WHAT IS THE MANLY MAN RESURGENCE?
In 2014, Pastor Chris Rosebrough identified a concerning movement that has been festering in evangelicalism over the past few decades, which he coined the Mysti-Chicks Uprising (MCU). However, while this has been gaining momentum in popular cults around the world such as Hillsong, C3 and other Purpose Driven Life (PDL) and New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) cults, the antithesis to the MCU has also been evolving behind the scenes. Its antithesis is what has been commonly known online as the Manly-Man Resurgence.
The creation of this ‘man-kenstein’ in churches around the world was a group effort among the cults, specifically the Purpose Driven Life, the Health and Wealth, New Apostolic Reformation, Word of Faith and Evangelical Industrial Complex. Nevertheless, the catalyst that got the cult going was the Mysti-Chicks Uprising, or more so, a reaction against feminist influences of the MCU within the visible church.
Between 1990-2010, pastors were noting or becoming upset that the church was becoming more ‘feminised’. In 2008, Christianity Today published a piece titled “A Jesus for Real Men” [archive], that reported on the new masculinity movement in the church. It is worth noting in this report the timeline of key ministries and individuals that helped shape it:
Promise Keepers kicked off the men’s movement in 1990 by challenging stadiums full of men and boys to fulfill their duties to God and their families.
The first writer to popularize this concern was John Eldredge, who, in his three-million-selling Wild at Heart (Thomas Nelson, 2001), lamented that the masculine spirit was at risk because “most men believe God put them on the earth to be good boys.” The church’s tendency to promote discipleship as merely becoming “nice guys” keeps men from embodying their God-given maleness.
Wild at Heart sowed seeds that have sprouted as a new “masculinity movement” aimed to get men into church by changing the church’s atmosphere.
Inspired by Murrow [see below], comedian Brad Stine began GodMen, a ministry that provides space in which “men can be men; raw and uninhibited; completely free to express themselves in the uniquely male way that only men understand.” In a 2002 GodMen meeting, this experience included videos of karate fights, car chases, and songs like “Grow a Pair!” whose lyrics read:
We’ve been beaten down
Feminized by the culture crowd
No more nice guy, timid and ashamed …
Grab a sword, don’t be scared
Be a man, grow a pair!
David Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church (Thomas Nelson, 2004), founded the group Church for Men because, while the local congregation is “perfectly designed to reach women and older folks”—with its emphasis on comfort, nurture, and relationships—it “offers little to stir the masculine heart, so men find it dull and irrelevant.”
The article then had this to say about one individual pastor (emphasis ours):
Following Murrow’s advice, Don Wilson, pastor of Christ’s Church of the Valley in Peoria, Arizona, has geared his entire ministry toward reaching young men. And while his ministry is not to men in particular, Mark Driscoll, pastor of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church, nevertheless desires greater testosterone in contemporary Christianity. In Driscoll’s opinion, the church has produced “a bunch of nice, soft, tender, chickified church boys. … Sixty percent of Christians are chicks,” he explains, “and the forty percent that are dudes are still sort of chicks.”
At this point we would like to detour and point out the controversial ministry of Todd Bentley at Lakeland. As the poster bad-boy within the New Apostolic Reformation cult, Bentley took physical violence, aggression and offense to a new level in public ministry, justifying kicking people in the face for their healing to that of Smith Wigglesworth supposed healing practices in the 20th century. Offense and spiritual intimidation was the new way to grow your revival ministry – and others followed suit including Lakeland worship leader Roy Fields and the disgraceful ministries of John Crowder and Brandon Barthrop. Because of their mystical focus and the rise of Driscoll, there was an attempt by Bentley and Crowder to also tap into the ‘genuine’ Christian mystical man.
It is worth noting that even these NAR leaders attempted to pursue the hipster reformation theology rout but defaulted to the mystics of the Roman Catholic cult to reinforce that ‘real men’ move in ‘real supernatural signs and wonders’. What dissolved Bentley, Crowder and Barthrop’s ‘New mystics’ movement was how women more enticed by their mystical beliefs then men. The men that were attracted to this manly man mystic would often speak of a homo-erotic Jesus that would manifests in their visions and dreamscapes giving them kisses and cuddles to reinforce their specialness and manhood.
IN A NUTSHELL
There is a peculiar ‘Pinocchio’ theme in the MMR. As one Pinocchio review states,
“Pinocchio is an exciting little tale about a little marionette who just wants to be a real boy… It’s his journey of self-realization and the understanding of his own moral compass that will lead him to become a ‘real boy’, with his sidekick Jiminy Cricket acting as his conscience.”
There is a real genuine need among insecure men that they be ‘real men’. But rather than go to faithful churches, they are enticed to these ‘Manly Man Conferences’ and events that remind us of ‘Pleasure Island’ in Pinocchio, a venue for naughty boys who don’t like the rules and don’t go to school.
