Oh to be a Mighty Man

2009-05-06 00:00

Many people have been reflecting on the phenomenon of Angus Buchan’s recent Mighty Men Conference (MMC) which drew 200 000 men to his farm in Greytown for a Christian discipling conference.

Yes, I would like to have been there, but the airlift to get me there over the traffic jams for the one day my schedule allowed fell through as the Greytown airport was closed. I’m sure I would have benefited from the challenge to be a better Christian, husband, father, parishioner and citizen.

Inevitably, people are trying to explain or understand this phenomenon. Thus Stephen Coan’s piece in The Witness (April 23) quotes assorted explanations. Some said this is men attempting to reconsolidate fragmenting notions of masculinity in response to militant feminism or “reconsolidating as powerful men to reaccess a patriarchal view of men”. Others said men are “renegotiating their masculinity” and “promoting” what are perceived to be “masculine characteristics”. There is reference to “the chord” struck among many Afrikaner men who “are a bit rudderless and leaderless”.

Some of this may be so. And I wouldn’t deny the presence of psychological or psychosocial factors. Even the label Mighty Men could have a built-in pressure saying to men: “If you don’t go you’re not a Mighty Man.”

I prefer to interpret it in the following terms.

Firstly, the call factor. Buchan has received, as he claims, a genuine call from God to disciple and encourage men. And he is being obedient and spectacularly blessed in that obedience.

Secondly, there is the fellowship factor referred to by Methodist farmer, Gerald Walsh. Everybody wants fellowship and people search for it everywhere from clubs and reading groups to pubs, sports crowds or political youth leagues. But none of those arenas can hold a candle to true Christian fellowship in Christ. The sad indictment on most Christian congregations is that many men don’t feel they find it there.

Thirdly, and related, is the homogeneous unit factor. This principle knows that most people, whether students, school children, business leaders, civic or political leaders, rural people, specific language or tribal groups are most effectively reached spiritually and ministered to within homogeneous units of like-minded people. In our African Enterprise work across Africa we see this all the time. Likewise this is why many churches have women’s, men’s, youth or Sunday school groups.

Fourthly, there is the relevance factor. When did any man in church last hear a really relevant sermon on how to be a better husband, father, marketplace leader, or have male emotional, sexual, professional or leadership problems seriously addressed? Buchan challenges men deeply and relevantly in these arenas. Men like that and respond.

Fifthly, the failure factor. As I discovered in the nineties in addressing assorted stadium throngs in the United States during the height of the Promise Keepers Men’s Movement, men often feel they are failing at a number of levels and need help. They feel they are failing as husbands, fathers, marketplace leaders, Christian witnesses, parishioners and citizens. Promise Keepers, like Buchan, struck this chord and for years packed vast U.S. stadia with hundreds of thousands of men seeking help and ministry. And, as I am sure is also happening now in the Mighty Men Movement, multitudes of wives, children, families, pastors and communities felt grateful afterwards for the transformed men coming back resolved to do better.

No, it’s not about patriarchy but about male service, servant-leadership, sacrificial love and fulfilling godly Christian responsibilities. And if a man returns from MMC more domineering, less loving and less caring of his wife and children, then for sure the exercise has aborted and can be justly criticised.

For my part I say, good on ya, Angus, and may all of us, this sinner included, have the humility to learn from you.

• Michael Cassidy is the founder of African Enterprise.

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