Owen Strachan is the author of Risky Gospel: Abandon Fear and Build Something Awesome (Thomas Nelson). He is on Twitter (@ostrachan), leads CBMW, and directs the Henry Institute at Southern Seminary. He loves the Boston Celtics, scones, and his wife and three kids most of all.
What are some specific ways the pursuit of biblical manhood helps a man who may feel called to ministry?
Biblical manhood is not tame or weak. It doesn’t apologize for itself. The men of Scripture say things like, “Show yourself a man” (1 Kings 2:2) by which they mean “Be strong in the Lord and lead well!,” not “Wear shorts so you can display your hairy legs.”
Biblical manhood is grounded in the saving and transforming gospel of Jesus Christ. It calls us to be self-sacrificial men for others, not self-serving kings unto our own renown. This is the core conviction and instinct of a pastor. You’re not here to get a big podcast, to get sent out on the conference circuit, to write books that everybody reads. You’re here to die to yourself in the work of the gospel so that others might live. That’s it. Biblical manhood, which is only living in the image of Christ the church’s head, is foundational to pastoral ministry.
The Bible, unlike our modern culture, challenges men. It calls them to become something greater. It gives them a way bigger story and a much greater purpose than any other voice in the world. And it beckons men to risk their comfort and ease and low expectations and to step up and embrace responsibility, leadership, and self-sacrifice. In responding to this call by the power of the Holy Spirit, we become something noble, something greater than we thought we could be.
Biblical manhood is not machismo. It is not ordering people around. It is not proud. It is humble. It leads to men pouring themselves out for others.
It has produced many salutary effects:
- Men riding out against evil enemies to suffer and if necessary die to protect women and children.
- Men leading their families to adopt children who nobody wants, even though this will mean way less ESPN, golf, reading, and “me time.”
- Men getting involved with pro-life ministries to overturn the cycle of death and to protect the innocent.
- Men coaching Little League teams in their communities to get to know fatherless boys who are almost certain to go off the rails without a strong male figure in their life.
- Men who might never be a Senior Pastor or Lead Teacher picking up books like J. I. Packer’s Knowing God, Greg Gilbert’s What Is the Gospel?, and C. J. Mahaney’s The Cross-Centered Life in order to learn some stuff about the Bible and its core message in order to train their children in the faith.
- Men getting off the couch and chucking their iPhone across the room to get on the floor and wrestle with their kids even when very tired from a long day at work.
- Men giving up a week each year of beachside vacation to take the whole family on a mission trip to serve a desperately needy people they have absolutely nothing in common with.
Take away biblical manhood, and I conjecture that you take away the nobility and purpose that leads men to attempt great things for God, whether far away in the 10/40 window or in the suburbs of Birmingham.
What are a couple of common weaknesses you see in guys who desire pastoral ministry? How would you seek to address those weaknesses?
I see a desire for a name and ministry fame; a desire to reinvent the ecclesial wheel; and a hunger for power and control.
On the other side, I see a lack of courage, initiative, and risk.
A major counter to these problems, to which we are all prone in some way, is oddly enough to embrace biblical polity. I say without any sarcasm: embrace congregational church government. Recruit godly elders to “keep watch” over the souls in your care (Hebrews 13:17). Allow the local church to be what Jesus wants it to be: its own authority (Matthew 18:17). Don’t be threatened in the least by sharing the pulpit with your fellow elders. Don’t be scared at all of getting voted down in the elder’s meeting.
Ministry is not about us and our carefully-burnished image. We are not ministerial supermodels. We are those who delight in having a team of like-minded elders at the plow with us. Jesus was the Son of God, and he gathered twelve apostles to himself, and then—this takes your breath away—he sent them out in his supernatural name to carry on the work of his gospel.
If he was not threatened by that, we should not be either. Congregational polity is so good. It is a destroyer of pride, an angel of vengeance against ministerial self-sufficiency and celebrity pastoring. Elders labor together to care for the body; the local church itself is invested by God with the authority to care for itself.
What are some specific ways that pastors in the local church can better prepare men for ministry?
Invest in them. Identify them. Take them out on the church’s budget for a meal each week. Read Grudem’s theology with them, discuss it for a while, pray together.
Every great leader in the Bible develops the next generation—Jesus and Paul are the preeminent examples of this, but Moses and a host of other “ministers” lay this ground in the Old Testament. With this kind of model, how can we not do the same?
Pastors should focus on two major things in training men: 1) fashioning their character according to the elder qualifications of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 and 2) shaping their doctrine and ecclesiology. Lead your church to invest heavily in training future pastors. I saw this under my pastor, Dever, CHBC; under my pastor, Mike Bullmore, at Crossway Community Church in Kenosha, WI; I see it now at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville as Jim Hamilton and Denny Burk give sacrificially of their time to train the many, many seminary students who have flocked to the church. It’s a beautiful thing. A bell rings in heaven when a pastor takes a young man out for coffee, counsels him, challenges him to kill sin, and looks him in the eye and says, “Bro, you’re doing well. Keep pushing ahead in Jesus.”
A lesser known fact about you is that you occasionally moonlight as a rap artist. Do you have a stage name and does the seminary community at Southern know about this?
Yes, my sterling rap career has included many global hits, including “Boyce Anthem,” which reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and led to a lucrative side gig in Belgium. I jest. Actually, few people outside of my family have heard my raps. My old rap handle was Crosswords.
In total seriousness, I am in talks with a veteran producer about a new album. It’s taking a while, because I just wrote a book on Chuck Colson and the semester has started and CBMW is cranking to level 10. But it will be dropping. When it does, it will be…I was going to say “epic,” but I just realized that was not true, and so I will say, “hopefully not so mediocre that it ends my teaching career.”
There you go: the marketing campaign for my EP, coming (hopefully) in Spring 2015: “It will be hopefully not so mediocre that it ends Strachan’s teaching career!” Look out rap world. I’m gunning for you.