Men, Church, and ‘Laboring Alongside’

Men working

I have a challenge for men out there: Spend a couple hours working with another guy on some project at which you’re both pretty competent. It doesn’t matter what it is. While you’re working you are not allowed to talk about yourselves or about anything other than the project itself. Just pound in the nails or debug the code or do whatever it is you’re doing. Then, when you’re done, try not to feel a sense of respect and comradery with your work-buddy.

I doubt you’ll be able to prevent it.

It has become almost a cliché to point out that men naturally relate to one another side by side, while women relate face to face. Generally speaking, men bond though shared effort. Women bond through shared emotion. It’s not an absolute distinction, of course, but it’s a strong tendency. It’s just how we’re built.

It’s worth thinking about how this affects our faith and our churches. When you think of church, what comes to mind? A loving, welcoming, friendly place? What about when you think of God? A loving heavenly Father who welcomes our worship and listens when we talk to him? American Christianity has a lot of face to face, but not much side by side.

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‘The Least of These’

Homeless person asleep

When you think of doing “Kingdom work,” what comes to mind? If you are like most American Christians, you think of evangelism—going out to share the gospel with the lost and call them to Christ. It’s the work we train our children for, giving them apologetics books to read and sending them on short-term missions trips. And it is good, necessary work! But it is not the only Kingdom work.

I have always been struck by Jesus’ choice in the famous parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25. There are many different kinds of Christian traits which he could have chosen to characterize his followers, but as he describes the Judgment Day he says his sheep will be marked by their pattern of caring for the hungry and thirsty, of welcoming the strangers, of clothing the naked, of visiting the sick and imprisoned. That, Jesus says, is what defines his people.

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Serving God in a world full of needs

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. –Galatians 6:9-10

We all know Christians are called to serve. In fact, loving service is so integral to the Christian walk that James said “Faith without works is dead,” and Jesus declared that the distinguishing characteristic of His people in the day of judgment would be that “I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.” If you are a Christian, if you have the Holy Spirit living within you, then you have felt the urge to “do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” But here’s the thing: all people is a lot. Anyone who takes the time to look will find needs and opportunities for service stretching far beyond our ability to help and give. It is quite simply overwhelming.

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