at the end of the day. They said, “Choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.” The qualities were first spiritual, then practical.

They were to find men of a good reputation who were filled with the Holy Spirit. Look at the list of those who were chosen.

Last week we looked at the man Stephen. Notice how verse eight describes him: “Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power.” Later when trouble arose against him we see another description of him. Verse ten says, “They could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.”

Another man on that list is Philip. He went to Samaria and “proclaimed Christ” there, and the area broke out in revival. Then the Spirit led him away to preach to one man, an important official from Ethiopia, and Christianity spread there. Then God took him to Azotus in ancient Philistia. Verse 40 tells us that he preached his way up the coast to Caesarea. Later in chapter 21, he became known as “Philip the evangelist” (verse 8). Both of these laymen obviously performed “the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5).

Then the Apostles turned the work of ministry over to them. They delegated the responsibility to seven men who would do a good job. We often stop here at this passage and talk about the ministry of deacons. First, notice that the scripture does not call them deacons. They are not ordained as deacons. They just minister. They were to distribute the food. That is the word “to deacon.”

They did not hold an office.  THEY DID A WORK. 

They were men of wisdom. They knew what had to be done. They were men like those in First Chronicles 12:32 “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” They possessed biblical wisdom. God calls such men to lead His church.

Their character was more important than their abilities. Skills can be learned. Character must be developed. A man with character and no skills is better than a man with skills and no character. You can teach a man to be a better carpenter to help around the church. You can teach him to drive a church bus and hand out bulletins. You cannot teach him integrity. He must develop that on his own. These men served the church in a time of crisis.

Murrow gives these following suggestions for developing laypeople:

  • Identify leaders in your congregation through personality tests and spiritual gifts inventories. Train them well and let them lead courageously.
  • Banish the word facilitator from your vocabulary. Men follow leaders, not facilitators. Jesus led, and so must we. Support your leaders at every level. Don’t rebel against lay leadership in the church.
  • Support lay leadership development and training in your church. It will bring men back to church.
  • Above all, don’t snipe at your leaders, pastor included. Believe the best about their motives.

II.  Give Men the Leadership They Need

1. Men need male balance in the church.

Murrow: “For years the experts have told us the church is a men’s club. Feminists condemn the church as hierarchical & male dominated.  Academics view the church as too patriarchal. Reformers complain that the language of the Bible hymns is sexist & excludes women. Liberals accuse certain churches of oppressing women by refusing to allow them to become pastors or elders.  The media have  field day anytime the word “submission” is ;uttered by a church leader.

“Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the blind man who tried to describe an elephant. Each man based his description on the part he happened to touch.  In the same way, the church can be seen as either male or female dominated. If you look at the relatively thin stratum of professional clergy, then the church is male dominated.  But if you look at lay leadership, lay participation, and ideal Christian values, Christianity is female dominated.  The church is a peculiar organization, led by males, but dominated by women & their values.  Dr. Leon Podles says it well: “Modern churches are women’s clubs with a few male officers.” (p. 24-25)

2. Men need vision.

Murrow states: “Every man longs to live a significant life. Men want to be part of something greater than themselves” (158). Jesus’ vision was the kingdom of God. Men need to see that what they do in church is affecting the kingdom of God.

3. Men need purpose.

Two women will get together for lunch just to chat and catch up on things, but if a man calls a male friend and says, “Let’s go to lunch,” he will wonder what is going on.

He will want to know the purpose of the meeting. Men need to know the purpose of the church. We men are “Purpose Driven.” Remind yourselves often what the purpose of your church is. When you start a ministry or a men’s group, let them know up front what the purpose of the ministry or group meeting is about.

4. Men need high standards.

Expect something of them. Most social organizations expect more of their members than most churches do. They have financial requirements. They have attendance requirements. They have participation requirements. You cannot just keep your name on a role.

Church consultant Thomas Rainer, states:  “People have no desire to be a part of something that makes no difference, that expects little. And frankly, many churches have dumbed down church membership to the point that is has no meaning at all.”

5. Men need obstacles not ease.

When Jesus called the disciples to follow Him, He did not promise them ease. He promised them that they would be hated and persecuted, betrayed and flogged. They would be thrown in prison and put to death. He never promised them a rose garden. Hebrews 11 gives a list of such men and what they suffered for their faith. That is the kind of men Jesus is calling today.

6. Men need to produce fruit.

Men want to be productive. They want to see a point in what they do. Over and over the Bible talks about production and fruitfulness. God’s first command to Adam and Eve was to be fruitful and multiply. Jesus said that His followers would glorify God by producing “much fruit” in John 15:8. We are to produce a crop “multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times” (Mark 4:8).

Hear what I am saying.  We need a balanced church.  We need those characteristics that are traditionally associated with women.  But we ALSO need those characteristics that are traditionally associated with me.

Murrow notes that too much masculine spirit or feminine spirit leads to abuse in the church.  “A church with too much masculine spirit succumbs to legalism. It’s all about performance—what you do for God….  Salvation is a free gift, but everything else must be earned.”

And yet too much feminine spirit “leads to another kind of abuse.  [Murrow] calls it Velvet Coffin Christianity: show up on Sunday, participate in comforting rituals, listen to a pabulum sermon of familiar truths; then go home and forget all about your faith until next Sunday.  ….Legalism makes the headlines, but Velvet Coffin Christianity is the real cancer in the church today.  It’s key characteristic is comfort. Everyone is so nice to each other.  And we choose a church based on how comfortable it makes us feel.”  (pp. 26-27).

Conclusion: The result of turning over the ministry to qualified men was that the church began to grow again. The Bible says that the number of disciples began to multiply greatly, even more than before. When a church taps into leadership, it will be able to accomplish more than ever before. This indicates that the number was increasing so rapidly that they could not even keep track of it.

John MacArthur writes: “The church today needs organization for the same reasons as the first fellowship. Pastors must be freed to focus on the preaching of the Word and prayer. Better organization can help meet the needs of all members and thus avoid conflict. And a unified, well-taught church will be a powerful witness to the lost world.”

Witnessing to the lost and developing new leadership will lead to a vibrant living church. The first church attracted people to it. Today we need churches that are attracting people to become followers of Jesus Christ. How about you today? Are you following Jesus Christ? Is He living through you or have you become petrified?

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