The views expressed in this post may seem offensive to some. Please understand that this is one man’s gut opinion and not necessarily shared by all.

In the past, I’ve had unbelievers (who haven’t heard my stance on some of the ways that the Church is failing men) ask me, “What does it mean to have a relationship with God (or Jesus)?” I hate the word “relationship” for describing how we follow The Man. Am I in His family? Yep. Am I a child of God (and therefore brother of Christ)? Yep. Do I have a “relationship” with God? Yep. However, do you ever describe yourself as having a “relationship” with your dad? What about your brother? I don’t. It’s too passive a term. It feels weak. I have a bond, a brotherhood, a fellowship; not a relationship. I know it’s a matter of semantics, but sometimes semantics matter.

Who was the last person you thought of yourself in a relationship with? For me that is definitely my wife. I show her love. I defend her and protect her. I care for her. She doesn’t rely on me for life, only for help. She doesn’t need me to survive (though it would be rough without her in my life). However God is all of these things. We need him to live. We need him for everything in our lives, though many don’t realize that. Do you want to have a relationship with God or Jesus like you have with your wife (or girlfriend)? Do you want to have Jesus making those eyes at you from across the room? I know this sounds absurd to many of you, but this is what many unchurched and unbelieving men see in their mind’s eye when they hear about having a relationship with Jesus. Sure I want to know that Jesus loves me, but I learned that as a kid. What I need to know as a man is that I am a part of the plan. Jesus wants me following Him, not just waiting at home until the battle is won.

To say you have a relationship with God is to say you have a vague and ever changing partnership, however to call it an enlistment into God’s army or a discipleship, or even simply an acceptance of God’s guidance helps a person understand what it means to be a follower of Christ. So lets get away from the emotional term “relationship” and move to the action based terms. Jesus didn’t call the Apostles into a “relationship” with him. He called them to serve with Him to further the Kingdom. Imagine if he had said “Follow me and I will have a relationship with you” to Simon Peter. What would Simon Peter have done? Climbed back into his boat and gone out and caught more fish, that’s what. But being told that he would become a “fisher of men” drew Simon Peter to follow Jesus, even through Simon Peter’s own stumbles, to become the Rock that Jesus built the church on. Not from partnering in a relationship, but by following The Man, Jesus Christ, as a fisher of men(instead of remaining a fisherman).

So when someone says something about having a relationship with God, think of Jesus as your Sergeant and God as the General, it might help you figure out what you need to be doing for Him. I’m not calling on you to become a soldier or go off and join the Army (though that does feel exciting, doesn’t it?), I’m telling you to read God’s word and follow what He calls you to. God calls each of us to different things, and not all of us will be in physically active roles. But all of us will be actively seeking to bring people into His Kingdom. If we aren’t, why bother hanging around this wasteland we call Earth? His call to us all is summed up nicely in one piece of scripture, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” So let’s go and follow Jesus’ Great Commission, not take Him out on a date. We’re not doing this to impress Him, we’re doing it to follow Him.

Disclaimer: This message was spurred by the discussion occurring here.  I’m not saying we don’t have a relationship with Him, only that the passive term relationship is difficult to assign action to. The active terms I gave above clearly demonstrate us following in Jesus’ footsteps and teachings. I am not saying He doesn’t love us and we shouldn’t love Him, but stop calling us to be intimate with Him and for our wives to have a love affair with Him; that really kind of drives us away and makes us unhappy about our wives being there, too…

  1. j4man says:

    Well thought out and has me thinking – which is always a good thing. I am now wrestling with the term “relationship”. Thanks Paul.

    • Paul S says:

      Like I said in the disclaimer. I’m not against using relationship, just don’t use the romantic terms that often accompany it. As I mentioned, we do have relationships with our brothers and other non intimate family, but we have to avoid all of the inflections and terminology. Thinking about how you use it is what’s important, no problem with using it though.

  2. I’m definitely, definitely, definitely, not a fan of using the term “relationship” or the term “intimate” to describe how I am connected to Christ. He’s my redeemer, my Saviour. Not just my grown up imaginary friend. We need a majestic concept of the majestic nature of the Person that we’re referring to. He came down to us, but not as a playmate. He is our best friend, but not as a pair of playground bullies.

    It’s not a religion, it’s a redemption.

