Thinking Out Loud

February 6, 2012

Non-Biblical Terminology is Counter-Productive with Men

This was a fairly busy weekend here at Thinking out Loud, so be sure to check out the posts from Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Today’s article is from a rather unique blog, Church for Men and features the writing of David Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church — now available in a revised edition released late in 2011 — where this book excerpt appeared under the title Terminology Matters to Men.

The word religion gets a bad rap in our culture. It conjures images of people practicing empty rituals, going through pointless motions, devoid of power and bereft of love. Post-moderns tend to see religion as old-fashioned, oppressive, and false.

So when a person has a life-changing encounter with Christ, he needs a new way of speaking of his faith. He needs terminology that tells everyone he’s not simply practicing the old, dead religion of the past. Twentieth-century Evangelicals coined two phrases that attempt to separate living faith from dead piety. Both have become very popular, and unfortunately, both are somewhat repellent to men.

The first of these terms is, “A personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” It’s almost impossible to attend an evangelical worship service these days without hearing this phrase spoken at least once.

Curious. While a number of Bible passages imply a relationship between God and man, the term “personal relationship with Jesus” never appears in the scriptures. Nor are individuals commanded to “enter into a relationship with God.”

Yet, despite its extra-biblical roots, personal relationship with Jesus Christ has become the number one term evangelicals use to describe the Christian walk. Why? Because it frames the gospel in terms of a woman’s deepest desire—a personal relationship with a man who loves her unconditionally. It’s imagery that delights women—and baffles men. Guys have a hard enough time maintaining relationships with people they can see and hear (audibly).

Nowadays it’s not enough to have a personal relationship with Jesus; many of today’s top speakers encourage men to have a passionate relationship with Him. They invite men to rest in his arms, look up into his eyes, and experience a warm, gooey feeling for him. Speaking as a man, the idea of having a passionate relationship with another guy is just plain gross.

The second popular phrase popular with preachers and authors is “intimacy with God.” The term is spreading like a virus through the church, communicated by men with advanced degrees who write religious books. Here’s an example I read just this week: “Through Jesus God reveals that he loves us passionately and longs for an intimate relationship with us.”

So what’s the problem? God loves us. What’s the harm in using this quasi-romantic language to describe what we have with him?

Think of the mental gymnastics that must take place in a man’s mind as he pictures himself becoming passionate with Jesus—kissing him, staring into his eyes, or lying in his arms. If you don’t detect homosexual undertones in this imagery you’re not looking very hard.

Just like personal relationship with Jesus, the Scriptures never use the term intimacy with God. And lest you think I’m dirty minded, whenever the words “passionate” or “intimate” appear in the Bible, they always refer to sex or lust between humans.

When a man loves another man, he uses the language of respect. “Hey Joe, you’re a stand-up guy. I admire you.” Men do not speak of passionate, intimate, or even personal relationships with their leaders or male friends. Can you imagine a couple of bikers having this conversation?

Rocco: Hey, Spike, let’s go for a ride in the desert so we can develop a passionate relationship.

Spike: Sure, Rocco. I’d like to enjoy some intimacy with you.

One more thing on relationships: men really do need to have a relationship with God. Religion without relationship is bondage. The problem is the word relationship. It’s is not a term men use in conversation, except when describing a male-female couple.

(Phone ringing) 

Ron: Hey Bruce, it’s Ron from the church. How you doing?

Bruce: Fine, Ron. What’s up?

Ron: Hey Bruce, can we have a personal relationship?

Bruce: (click)

When Christ called disciples, he did not say, “Come, have a personal relationship with me.” No, he said, “Come, Follow Me.” Hear the difference? Follow Me suggests a mission. A goal. But a personal relationship with Jesus suggests we’re headed to Starbucks for some couple time.

We should use the same active terminology Jesus used when describing our faith. The next time you’re sharing your faith with a man, call him to follow Jesus. To walk with God. See if that doesn’t make a difference.

