Like many churches, my church has a men's ministry. Starting with Promise Keepers and influenced by John Eldredge's books, men's ministries seem to have flourished, emphasizing shooting guns, eating wild game, growing beards, and thumping chests. OK, I'm being a bit facetious; I know much good has come from these ministries. But, as Nate Pyle writes in Man Enough: How Jesus Redefines Manhood, it may be that men's ministries are missing the mark when they characterize manliness by hunting and fishing, sports, cars, and cooking on the grill.
These men movements have been built in reaction to what is viewed as a feminization of the church. Pyle argues that the emphasis on the "wild man" has "encouraged some men while emasculating and alienating others." Not all men are into hunting and sports. In fact, the image many men's ministries promote is more an American ideal than a biblical ideal, the self-made man, the independent hero, the star athlete.
Taking Jesus as our model, we see he was not a warrior, a fighter, or a football player. He was humble, a servant. We want to emulate him by exhibiting the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, traits that are typically viewed as more feminine. Further, Paul writes that there is no longer male and female in Christ; both men and women are called to become more like Christ.
Pyle in no way diminishes gender differences. Clearly men and women are different and have different roles. His task is to remind us that "Jesus showed us that to be fully human is to embrace the masculine and feminine qualities that exist within all of us." He concludes, "the world doesn't need a manlier man; the world needs a more human man."
Pyle writes with compassion while challenging the reader to be more like Christ and not aim to be more like a modern, American image of a "real man." There's nothing wrong with such an image, but it's not the primary ideal to which Christians should aim.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!