I'm lost. Can anyone help?
Imagine you are sent out to do a survey, clipboard in hand. You pick out 100 men randomly from a crowded street and ask them questions, first about physical fitness, then about spiritual fitness. Some of these guys are straight out of a CrossFit gym and look as if they could star in the next Captain America film. Others are poster boys for Dunkin Donuts. You begin by asking them basic questions about physical fitness such as the following: what constitutes physical fitness, how is it improved, and what are the benefits of maintaining it. A lot of guys, perhaps the majority, would be able to give simple answers to all of these questions. Both the doppelganger of Michael Phelps and the fraternal twin of the Marshmallow Man would be able to say something about how physical fitness requires regular exercise and a balanced diet. They could comment on methods of improving cardio and muscle tone, as well as outline the importance of physical fitness for reducing risks of heart disease and diabetes. Filling out the questionnaire, you would conclude that when it comes to physical fitness, for most guys, ignorance is not the problem. Self-control is.
Now imagine that you ask the same guys similar questions about spiritual fitness: what is it, how do you improve it, and what are the benefits of maintaining it? How would they respond? Most men would look at you with the mental clarity of an armadillo in the headlights. They could better describe their wives’ feelings about the latest Hugh Grant film than the nature and purpose of spiritual fitness. If you were speaking to Christian men, they might be able to mumble out a few words about the importance of going to church, prayer, or having a quiet time. However, the conversation would last no longer than a lit match. If the guys were non-Christians, the best you could hope for would be words like meditation, life-purpose, and mindfulness slung together with the care of condiments on a Macdonald’s hamburger.
Here is the point: guys don’t know what spiritual fitness is. The degree of ignorance on this topic is startling. You can talk to guys about financial planning, about mental health, about how to refurbish a kitchen or purchase a home, about the merits and demerits of political parties, even debate with them about whose pizza is better, Dominoes or Pizza Hut. About all of these topics men have knowledge, opinion, even conviction. Not so with spiritual fitness. In comparison to these topics, spiritual fitness is like the ocean floor – dark, unmapped, and happily ignored.
This explains an essential aspect of the derelict condition of male spirituality. Christian men cannot pursue spiritual fitness because they do not know what spiritual fitness is. The average man today is not like a student struggling to pass Calculus because, in spite of diligent effort, he is unable to master the basic principles. This example assumes a student with a clear understanding of the task at hand. Not so with spiritual fitness. The average man is much closer to a frat boy who is skipping class because he genuinely believes college is about learning more efficient ways to chug beer, not about earning a degree. (The tragedy of so much of modern life is the sincerity with which it is pursued.) Such is the spiritual plight of contemporary men. Ignorance blinds men from the spiritual purpose of life; they settle for less because they don’t know there is more.
Christian leaders need to appreciate the degree to which ignorance hinders the spiritual development of men. To say this is not to claim that ignorance is the only problem, or even the biggest problem, men face. The road of discipleship is littered with landmines and booby traps including twisted desire, diabolical temptation, personal slothfulness, and habituated sin. But most of these are talking points in churches. Less so with ignorance. Too often pastors and Christian leaders buy into a hereditary fallacy, believing that the basic code of Christian character, doctrine, and lifestyle is passed from one generation to the next like language or skin color. They admonish guys to pray more, to prioritize spiritual development, to pursue Christ, assuming that their audience understands what they are talking about. Most guys don’t. They are like the Israelites in Egypt, told to make bricks without being given the straw needed to make them.
The mission of Cross Training Ministries is to fix this. We believe every man needs three things: a clear understanding of what spiritual fitness is, an effective strategy for growth, and a band of brother to journey beside. If you would like to hear more about the ministry we are creating, sign up for our newsletter.