The Manly Man Resurgence is nothing but a boys club. It literally entices young Christian men to drink, smoke cigars, gamble and ‘break stuff’ (as was stereotyped on Pleasure Island) turning into stubborn donkeys instead of men. Not only is this an excuse for boys to be boys, the elite of this boys club are ‘The Coachman’ (aka The Little Man) that make them more subservient. Oddly enough, ‘bad boy’ Perry Noble had this to say about Christians who wanted to go deeper into the Word of God:
“The jackass in the church is the person that always screams, “I want to go deeper.”… Deep? Deep?”
Source: Perry Noble, NewSpring, Unleash Conference, 2009.
It is frightening how the jackass theme really articulates this movement when we revisit the classic scene from Pleasure Island from Disney’s Pinocchio. With ‘nutshell’ in mind, let’s examine more of this movements recognisable features and problems.
Resurgence means, ‘a rising again into life, activity, or prominence’. This word was popularised by ‘bad boy‘ Mark Driscoll’s ministry, merchandise, messaging and marketing. The Resurgence was also the original name of Driscoll’s website as well as the name of his conference. Because of his prominence and face of pushing the neo-masculine movement, it was appropriate to use this word to conjure the toxic ministry that often engaged in bullying and intimidation of both men and women.
Ironically, the majority of the ‘Manly Men’ that would speak at his events were false teachers, not qualified or completely compromised in their faith that all they amounted to become were ‘poster boys’:
The above article from Christianity Today captured Driscoll’s idea of what this Manly Man ‘Resurgence’ looks like to him:
The aspect of church that men find least appealing is its conception of Jesus. Driscoll put this bluntly in his sermon “Death by Love” at the 2006 Resurgence theology conference (available at TheResurgence.com). According to Driscoll, “real men” avoid the church because it projects a “Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ” that “is no one to live for [and] is no one to die for.” Driscoll explains, “Jesus was not a long-haired … effeminate-looking dude”; rather, he had “callused hands and big biceps.” This is the sort of Christ men are drawn to—what Driscoll calls “Ultimate Fighting Jesus.” (Emphasis added)
Riding on the coat-tails of the neo-masculine movements were global ministries like Brian Houston’s Hillsong (Mens Conference) and Phil Pringle’s (RealMen Conference). Prominent Word of Faith and Health and Wealth cults like Hillsong and C3 were keen to exploit this market, hitting their niches to grow their movements. In early ChurchWatch days, it was pointed out by one of our contributors reviewing a talk at C3 Realmen Conference, “I find it hard to imagine how we are raising up godly men of character and integrity by teaching them to twist and mangle God’s word.“ (More on conferences later.)
Nevertheless, Mark Driscoll really became the face of this movement, enticing more young reformed men to embrace a vain aesthetic attempt to be ‘real men’ in the church today. But with the rise of Social Media and Instagram, vanity and ego trumped the Word of God. Along with the beards came the beers, pubs, tight pants, man-buns and pipes to reflect the hipster, ‘organic’ or ‘authentic’ man. But it was Driscoll’s foul mouth and testosterone driven behaviour that attracted the wrong leaders and made this movement not just abusive but sexually abusive. Driscoll’s influence was so prominent and scandalous within the Evangelical Industrial Complex that Hillsong did everything in their power to get Driscoll to speak at their conference in spite of the potential backlash they would experience (due to the growing scandals Driscoll was facing).
Just before Driscoll’s ministry imploded, people discovered the ‘real’ Mark Driscoll (viewer discretion advised when you click to read Driscoll’s sexually explicit views of men back in 2000):
Driscoll’s ‘resurgence’ was essentially overrun by men who tried to be more manly then him. Nevertheless, many like Driscoll have been exposed by their own congregants for creating a bullying and intimidating church culture that has not been safe for both families and men and women to attend.
WHAT IS ITS NATURE?
Abusive & lawless.
We would not be writing or identifying this sect at all if first and foremost it did not have dangerous cult-like tendencies.
Some branches of the MMR have Christian ‘Fight Clubs’, some in name only but others that use physical violence to entice men in the churhc. Some are very abusive and controlling as we’ve seen with Mark Driscoll and Gary Lamb. And others could have very dangerous ramifications for women/boys who attend ministries that have a behind the scenes ‘boys club’ network. The more appealing ‘the man’, the more often the trail of victims.
Nevertheless, just like in the sex cults in the hippy movement, there is an unusual obsession with sexual purity – something that was also noted with Carl Lentz and the Hillsong empire. While not fleshed out in the docuseries, sexual purity is presented in such a way that the person preaching can present themselves as ‘pure’ while also inviting ‘pure’ victims to be drawn in to their speaking engagements or events. Once becoming a victim to their abuse, it is very hard to speak out.
