By Conrad Mbewe
I am on my way to preach at a men’s conference in Vancouver, Canada, and this question is bugging me: “Where are the men?” I am not asking where the men are who are supposed to attend the coming conference because I have no idea what the numbers signing up look like. Rather, I am asking where the men are in the families, in the churches, and in the nation. To be sure, I can see many of the male species in all these spheres but what irks me is that so few of them seem to be rising to the calling that God has given to them as men in society.
The missing men in the world
Look at the family, for instance. Many men are as good as absent. They seem to be content to being served rather than playing their God-given roles of presider, protector, and provider. There is little effort at leading family devotions, home maintenance, and discipling the kids.
In society where men were once dominant, the trend is also fast reversing. Apart from the push from the West to kick women out of the kitchen and put them at par with men in the business world, men seem to see the workplace as a place where you only go to make money. If that is so, then why should men have a bigger share of the workforce cake than women? What’s gender got to do with it? The fact that women are more biologically wired for the role of home making and baby nursing is not a matter for discussion. Do not even go there.
Thus, we now have men who are content to stay at home while their wives go off to work. It is amazing how many jobless and homeless men want to marry. When asked how they will look after their wives, they look at you as if you are asking them a question in rocket science.
Missing men in the church
The same can be observed in the church. Men prefer to simply drop off their wives and children at church and proceed to their recreational or economic activities. Those who make it to church sit back half-asleep and watch young people and women lead worship. Some time ago I wrote a blog post entitled, “Is the Evangelical Church in Africa glorifying God?” I asked questions about some disconcerting issues. My last question was, “Are we glorifying God when we have women preachers while men sit in pews and listen to them? The Bible teaches male headship in both the home and the church…all the way from Eden.”
In that post I went on to say, “The Bible teaches that the work of preaching must be carried out by mature and tested males (1 Tim. 2:11-14). Sadly, the number of women going around as pastors in Africa (while their husbands call themselves bishops or prophets or apostles) has reached epidemic levels. Are we sure God is being glorified by this kick in the face?” One pastor’s wife visiting Zambia soon after I posted the blog post said to me, “Conrad, the problem is the lack of men taking the initiative and providing leadership. My husband wants to use men but as soon as he asks them to do something they disappear into the grass!” This lady is not the only one complaining. You ask most church leaders and they will tell you that even if their membership roll is half male, most of the men in the church will disappear faster than dew in the morning if you attempt to give them any work. They just won’t do it.
The missing male role model
Where is the problem stemming from so that we can try and address it there? It is in the homes. Many men are brought up in homes with absentee fathers. Either they only have a single parent mother or they have a father whose moral example is a total disaster. The only proof of the father’s manhood is his adulterous affairs and fathering of their stepsiblings with other women outside the home. The male children in these homes know nothing about a man’s selfless leadership because they have grown up without one.
The only other time they see a man’s strength is when he turns into a brutish beast and beats up their mother. The strength that God gave him to protect and provide for the weaker vessel is instead abused to beat her into a pulp. What kind of men will come out of such homes? These sons see their dads do absolutely nothing in church except warming their seats. Thus although they themselves may be active in church as young lads, they look forward to their years of “retirement” from Christian service when they also grow up, marry, and have kids. It is a form of fulfilling the Scriptures that say, “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Jer. 31:29 and Ezek. 18:2). In other words, sons are being condemned to an effeminate lifestyle because of the disastrous example of their fathers.
What does God say about this?
It is clear that we have two genders in every species—male and female. Did the Creator have any reason for making two of each kind? He seems to have had a reason for everything else! In the cultural mandate, both Adam and Eve were to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). When the microscope of Scripture goes into the details of their work (2:1ff), it becomes clear that Adam was given charge even before Eve showed up.
“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat…” (Gen. 2:15-17).
There is no doubt that one vital role that God made man for was that of leadership. When he was about to make the first woman, Eve, God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18). Eve was made as a helper to Adam.
We can go further. In the 1,500 years in which the Bible was being penned, from Genesis to Revelation, you do not have a single female elder. The Son of God left twelve leaders for the church and not one of them was female. Dare we accuse our Maker of male chauvinism? The reason why humanity is in chaos and death today goes all the way back to Genesis when Adam failed to play the man. God said to him, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife… in pain you shall eat of [the ground] all the days of your life” (Gen. 3:17).
Adam failed to provide spiritual leadership at the most critical juncture in humanity’s history and we are still paying for it today. Sadly, today’s men are making the same blunder. Women are running the affairs of homes, churches, and nations while they sleep in the backseat. This criminal negligence by men must be arrested. Men must come out of the shadows where they are hiding behind women and take up the position that God wired them for. They must set an example to their sons of what a mature man is supposed to be. They must start doing so today!
About Conrad Mbewe
I have a bachelor’s degree in Mining Engineering and a PhD in Missions. I worked in the Zambian copper mines before becoming the first pastor of Kabwata Baptist Church in Lusaka, Zambia, in 1987. KBC is presently overseeing the establishment of about twenty new Reformed Baptist churches in Zambia and other African countries. I also maintain a full itinerant preaching ministry in different countries around the world. I love writing. I am the editor of Reformation Zambia magazine and have maintained a column in at least one weekly national newspaper for the last twenty-five years. I have written about forty booklets in my own country and have three books on the international market—Maintaining Sexual Purity (RSA, 2009), Foundations for the Flock (USA, 2011), Lessons from the Lives of Olive Doke and Paul Kasonga (UK, 2014). I am the principal of the Lusaka Ministerial College and the chancellor of the African Christian University in Zambia. I volunteer with the YMCA, providing vocational training to the many unemployed youths across Africa. I am married to Felistas, and we have been wonderfully blessed with three children plus two foster daughters.