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What your church should be learning from Jordan Peterson when it comes to reaching young men


The church needs more young men.


There is a growing restlessness in the hearts of young men all over the western world. After more than 3 decades of continuous cultural shifts of tectonic proportions resulting in the a complete reshaping of gender identity and the roles of those specific genders within the home, church and indeed broader society as a whole; many men, young men especially, find themselves struggling to find clear pictures of healthy, socially acceptable and attractive models for modern masculinity.


And the same is true in the church, where we see a massive decline amongst young men more than any other demographic.


It seems as though after so many years of growing confusion around the place and purpose of masculinity; men have stopped listening and are lacking in meaningful examples of positive, strong & godly manhood.


It seems as though after so many years of growing confusion around the place and purpose of masculinity; men have stopped listening...

Many are labelling this a ‘crisis of masculinity’. And with the perceived majority becoming increasingly hostile to heterosexual masculine male models; few are able to rally or even reach this group.


One such person is Dr. Jordan B. Peterson.


image from https://www.jordanbpeterson.com/


Dr. Peterson is an award winning author, international public speaker, clinical phycologist and a leading figure in the growing libertarian movement worldwide. He is the author of over 50 books, with his best seller (12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos) selling over 5 million copies since being published in 2018.


Dr. Peterson’s meteoric rise to international prominence came as a surprise to many, not to mention the wide reach of his audience as evidenced in the demographics of those who seem to resonate with his message the most: young men.


With a growing subscription base of almost five million YouTube subscribers*, Dr. Peterson has been able to speak to and attract a substantial online following of young people, male and female. However, it is also clear that the hearts and minds of young men in particular are being touched by his message.


*56% of YouTube's total users are male, while 44% are female (Hootsuite/ WeAreSocial, 2021)

And what is the message that seems to be so attractive to this growing movement of restless young men?


Perhaps it's a call to greatness, or a post modern view of one’s being ‘born to do great things’ which is so typical of recent decades?


Well, as surprising as it may be, the main subject matter contained in his most famous book: '12 Rules for Life' is the appropriate human response to life’s proclivity toward suffering, the human inclination to malevolence and the true nature of the world in which we live: CHAOS.


And what is solution Dr. Peterson offers his audience in the face of such despair and difficulty?


Simple:

The key to understanding the chaos of human suffering is personal responsibility.


Dr. Peterson’s challenge for human beings to rise up in the face of suffering and take responsibility for themselves, their behaviour and their story has struck a preverbal cord at a profound level of the soul that has resonated world-wide. And with no-one more so than young men.


As intriguing as this may be, however, the question must be asked:


What relevance does this have (if any) to the local church?


And more specifically; what lessons could the church learn from this growing cultural phenomena as it pertains to our ability to reach young men?


I believe there are a number of pertinent observations from Dr. Peterson’s impact within this increasingly unreached demographic that may be informative and insightful to our own strategy when it comes to our ability to reach, engage & empower young men.


Firstly, we need to note that these cultural shifts affect the church, not only in a ecclesiological sense (in terms of general church demographic); but also missiologically (in terms of our ability to reach young men in particular).

Being ‘in the world but not of it’ does not preclude us from experiencing many of the same challenges that society faces. And the crisis of male identity is not reserved to those outside the church alone; there is evidence of this in the church also.


The result of a weak theology of masculinity over time and a missiology that is built on ‘convenience’ as opposed to calling (which is as watered down as the cup of coffee one might find at a rest stop) is causing many young men to struggle with engaging meaningfully in the vision of our local churches.


The result of a weak theology of masculinity over time and a missiology that is built on ‘convenience’ as opposed to calling (which is as watered down as the cup of coffee one might find at a rest stop) is causing many young men to struggle with engaging meaningfully in the vision of our local churches.

So what will it take to reach young men?


1. We need to offer young men a life calling that transcends all the momentary pleasures of life, and a cause that not only makes sense of our suffering, but makes it worthwhile.

In order to win the ear of young men we need to rethink our presentation of the Gospel from a ‘nice & friendly’ convenience driven decision to a rally call, an adventure and a cause.


To win the hearts of such people however, we must also actively seek out, raise up and release role models who authentically live out the vision and values propagated in our message.


Which leads us to this -


2. We need to see that young men inside and outside the church are equally in search of positive masculine role models worth following. This is striking considering the Christian faith was founded upon and is sustained by the greatest man to have ever lived: JESUS CHRIST.

We need to rediscover the masculinity of Jesus and intentionally invite men to step up in every area of life and follow Christ’s example of being ‘meek and manly’. To take responsibility in the face of life’s challenges and find personal meaning in service.


3. We must develop a robust theology of suffering that calls all people (young men in particular) to trust God in the face of intense trial, but in which one is also challenged to take up some sort of responsibility in the face of it and find a way to work out God’s will in spite of it.


In conclusion then; We need to present a Gospel that is robust enough to survive life’s most difficult challenges and whose reward is worth any and all suffering that life might bring.


In doing so, we can re-open the way for young men to grow, to mature and to lead in the church of the future...


In the words of the later leadership author and speaker Edwin Louis Cole;


“Maturity comes not with age but with the acceptance of responsibility. You are only young once but immaturity can last a lifetime!”




Jamie Corcoran is the Lead Pastor of Lighthouse Church, a multi-site church in Navan and Dublin, part of the Further Faster Network.

You can hang out with Jamie at the Further Faster Conference in June - book now here: www.furtherfaster.network/conference

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