  3. Agreed, with you, we have a relationship with our wives. God is the Creator of heaven and earth and us, he loves us, cares for us, provides for us. Our concept of God has been skewed over the years. We need to put him in the proper place.

  4. “To know Him” ala John 14:7 means we have a relationship with Him or we don’t. Religion is the antithesis of this, and it was the religious leaders of His day that sought to crucify the King of Glory.

    Everyhthing about Jesus and the Gospel of His Father’s Kingdom demands relationship. Otherwise, what do you have but a skewed sense of intellectual acknowledgment and the trappings of self-imposed piety.

    I am a son of God. I relate to Him as Him being my Father. This is relationship. This is not an infringement on His Sovereignty or Power. Far from it. This relationship, of me being His son, is the fullness of His Sovereignty and Power.

    I believe you are trying too hard to remain stoic. Sons bow to their Father and sons also stand beside Him in His authority. It is a mystery, to be sure, but it is one that is made available to all who have been brought into the New Covenant.

    When the curtain was torn in two, religion died and relationship began.,

    My two cents.

    • Paul S says:

      I agree with you. However, we can’t use romantic terms in describing this relationship, and in American society, relationship is equated to this, just as intimate is connected to sex. This is not necessarily true, but it is one of the biggest things that drives men from the Church. Does it hurt to not say it if we can bring more to the Church? If we can bring one man, we have a 97% chance to bring his family. If we bring one woman, it’s only a 17% chance. Seems to me we need to be more man friendly.

      • Paul,

        You said:
        “This is not necessarily true, but it is one of the biggest things that drives men from the Church. Does it hurt to not say it if we can bring more to the Church? If we can bring one man, we have a 97% chance to bring his family. If we bring one woman, it’s only a 17% chance. Seems to me we need to be more man friendly.”

        The relationship I am referring to is the father/son relationship. It is THAT relationship that men, in The World, fear the most based on their earthly failed relationships with their earthly fathers. God is and wants to be our True Father, erasing the mistakes and flaws of, for some of us, the relationships we had or didn’t have, with our natural dads.

        I don’t want to have sex with Jesus or be lovey-dovey Emergent church touchy-feely with Him. Ever. But man, I sure need His Fatherhood.

        It is that relationship I espouse and preach. So many men need to hear that.

      • Paul S says:

        Like I said I agree, but culture has changed the way the word is used, and we must be aware of this and teach in a way that those of the culture can understand so that they will leave it behind.

      • ADD ON:

        You said specifically:
        “…but it is one of the biggest things that drives men from the Church.”

        Of course it is. It is the spirit of Adam, that big abdicator and wussy. This is why God our Father seeks to make sons, because it has always been on His heart to make us all like Jesus, and He is indeed The Word made flesh.

        Good stuff, Paul.

      • Paul S says:

        Tell me the truth. Listen to the large number of Christian “worship” music today and tell me that we couldn’t just change the subject and make it a love song to our wives. Now think about it, guys are in the congregation singing these songs to Jesus and God? This is what I am talking about. It’s a matter of what line are we willing to cross or stop at. I’m willing to stop a little early for those who don’t believe yet to grow comfortable before I get them to call it a relationship. I’m not criticizing you for being comfortable, I’m calling you to recognize that you are driving men away because you are making them uncomfortable.

      • @Donald…what is so amazing about our God is that redeems broken relationships through our relationship with Him. Those who do not want to see Him as Father because of their unhealthy relationship with their earthly father are stunting their spiritual growth.

      • Paul,

        Well, it seems you need a manly man Jesus and not the effeminate sissy Jesus of the touchy-feely Emergent Church.

        I totally get that.

        I loathe the hyper-emotionalism of Pentecostalism and the “hold me, Jesus” mindset of the Emergent Church. I detest the Bible-thumping of the Fundamentalists and the “whatever” attitude of the Unitarians.

        I’m in the middle, walking as a common-sense practical son.

        We don’t necessarily disagree, Paul. It is obvious you have an axe to grind here and a scream that needs to be screamed. Let it out, brother.

        No melancholy woe is me Christianity, either, where the Christian struggles endlessly like some crippled antelope trying to cross a frozen pond during a hurricane. Blah. Too many Christian blogs already have that.

