Whenever Ethan Hunt, the hero of the Mission Impossible films, receives his briefing, the risks are clear. The recording always ends like this: “Your mission, should you decide to accept it . . .” Hunt’s assignments are so demanding he’s always given a chance to pass.
He never does.
We would be wise to promise more risk to men in church. Do me a favor. Put this book down, grab your Bible, and read Matthew 10:16-30. This is where Jesus presents his mission briefing to the disciples. Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait.
Okay. What did you think? Christ obviously flunked Church Recruiting 101. I’ve seen a lot of Christian promotional materials, but never one that mentions the possibility of death, injury, or loss. Can you imagine a pastor greeting the new members’ class this way: “Welcome to Sunnyside Church. Join us every Sunday for flogging, betrayal, persecution, and death.”
Why would Christ psych out his own team right before kickoff?
Jesus knew men. There’s a certain type of man who will not give his all unless he sees danger on the horizon. But our churches are such safe, predictable places, this kind of man does not invest himself. Instead, he takes his risks elsewhere, devoting his best efforts to building earthly kingdoms.
My home state of Alaska is full of such men. These guys don’t vacation on a beach in Hawaii; they risk life and limb to go mountain sheep hunting. They spend a small fortune to fly in small planes to big mountains where the big sheep are. These men climb sheer cliff faces in the spitting snow, battling hypothermia, hunger, and injury. One misstep could send them plunging to their deaths. In fact, a handful of hunters perish every autumn in Alaska. These high-octane men wouldn’t have it any other way. They appreciate the nearly impossible challenge that sheep hunting provides. Overcoming obstacles is just part of the fun.
Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton was looking for this kind of man when he posted this advertisement in 1913:
Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.
More than five thousand men applied for twenty-six slots. Precisely the kind of men who are missing in today’s church. If we want men who will penetrate the culture with the gospel, we must do what Jesus did and promise suffering, trial, and pain. But today’s Christianity is marketed like Tylenol: it’s the antidote to suffering, trial, and pain. We’ve turned Jesus’ approach on its head.
Back to Ethan Hunt. Once his impossible mission is over, Ethan always gets his reward (usually the beautiful woman). But in church, we shy from talking about reward. It seems so selfish. So fleshly. We should do what’s right just because it’s right. Right?
Return with me to Matthew 10. After Jesus blasts his disciples with predictions of doom, He finishes with the promise of reward.
He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.
Reward. Reward. Reward. Jesus knows men. And men respond to the promise of reward. This desire is not sin; it’s the way God made us.
Flip over to Matthew 19:16–26. Christ encounters a rich young ruler. He’s upright, powerful, capable, and wealthy. If I were Jesus, I’d be thinking, This guy’s righteous—and loaded. He could fund my ministry for years. I gotta grab him! But of course, Jesus does exactly the opposite—he places an obstacle in front of him: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” He then warns the crowd that it’s nearly impossible for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Right on the heels of this stunning declaration, the apostle Peter (Mr. Perfect Timing himself) decides to ask Jesus this question: “We have left everything to be your followers! What will we get?”
Uh-oh. Suddenly eleven pairs of eyes are fixed on Peter. I imagine the other disciples swallowed in unison. Didn’t he just hear what Jesus said about riches? The Boss is going to tear him to bits! Judas probably started taking bets on whether Peter would survive the certain rebuke.
But the reprimand did not come. Instead, Jesus made an audacious promise of eternal reward:
Yes, all of you have become my followers. And so in the future world, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, I promise that you will sit on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. All who have given up home or brothers and sisters or father and mother or children or land for me will be given a hundred times as much. They will also have eternal life. But many who are now first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
Jesus did not shy away from the promise of reward. He did not worry that he might appeal to the flesh. He showed us that it’s perfectly healthy to motivate men by helping them understand the rewards they accumulate when they serve the kingdom of God.
Please keep in mind: we are not Jesus. We cannot promise a man a heavenly mansion with an ocean view if he’ll volunteer in Sunday school this weekend. Nor do I endorse the manipulative way some televangelists promise reward to those who send money.
Just because some have abused the promise of reward, we cannot ignore it. Risk and reward go hand in hand throughout the New Testament. When we refuse to point men toward eternal rewards, we reject a motivational tool Christ used repeatedly.
This post is an excerpt from the book Why Men Hate Going to Church (revised edition) by David Murrow. To order an autographed copy sent directly to your home, click here. Your purchase will help keep Church for Men going strong. Thank you.