Not long after hitting the send button on the May Conference Call column, an advertisement promoting a Father’s Day project hammered me. It read, “Men are in a battle for their souls…and you can help them win.” At the top of the page was an in-my-face reminder of some facts I had already encountered along the way, just not collected and presented as they were here:
“For every 10 men in your church…
- 10 are struggling to balance work and family
- 9 will have children leave the church
- 5 will have a serious problem with pornography
- 4 will get divorced
- 1 has a biblical world view” (*Free Report)
Unbelievable! This is big-time trouble for all of us. Recently I had a brief conversation with a grade school teacher in the Bakersfield, Calif., system that has been teaching fifth grade for 19 years. He was at a piano recital simply to show support for one of his previous students. I was impressed.
“How many more years are you going to do this?” I ask. That’s when the conversation took a turn. “Maybe one more if I can hold on,” he says. It is getting harder and harder each year, and it is all about the fact that parents are abdicating, he says.
A few decades ago I made a conscious decision to be an involved father. I didn’t bat 1,000, but I have no regrets that I took a good swing at it. Being there for my kids is one of the things that I am most proud of, in a humble sort of way. Balancing schedules is challenging, but getting this done is something every Jesus-loving dad ought not to sell off for a date with ESPN or the Internet. Maybe every dad ought to call a family counsel (ala Cosby) and talk this through until it’s evident that God is adding his blessing.
If a child leaving the church is a symbol of leaving the faith, I’m not sure there is anything more painful to think about. To be sure, anti-institutionalism is making another surge, but I don’t think that’s the centerpiece of this data. This is about kids deciding that they are not willing to commit to the kind of church family that they were raised in. Ouch! Is this about us, our churches or both?
The tsunami of pornography is of epic proportions. And though men are on the front lines, it is worth noting that of late, women are initiating about one third of porn Web hits. (Perhaps as a result of bad leadership of men?) Many homes are being negatively impacted.
Small wonder men need new honesty and the promise of safe haven inside the church when they admit their struggle and band together to take on this insidious enemy. May the likes of Covenant Eyes accountability increase and help to win the day.
Calling it quits on a marriage is hardly ever the right option, but a lot of men are doing just that. While Jesus calls us to repentance and reconciliation, the world says we can trade each other in. And then we struggle to heal the wounds, both parents and kids. Small wonder our Lord takes a stand against divorce. These days could be a perfect opportunity to demonstrate that Jesus-loving people go extra miles not to represent national divorce data. But let’s not forget mercy when divorce does happen.
Maybe all these struggles have the life they do because we are not thinking like Jesus would want us to about ourselves and each other, about his church and our world. If only one in 10 of us get that, we men need to find a new clue. May God help us all! And by the way, he’d like nothing better.
Ed Boschman is the executive director of the U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches.
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