More concerning is how the men ‘lord it’ over their victims. When they are exposed, they know how to parade sorrow, humility and repentance. However, they refuse to submit to proper biblical discipline through their eldership. As a result, it’s common for them to abandon their churches to escape accountability. In some cases they may flee a state or country and start a new church, tapping into their fanbase (not disciples) to start again. In other words, these men show know no true signs of bearing fruit in keeping with repentance.
Gnostic & childish.
The clever title of the Christianity Today piece captures the gnostic element, ‘A Jesus for Real Men’. With the plethora of books, merchandise, advertising, devotional material and conferences, gnosticism plagues the minds of these captivated men. Men who fall for the ‘Manly Man Resurgence’ are ironically what the bible calls infants:
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:14-16
This is a movement that encourages men to keep walking down the path of ‘self-actualisation’ to one day become the ‘purpose-driven’ man God made them to be without ever being that man. That salvific knowledge is always out of testosterone’s reach until that next testosterone driven event is on. The men boys that are glued to the MMR side of Christianity despite already having all they need – by being faithful to what is already there in front of them (emphasis added):
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16
It’s ironic that the MMR quote this verse all the time but never get any deeper or mature.
The other gnostic elements is succinctly put by Warren Thockmorten in his article ‘Gospel of Misogyny‘:
“Everything Driscoll identifies as bad, weak, dirty or evil he characterizes as feminine.
Everything Driscoll identifies as feminine he characterizes as bad, weak, dirty or evil.
This is what he believes. This is the gospel that Mark Driscoll preaches: All that is feminine is bad, weak, dirty and evil. All who are female are bad, weak, dirty and evil. In a sense, Driscoll’s so-called “apology” only reinforces and restates his gospel of misogyny. He apologizes for his tone and his language because, in his eyes, repeatedly comparing his targets to women is the worst possible thing anyone could say.”
Moralistic & legalistic.
A common emphasis in the MMR cult is sexual purity.
At best it’s virtue signalling to show off to other men their spiritual supremacy (they are after all there to help men be real men), at worst it is an advert to entice and prey on women (or men) who are opening up about their struggles with ‘sexual purity’. We are fully aware that pastors and those in leadership can often experience isolation. So when testosterone is thrown around on stage and people are counselled afterwards – this is not a good concoction. Because ‘sexual purity’ is important to a lot of Christians, they will see and feel conflicted when they are watching young, good-looking, charming pastors make boisterous comments or inuendoes (for laughs obviously). Why can’t guys be like him? Why can’t my boyfriend be like him? Why can’t my husband be like him?
“We’re trying to begin a sexual revolution.” – Ed Young
There is a weird ‘sex pyramid’ at play when ‘sexual purity’ is a focus in the Manly Man Resurgence. This same ‘sex pyramid’ is also exists within the Mysti-Chicks Uprising. Hillsong’s Bobbie Houston’s book I’ll have what She’s Having and her Kingdom Women Love Sex audio books positions her with her female audience as some type of ‘sexpert’. And oddly enough, with the rise of ‘sexperts’, this is now part of the leaders job description in the MMR and MCU. So when pastors emphasise ‘sexual purity’, in the congregant’s eye the bad boy pastor is not just ‘getting a lot’ at home, the ‘moral’ bad boy is providing moral guidance, rules and secrets to congregants for men to find true happiness with their partners.
The unwritten rule is that the ‘bad boy’ pastor is the only one who is exempt from being sexually impure because he has a good looking wife and family. He and his wife are situated at the top of the pyramid of sexual bliss and purity. Obviously you can be like them if you buy their merchandise (Mark Driscoll, Ed Young, Phil Pringle, Kong Hee, Bobbie Houston). The unwritten mentality in congregants is they are to figure out their own sex compass regarding sexual purity with the spiritual truths their leaders give them – and this can be incredibly destructive.
The Manly-Man Resurgence in different church environments.
One feature of this sinister movement is its replacement of methodology with pragmatism so it can be repackaged to different church audiences. Mark Driscoll helped design and package this culture so it is worth looking at his mindset in his book ‘A Call To Resurgence’.
As Aaron Armstrong points out:
“While Driscoll warns his readers of the dangers of methodolatry—losing sight of the principle and remaining committed [to] a particular method—he would do well to take his own advice. Based on what he’s presented, the argument is totally grounded in pragmatism.”
Thus the MMR is very results and status driven which is not necessarily in favour with the Great Commission or in line with biblical discipleship.
Aaron Armstrong highlights this:
“This notion of doing what works, this pragmatic approach to ministry, comes up again in his dealing with church planting. Here, he emphasizes urban church planting over suburban and rural planting because there are more people present, and the city is “upstream” culturally.
“The key to actual change is to start upstream,” he writes. “We need to lead politicians, artists, judges, musicians, and the like to Jesus.”
