Two Important Contextual Details:
1. Jesus is on a direct and deliberate journey with His disciples towards Jerusalem so He can celebrate the Feast of Passover.
2. Jesus’ lesson on servanthood set the stage for a lesson on marriage and divorce. It’s not an accident He now transitions to children.
[Mark 10:13-16] “Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.”
Scene of Activity (2 Interactions)
Interaction #1: What the people did and How Jesus reacted to them.
“They brought little children to Him, that He might touch them.... And Jesus took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them.”
“Brought” - Same word used when someone brought a sacrifice to the temple.
“That He might touch them” - A levitical practice of consecrating an offering.
Common practice for parents to have a respected Rabbi consecrate their children.
“They brought” - Greek Pronoun is Masculine.
Though Jesus is found of mothers who bring their children to Him, I believe there is something special when this act is initiated by a child’s father.
S.I.T. - Separation / Individualism Transition
Boys spend their entire developmental years in a feminine world.
At some point a boy will break from the feminine and begin to define himself as something different from the mother from whose body he sprang.
To take his place in society as a man, a boy will reject his mother and her feminine ways and gravitate to what he observes as masculine.
In most instances a boy associates “masculinity” with his father.
When there is no father, a boy will look for other male role model.
Problem: In some instances, during this transition a boy will reject church, because church is often associated with women and femininity, not men and masculinity.
There are 2 Contributing Factors to this Problem:
1. Most Sunday school volunteers are women.
2. Few Fathers regularly attend church.
60% of the typical adult congregation is comprised of women.
20% of married women regularly attending without their husbands.
Though 90% of American men believe in God and 5 out of 6 call themselves Christian only 2 of 6 attend church on a given Sunday.
This means the average, American, Christian man accepts the reality of Jesus Christ, but fails to see any value in going to church.
3 Remedies to this Problem:
1. We need men to volunteer for children and youth ministry.
2. We need to be a church that embraces the masculine spirit.
Why is it important to embrace the masculine spirit?
1. It’s Effective Strategy.
When mom comes to Christ, the rest of her family follows 17% of the time.
When dad comes to Christ, the rest of the family follows 93% of the time.
Truth: When a man encounters Christ, statistically his family follows.
2. It has Biblical Precedent.
Knowing the influence of a father and the psychological makeup of the male gender, it’s not an accident Jesus’ earthly ministry targeted men first.
His focus on children and women seems to have been secondary.
Truth: If the church wants to change the world, we must focus on men.
How should this be accomplished?
1. We should emphasize men’s values in addition to women.
Women focus on the relational: relationships and emotion. Whereas, men gravitate towards the experiential: exploration, heroic sacrifice, action, adventure, risk and reward, accomplishment.
Proof: Examine who attends what kind of movies.
Sadly, the church has created this gender gap by emphasizing things women relate too while neglecting the things that connect with men.
Though this happened because the church is predominately female, you cannot escape this reality.... if you want to be a church that reaches men, you must be a church that appeals to men.
We need to avoid a Common Mistake: Church should not be a place that intends to tame a man, rather it should be a place designed to set a man free.
If you’re a mom or a wife who wants their son or husband in church to “settle them down” you should instead try Prozac; but if you want to see your man set free to embark on an amazing and dangerous adventure for the cause of Christ then bring your man to Calvary316.
We need to embrace Risky Behavior: If you want men in the ranks, you should be a church that is willing to attempt something large enough for the kingdom that failure is guaranteed.... unless God steps in!
2. We should actively contrast popular misconceptions.
Truth: The “gender gap” issue facing the modern church is a relatively new problem. Though there are many reasons why men have left the church over the last 150 years (Industrial Revolution, Two World Wars, Rise of Secularism), one cannot overlook the negative influence of Feminism.
With the rise of feminism coupled with liberal progressive influences the church has been actively reducing the masculine spirit of the Bible.
The masculine pronoun of God has been washed from Scripture.
The Bible’s greatest hero - Jesus Christ - has been neutered.
Churches promote passivity instead of tenacity, diffidence over burliness, safety instead of courage, tranquility over struggle, women over men!
Is there any surprise that men are so repelled by church?
“A lot of men are reluctant to go to church because of the reputation that would follow. They’re not afraid of God; they’re afraid of emasculation.”
Truth: The Jesus of Scripture is more General Patton than Mister Rogers.
3. We should be a church that challenges men to man up!
Study in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, “Gay men are significantly more active in religious organizations (as a percentage) when compared to heterosexual men. In many ways gay men are comparable to heterosexual women, whereas lesbians and female bisexuals have very low rates of religious activity comparable to heterosexual men.”
Conclusion: “Why do so many effeminate and gay men attend church when heterosexual men are absent? The church has become one of the few institutions in society where there’s no pressure to act like a man.”
“Make things too comfortable for a man - he’ll loose interest. Try to control a man - he’ll rebel. Over-confront him - he’ll resent you as a nag. But challenge him the way Jesus challenged the disciples and he will grow. A church that challenges it’s member is a church where men can thrive.”