  5. Donald sent me here…and I know that this blog is geared towards men, but this post is applicable to men and women. So, I’ll leave my thoughts…as a woman. 🙂

    My take on it: God is so multifaceted. In some ways, He is our General. And in other ways, He is our Abba Father. Most soldiers don’t call their 4 Star General by the title Daddy. If they did, they’d get some serious punishment for it. But, that’s what amazing about God. Being fully God, He can call us to action in spiritual warfare and at the same time comfort us in times of troube.

    But, I agree with you-we’ve become too comfortable with God. We have reduced Him to a feeling, a lovey dovey infatuation, a Grandpa who doles out special treats. I’m so glad He is so much more than that. I’m so glad that He is my General, He commissions me with a call, but at the end of the day when I screw it up because I’m not following His plan, He disciplines me out of love and concern. He doesn’t call a Court Marshall. Although He will do that in the end, but I’ll be covered in the blood of His Son.

    • Paul S says:

      You are welcome here, and I apologize in advance if I ever offend, as I know I can be hard edged and a little macho at times You made what I was saying so much clearer in your comment here. This is part of what i mean. Yes he is our Father, but we also stand before Him in awe. The comfortable relationship just doesn’t fit this meaning. Most of what I am doing here is to make people think about what the English language means when we use these words. Our language is so twisted by the culture around it, and we have to be mindful of this as we teach His message.

      • I agree that the English language does a great disservice to our faith, especially as it comes to interpreting Scripture. I’m not well versed in Greek or Hebrew, but when I hear the transliteration of terms that I had always only heard in the English, I get a completely different picture. I just wish I had the time to study the Greek/Hebrew.

        Thanks for the welcome.

        And, for the record, I have also read staggering stats about men and church. I wish it weren’t so. 😦

  6. Moe says:

    I think this may be a two headed coin. Still a coin, just with two heads.

    One: Yes, we are in relationship to God in Christ. Just to get to the father we need to relate to Christ, he’s that bridge that takes us to the father. Just as he said to the young fools who thought they did great things for him, “I never KNEW you”. That’s relationship right there.

    Two: If there is a lack of men in our churches it’s not because the church uses the term, “relationship”. It’s because the Church has abused it’s authority, watered down the gospel and confused preaching with discipleship.

    • Paul S says:

      I encourage you to check out David Murrow’s “Why Men Hate Going to Church”. I denied alot of the very things that I say now, but after hearing him explain it from a non-pastoral position, it started to become clear to me. In fact, some of what I accepted before bothers me now. Check out his book and you’ll see what I mean.

      See my other responses for more on “relationship” As far as abuse of authority, watering Gospel down, and preaching vs discipleship, I agree with you, but they aren’t the primary causes.

  7. Justin says:

    A separate being – wooing his creation back to him is the definition of true romance. Call it a relationship, a walk, or anything else – I don’t want to be outside of it.

    • Paul S says:

      I can handle that. But if you didn’t know Him, would you hang around while a guy up on stage told you (or sang) that you needed to have an intimate relationship with a man?

  8. Justin says:

    I suspect that a man who has a problem with being called into a relationship is already experiencing intimacy issues – because there’s a great deal of vulnerability in that. There are those who may have an issue with a man washing another mans feet – but Jesus didn’t seem to think so. Posturing our hearts to Jesus and being wiling to be vulnerable is not act of passivity – it’s an act of humble submission.

    • Paul S says:

      You are misunderstanding me. But even so. Does it matter. If they do have issues, do we not want them among us? If we are driving them away with our language (that doesn’t even do service to the message), then we need to change our language. We need to teach to the people in language that they understand. And the word “relationship” is just like “seeing” or “slept with.” These are all words that mean entirely different things to different people. And to have one language for believers and another for non-believers doesn’t work, so get rid of the believer language that makes us elitists and speak the language of the unbeliever and the seeker. I’m not telling anyone not to have a relationship with God, I’m telling you that if we keep using terms like relationship and lover, we will see the American Church die.

      Justin, I am saying that if we aren’t talking about God, and someone tells me that I need to get intimate with another guy, my mind is naturally going to go to sex, because that is what intimacy has become in America (Jeremiah posted on this recently). I’m not saying it’s right. I am saying it is a fact that we need to recognize and figure out how to work around.

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