Mens Issues


For decades researchers, statisticians and pollsters have been charting the decline of men within the church and Christianity. Many suggest that Christianity is not drawing in men or keeping the ones who grow up in it. For others, there is the charge that Christianity is too masculine. Just read books like Wild At Heart by John Eldredge and The Masculine Mandate by Richard Phillips and you will get quite a different take on what masculinity looks like from a Christian perspective.

Recent on the scene of books helping men see themselves as God desires them to be is The Hard Corps: Combat Training for the Man of God by Dai Hankey. Dai is a man who was saved from a life of sin and is now a church planter and a married man with four kids. Dai has a desire to reach the men of this generation with the love of Christ and show them that God has a plan for their lives. The Hard Corps came out of a sermon series he preached through 2 Samuel 23 on the mighty men of David with the desire to show men what Christian masculinity looks like.

This book has some great things going for it. The graphics are eye catching with various military paraphernalia like knives, can-tines and gross looking military food splattered throughout the chapters. Dai has a way with words which probably comes from his rapping abilities and he sprinkles a bit of guy-only talk in there making the book a guy only read for sure. He does a good job trying to tie the various warriors mention in 2 Samuel 23 with Jesus. from this he also ties in the various OT characters and the lessons learned into the NT as well. The discussion questions at the end of each chapter are solid and thought provoking and make the book useful for a small group to use (GUYS ONLY!). You can tell Dai has a heart for men and making Scripture real to them.

As much as there are some great qualities about the book there is one aspect I found to be unconvincing. In Dai’s effort to bring the text to bear on men he seems to make some exegetical and hermeneutical jumps to do so. In several places I felt great liberties were taken to draw out meaning and application from the little detail that was given in the text. I realize some of these OT passages are hard to get practical meaning from but sometimes there just isn’t any – and that’s ok. Some passages are just there to record certain things whose meaning fits into the broader narrative of redemptive history. It’s not that the application was unbiblical but I just didn’t see some of it having a basis in the passage discussed.

All in all, The Hard Corps is a fine book to be used with a biblical message. God wants and needs men to advance His kingdom and Jesus is the supreme example to follow. Dai has a gift that he is using to reach men for Christ and that is to be commended. Check out this book trailer:

NOTE: I received this book for free from The Good Book Company through Cross Focused Reviews in return for an honest review. I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review and the views expressed are my own.

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Over the last 40-50 years we have seen the decline of the family unit. The family is the foundational social unit of society and the church. When the family goes they go. Among many other reasons, the primary reason the health of families is on the decline is because the leaders of those families – men – are not leading their families. Unhealthy men produce unhealthy families which produce an unhealthy society and church.

Amidst the decline of men leading their families Voddie Baucham Jr. has written a new book titled Family Shepherds: Calling and Equipping Men to Lead Their Homes. Family Shepherds is a clarion call for men to lead their families as shepherds. It is a book about “the transcendent truths that govern Christian fatherhood (p. 13).” This is a book about calling men to shepherd, thus spiritually lead, their homes and not to abandon this responsibility to the pastors/elders of the church.

Shepherding Foundations

Taking cue from Deut. 6 and Prov. 4, Baucham rightly states that the discipleship of children by their parents, and fathers in particular, is primary over the discipleship ministry of the church in their lives. This home based discipleship model continues into the NT in verses like 2 Tim. 1:4-5; 3:15 and Eph. 6:1-4. In order for healthy and productive home based discipleship to take place it must stand on something. From Titus 2, Baucham utilizes a three-legged stool approach to a healthy church and home discipleship: (1) godly, mature men and women, (2) godly, manly leaders and (3) a biblically functioning home. Baucham states, “There is thus a synergy between strong Christian homes and strong churches, with the ministry of the family shepherd serving as an indispensable element in the health, well-being, and future of the church (p. 36).”

Four-Fold Role of a Family Shepherd: Discipler, Evangelist, Trainer & Disciplinarian

With the father as the families primary shepherd (with the help of the mother as well) there are four main areas in which he carries out his responsibility. First, he is an evangelist before he is a disciple. As the shepherd of the home, fathers are to constantly seek ways to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ upon the lives of their children in a loving and winsome way.

Second, he is a discipler of his children. In response to the leave-it-to-the-church and its professional’s attitude towards discipleship, Baucham rightly argues that discipleship of the family begins at home and the father is the leader. To this Baucham writes

As a result of this growing professionalism, there’s a general idea that anything that needs to be done for the advance of the mission of the church has to be done by a paid specialist. The consequences of this attitude are myriad. And there’s perhaps no area of the Christian life that has been affected more negatively than the ministry of the home (p. 68).

The primary means through which this discipleship is to be accomplished is the catechism as the “means of teaching Christian doctrine in a concise and repetitive manner (p. 64).” In conjunction with catechism is the practice of family devotions (prayer, Bible reading and song). “Those who neglect the spiritual welfare of their families are therefore derelict in their duties in the same way a hired hand would be if he were caught sleeping on the job (p. 76).” It is through catechism and family worship that family discipleship takes root and development.

Third, the family shepherd is a trainer. Baucham goes hard after what he believes to plague modern theology of child rearing – a Pelagian view of the nature of man. Pelagianism believes that man was created morally neutral and so is each person since Adam. We are not inclined to good or evil. “Starting with a right understanding of our child’s problem will lead to a right assessment of our child’s need (p. 119).” To Baucham, and I would agree, Pelagianism is theologically unsound and detrimental to biblical child training and discipleship.