Now, this is true, certainly; we need politicians who love Jesus, musicians who serve Jesus and judges who bow before Jesus. But we need farmers, homemakers, grocery store owners and the like to do the same, too—not because of their perceived influence in society, but because they’re sinners in need of redemption.
Imagine if Jesus only selected key members of society to follow Him? Imagine if He only went to the people who were “upstream” culturally? But what did he do? He called uneducated fishermen, shady government agents, and religious weirdos as his Apostles. He reached out to the poor, the marginalized, the unlovely. Jesus was murdered by the people “upstream” in his culture. And what happened? Within a few centuries, half the Roman Empire was following Jesus. Remember, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor. 1:27).”
With the hedonistic hipster culture, this is a recipe for disaster. Mixing this culture with moralism on a Sunday never ends well. It will either create:
- men on Sunday who dishonestly present how morally Christian they and their family are or
- honest men who will express how hard it all is or how they ‘feel’ or ‘see’ nothing coming to fruition (thus not scoring any brownie points with the leadership within the MMR)
The MMR culture only wants to promote a network of successful role models for men to look up to. Unfortunately, it’s a lose-lose to men that sign up to the scheme.
It’s even harder when the MMR has a very prosperity-driven focus that we see in C3 and Hillsong.
With ‘good sex’ being attached to their prosperity gospel, it would be even harder for men to be ‘sexually pure’ in this harcore enviroment. To make this MMR culture even more impossible, some wives presume God will bless their husband’s tithe on Sunday. This type of wife will spend as much as they want to be that perfect ‘Christian’ wife (which only makes the husband despair even more). Disclaimer: we are not stereotyping on this church wife – they exist in the testimonies of broken marriages of people that leave churches that embrace the MMR/MCU/HAW movements.
With a biblical gospel absent in their lives and moral obligations stacking up, the legalistic shame-game piles up on the Christian while keeping up their ‘Godly’ appearance every Sunday. The results create Christian men feeling more hollow and empty than ever, feeling both a fake and a failure. They can end up abandoning their church, their faith and possibly even abandon their sexuality.
Want to be a ‘real man’? Then attend the C3 ‘RealMen’ Conference. Look at all the rules you have to follow to be ‘RealMen’:
Thus the legalistic pressures men endure to give the impression they are prospering can be destructive in their marriages and church life. And those that are wealthy because they ‘do the right thing’, often feel more entitled then they should (because they are ‘the man’) and end up losing everything. Either way, moralism and legalism work hand in to destroy both ‘the haves and the have-nots’ within the MMR.
WHAT IS THE GOOD NEWS (GOSPEL) OF THIS MOVEMENT?
We briefly touched on the Manly Man Gospel above. But in a nutshell – it’s a fairly abstract and legalistic gospel that goes something like this:
“God made you a man and Jesus died so you can be fully man. Be that man. If you don’t exhibit manliness according to my gospel, then we need to knock those female traits out of you.”
And below is an expansion of how this false gospel is presented (and what it can often leave out in its message).
This ‘Good News’ offends and exposes ‘sin’.
A notable feature of the ‘gospel’ of the Manly Man Resurgence, was that it wanted to give the more ‘weaker’ men in church the strength to be bold and offensive with the gospel.
So there was a good reminder that the Christian gospel IS offensive. Originally there was a boldness for men to speak against false teaching, false prophets and bad leadership. Mark Driscoll was initially a good example of preaching this ‘gospel of offense’ until his yelling and cussing became the greater offense than the gospel itself. Eventually, the Manly Man Resurgence repeatedly butted heads with itself, creating controversy throughout evangelicalism.
Nevertheless, the boldness, bullying, sexism and vulgarity was so exciting and edgy that it took on its own evolution across the globe, specifically in New Apostolic Reformation and Purpose Driven cults in the US.
Mark Driscoll embodied the ‘real man’ pastor that would publicly denounce and expose the false teachings of Health and Wealth and Word of Faith ministries. Other young pastors that rode the MMR wave were Perry Noble and Steven Furtick, both deliberately being offensive and bully-like to create shock value in order to boost their online exposure. Steven Furtick embodied the ‘real man’ with his viral “Hey Haters” video. Perry Noble visually turned the social narrative around where bullies don’t pick on men wearing classes, men wearing glasses can pick on the bullies – and Noble was exceptional at bullying people.
Matt Chandler embodied that ‘real man’ when he was invited to Furtick’s ‘Code Orange’ revival and essentially rebuked all who attended with his infamous talk “You’re Not David”. James MacDonald with his ‘Elephant Room’ series was a guaranteed shock-jock phenonema designed to build his name on offense and controversy – not biblical discipleship and correction.
Forgiveness can’t make you a ‘bad boy’.
Although the bullying has toned down, it is important to note what anti-gospel behaviour could be exhibited from this gospel.
