Churches and Cowboys

drawing by WIll James

drawing by WIll James

“A Cowboy is a man with guts and a horse.” – Will James

If only it were that easy to define a Christian man. The Church has struggled with this.

Men were created to lead and protect families and to serve and direct the Church. If the family and the Church are very near entities to the heart of God, why has the church done such a poor job of training and descipling men to follow, serve, and lead? One Sr. Pastor that I had multiple discussions with about this topic told me that: “For the amount of time it takes to do men’s ministry well it wasn’t worth the time.”

Despite being in Churches regularly for the last 15 years, little has prepared me for the life I live now as a husband, coach, and mentor. Years of Sunday school, men’s group, and church relationships have been mostly devoid of real manhood discussions.   Why?

According to David Murrow’s book, Why Men Hate Going to Church, it’s because Church has, for the most part, become a place for women, by women, to serve women. I cant really argue with that. Many church services include passive learning, in red-shaded sanctuaries, advertised in loopy fonts on pastel bulletins. This, in my opinion, is why Cowboy Church’s are having so much success. Their preaching, worship, and activities, seem to be more oriented towards providing men opportunities to serve, interact and fellowship, in more relaxing and natural ways.

If the Church has missed the mark on descipling of men because we (and I include myself in this) have forgotten a few key things.

  1. Men follow passion. The best way to lead men is to lead them passionately. Men won’t go without excitement.   Paul was a passionate leader and his letters are laced with men who would follow him to the end. Men want to get excited about something, anything. Sport offer us a socially acceptable place to get excited…why not Church?
  2. Men want purpose. “All men die…few men live.” That is what William Wallace said. Give a man a purpose and watch him come alive. How many churches provide a why for their worship? Their service? Their fellowship? Their leadership? Their discipleship? Men look to these things…desire these things…invest in these things.
  3. Men search for identity. Men struggle with identity in different ways than women (duh!) but do you realize their struggle is every bit as central? Their job, hobbies, responsibilities, asks so much of them that the pressure is on to find identity within them. Without a constant reminder that identity is found in and only in Christ Jesus, too often we start looking to titles and name patches to find out who we are.
  4. Men look for depth. Men are about accomplishment. We like getting things done. Time is a currency with us. Spending time in the shallow end for too long causes us to rethink our commitment. I’m not asking to abolish the kiddie pool’s of theology and small group, but there needs to be a progression to deeper waters to keep men interested. That is one of Jesus most admirable qualities: the ability to start in the kiddie pool but end with his disciples treading water.

My hope (or better said my passion and dream) is to help give some clarity to the discussion of how best to pour into and disciple men. I like to think that I have something to offer this area. As a man who has seen many different facets of ministry and men’s groups, I think we as the Church have missed the boat…but if we are willing to swim fast, I think we can catch up!

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About Travis Long

I am a cowboy saved by the grace of God.

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