WILL YOU TAKE A STAND?

David Delk, President and Co-CEO of Man in the Mirror, wrote an article entitled “HOW ARE MEN DOING? THE STATE OF MEN IN AMERICA.”[1]  In his article he gives some startling data that points out just how serious things have gotten and the fact is things are going in the wrong direction rather than turning to the positive. David’s article states the following:

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 “You probably know the story of Chicken Little, who felt an acorn land on his head and began to tell all the animals he saw, “The sky is falling.” Of course the sky wasn’t falling, and Chicken Little’s hysterics caused all sorts of mischief.

 But what if the sky were falling? How would you warn the other animals?

 In this article, I’m going to argue that in many ways, for men in America, the sky IS falling. But I’m not going to scream hysterically in all caps. Instead, I’m going to present some of the data and let you decide for yourself. I won’t present a lot of conclusions; I’m hoping we can work to find those together over the next few months.

 And in spite of this data, we believe God is at work. The Great Commission still stands, and it certainly applies to men. We have made our decision; by God’s grace we will continue the fight until every church disciples every man–by the power of Christ alone, and to glory of God alone. This is a battle we must win.

 Let’s take a look at some of the most significant areas of a man’s life and see how we are doing.

 Faith

How would you say men in America are doing in the area of faith? Some research shows that in 1991, 42 percent of men attended a church service–other than an event such as a wedding or funeral–during the week prior to the survey. By 2009, the percentage was 36 percent. Volunteering at church during a typical week has also declined since 1991 from 24 percent to 18 percent.

 More importantly, 39 percent of all men have not attended a church event–other than something such as a wedding or funeral–in the past six months. This is 9 percent higher than 1991. And more men than women are disconnected from church; 56 percent of religiously unaffiliated people are men and 44 percent are women.

 All of this research depends on men self-reporting whether they went to church. Other research shows that these figures are overstated by as much as half. Consider that the proportion of women to men in church is 45 to 34.[2]

 Also, using data about actual church attendance one researcher found that in 2004, 17.7 percent of the population attended a Christian church on any given weekend. If accurate, this would indicate that actually 13.3 percent of men attend church every week, or only about 16,000,000 men.[3]

 So the men who should be leading their families to a deeper and longer lasting faith in Christ are instead sitting on the sidelines or barely engaged.

 Marriage

How would you rate men in America in the area of marriage? There’s actually mixed data when it comes to marriage in America. First, the good news.

 The divorce rate today–3.6 divorces per year per one thousand married couples–is at its lowest level since 1970. Sometime in the 1980s, the rate of divorces peaked and then started to decline, and it continues to decline today.

 While sociologists and statisticians debate all the reasons for this decline, at least part of it seems attributable to the bad news:  much fewer people are actually getting married today.

 Among all adult Americans age 18 and older, the percentage that are married dropped from 57 percent in 2000 to 52 percent in 2009. This is the lowest percentage since marital status was first collected more than a century ago.

 And this is affecting young people and the poor in disproportionate ways. In 1960, two-thirds (68 percent) of all twenty-somethings were married. In 2008, just 26 percent were. In 1960, the gap in marriage rates between college graduates and those with a high school diploma or less were just four percentage points (76 percent vs. 72 percent). By 2008, there was a 16 percentage point gap (64 percent vs. 48 percent). Forty-two percent of women in America today would prefer to cohabitate rather than get married.

 Why is it important for men to get married and stay married (unless called to singleness)? Because the ripple effects of divorce and not marrying are devastating.

 For example, more than 33 percent of America’s 72 million children will go to bed in a home without a biological father. Also, the share of babies born to unmarried women has risen from 5 percent in 1960 to 41 percent in 2008. Among black women giving birth in 2008, 72 percent were unmarried. This compares to 53 percent of Hispanic women and 29 percent of white women.

 So a lack of marriage gives rise to single parenting. The proportion of U.S. children who live in a single parent household has more than doubled since 1970, from approximately 12 percent to 28 percent.

 And single parenting puts children at risk. While it’s still true that most children of single parents turn out fine, “25 percent of youths from divorced families in comparison to 10 percent from non-divorced families did have serious social, emotional, or psychological problems.” Other research suggests that the children of never-married single parents tend to do somewhat worse than children of divorced single parents.

 For example, boys raised in single-parent households were more than twice as likely to be incarcerated than boys raised in an intact, married home, even after controlling for differences in income, education, race, and ethnicity. The dropout rate for children in single-mother families is twice as high as the rate for children in two-parent families. They also have lower grades and poorer attendance at school. And as adults, they are less likely to graduate from college and more likely to become single parents themselves.

