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I drive past several churches on my way into the office each day. It’s encouraging to see such a frequent reminder of God’s visible Kingdom on a regular basis. This morning, however, I saw a sign for one of these churches that frustrated me. The sign at this prominent Baptist church read,
with Dr. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Wonderful Wednesdays? Please. That’s the type of stuff that’s guaranteed to keep any hairy, red-blooded, NASCAR loving man from ever darkening the door of a church. In fact, it’s just one of many reasons why most men find churchgoing to be just plain irrelevant to their lives and only fit for women and children.
I’ll never forget a story my father once told me when I was just a skinny kid back in the hills of West Virginia. It was a true story about one of our beloved neighbors.
This particular neighbor is a good and rugged man who raised several hundred head of cattle on hundreds of acres surrounding our property each year. His farm has been in operation for several generations predating the War Between the States.
Like many God-fearing West Virginians, you could find him at the local Baptist church on the Lord’s Day. One particular Sunday, however, this strong and gentle farmer did something that caused the congregation to swoon. He brought wine to church to celebrate the Lord’s supper. No, it wasn’t Welch’s grape juice. It was real wine—the kind that is made out of fermented grapes. The kind that Jesus made out of water at the Wedding in Cana and drank with his disciples at the Last Supper. Needless to say, this caused such an embarrassing stir that this good farmer has, to our knowledge, never been back to church.
For 2,000 years the church has been ruled by real men and served real wine at the Lord’s Table. But ever since the 1920s, churches of every stripe have been slowly emasculated and feminized. Even churches that don’t allow women to preach or hold office are still highly feminized. I remember going to a Baptist church once that required men to shave their facial hair a sign of "separation from the world." What? I guess it doesn’t matter that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, wore a beard.
So what was an American church like before Praise Teams, Welch’s grape juice, "spikey-haired" youth pastors, and "Wonderful Wednesdays"? In early American History churches were filled with clergy and laymen who were willing to fight and die for their convictions if necessary. They didn’t consider church to be a feel-good social club. It was the spiritual center of American culture and fanned the flames of liberty and freedom that we cherish today.
During the War of Independence there was a group of heroic men referred to as the "Black Regiment". The very name enraged the British armies. As heroes in the war, their courage and leadership were hailed throughout the colonies from Massachusetts to Georgia…This "Black Regiment" was responsible for providing the conviction and wisdom necessary for winning a war against the cruelty of an unjust government. What was the "Black Regiment"? Actually, it wasn’t a regiment at all. It referred to the American Presbyterian, Congregationalist, and Baptist clergy….So potent was the preaching which compelled the colonists that, quite often, the War of Independence was referenced in Parliament as "the Presbyterian Revolt". In retaliation, during the war, British troops made Presbyterian and Congregationalist churches military targets… So impressive was the pulpit in providing leadership, that the Sons of Liberty often organized their followers in the church buildings and through the church officers. The Minutemen very often found their leadership in elders and deacons of the churches….
Of course, when the epic struggle began, church authority was responsible for calling men to action. Pastors often led the colonists in actual battle. The Rev. Jonas Clark was with his flock at Lexington green. In fact, "Old Jonas" had sworn never to run from British guns and proved it when he fell from a musket ball. Trying to fire from the ground, he was "run through" with a British bayonet. Another "member" of the "Black Regiment", the Rev. James Caldwell became famous when, during battle, he supplied the much needed paper wadding for the muskets from his church hymnals. Returning to the battle front with an armful of Isaac Watts hymnals he exclaimed, "Now boys, give ’em Watts!"
Such were the clergy and the church at large in the formation of this great Republic. But…the question remains. Will such leadership distinguish the clergy of this generation?
We wonder why the church has been driven under ground culturally in America. Will the church ever return to provide the strong masculine leadership our nation enjoyed in it’s early years? I believe so. And when it does, I’m sure that the churches will be full of real men ready to advance the Kingdom of Christ at all costs.