Consider this language from another MMR pastor, Gary Lamb of Revolution Church (emphasis added):
“You know what my biggest regret in that church is? Is how I left that church. If I had it to do over again today this is how’d I’d a done it. I wish I’d have walked up into that church with a baseball bat, clocked that woman in her noggin, punched her husband in the face, took a baseball bat to those pews, burnt the organ up, set the piano on fire.”
Source: Gary Lamb, Exponential Conference, April 20, 2009.
“To the people who stole our trailer:
First let me say, God loves you. Second let me say we forgive you. We really don’t want to forgive you, but God says we should so we do. Third of all I want you to know that I think you are scum bags. I think you are lowlife degenerates who need a good butt kicking. Matter of fact I feel so strongly about the fact that you need a good butt kicking that I am volunteering to do it. I hope you believe in God because you should get on your knees and cry out to Him like never before because if we find you, I can promise we will kick the crap out of you. It won’t be pretty, it won’t be over quickly, and it will be very painful. I know that doesn’t sound very nice but I feel pretty strongly that is what you need.
I am curious what kind of lowlife you must be? Trust me, I have been around some pretty low ones before but never one that would be so low as to steal from a church. I understand you probably need some crack or something like that but stealing from a church would scare me. It would scare me more once I realized which church I stole it from. We are probably the only church you have ever heard of that will honestly break your legs once you are found.”
Source: Gary Lamb, Trailer Stolen, http://www.garylamb.org/2008/07/03/trailer-stolen/, Published July 03, 2008. [Archived]
While we’ve heard the Christian gospel preached in the Manly Man Resurgence, it naturally conflicts with the ‘bad boy’ persona they try to create within the testosterone-driven culture.
Rules are made for breaking if you’re a ‘bad boy’.
Curiously, such men who lead their churches by preaching on ‘sexual purity’ end up being those who not only end up in scandalous affairs but also refuse to be disciplined. This was the case with ‘bad boy’ preachers Gary Lamb, Perry Noble and Mark Driscoll. Furthermore, without any sense of repentance, reflection and restoration in their hearts or minds at all, they all see themselves fit to ignore biblical discipline and instead start their own churches again.
One blog writer (Dana Jenkins), even noted that Gary Lamb “had a seat at the big kids table” that was “led by Perry Noble in South Carolina”.
“Intrigued by his story and confused by his abrasive preaching style, we visited Revolution before we started our church.”
They captured the affair and noted how flippant Gary Lamb was with his church discipline (emphasis added):
May 2009. Gary posts a “tweet” with a link to his resignation letter. It had finally surfaced that he was having an affair with his assistant. His wife would be divorcing him, and the church was moving on without him.
What happened in the days and weeks following was nothing less than a soap opera. Within just days of the announcement and resignation, Gary was on Twitter talking about how life must go on, the sun came up another morning, and HE was beginning to put the pieces back together. No mention of his wife, his young kids, the church, or the greater damage to the Gospel of Christ.
Gary decided to follow the advice of some of his friends and took a sabbatical from Twitter. It didn’t last long. In a few weeks, he was back on Twitter, and he made no effort at subtly when discussing what was next – in 2010, he was starting another church.
Earlier this week, he announced on his website that his new church would be holding its first informational meeting in a few weeks. I am sure this has nothing to do with the fact that Revolution Church just named a new pastor at the beginning of the year, and it is probably unrelated to the fact that another large church in Catersville is opening a Canton campus this year.
After months of silence or subtle rebukes, some church leaders are finally starting to use their platforms to speak out against this madness.”
But this is the result of the MMR type churches:
“Pastors who have affairs are not victims. Their wives are the victims. Their kids are the victims. Their churches and communities, those are the victims.”
Needless to say once again, their gospel does not bear fruit in keeping with repentance. The movement is governed with ruthless hypocrisy. When it is expected that husbands lay down their lives for their wives, MMR leaders see themselves exempt from their own pastoral rules. #Totallygangsta
WHAT DO THEY DO WITH JESUS IN THIS MOVEMENT?
Sadly, all the above ‘bad boy’ pastors built their ‘manly’ profiles on social media but lost the gospel in the process. But what are they trying to say about Jesus? What is the Jesus of the Manly Man Resurgence?
The Christianity Today article highlighted this concern with the false gospel and false Jesus of this movement (emphasis added):
The movement’s method of reclaiming the radical nature of the gospel, however, poses a genuine threat to Christian discipleship. These authors see the church’s fixation on morality as part and parcel of the church’s feminization, and they suggest that the solution is to inject the church with a heavy dose of testosterone. In other words, allowing women to create Jesus in their image has emasculated him; thus, regaining a biblical image of Christ is as simple as re-masculating him.