I like to say it this way, “When nothing great is asked of a man, a man will give what’s been asked of him - nothing.” Men need a challenge to respond too!
4. We should be a church that has solid male leadership.
Obviously there are Biblical reason behind male pastors, but there is a lesser, practical reason a church needs strong male leaders.... Men follow men!
Though 60% of churches with a male pastor suffer a gender gap, this number increases to 80% when a congregation has a female senior pastor.
Honest Reality: Women will follow a man, but few men will follow a women unless they are forced or circumstance demand it.
When men find a man to follow there is often no limit to what that man will do.
Think of it this way.... 2000 years after Jesus ascended to heaven millions of men not only follow him, but are still willing to lay down their lives for His sake.
5. We should be a church that esthetically & operationally appeals to men.
A) Male-Friendly Esthetics are Important:
Have you ever noticed the feminine the decor of your local Christian bookstore? Please realize this design is intentional because 75% of those who enter a Christian Bookstore are women.
Branding to a man would be a poor business model.
Is there any wonder that designing a church esthetic that appeals to women will also have the same desired effect: more women than men?
B) A Male-Minded Service is Essential:
1. Men appreciate excellence.
Avoid Amateurism, Eliminate the cringe factor.
Truth: Though women are more understanding as to the process of things, men evaluate based on the bottom line.
2. Men appreciate innovations and creativity.
3. Insure Worship is Man-Friendly.
Tailor the music to the audience you want to reach.
Driving Rock draws an audience that’s 69% male.
Soft Rock, known for love songs, attracts 67% female.
Pick songs that are appropriate to the audience you want to reach.
Avoid songs that make men feel gay.
“With the spotlight on homosexuality in the church, why do we increase men’s doubts by using the language of romance to describe the Christian walk?”
Choose songs that promote authentic Christianity.
Douglas Wilson, “The current emphasis on feeling worshipful in men produces a cowardly and effeminate result.”
4. Insure Men’s Ministry is for Men (not a repackaging of the women’s ministry or an idea fostered by an old man with LowT).
We need the church to embrace the masculine spirit if we’re going to attract men. This sums up the problem well: “Jesus had no problems attracting men. Fishermen dropped nuts full of fish to follow Him, but today’s church can’t convince men to drop their remote controls for a couple of hours a week.”
George Gallup, “Woman may be the backbone of a congregation, but the presence of a significant number of men is often a clear indicator of spiritual healthy.”
3. We need Dad’s to rise up!
As a youth pastor of 10 years I can attest, “Kids who are taken to church by mom but not by dad are harder to keep in church. They tend to drop out at higher rates when they reach adolescence. They are also harder to engage when they do come to youth group. This is true for girls as well as boys.”
Never Forget: Boys follow men and Dad - they want to follow you!
This is not to say mom can’t play an important role.
Charles Spurgeon, “I remember on one occasion my mom praying thus: ‘Now, Lord, if my children go on in their sins, it will not be from ignorance that they perish, and my soul must bear a swift witness against them at the day of judgment if they lay not hold of Christ.’ That thought of a mother’s bearing swift witness against me, pierced my conscience and stirred my heart.”
Jesus “laid His hands on them, and blessed them.”
They wanted Jesus to consecrate their children “that he might touch them,” but Jesus instead “blessed them.”
“Blessed” - Greek word “eulogeô” - “to praise or invoke blessings.”
This is why we reject infant baptism, but still have baby dedications.
Interaction #2: How the disciples behave & How Jesus reacts & responds to them.
We’re told the disciple “rebuked those who brought them.”
Q: Why would they react in such a way to these parents?
A: They still failed to understand Jesus’ lesson on being a “servant of all.”
Jesus’ Reaction: “when He saw it, He was greatly displeased.”
“Greatly displeased” - Greek verb “aganakteô” - “to be indignant, enraged.”
Only time Jesus reacted in such a way towards His disciples.
Q: Why would Jesus have such a strong reaction?
A: They were prohibiting seeking people from reaching their Savior.
Note: “The most dangerous place for a individual to be is standing between a person and the God they’re seeking.”
Jesus’ Response: “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”
Seriousness of the Statement: Jesus is saying, “If you want to enter the kingdom of God, then you must receive the kingdom as a little child would.”
What Jesus isn’t saying: He’s not saying we need to be like a child in order to enter the kingdom.... that we should be weak, innocent, docile, and naive.
The emphasis of the statement isn’t the “children,” but instead the manner in which we receive the kingdom of God.
We should receive the kingdom as a child receives provisions.
1. Children receive out of absolute dependency.
Children have everything because it’s been given to them.
2. Children receive without worrying about worthiness.
- The onus concerning provision is on the parent, not the child.
Children don’t worry if they’re good enough or if they’ve done enough.
3. Children are unashamed receivers.
There is no hesitation with a child on Christmas morning.
This teaching on receiving the kingdom sets the stage for a young man who was doing his best to earn the kingdom.