The final role of the family shepherd is that of a disciplinarian. Baucham relies heavily on the work of the Puritan Cotton Mather and puts forth two kinds of discipline. First, there is formative discipline. This is the act of impressing upon the child the need for salvation and what it entails. This includes the need for salvation from sin, the consequences of sin and the only hope of salvation from sin through Jesus Christ. The second type of discipline is corrective discipline. This is the kind of discipline that seeks to restrain a child from doing wrong. Corrective discipline is both verbal through loving rebuke and physical through wise spanking.

Family Shepherds Marriage

Not only is it important for family shepherds to disciple their children, it is also necessary to disciple their wives by loving them as Christ loved the church. The key to a healthy family and children is a healthy marriage. Baucham focuses on three things for marriages: purpose, primacy and male headship. The purpose of marriage is not for happiness but holiness. Loving your wife as Christ loved the church is seen primarily through self-sacrifice (Eph. 5:25-33). The primacy of marriage is seen when a husband identifies himself with it and not his temporary career. Financially providing for your family is a man’s responsibility but when it gets in the way of fulfilling your discipleship role at home then you need another job. Finally, male headship is important to the role of a family shepherd. Here Baucham touches on some of the arguments in favor of egalitarianism (male headship is cultural, a result of the curse and was a temporary injunction, a display of inequality and fosters abuse) and shows why they are false. Baucham connects male headship as necessary for the logic and mandate for family shepherds:

If male headship is merely preference, we have no right to argue for it as an essential element of family shepherding, we have no right to argue for it as an essential element of family shepherding. It, however, it’s a truth based on God’s decree and design, we have no right to argue for anything else (p. 101).”

Making Changes

A change in the direction and focus of your life is never easy but it also requires a change in the habits of your life. Taking serious the biblical injunction for men to shepherd their families requires a change of habits as well. This begins by being a member of a healthy church where the whole family can be involved in the life and ministry of the church. This will also require a person to reevaluate the use of their time. You may have to play less golf, watch less t.v. and go to fewer guy’s weekends. This is a change in priorities. This shift in life direction will also change the way you see your work in this world.

Conclusion

This book is a gut check for all family shepherds. That statement implies that all married men are by definition family shepherds whether or not they are exercising their responsibilities. While there is much to like in this book there is one omission and one concern.

First, while I recognize that this book is primarily about the role of the man in the home it would have been beneficial to have a chapter on how a woman helps the man shepherd his family. From Titus 2 there is mention of the role of women to disciple the younger women but more needs to be said in how they work together. The leadership of the man must be balanced with the help of his wife.

Second, Baucham makes it clear early on that he is writing to combat the wrong assumption of much of the church, and many fathers, that the church is the primary discipler of the family and that it takes place within the framework of Sunday School, children’s programs, youth ministry and nursery (p. 17, 35). Baucham is clear, “It is fathers – not youth ministries, children’s ministries, or preschool ministries (none of which find warrant for their existence in the pages of Scripture) – who are charged with this duty of discipling the next generation (p. 35-36).” In a section called “Separation at Church”, Baucham argues that the age-segregation in ministries that takes place in church is the cause for usurpation of the spiritual authority of family shepherds. This is the result of the influence of how we live our lives at home. Bauchman believes that this segregated discipleship model determines “the trajectory of their spiritual development completely independent of their parent’s input of knowledge” which results in the fathers “complete absence in the spiritual development of his children (p. 43).” Thus, it is not the fathers, “but the children’s minister and youth minister who decide what direction his children’s discipleship should take.” The “father did not catechize his children, or lead them in family worship, or communicate a clear vision for their spiritual development (p. 43).” Yes and no. Baucham bases this on the assumption that most churches have multiple services where each family member attends a different time slot and they are also serving in some way such that no two members of the family can worship side by side. While this can happen in a mega church in which more than one service is held this seems like an overstatement of experience for many church goers when the average church size is less than 2000 with one Sunday morning service. Yes, there are churches and pastors who teach that they are the primary means of discipleship in the life of its members. But, it is not implicit within these structures and positions that this has to be the case. Baucham himself notes that there is a synergistic relationship between the church and home so why can’t this happen within these ministries and positions? Why does their existence imply the forfeiting of the fathers shepherding role in his home? It doesn’t. That would be the primary fault of the father. All ministries within the church and home should be working together for the discipleship of the whole body. Speaking specifically to youth pastors, many churches are switching to family pastors who still have a youth ministry but also focus a lot of their attention on pastoring families to disciple their children. They work side by side. There is a dual responsibility to the task of discipleship at home. The church is to teach it, preach it and disciple men to accomplish it. Men are to do it and seek the help of the church to accomplish it.

Those concerns laid, there is much in Family Shepherds that is necessary for men to read and do. This book is for all men and would provide a great tool to use to help them see the necessity of exercising their God given role as shepherds of their families.

NOTE: I received this book from Crossway and was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

It is often said that strong families make strong churches. This is true but it is only half the equation. The other half of the equation is that strong men make strong families. Recently there have been a number of great books out that guide men on how to be the spiritual leaders of their families.

Voodie Baucham is a pastor in Texas and is a resounding voice among those who are seeking to equip men to lead their families. In November of this year Crossway will be releasing his new book Family Shepherds: Calling & Equipping Men to Lead Their Homes.

Below is an interview Dane Ortlund conducted with Voodie about his new book:

You can purchase the book from WTSBooks, Crossway or Amazon.