By: Steven Nelms
Whatever your opinion is on what “manliness” actually means, the idea that contemporary Christianity discourages a man’s sense of adventure seems to me absolutely absurd. If it is true that a man, more than not, has this sense of desire to challenge the challenger, confront the aggressor, or defend the castle with chivalric bravery, I think that our Western cultural context demands such action just as much, if not more so, as any other era in Church History. Let me explain. In the earliest ages of Christianity, the practiced religion of worshipping Jesus Christ as God and King was illegal throughout the known world of the Roman Empire. Not much open defense of the faith could be practiced without having a preemptive death wish. There was no encouragement to renounce one’s faith, but there was certainly no solicited practice of seeking out opportunities to challenge the status quo. There was merely the exhortation to “be prepared”. Be prepared to give reason for the hope you hold on to. That was all.
As Christianity became legal and eventually the official religion of the empire, open discussion concerning what Christians ought to believe became prolific. Church fathers and theologians openly rebuked one another, challenged each other’s logic, and condemned each other’s expositions. One church father would write of another that their doctrine should be labeled heresy and be cast out of the church. Theology was nothing if not a battlefield. This trend continued through Martin Luther’s nailing of the 95 thesis, the Puritans exodus from England to the American Colonies, and maintained momentum into the 19th century. As Christian doctrine solidified, the battlefield shifted from internally focused to an external focus. Apologetics is the discipline of defending the Christian faith. At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, Apologetics saw a resurgence since the early church fathers. More than ever, over the last few decades, there has been an offensive against Christianity from a movement called the New Atheists. The proponents of this movement are brilliant, well educated, extremely articulate, and well trained debaters. If a man thinks that contemporary Christianity lacks the opportunity to stand toe to toe with a formidable challenger, then they have not looked beyond the walls of their own church. Instead of training in the ring, it is a training in the books. It is not a match fought with gloves, but a grand debate struggled over with strategic arguments. It’s an intricate verbal exercise of chess. There cannot be a more enticing participation for your chivalric sensibilities than squaring up to someone who challenges the very foundation of all that you hold dear as your eternal hope. If you lack a sense of adventure in your idea of Christianity, it’s because you’ve not allowed yourself to be adequately challenged.
Is the dance of defense and attack not your game? Evangelism is the discipline of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Great Commission is one of the last things Jesus left with his disciples before ascending to sit at the right hand of the Father. He says to go and make disciples of all nations. This means that not only are we supposed to present the gospel of Jesus Christ, we’re also supposed to train and equip believers to support their spiritual growth into maturity. What more of an adventure could you want than the task to take a life changing message to those whom you’ve never met. Think of the people and places the gospel of Christ might take you in the name of Jesus Christ. Have you ever partaken in the adventure of meeting your next door neighbor? Is that too small stakes for you? Have you ever traveled to the bush of Africa to introduce Jesus to a people who’ve never heard his name? I’m not meaning to make an argument for Christianity being the outlet for a man’s inner urge to express his school boy antics of adventurous frivolity. But if you think that Christianity encourages complacency, boredom, and stagnation, then you’ve not understood the Christianity of Scripture. Evangelism is anything but a monotonous practice in boring religiosity.
In short, no man should feel his bravado is quenched by the precepts of Christianity. No book about a man’s wild heart should cause discontentment in his local church. No grumblings of a macho pastor over the emasculation of the church should make a man feel entitled to groan. If you think the expression of Christianity in your local church lacks a masculine challenge, then be a man, take initiative, and challenge yourself to pursue training toward either apologetics, or evangelism, or both. There is no lack of need in these areas of the church and there is no lack of resources to be found for your training. However, there may be lack of courage to step up to the plate. So question whether you’ve made adequate use of the manliness you so deeply desire to exercise before you pass the buck to blame the church’s lack of facilitation.
And what might a pursuit of the Christian adventure look like? If Apologetics sounds like your thing, then decide whether you learn best by reading a book, talking in a group, or watching videos. There are books, essays, and articles all over the place regarding the study of Apologetics. www.reasonablefaith.com is a website hosted by William Lane Craig, one of the leading apologists of today. He has articles, Q&A, podcasts, and videos covering nearly every subject you could possibly imagine. If you get on www.meetups.com you can even find a local chapter of Reasonable Faith where you can meet up with fellow amateur apologists and discuss the various arguments for and against the tenets of Christianity. Take the initiative to first immerse yourself in that world, watch some debates on YouTube, sit down with some people who have engaged with apologetics before, and learn the basic rules of the game. Then look for the opportunity to engage an opponent of the Christian faith.
My personal preference has been to reach out to someone I know doesn’t agree with Christianity and buy them a coffee to talk about the gospel and their objections. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about my own faith as well as solid persuasive arguments against the gospel. It challenges me, sometimes even scares me, because I’m stimulating confrontation over issues that are fundamental to my life. If this doesn’t spark that inner adrenaline-junky, I don’t know what other kind of adventure you could be needing.
If Evangelism seems to be more up your alley, then again do your homework. Read a book, watch a lecture, go to a workshop. Learn about what it means to share the gospel. Learn about the different methods people use to share the gospel. Are you going to go door-to-door? Are you going to do hospital visits? Are you going to do community outreach in a park? Are you going to help at the info desk at your local church’s community event? Where are you going to intentionally place yourself so that you come face to face with someone that needs to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ? Evangelism is not about argument, defense, attack, or strategy. It’s about sharing the simple truth of Christ’s death and resurrection and the salvation that has been secured by that substitutionary atonement. Looking someone in the eyes and telling them, no matter how you measure goodness and badness, your virtue is of no worth before a perfectly righteous God. You are in need of atonement for your sins so that you might be rescued from eternal condemnation. You need a God who would die for you and bleed for you just so that you can know him for who he is and worship him. I know a God like that and I’d like to introduce you. Try saying that to a stranger, much less a loved one within your own family. It’s dangerous, it’s daring, and it takes a courage dependent on God’s sufficiency.
Walking in the Christian life is no walk in the park. It requires you to get outside of your comfort zone. It requires you to stretch and to push and to train and to hurt. You cannot pursue the Great Commission and not feel deep pain and sometimes despair. A reality hits your heart that not all will come to a saving faith in Christ. But you must persist. You must push on. This is the adventure that we’re called to. A ruthless persistence in a pursuit of God in the face of opposition, attack, and rejection. All with humility. All with gentleness. All will self-control. But all the while with a fire in your heart that was ignited that day God poured out his Spirit upon you, to consume you, and make you his own. If you’re a Christian and you, for whatever reason, think your local church has pacified Christianity, then you are not taking responsibility for your own faith. Stop waiting for someone else to give you permission to be a Christian, and go be one. Share your faith and be prepared to defend it when necessary. Answer your sense of adventure.
By: Steven Nelms