The masculinity movement’s solution assumes that Jesus came to model genuine masculinity. The authors don’t say so explicitly, but their rhetoric assumes manly instincts are inherently godly. In Wild at Heart Eldredge claims, “We are never told to kill the true man within us, never told to get rid of those deep desires for battle and adventure and beauty.” The GodMen repeat the theme: “None of our maleness is toned down because we believe … that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.” These statements imply that when the church adopts the supposedly male psyche, it fulfills its purpose, but when it conforms to the supposedly female psyche, it becomes aberrant.
Murrow tries to avoid this conclusion by insisting that the church is healthiest when it looks like a marble cake, with masculinity and femininity present in equal parts. But what he gives with one hand, he takes away with the other. He says that women believe the purpose of Christianity is to find “a happy relationship with a wonderful man”—Jesus—whereas men recognize God’s call to “save the world against impossible odds.” Moreover, he claims to have history on his side. While the church was masculine, it fulfilled its purpose. But in the 19th century, women “began remaking the church in their image” (and they continue to do so), which moved the church off course.
Driscoll comes closest to imagining Jesus as the model of maleness when he argues that “latte-sipping Cabriolet drivers” do not represent biblical masculinity, because “real men”—like Jesus, Paul, and John the Baptist— are “dudes: heterosexual, win-a-fight, punch-you-in-the-nose dudes.” In other words, because Jesus is not a “limp-wristed, dress-wearing hippie,” the men created in his image are not sissified church boys; they are aggressive, assertive, and nonverbal.
This is an issue of man making Jesus in their own image – idolatry. The reason why Christianity and the gospel got lost in the Manly Man Resurgence was due to the ego and testosterone flinging ‘wannabes’ trying to bring men back in the church.
The results of testosterone being elevated above the Word of God has proven fatal.
Instead of men being ‘crucified with Christ’, men were having ‘coffees with Christ’. Instead of men picking up the cross to follow Jesus, men were picking up their iPad to follow men who inspire men on social media. Everything that made the controversial and organic ‘man’ in this movement ended up becoming contrived and well packaged for a male consumer market. This two-faced tension only fuels a certain market segment to seek out the next genuine controversial ‘down-to-earth’ manly man. You want to be an organic man? The Manly Man Resurgence will design it for you so you can be that man you always wanted to be.
Replacing Jesus with self.
This is why people like Carl Lentz were seen as fit to be the ‘man’ that would be slick and edgy enough to embody this two-faced conflicted idea of what a ‘real man’ looks like in church. It was never about character or someone who could actually handle the bible correctly.
Lentz had the aesthetics and lifetsyle of a hipster but the ‘bad boy’ elements to make him palatable for his Hillsong’s young target audience. Guys were more interested in being a ‘real man’ like Carl Lentz while young women swooned to see him because of his cool ‘bad-boy’ vibe – and it worked. However, this set-up has been a repeated formula of disaster within the Manly Man Resurgence. The message and practice of forgiveness and repentance is primarily absent from this testosterone gospel and Jesus can be constructed to whatever abstract male Carl wanted to make him. In this case, Carl’s Jesus reflected his own ego (emphasis added):
“I’ve called this message here this afternoon: occupy all streets… There were no streets that Jesus Christ did not impact. If you were poor, Jesus was coming for you, if you were rich, Jesus was not afraid of you, if you were a leper, Jesus was laying down with you until you got well, if you were an outcast, Jesus spent his whole life reminding people that ‘I came for you.’ I believe in that same way, what is represented in this room is the ability for us to occupy all streets with the light of the Gospel.” [Source]
Needless to say, there is no gospel within this movement, just an obsession with masculinity. But obsessing about masculinity and exalting ‘the man’ is dangerous in itself, especially if there is such a desire for men to ‘change the world’.
Consider this recent twitter post by Owen Strachan:
“God has staked everything on men.
Strong men are the foundation of a strong marriage.
Strong men are the foundation of a strong home.
Strong men are the foundation of a strong church.
Strong men are the foundation of a strong society.
God has staked EVERYTHING on men.”
Source: Owen Strachan, Twitter, Published March 31, 2022. (Accessed April 03, 2022.)
It is clear, this was an attempt to look clever, as Strachan followed up with this:
“Another way of saying this:
Christ is the spiritual foundation of everything and men are the anthropological foundation of all these institutions.
In Christ, men hold fast to–and are head of–one wife & family; men lead the church as elders; men must lead in public (Is. 3:12).”
Source: Owen Strachan, Twitter, Published March 31, 2022. (Accessed April 03, 2022.)
Nevertheless, Rohan Johnson, an elder from Winnetka Bible Church nailed the absolute problem witth this tweet:
I see what you’ve done here. I’ll fix this for you.
God has staked everything on Christ.
Christ is the foundation of a strong marriage.
Christ is the foundation of a strong home.
Christ is the foundation of a strong church.
God has staked EVERYTHING on Christ. Not you.
Source: Rohan Johnson, Twitter, Published March 31, 2022. (Accessed April 03, 2022.)
