For he today that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here!
(Henry V, act IV, scene iii)
A World Horizons field leader attended a recent missions conference with his teenage son. His son looked around at the attendees and then turned to him and asked, ‘Dad, where are the young men?’ The question lodged in that leader’s gut and became a prayer: Father, where are the young men?
The shortage of young men in full time missions is well known. These days it’s not the women who want to play safe. It’s the men.
Wild at heart
John Eldredge nailed it in his 2001 bestseller Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul. ‘What were your boyhood dreams?’ asks Eldredge. Boyhood dreams are simple: a Battle to fight, a Beauty to win, an Adventure to live. On arrival at manhood, boyhood dreams too often fade and we settle for smaller goals – surviving the 9 to 5, staying in control, going to church, being a Nice Guy.
What self-respecting boy ever dreamed of being a Nice Guy? The author writes, ‘The root of all our woes and our false self is this: we were seeking to save our life and we lost it. Christ calls a man beyond that. “Whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35)’
Eldredge and his sons are outdoors types. ‘Wild at Heart’ starts with elk-hunting, ends with mountaineering and takes in canoeing and wrestling along the way. Outdoor pursuits are written about as an end in themselves as well as a testing ground for strong Christian character.
But I want to do more than canoeing, don’t you? What is God saying to us men? Read between the lines of ‘Wild at Heart’ and then lift your eyes to the nations. What do you see?
A Battle to fight
There is something fierce in the heart of every man, a fierceness intended for battle against the world, the flesh and the devil. The missional mind sees this battle being waged in the nations and longs to be conscripted. What makes your blood boil? Corruption? Malaria? Exploitation? Spiritual hopelessness? Pollution of local water supplies by greedy gold miners? Why not come and fight?
A Beauty to rescue
The beauty is your wife, or your future wife, the princess you would die for. But missional thinkers go further. Where is the Fulani bride of Christ? Where is the Tuareg bride? The Turkish bride? The Khmer bride? Why not come and woo?
An Adventure to live
Elk-hunting is all well and good. But riding a dirt bike among sand dunes on your way to an unreached village is even better. Why not come and ride?
‘What’s next?’ said my university tutor after giving me my final degree result, and I told him I was considering Christian mission. As I left his office he called out, ‘It’s a good degree. Don’t waste it.’ But another voice – a stiller, smaller voice – was saying, ‘Waste it. Go and waste it on the poor, the unloved, the hopeless and the faithless – because I wasted my Son on you.’
Are you a man in your early twenties? Come and fight. Come and woo. Come and ride. And your friends who stayed in bed to watch ‘Top Gear’ shall think themselves accursed they were not here.