One of the ministries I have seen tried, revamped, and failed at more than others within the church is a ministry to men.
Men's ministries often start with a discussion about the vital leadership role of men in both families and the church, and the reality that if you win the man to Christ, you can often win the family. With that kind of talk excitement is generated, a warrior-type name for a ministry to men is adopted, and dreams of grilling burgers, fishing trips, and outings to ball parks are fostered.
Some of those things actually happen.
And then it all fades, often very quickly.
That's because there are two kinds of men targeted for such ministry, and they have two kinds of responses.
The first man is a spiritually healthy man who lives a life fully committed to Christ. The reason why a men's ministry can lose this man is when it's more fluff than substance; when it's just another social opportunity, and one often poorly coordinated. This is the kind of man who is usually very busy but, in spite of that fact, will make time for something worth committing to, which often means something that will challenge his boots off! But a ministry to men that talks more about an exciting vision than actually making it happen is something that turns this kind of man off. Quickly! He's even willing to jump in and make a valuable contribution if the leadership team is willing to commit and sacrifice to make things happen, but this kind of man walks with men who act boldly, not with talkers who don't care about failing for lack of action.
The second man is the spiritual coward. That phrase is not meant to be intentionally inflammatory, although some may take it as such. But I think most Christian men will understand it. To be a man of God is to be a man who takes courage. Men understand that cowardice undermines the very foundation of part of what it means to be men. I'm not talking about macho, grunting, gun-toting, spitting types. I remember having a conversation a few years ago with a man who loved to garden, and especially liked growing flowers. He grieved how men like him were often overlooked in men's ministry. Yet this fellow was a warrior for Christ; he had great courage in living out his faith every day, regardless of what it cost him.
But not a lot of men have the courage of this man who liked to grow daisies.
The truth be told, there are too many spiritual cowards out there.
The problem is, we tend to give up on them too quickly. Such men can be loved, encouraged, and challenged to move beyond their fears and take courage in Christ. Such men can be discipled and shown the way to become more like the Apostle Paul, who said, "For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ ..." (Romans 1:16). Paul directly challenged men to not be spiritual cowards: "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love," 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NASB).
To be the kind of guy who at night locks the doors, turns on the security system, and checks in on the kids before going to bed isn't the whole kind of courageous man your wife and children need. They need a spiritually courageous man, one who is brave enough to set the spiritual example for his family and contend for the faith every day. A spiritual coward fails to protect his family in the most serious of all ways.
Which kind of man are you? A man who takes courage in Christ and models the life of a risky faith to his family? Or are you a spiritual coward? You, alone, determine which of these two men you will be.