Ever since I wrote Why Men Hate Going to Church, (a book in which I point out the many ways modern Christianity is becoming feminized) I’ve struggled with the definition of manhood. Is a real man tough or tender? Does he take bold action, or “let go and let God?” Does he stand and fight, or turn the other cheek?
The Bible sends confusing signals. At times Christ behaved like a lion – rebuking, cursing and knocking down tables. But at other times, he was a lamb – healing, blessing and weeping openly. The paradox extends to the epistles, where Paul’s words encourage us to be lamb-like, but his actions are those of a full-mane lion.
So when ministers exhort us to “be a man like Jesus” which one are they talking about? The Lion of Judah or the Lamb of God? How can we know which side of Christ’s personality to imitate in any given situation?
One day I decided to examine the gospels through the lens of this paradox. It wasn’t long before I made a discovery so startling it could change the way we disciple men.
There is an ancient map to manhood embedded in Matthew’s gospel. The map records three spiritual journeys that all the great men of scripture have walked.
The first journey is found in Matthew 1-7. In these chapters, Christ is mostly a lamb. In His second journey (Matthew 8-25) we find Christ transformed into a lion. Then in Matthew 26-28, Christ walks a third journey, becoming lamb-like again.
Even more exciting, I found the pattern repeated in the lives of the other great men of Scripture, including Moses, David, Paul, Samson and many others. Those men who walked these three journeys became great. But those men who missed a journey — or who took them out of order — met with destruction. Gulp.
Once I discovered the journeys it was a simple matter to turn them into a real, ink-on-paper map. I named the journeys submission, strength and sacrifice.
How do we use this map today? Start by discipling men according to the journey they’re walking.
Submission = lamb. When teaching young believers, emphasize softer, submissive themes. Brokenness, dependence and weakness. The fruit of the Spirit. Submission of our wills to Christ.
Strength = lion. As young disciples mature, shift your focus to strength. How to discern and execute a life mission. When to pray and when to confront. The value of tough love.
Sacrifice = lamb. Mature believers should be taught to sacrifice. How to pour your life and experience into others. How to love deeply. How to die so that others can live.
Let me make a bold statement: I believe that these three journeys are the key to transforming ordinary men into spiritual champions. Together they form the template of male spiritual development left to us by Jesus. The three journeys may be the lost path of discipleship that so many have been searching for.
Over the past couple of years I’ve been teaching the three journeys to men’s groups – and getting enthusiastic response. The three journeys help them make sense of the lion-lamb paradox. And men love seeing their spiritual lives in the form of a map (no surprise here; men like maps, as they tend to be visual learners).
Since The Map: The Way of All Great Men released in 2010, several men’s groups have formed to practice Three Journeys discipleship. If you want to start a group (or if you have one already started) please reach out and let me know by clicking the button below.