The New York Times Magazine ran a story this past week called “What is it about 20-Somethings?” looking at the new life stage of emerging adulthood. The article echoed what other recent studies are showing and something we’ve been saying at Mars Hill Church for awhile: The world today is filled with boys who can shave.
Historically, a guy would go through two life phases: boy, then man. The transition from boy to man was comprised of five sociological variables that happened almost simultaneously or in very close succession:
1. Leave your parents’ home (Gen. 2:24);
2. Finish your education or vocational training;
3. Start a career-track job, not a dead-end-Joe job;
4. Meet a woman, love her, honor her, court her, and marry her;
5. Have children with her.
But here’s what’s happened. Rather than moving from boy to man by this succession of sociological transitions, we’ve created something called adolescence. It’s a third life stage in the middle between boy and man. We don’t know what to call them so we just call them guys. These are boys who can shave.
Today, adolescence starts somewhere in the teen years and continues indefinitely. There is no foreseeable end. The problem with adolescence is guys don’t know when they’re ever going to grow up and be men, and no pressure is exerted on them to do so.
Is it when you’re sixteen and you can drive, or eighteen when you can vote and join the military, or twenty-one when you can drink?
Is it when you graduate from college after you’ve worked on your undergrad degree for seven or eight years?
Is it when you get married? Is it when you have kids? Is it when you buy a house?
No one knows. So, we are left with indefinite adolescence and a Peter Pan Syndrome epidemic where men want to remain boys forever.
Men in the World: Childish Consumers
The Apostle Paul says, “When I was a boy, I talked like a boy, I thought like a boy, I reasoned like a boy. When I became a man, I put childish and boyish ways behind me” (see 1 Cor. 13:11). A lot of guys don’t, as if responsibility is a bad thing and the longer you can prolong it, the more masculine you are. That’s the world. It’s absolutely childish and it’s consumerism.
The marketing sweet spot for many companies is young men ages eighteen to thirty-four. These guys don’t know what it means to be a man, and so marketers fill the void with products that define manhood by what you consume rather than what you produce.
The tough retrosexual guys consume women, porn, alcohol, drugs, television, music, video games, toys, cars, sports, and fantasy leagues, as if being a man is defined by how much meat you can shove through your colon, how many beers you can pound, how fast you can drive, how stinky you can fart, how hard you can hit, how far you can spit, how loud you can belch, and how big your truck is.
The artsy, techie metrosexual types consume clothes, decaf lattes, shoes, gadgets, cars (not trucks), furniture, hair products, and underwear with the names of very important people on the waistband. For them, manhood means being in touch with one’s feelings, wardrobe, and appearance.
A legion of moms and girlfriends enable these boys who can shave. They pay his bills, pick up his messes, loan him their car, and refill his sippy cup with beer or martinis, depending upon his preference. Girlfriends, gal friends with benefits, and miscellaneous other mannies (nannies for men) need to know this: you want a guy you can marry and have babies with. You don’t want to marry a guy who’s a baby.
Men are supposed to be producers, not just consumers. You’re defined by the legacy, the life, and the fruit that come out of you, not by what you take in. But most guys are just consumers.
Men in the Church: Cowards and Complainers
What happens if you walk into the church and try to find out what a man looks like? First of all, you’re not going to find a lot of guys in most evangelical churches. The least likely person to see in church is a single, twenty-something male. He is as rare at church as a vegan at a steak house.
In the world, boys who can shave are children who are consumers. In the church, boys who can shave are cowards who are complainers.
A buddy of mine calls them evangellyfish because they have no backbone. They don’t declare a major, church, theology, or fiancé. They don’t want to fail and they think if they don’t try, then they can’t fail. And by definition, that’s a failure.
They are, however, endowed with the spiritual gift of complaining. They say, “I hate the church. The church just wants my money.” As if the church wants his futon, Xbox, light beer, and computer filled with free Internet porn.
Here’s the cold hard truth: it’s a lot harder to do something than it is to complain about those who are doing something. The notorious sin of Christian guys is complaining about guys who are doing something rather than doing something.
Real Men: Creators and Cultivators
Paul says a man is “the image and glory of God” (1 Cor. 11:7). He is to reflect the truth, goodness, love, and mercy of Jesus, his God and Savior. He is the glory of God.
I have no hope in guys. But I still have hope for the guys because they are the glory of God. God wants his glory to shine through men. God wants his kingdom to be made visible through them. God wants them be his sons. God wants them to follow, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the example of Jesus.
I don’t care if you buy a truck or play some video games or rock out on your guitar. But the problem is when those are prevalent, predominant, and preeminent in your life. Some of you guys would argue and say, “It’s not a sin.” No, but sometimes it’s just dumb. You got fired because you were up trying to get to the next level and become a guild leader. That’s dumb. You work one part-time job so you can play more guitar or Frisbee golf. That’s dumb. You spend all your money on a new car or truck, or toys, or gear, or clothes, or gambling, or fantasy football. Dumb. Some of you say, “Well, it’s not a sin.” Neither is eating your lawnmower. It’s just dumb. There are a lot of things that Christian guys do that aren’t evil, they’re just dumb and childish.
Men, you are to be creators and cultivators. God is a creator and a cultivator and you were made to image him. Create a family and cultivate your wife and children. Create a ministry and cultivate other people. Create a business and cultivate it. Be a giver, not a taker, a producer and not just a consumer. Stop looking for the path of least resistance and start running down the path of greatest glory to God and good to others because that’s what Jesus, the real man, did.