In the late 1800s, the most efficient ways to clear property for farming or railroad construction was to set small, manageable fires and let them burn through and remove unwanted vegetation in a slow and helpful manner. It was called controlled burning. But on October 8, 1871, a cold front in Eastern Wisconsin blew strong winds through the area and fanned a small controlled burn into a raging inferno. It consumed 1.2 million acres in Marinette County, Wisconsin. Homes– even entire villages were completely destroyed. The death toll was placed near 2500 people.
Fire is like that, isn’t it? When it stays inside the confines and intention for which it was created, it is helpful, captivating, and extremely powerful. Focused, it can even cut through solid steel. But, when it moves outside those bounds, it leaves pain, destruction, and the stench of death in its wake.
By and large when it comes to manhood, we have a wildfire on our hands.
Like fire, manhood is not neutral. In my 16 years of pastoral leadership, one of the things I’ve observed is this: Where men understand what God designed a man to be and live that out, like fire, they will warm marriages, families, churches, and communities. But, when men step outside the bounds of what the Bible says a man should be, everything around them burns to the ground. You don’t even have to be a Christian or believe the Bible to know this is true. Just look around.
70% of prisoners in the United States grew up in a home with no father present. (80% of rapists) 71% all high school dropouts are from fatherless homes. Pornography has grown to become a 5 billion dollar industry. This industry produces more revenue than the NFL, NBA, and Major League Baseball combined. Almost all marital issues are the result of a man acting like a selfish little boy, rather than pursuing the heart of His wife the way the Bible says a man should.
By and large when it comes to manhood, we have a wildfire on our hands. In fact, we live in a culture that is trying to redefine what it even means to be a man altogether. That is why it is critical for churches to have a clearly defined, strategic, and intentional plan for reaching and discipling men.
Back to the Peshtigo fire. If you’ve never heard of it, the likely reason is because it happened at the same time as another destructive blaze– the Great Chicago Fire. The nation turned its attention to a less deadly yet more prominent fire.
When it comes to ministry to men, for many years and in many churches we have turned our attention to more flashy flames, when the more powerful fire was smoldering in the background.
Every man in your church is a flame of potential. He can be a fire that warms his home and your church or one that destroys them. That’s why we must be intentional to weave a culture of intentionally discipling men deep within the fabric of our churches. Imagine what could happen when we harness the power of that fire and focus it on burning hot for Jesus? Could it be that our homes, marriages, churches, and communities might never be the same? Could it be said about our churches like it was said in Acts 17 about the early church, “the men who’ve turned the world upside down have come here.”
To find out more about gospel-centered resources, training, and events for men, visit lifeway.com/leadingmen