Q&A: Words to recharge men’s spiritual lives

Derek Maul wants to inspire more men to go “all out” for their Christian faith. That’s the topic of his recently published book, 10 Life-Charged Words: Real Faith for Real Men (Upper Room Books, 2012).

Mr. Maul worships at First Presbyterian Church in Brandon, Fla., where his wife, Rebekah, is senior pastor. He answered questions via email from staff writer Mary Jacobs; here are excerpts.

So, in 10 words or less, what are the 10 words?

Jesus, excellence, passion, capacity, Scripture, holiness, clarity, prayer, authenticity, community. Or, for a less than 10-word sentence, “Subheadings that facilitate life in our discipleship.”

What do you mean by “life-charged”?

I believe a lot of Christian men go through the motions of faith with the minimum trickle of power animating their experience. The idea of “life-charged” came to me when I was thinking about what the average “man in the pew” needs if he is to break out of the slump that has defined too much of men’s ministry in recent years. What we need, I

Derek Maul

realized, is a charge of life! What the church needs is more men who own a day-to-day experience of living faith that looks authentic . . . and worthy of the monumental sacrifice Jesus made on the cross. My vision is to see every church with a core group of men so animated by a life-charged faith that any ministry they’re involved with will catch fire.

What were your criteria for selecting these 10 words?

I started out by looking at what’s missing, and what’s missing appears to be consistent across “mainline” denominational lines. Many men have lost touch with the excitement, the passion, the thrill, the sense of joy that Jesus was referencing when we said that he offers, “Real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of” (John 10:10, The Message). I found around 30 words, sorted them down to 10 that get to the core of the message, and tried my best to present the challenge in a way that’s both practical and encouraging.

The first word is “Jesus,” who is obviously at the center of our faith as United Methodists and Christians. What is the specific point you wanted to make about Jesus?

Short answer: There is no life to our faith unless Jesus is at the center of absolutely everything we are and do. But Jesus makes a lot of Christians nervous. He’s demanding, he gets in our business, he’s not politically correct, and he wants this personal relationship. So we tend to steer around Jesus, concentrate on social issues, do good works, talk about being wholesome and family-oriented, and try to stay clear of the challenge to fall in love with Jesus and to follow him.

You write: “A number of the men I talk with feel as if their spiritual life is dying on the vine.” Is this somehow experienced differently, or more acute, for men?

It’s more acute for men because we are less intuitively relational and spiritual than women. Unless otherwise encouraged, men tend to drift to the periphery and disengage from church. Consequently, men who have lost touch with the urgency and the passion of their Christian experience are in serious need of re-engagement, but most won’t do it unless they’re specifically invited, unless there is something specific going on that captures their interest. However, men with a faith that has become charged with life (or recharged) tend to find reasons to stay in the community of faith, to serve, to lead and to invite others.

How does “holiness” apply in daily life for a typical layman who sits in the pews?

Briefly, holiness is not about being perfect, it’s about being in the presence of God. Un-holiness, then, is anything that takes us out of fellowship with God. Pornography, for example, is something Christian men become caught up in just as much as those outside the church. It disrespects the image of God; it takes us out of fellowship with God; it saps power and effectiveness from our discipleship; it drives a wedge between men and any significant relationship. Other examples include absolutely anything that compromises our witness. Unkindness, greed, profanity, negativity—these things all dishonor God and contradict Christ’s initiative of love. Holiness, then, is reclaiming the “made in the image of God” part of our identity as Christian men. Holiness not only adds a charge of life, it adds a whole new layer of effectiveness to our discipleship.

Talk a little about the word “clarity” and what that means.

Jesus used the idea all the time. “Do you not have eyes?” “Can’t you see clearly?” “Are you people even listening?” Clarity is about honing in on the message and learning to both hear and see the message of Jesus clearly. Halfway through one miracle, the blind man said, “I see men as trees walking . . .” (Mark 8:24). Sometimes I fear that we’re stuck there, unable (or unwilling) to receive the Good News in clear focus. Jesus, when asked what was important, essentially said that we cloud the message with layers of laws, preconceptions, politics and more. The Pharisees created something like 83,000 rules. Jesus clarified it down to two: Love God and love your neighbor. Everything else hangs on this.

What do you hope your male readers will ultimately take away from this book?

To realize that the decision to follow Jesus is actually the decision to step into the amazing possibilities that God had in mind when he first created us. I want guys to be encouraged, and to understand that Jesus did not die on the cross in order for us to live uninspired, tragically forgettable lives. Jesus came to bring life in all of its fullness.

mjacobs@umr.org

Mary Jacobs

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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