The Big Picture Podcast: 21st Century Deborahs and Baraks

Welcome to the Big Picture Podcast. I’m Joel Fieri and this podcast seeks to begin and hopefully sustain a conversation about current trends, ideas and issues in the Church and greater society.

This week I’m going to follow up with my subject from last week, which caused a bit of discussion in the Backrow Baptist’s family.  On it I talked about the role of men and women in church and the Christian community, and went over the basics of Egalitarianism and Complimentarianism: words that have way too many syllables for a BRB, and I think most other non-theologians.

I made the comment that we’re losing our men and boys to purposelessness and lack of vision, which also reflected a point I made in my previous podcast on Passion vs. Obedience – that women now take the lead in our churches when it comes to worship, relationships and to be honest, just about everything else, except maybe pastoral leadership.

Now the family conversation that came up was about Deborah, a female leader of Israel in the book of Judges (Chapters 4 and 5 if you want to look up the story).

Now here we have the Bible giving us an example of female leadership. Deborah was solid, I like Deborah, and not just because I married a Deborah. She was the faithful leader of Israel at a time when the men were really screwing up and doing evil in the sight of the Lord, which eventually lead to them to be taken captive by the Canaanites.

Then the story goes that Deborah summoned a guy named Barak and told him to take an army and fight the Canaanites, and that the Lord would give them victory.

But Barak said he wouldn’t go without Deborah, to which Deborah replied (I’m paraphrasing) “Okay, I’ll go, but God is not happy with you, Dude!”.

Now eventually Barak does get with the program and leads his men against the Canaanites, and with a little help from another impressive woman named Jael, defeats their King and destroys his army, winning a great victory for Israel.

So after this great victory, Deborah sings a very interesting song in Chapter 5. The song starts off with the phrase “When the princes of Israel take the lead, and the people willingly offer themselves, praise the Lord!” and later in verse 9, she says, “My heart is with Israel’s princes”.

So here’s where I’m going with all this. I think we might be in a moment of time like Israel was with Deborah. Maybe not as severe, but something similar.

Our men and boys are growing more and more disconnected from our churches, families and institutions. They’re retreating into their man-caves, away from their God-given responsibilities as husbands, fathers and leaders of their communities, and into porn, sports and video games.

Don’t believe me? Just Google the phrases  “where are all the good men?” and “men, who needs them?” You might be surprised at what you see, and very surprised to know that it’s affecting our churches, too.

Now this goes against how most of us were raised and taught, and you might think I’m being chauvinistic about this, that I’m saying men are more important or that women are somehow at fault for ‘taking over’.

I don’t think I am.

What I do think is that God challenges men to lead because they NEED the challenge. The sad state of men today is what happens when they are not challenged and counted on to lead.

My favorite thinker on this issue is David Murrow. He’s the leader of a ministry ‘Church For Men’ and author of the book “Why Men Hate Going To Church”.  In that book, Dave spells out the problem of ‘the Gender Gap’ in today’s churches, and he’s not only talking about attendance. In just about every category of spirituality and commitment to church, whether it’s discipleship, prayer, evangelism, teaching Sunday School, tithing or Bible study, women out-number, out-commit and out-perform men.

Now this would be a big problem just by itself, but I think it’s an even bigger deal because there are Canaanites out there, folks!

Our society and world have now pretty much completed the transition to “post-Christian”, and if you know anything about the “pre-Christian” world, this will eventually mean trouble for us. Big trouble.

It’s actually something we’re promised if we faithfully follow God, and I think the leadership and engagement of Christian men will largely determine how we as a body hold up when it comes. So that’s why I think it might be wise to take a look at Deborah’s story and apply it to our church today.

Deborah took leadership when the men of Israel were weak, to say the least. She had to literally take Barak by the hand and shove him into the battle that God had for HIM, even though he wanted her to fight it for him.

Fortunately, Barak stepped up, and in the end, Deborah knew that the key to Israel’s success and favor with God was that it’s princes, it’s men, were the ones leading.

So here’s my question, can we follow this model today? Can our super-faithful Christian women take their weaker brothers in Christ by the hand and lead them to the front lines in our spiritual battle, a battle for the hearts and minds of a world that doesn’t know, and is hostile to, the saving grace of God and His Son Jesus?

Bigger question – can we as men take up that battle?

And the biggest question – can we both sing a song of praise to God if and when His princes, the men, do take the lead?

That’s the challenge I see in the Big Picture of God’s plan for His Kingdom today.

And with that, the Backrow Baptist is slipping out early to catch the football game, but secretly, and don’t tell him I told you this, he’d rather stay and be challenged and equipped to do battle for God’s Kingdom.

In closing, it’s time for the Great Cloud Of Witnesses, the segment of our podcast where we meet and hear the stories of those who have given, and some who are still giving, their lives by faith in the promises of God, and of whom the world was and is not worthy (if you don’t know that reference, please check out Hebrews chapters 11 and 12 in your Bible).

And to conclude my thoughts on Deborah, there’s no better story of a faithful witness than Henrietta Mears. Let me tell you a little bit about her.

Imagine a chubby lady with thick glasses, dressed in red with a flamboyant hat, multiple rings, and pizzazz!

She speaks with passion and commitment . . . strong, warm, and full of the Bible.

That’s Henrietta Mears, one of the great Christian mentors of the 20th Century. Never marrying, she had hundreds of “spiritual children.” She became Educational Director at Hollywood Presbyterian Church, where God used her deeply in the ministries of Billy Graham, Bill Bright, Dawson Trottman, Richard Halvorsen and Dean Moomaw, among others.

If you don’t know those names, just know that they were men who started ministries that led hundreds of thousands of people to Christ.

They found in this older lady a vision for a great God. She was a model of Christ-centeredness. Billy Graham said, “I doubt if any other woman outside my wife and mother has had such a marked influence on my life. She is certainly one of the greatest Christians I have ever known.” That’s Billy Graham talking.

She was unusually gifted in the ability to identify potential in young people, challenge them with the Great Commission, and training them for the work. Sometimes she was accused of being partial to young men-the leaders of her College Department were known as “Miss Mears’ Boys”. And she frankly admitted that she was partial to them.

Her conviction was that the church needed strong male leadership, and where it was present, young women would follow.

And that’s what made Henrietta Mears a modern-day Deborah.

She wasn’t a martyr, but she did forsake marriage and family for what she knew was the Big Picture of what God required of His ‘princes’, that they lead strongly. And she was there to help equip and encourage them, and also to give them a loving shove into the battle. And for that, she is hereby nominated to the Great Cloud Of Witnesses, of whom the world is not worthy.

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About Jefferson Drexler

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