RECOGNISING THE MANLY MAN RESURGENCE.
An obsession with obsession, looks and masculinity.
Many of these modern churches appear to have no issue putting on conferences or events that appeal to a certain spiritual male stereotype of what men should be in the church. And while there are biblical expectations of what men and women should be within the church, a line is crossed when a theology is replaced with an unhealthy ideology on the role of men in the church today. Thus the root problem with the above tweet is wrapping scriptures around one’s idolatrous notions of what a ‘real man’ is.
Others have noticed how one can easily wrap their own ideas of masculinity around Jesus:
“However, I’m bothered by this bizarre attitude, when Christians try to wrap up [their] obsession with masculinity in a Jesus, church, and Christian theological ribbon. It’s almost as if these folks can’t come up with a legitimate defense of such an attitude, and instead decided to pretty it up with a few bible quotes and a nice Jesus bow in hope of giving their archaic attitude some sort of authority.” [Source]
The MMR is problematic because its entire focus within its culture puts pressure on men to be the best spiritual man at church, the best successful man in the business community, the best family man in the neighbourhood, the best handy man around the suburbs and the best social media man on digital platforms. Good luck with that.
Because ‘The Man’ is exalted within this cultic environment, the only thing that the ‘manly’ leader can then model himself off are the successful ways the modern man is presented in the world. Rather than imitate Godly elders or the life of Christ, (as scriptures expect us to do), for whatever reason, the Manly Man Resurgence appeals to men to be ‘Godly’ men according to modern day tastes and trending success stories.
Thus the ‘manly man’ is often advertised as being pure, handsome/cool/cute, fashionable, connected, noble, successful and authoritative. With the recent Hillsong Expose docuseries coming out on Discover +, the series explored the toxic environment that many women faced under the ministry of not just the Hillsong cult but Carl Lentz’s Wave Church.
As victims in Hillsong or Wave Church would have experienced, attempting to live up to an ideology of manhood or womanhood is very dangerous. This is because ideology is anchored in modern marketing. Churches are now continually presenting ideas what the current ideal man or woman looks like to a consumer market. The visual (the idol) is trumping scripture (the Word). With the rise of marketing and visual stereotypes distributed across visual platforms and church screens, men and women have become idolised in such a way that many Christian leaders and church attendees start bending the knee to an idea of what ‘man’, ‘woman’ or ‘sex’ is – without conforming to biblical definitions.
So it only makes sense for people to look up to a Carl Lentz or a Hillsong Youth Pastor as an idol for them to model their aesthetics or lifestyles on them rather than being a disciple of Jesus.
It is a far cry from Jesus Christ’s humility and servanthood portrayed throughout the New Testament. Placing such a burden on the leadership to have such ‘manly’ expectations can only lead to abuse because the culture is now determining how ‘the man’ should speak or behave to those under their ‘care’.
The unhealthy puritist ideologue to become the most ‘manly man’ within this culture only causes men (who do not think they can fit the stereotype) to spiral into despair. As a result, rather find comfort in the scriptures, they turn their back on Jesus because they are not into cars, camping, football or [insert manly man interests here]. They think there is something wrong with not just their spiritual walk but their minds and bodies.
While some within this global phenomena may go to their bibles, scriptures are treated more as devotionals to guide men to be better men. This is not technically a bad thing. However repeated church adverts showcasing chiselled men (often white) pumping weights in the gyms, good at sports, thriving successfully in business environment and so on, do not reinforce the right notions. Rather than seeing an actual humble godly man, we are seeing a ‘worldly man’. Worldly status and meaning is poured into this ‘manly man’, reinforcing in men that this is what they should be, exhausting and binding men to a form of legalism that only makes them despair.
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A focus on ‘warrior’ language (and fight clubs).
This section is huge. We’re not giving a lot of examples because there are so many but the MMR is obsessed with the concept of ‘knights, warriors and may push fight clubs or the concept of fight clubs’ within the church.
The emphasis on ‘testosterone’ in the MMR often leads to male-dominated excitement. They have no problem if their manly leaders yell at them or if elements of tribalism start to break out in age groups. The ‘testosterone drive’ within these types of churches have not only created unhealthy competition or rivalries (thus division) in churches, some have gone so far as to bring in ‘Fight Clubs’ or at least entertain the idea of a ‘Fight Club’ in a ‘Christian’ sense.
This from the Grace Community Church Fight Club page (emphasis added):
“In FIGHT CLUB 414, assignments and expectations are given—a creed is signed that each person must live by. The assignments have to do with pursuing Jesus, strengthening relationships, and getting in physical shape. There is a fight going on every day. We can choose to ignore it or forfeit. Or we can fight. We can live with purpose. We can strive to become the men our world needs us to be. We can be leaders and lovers and fighters for our families.”
