LOUISVILLE, Ky. (ABP) -- Bumps, scrapes and bruises are not just associated with boyhood but are necessary in order to raise men equipped to exercise spiritual leadership in their homes, a Baptist seminary professor said at a weekend conference on "connecting church and home."
"We are raising our young boys to be way too soft, way too careful, as if the ultimate prize in our parenting of boys is to get them to 18 years old and say they never got hurt, nothing bad ever happened," Randy Stinson, dean of the School of Church Ministries at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said at the conference held Aug. 20-21 on the seminary campus in Louisville, Ky. "They never experienced pain. They never experienced disappointment. They have just had a wonderfully smooth life,"
"What you've done, you have handicapped that boy for the rest of his life," Stinson counseled. "He will be a weak, soft, ineffective man."
Stinson, who also serves as president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, said a "therapeutic" model that eliminates competition and rough play among boys has created a generation of 20-something males that are the "most self-absorbed generation in American history."
Stinson said that has spawned an industry of things like male skin-care and hair-color products that would have been unimaginable a generation ago.
Stinson said one problem facing churches today is a "feminization" of the gospel that began early in Christianity with a "bridal mysticism" that applied poetry about the relationship between man and woman in the Song of Solomon as a metaphor for the church's relationship with Christ.
He said it comes across in music played on Christian radio and in churches with lyrics like "I want to touch you, hold you, feel you" and "I can't stop falling in love with Jesus."
"When we talk about the Christian life in terms of sensual, romantic language, why are we surprised when men don't get that and men are repulsed by that, they don't understand that?" he asked.
"Part of the problem in our church today is that our men have this view of Jesus that comes from our Sunday school literature," Stinson said. "Have you ever seen a picture of him in any of our Sunday school literature, any picture ever? His hair is perfectly flowing. His beard is very nice. His skin is smooth."
"There's no way he looked like that," Stinson said. "He was the son of a carpenter, without any power tools, and he walked everywhere in the blistering sun."
Stinson said images of Jesus that were "womanly and feminine" date back to the Middle Ages. In the 19th chapter of Revelation, by contrast, he said Jesus "is pictured with eyes like fire, a sword coming from his mouth, King of kings, Lord of lords."
Stinson said churches should focus on "ministry by men, not ministry to men."
"You cannot just put a bunch of men together and assign them to a care group like some sort of E-Harmony for men and think that is going to solve and fix and help the masculine soul," he said. "We have modeled most of our men's ministries after our women's ministries -- get the men together, read a book together, hold their hands and pray together and talk about the worst sin that you ever did -- and that ain't happening."
Stinson said churches must "get past the Promise Keepers' event and the wild game banquet" for substantial men's ministry. One way to do that, he said, is to challenge men in the church to man-sized tasks.
"Men solve problems. They fix stuff. They get stuff done," he said. "When we give men such weak assignments -- we put them on the bereavement committee and the flower committee and the grounds committee and the fellowships committees -- give men a God-sized task that they know requires a man."
He also called on churches to "bring back warfare language."
"The Bible is all about warfare, from Genesis 3 on," he said. He said the passage where God tells the serpent that woman's descendants would "crush your head" and the serpent would "bruise your heel" amounts to "a declaration of war."
"We don't talk about battle and warfare, but we're in one," he said. "Let's just reclaim the language. Keep reminding our men they are in a battle and maybe they will start acting like a warrior."
"If I told any of you men that right now there's somebody on their way to attack your home, your loved ones that are there, you'd leave your laptop in the seat," he said. "You'd leave everything. You wouldn't even care what's happening, and half of us would follow you home to help you defend your home."
"Satan, the enemy, is after your home," he added.
Stinson also advocated "an atmosphere where biblical manhood is respected, prized and embraced, where it is systematically taught and expected of your boys."
"So we're telling our boys, 'Don't jump your bike. Don't climb that tree. Don't fall down, don't get hurt,'" he said. "And then when they are 18 or 17, pastors are calling out for the men in this church -- maybe even particularly the single men to take some risk: 'We are trying to reach this unreached people group. We don't know what's going to happen there and we need some of you that may not have families yet but some men with courage, with ambition, godly ambition, we need you to help.'
"You think that guy is raising his hand? You told him not to jump his bike, not to even climb a tree. You told him the worst thing in the world is don't get hurt. That's the main thing. He's not going anywhere, and he's not going to pursue your daughter, because he's weak and scared and has no godly ambition. When he gets knocked down he's not getting back up. He has no godly resilience."