~David Murrow

May 1, 2011

Knowledge about God is not Intimacy with God

At the end of the month, Zondervan will release Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus by Kyle Idleman, host of the H2O video series and teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville.  I’ll be reviewing the book closer to the release date, but in the meanwhile, here’s an excerpt:

Fans have a tendency to confuse their knowledge for intimacy.  They don’t recognize the difference between knowing about Jesus and following Jesus.  In Church we’ve got this confused.  We have established systems of learning that result in knowledge, but not necessarily intimacy.

Think about it:  We love having Bible studies, many of which include some kind of workbook.  We go through a Bible curriculum that often has homework.  Sermons are often accompanied by an outline where members can take notes and fill in the blanks.  Many preachers refer to their sermons as a lesson or a lecture. If you grew up in the church then you probably went to Sunday school where you had a teacher.  In the summer you may have gone to Vacation Bible school

Now don’t get me wrong, studying and learinng from God’s word is invaluable.  Jesus referenced, read and quoted all kinds of passages from the Old Testament, ample proof that he had studied God’s Word with great care and diligence.  The problem isn’t knowledge.  The problem is that you can have knowledge without having intimacy.  In fact, knowledge can be a false indicator of intimacy.  clearly where there is intimacy there should be growing knowledge, but too often there is knowledge without a growing intimacy.  …Knowledge is part of intimacy, but just because there is knowledge doesn’t mean there is intimacy.

Kyle Idleman, Not a Fan.

December 9, 2009

Links Links Links

Once again, we bring you the finest in links that you won’t see on any other blogs, except for the ones we got from other blogs.

  • To begin with, a five-minute advent meditation at YouTube with music by Jeff Johnson, titled The Coming of the Lord.
  • David Fitch at the blog, Reclaiming the Mission suggests that a staple of evangelism, getting people to admit that they are sinners, doesn’t work with postmoderns.
  • Speaking of evangelism, this is my favorite of the links this week:  Kevin Rogers at the blog, The Orphan Age, introduces his son Levi (15) who shares a dialog that took place in a Grade Nine class discussion.   Ever get asked why God would make us imperfect and given to doing evil things?   Check out his response.
  • With nine locations, The Meeting House is Canada’s largest multi-site church.   Pastor Bruxy Cavey, author of The End of Religion is currently doing a series about Facebook culture where he suggests to his parishioners: “Get over yourselves.”  Read about the church in this December 8th article at Christian Week.   [Two hours later: Having already heard the first message in this series, I just listened to the second — The Culture of “i” — and totally enjoyed the blend of technological and Biblical insights.  To listen, click here.]
  • Andrew Faris at the blog, Christians in Context, rethinks the Christmas song, “Mary Did You Know,” and suggests some additional verses.
  • Speaking of Christmas, for you ‘crafty’ people out there, Ann Welch at the blog, Resolved to Worship suggests some Christmas tree ornaments you can make with no budget on a rainy day.
  • Kathy aka Kaybee at the blog, The Well, suggests that when it comes to our intimacy with God,  “We can’t dash into His presence and choke down spiritual inwardness before we hurry to our one o’clock appointment.”Read the post, No Hurry here.
  • When the minister says, “I now pronounce you husband and wife;” the couples kiss next, right?   Not necessarily.  Check out this short YouTube, At My Wedding.
  • At the blog, The Online Discernmentalist Mafia, a new gadget offers protection from Liberal, Emergent, Catholic-related, Shack-inspired influences that might creep into your mind undetected.
  • Last, an internal link.  I’d really like to have gotten more discussion going on so called “contemporary” churches whose basic order of worship is part of the church bylaws and constitution.   How “fresh” and “alive” is the worship sequence where you worship on Sunday mornings?
Got Prayer Requests?

Use the Comments Section in this post

As a family, we get together at 9:00 PM EST and often include items gathered throughout the day from my work (confidentiality permitting.) Today, I thought, “Why not open this up to our blog community as well?” Feel free to list anything on your heart, but if it’s not for yourself, don’t use names.  … I think it’s good for us to pray for things outside our family circle. Sometimes our prayer life can be very insular, which isn’t good in a world of global need. If you miss today’s connection time-wise, there’s always tomorrow.

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