 The real issue is that when fathers and families fail to transmit values and beliefs, future generations pay the price (see Psalm 78).

 Work

How would you say men are doing in their work? Let’s look at the data. In 1948, 89 percent of men age 20 and over were in the workforce. In 2011, that dropped to 73 percent. What has happened to that 16 percent?

 Many of them are taking disability. In 1960, 0.65 percent of economically active 18- to 64-year-olds received disability benefits. By 2010, it was up to 5.6 percent.

 And the trend is going the wrong way. Between 1996 and 2011, the private sector generated 8.8 million new jobs, and 4.1 million people entered the disability rolls. And now it’s getting even worse. Between January 2010 and December 2011, there were 1,730,000 new jobs, but 790,000 new people collecting disability.

 This is affecting young men in startling numbers. In 2011, 15 percent of disability recipients were in their 30s or early 40s.

 Young men are also finding it harder than ever to break ties and function on their own. Nearly 20 percent of men, age 25 to 34, live with their parents today, 5 percentage points more than in 2005.

 What Does This Mean?

Men are in trouble. And we believe that if men are in trouble, then our culture is in trouble. Many churches have difficulty connecting with men and showing how the gospel can change them and the world around them. We need a renewed focus and sustained effort to reach and disciple our men.

 Suggestions for Further Discussion:

Men from lower economic strata and lower educational achievement are disproportionately dropping away from Christ. This has devastating consequences for future generations. In an age where we tend to emphasize professional, educated orators, and tight worship bands, are most churches really equipped to reach this demographic? If not, what can we do differently?

 On every measure from marriage to work to church involvement, young men are doing worse than the generation before. The world’s vision for a hedonistic, independent, carefree, and prolonged boyhood is winning. Our nation is filled with boys with beards. That’s no good for women, children, the church, or Christ. How can we give these young men a new sense of vision for true manhood and gospel sacrifice?

 The time for intervention is now. It’s never too late with the power of God, but from a human perspective, systems reach a tipping point where the momentum is so strong that it is very difficult to bring them back. When will we reach that point with American men?”

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 This information is pretty discouraging data, wouldn’t you say?  So what do we do?  First let me start with what we don’t do; we don’t stand on the sidelines wringing our hands and doing absolutely nothing.  Let’s not make this overly complicated and become guilty of analysis paralysis.  The solution starts with one man at a time and if you agree then it should start with the man reading this article.

In Ezekiel God says “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.”[4]  I pray that our Heavenly Father would not find the same thing to be true in the current day.  There are several suggestions that I am going to make that each of us should evaluate and consider as we attempt to turn this thing around.

First, we must recognize we are at war and it is not conventional warfare but spiritual warfare that we are waging and therefore a man must be prepared for spiritual battle.  This means we must adhere to the directions given to us in Ephesians when it instructs:   Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”[5]

We must recognize that we have entered a time in our nation that mirrors what Paul told Timothy when he said:   But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.”[6]   And in the next chapter Paul goes on to say: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.  For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”[7]    We must be prepared to speak the truth when the truth is not popular.

We must take a stand when taking a stand will be extremely difficult.  Remember what the Prophet Isaiah said about our Lord and Savior when he wrote   “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.  Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”[8]    This is no easy task and if we truly stand up for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the things that are acceptable in our Heavenly Father’s sight we will despised, ridiculed, called haters, deemed as narrow-minded, old-fashioned, and the list goes on and on. Jesus told us very clearly   “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”[9]   Despite how the world around us may try to make us feel, we are victors through Jesus Christ so we need to behave like victors not victims!

1 Corinthians well sums up where we are as a nation:   For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’   Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.  Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.   Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.   But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.  It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”[10]  

So here are the real questions as straightforward and direct as I can put them;

Are YOU ready to put on the whole armor of God, to go forward into spiritual battle, taking a stand for God’s truth?

Are YOU prepared to take the path that will be unpopular, will not be politically correct and will most definitely lead to ridicule and harsh treatment from the world?

I can only pray that God will raise a mighty army of His men that will answer yes to these questions!  There are battles to be fought and it all starts with each of claiming to be a Follower of Jesus Christ and profess to be God’s man.



[1] Published on www.maninthemirror.org website on April 16, 2013

[4] Ezekiel 22:30.  All scripture used in this article is taken from the NIV translation of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.

[5] Ephesians 6:10-17

[6] 2 Timothy 3:1-5

[7] 2 Timothy 4:2-4

[8] Isaiah 53:3

[9] John 16:33

[10] 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

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