Example 1 – Passion City Church
Here is Louie Giglio’s Passion City Church with his ‘Fight Club’:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7 — We want to be men who contend for what matters most. However, most of us realize that we aren’t going to fulfill our God-designed destiny alone. That’s why we are inviting every man to find a Fight Club, a group of 3-5 men who meet together on a consistent basis to spur one another on as we fight in four areas:
1. We want to fight for our walk with God.
2. We want to fight for our heart and character.
3. We want to fight for our family (and future family).
4. We want to fight for our brother.
After all, scripture teaches that we have a spiritual Enemy who is warring against us in each of these areas, and we are confident that a Fight Club is our best defense in the battle. These things are worth the fight.
Source: FIGHT CLUB – Worth the Fight, https://passioncitychurch.com/atlanta/fightclub/, Published June 27, 2018. (Accessed January 10, 2022.)
Example 2 – Grace Community Church
The above image is not satire. It was an article in Goshen News [archive link] that reported on the Fight Club [archive link] at Grace Community Church. The Report unknowingly captured some major theological concerns in the Fight Clubs goals:
“Their mission: To become warriors of the faith, to reach out to the community and to be leaders in the home.”
There’s the warrior language.
“Fight Club founder and Grace’s lead pastor, Jim Brown, said, “If you get the man, you get the family. If you get the family, you get the community. If you get the community, you get the world.”
Brown had the idea about 10 years ago when he “began watching the dumbing down of men in our society.” Within the past two years, Brown said, God began to shape this idea and soon “all this flesh came to this skeleton that was there.”
“Men need to step up and to lead their homes,” he said. They need to not be passive, be visible and “do something that calls men out to something eternal.”
And (emphasis added):
“Its goal: To awaken Christian men from mediocrity; to strengthen them emotionally, intellectually, physically and spiritually; to resurrect a true masculine community; and to mobilize them for maximum impact in their families, churches and communities.”
Note the legalism:
“Not all men will finish,” Brown said. “There is a three-strike rule. […] The assignments and other activities were designed to be intellectual, relational, physical and spiritual. “If they didn’t do one of the components, they’d receive a strike,” Brown said.
“It pushes us to discipline,” Yoder said, “disciplined in all areas of life. … If you’re not growing, you’re stagnating.”
And having the three strikes really, really pushes the men. “You don’t want to be that guy who didn’t make it,” Yoder said.
If this is not a church event or group, this could be quite productive. But not living up to the ‘masculine expectations’ in a spiritual community can have far reaching consequences.
THE PEACOCK, SWAN AND SILVERBACK.
There are some men that love the spotlight (peacocks), others that love to glide on stage and quickly leave (swans) and those that like to be in control of the entire show (silverbacks). These stereotypes dominate the Manly Man Resurgence and gravitate towards positions of power in the movement. There is nothing like the pride of man to get in the way of the gospel.
Christ builds his church, Christ does the saving – all pastors and leaders need to do is be faithful… and that is hard enough. But not the ‘bad boy’ pastor. The ‘bad boy’ pastor will keep repeating the same mistakes in these MMR-type churches. They want recognition. They want validation. And it’s like a drug. Receiving accolades for all your hard work can be addictive, especially when women recognise your success and status. But that is a sign of a child, demanding people noticing everything you do.
If the leaders in the MMR want to prove they are men, they should look no further than the scriptures (that they claim to know):
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16
The church is not about them – and unfortunately, many men focus on building a church to be approved by people. They want to be the Nebuchadnezzar of their movements. Thus we are very tempted to label the MMR gospel the Nebuchadnezzar gospel. Consider these scriptures that conjure the might and pride of ‘The Man’ Nebuchadnezzar:
“As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.” Daniel 3:5
“All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?” Daniel 4:28-30
Worldliness and pride is not something that exalts Christ. Their development into more ‘beast-like’ behaviour, as was with Nebuchadnezzar, seem to reflect God’s judgment on them.
Rather than men parading like peacocks or chest beating like silverbacks, the scriptures say we are not to be ‘aggressive and combative; it is humble and poor (Phil. 2:5ff)’, “We are most like Christ not when we win a fight, but when we suffer for righteousness’ sake (Eph. 5:1-2; 1 Thess. 1:6; 2:14).” As Brandon O’Brien from Christianity Today succinctly puts,
“Paul makes no distinction between masculine and feminine fruits of the Spirit. In fact, the evidence of the Spirit’s work looks very different from the qualities the masculinity movement suggests typify a “real” man. Instead of “brash, offensive” (Stine), “self-reliant, competitive” (Murrow), “punch-you-in-the-nose dudes” (Driscoll), Paul says that those who are filled with the Holy Spirit will be loving, patient, peaceful, kind, and gentle.”
We can only wonder if the leaders in the Manly Man Resurgence will hold on to their crowns while every other believer will throw them at the feet of Christ.
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“Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?” Galatians 4:16