This past weekend I attended the second day of the Act Like Men Conference, a large traveling event that made its So Cal stop in Long Beach, CA. Before I get to my real takeaways, here are some of my initial musings. (Please read the following few thoughts with sarcasm.)
Men like to insult, boo, and laugh at each other.
You must introduce each speaker at a men’s conference with no less than his name in big letters, and in the background steel being sharpened and sparks flying.
And finally…if you want to have a legit contemporary worship band, you need to have at least one guy with a British accent.
To be serious for just a few moments, I intended to wait a couple of days before sharing my thoughts, because I figured anything I can still recall two days later is what really meant something to me, both negatively and positively. With that, here are my top three takeaways.
1) Matt Chandler- Stand Firm in the Faith
I got there just as this speaker was beginning, and I was glad I did. His message ended up being much different from what I expected to hear, especially considering the portion of 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 he was covering. I appreciated the reminder that it is possible to draw a line in the sand, dig my heels in, and be standing firm in completely the wrong place. My faith can be misplaced, dead set on a dead end. So, what is the “right” place to be standing firm? According to Matt Chandler, my faith needs to be in the all-sufficient grace of God. There is nothing that God in His great grace and love cannot forgive and transform. Who do I think I am that I can out-do God’s love with my sin? While this is not anything new to me, I can never have too many reminders like this. And it sure does keep me humble.
2) Mark Driscoll- Be Strong
I was most intrigued to hear this pastor speak, not because I am a huge fan of his, but because I wanted the chance to hear first-hand his controversial style and message. I have actually heard a lot of negative commentary on what he teaches and the way he leads his church, so I was eager for the chance to hear him speak live for myself. For better or worse, he did not disappoint.
He yelled. He was opinionated. He called out the “dirty old men” in the crowd. He challenged men who were living as cowards, who were not living like the men God wanted them to be, to stand and identify themselves in front of everyone. It would have been very easy to dismiss whatever he was actually talking about, based on what could rightfully be considered public shaming and verbal abuse. Even if you are of the belief that men need tough and even harsh love in order to respond, it can’t be good to create a culture where a pastor regularly talks to people that way.
But one of the things I learned during my years in a cult and under an abusive and manipulative pastor is to glean spiritual truth, in spite of the less-than-desirable approach. So, what did I learn from this intimidating man? I am a link in a chain, and the responsibility is no one’s but mine to be the strongest link I can be. I am privileged to have a dad who loves God and who raised me to have faith in this God; he is a man who is a living example to me of integrity, hard work, and steadfast faith. He is the first link in our family chain, and he is a strong one. So, the big challenge to me? Am I going to be the next strong link in the chain, and will I raise my kids to be the same? Simple answer: Yes.
3) James McDonald- Let All That You Do Be Done in Love
Everything that James McDonald said can be summed up in these simple and easy-to-remember phrases: In the majors, action. In the minors, acceptance. To explain, it doesn’t matter what I do, how I remain watchful, stand firm in the faith, or be strong; as I Corinthians 13 so succinctly puts it, if I do it all without love, I am nothing. And love means knowing that I cannot and should not feel I need to win or even fight every single battle. I must honestly assess every situation, and whether it is a major or minor issue. If it is major, then do something about it. Don’t fight about it, complain about it, don’t mistreat my family over it. Do something about it, even if that means just listening.
And in the minor issues, the pet peeves, the personal preferences, learn to accept people. If it’s minor, it’s minor.
This was by far the most powerful reminder for me. See, I have an anger issue. I have shared as much in previous posts. I am generally able to keep it together in public settings, even under pressure and stress. People have even complimented me on this, but I know the truth about me. In reality, my beloved wife has asked me why I can be so patient and kind with others, but not so much with her and our kids. And this kills me.
Who cares what I do as a pastor? How I care for youth? How I reach out to our community? How I lead the congregation in worship? Who cares, if I don’t act in love with the people closest to me? In this way, I desperately want to see change in my own heart. I am a jacked up man, in need of a Savior. And I am so thankful that God still accepts me, though I’m sure he does not accept my behavior sometimes. Still, I want to be a better man than the shameful one I know I can be sometimes. I love my wife and my kids, but if I cannot show them the love they need and deserve, then I’m not sure I have any business being a pastor. No, I am determined to show them the love they need and deserve.
In conclusion, there was nothing mind-blowing or brand new about what I received at the Act Like Men Conference. But what did resonate with me were messages of truth that I needed to hear, and that I’m sure I will need to hear again. I am a man in a dark and dangerous world, but also a man who puts his faith in a strong and steadfast God. And I can never have too much truth.