We are back one more time with Eric Mason, a church planter who lives and ministers in the heart of Philadelphia. There he is the co-founder and lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship, and he is a husband, father, and the author of Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole.
Eric, yesterday you talked about how and why you explain manhood to the men in your neighborhood who don’t have the fundamental categories. How is godly manhood different from cultural machoness?
Well, we would connect cultural machoness more to Genesis 3: the fall. A Christian would say that cultural machoness is just man emphasizing the fact that he is responding rightly to the curse. He will dominate. It is a reflection of domination. And it is a reflection of external persona versus internal reality. And so, the whole cultural macho thing is just really a caricature and an attempt for man to put on paraphernalia of manhood versus being a man.
Wow, that’s a powerful way to put it. I want to talk about the local church. A remarkable point in your book is how you tie gospel mission to strong biblical manhood. On page 165, you talk about how the risk-less environment of a lot of local churches, NOT on mission, actually creates a boredom among the men. Explain how manhood and mission are connected in local churches.
One of the big things that I am learning from being a church planter is that I see the impact of vision-casting and what it has on men and people giving their lives to a cause. This is true of women, too, but it is even more true of men, because I do believe that God has given man a sort of conquering desire that is redeemed through Jesus Christ. Carl Ellis talks a lot about this in his dissertation that is going to get published on the difference between social concerns and core cultural concerns. He talks about how men are very much drawn to cultural concerns, not just relational concerns or social concerns.
“A lot of the reason men aren’t at the church: because we have very small God-sized visions.”
And so, one of the things that I think vision-casting does in global vision casting, not just community — I am in an inner city, so I believe in doing community ministry — we do it — but we are also building a school and helping empower church planting movements in Malawi to engage their own people in both Malawi and Uganda with the gospel. And so, with that in mind, as men are drawn to a broader vision than just a pastor’s personal vision or a local church, his personal vision in their neighborhood, I think that it is phenomenal for pastors to think through a lot of the reasons why some men aren’t at the church, because we have very small God-sized visions.
That’s a fascinating connection and you do a fine job of explaining this in the book. . . . Fatherlessness is a major problem of course. But fatherlessness, you write, can be manifested with a dad in the house who simply neglects the needs of his family. I think this is my biggest fear as a husband and father of three. I never feel like I have done enough. What are some warning signs for a father that would signal that maybe he’s physically there, but not engaged like he should be?
It is interesting. I read this book Fatherless America and it has different categories of fatherlessness, which is mind-boggling. I was watching The Incredibles with my kids one day and I will never forget it — this sounds weird, but I am going somewhere. One day, Mr. Incredible came home and he was living a mediocre life. He wasn’t Mr. Incredible anymore. Mom was at the table — it is interesting they made her Elasti-Girl — and she was trying to manage all of these different things. But even with her being so elastic and being able to break the kids up from fighting at the table and all of that, he walked away and was doing something else — and she asked him to engage.
And I never forgot that, because I looked at that as an example of how a father matters. You saw the impact on the children and especially his daughter — the impact of him not engaging in his family. And I think that men need to recognize that. Because one of the things that especially suburban men of different ethnicities can fall into the trap of is: Because they provide — and old, blue-collar men as well — because we provide and we work hard, that is enough for the family. And the issue is, it is not enough to just work and come home and sit because you are drained from being able to engage your family. No, one of the things that men have to do is they have to have moments and times regularly during the week in which they are specifically engaging in knowing where their kids are.
Sometimes we will eat in front of the TV, but other times we will eat at the table. I know people have got different views on that. But eating at the table is not just eating at the table, because you can still be present, asking them about their day, physically engaging them and having a trajectory for their spiritual formation and development. That is why I spent a chapter on vision — actually, it is within the family chapter. I am working on that idea of vision because most men can’t communicate a vision that they have for their household. They say, “I just want my kids to be good kids.” Even a good Christian man will say, “I just want to have a good marriage.” Well, what is the plan? That doesn’t just happen.
The Bible says that the plans of a man are established by the Lord (Proverbs 16:9). And so, that means God is sovereign, but he sovereignly works a plan. And so, that is why I said the plans belong to man, because the answer from the tongue belongs to the Lord, because man has been given responsibility under the sovereignty of God to plan (Proverbs 16:1). And so, for me that is something that men have to practically work on, because most men are being hit at by their wife, “Baby, can you lead? Baby, can you . . . ?” And they see it as a nag, but the reason why they are getting nagged is because they don’t have a plan.
That was Eric Mason, a church planter who lives and ministers in the heart of Philadelphia, with a good closing exhortation for us dads. Eric is the co-founder and lead pastor of Epiphany Fellowship. He is a husband and a father, and the author of the book Manhood Restored: How the Gospel Makes Men Whole. We are going to break for the weekend, and to all the fathers out there, have a wonderful Father’s Day weekend, and we will see you Monday on the Ask Pastor John podcast. I’m your host Tony Reinke. See you soon.