Alpha Male vs. Man of God

What is the difference between an alpha male and a man of God? I’m finding myself wrestling with this question as I contemplate the following passage from Mark Driscoll’s new book Real Marriage.

In choosing a church, it must be a church that the husband wants to attend. Too often the wife is the one choosing the church because it meets her emotional needs and the children’s programming needs… A man chooses a church not so much because of style or programming but rather because he admires the senior leader and is willing to submit to him, follow him, and emulate him. So husbands must find a church led by a man who believes the Bible, loves Jesus, and leads his home and church as well as a man’s man.

This passage delineates the two basic consumer draws of megachurches: the massive array of family programming and the charismatic personality of the guy (it’s almost always a guy with a goatee and $500 glasses) who somehow keeps people on the edge of their seats for his 45 minute sermons each week. It’s a combination that keeps building success on top of success. I don’t know how to do the programming side of things very well and it’s not among my primary responsibilities as a pastor. So I guess that means I’m supposed to be the “man’s man” in the equation, as Driscoll puts it, someone with a commanding presence who’s filled with the Holy Spirit and/or the appropriate number of jokes, cultural references, Philip Yancey or Henri Nouwen quotes, scenes from hipster movies, characters from John Updike novels, etc. (In case you’re wondering, that’s the pressure that I feel every week, and I can’t stand it that my voice isn’t more baritone!)

I’m not sure what I’m supposed to hate and what I’m supposed to emulate about megachurch pastors. I tend to be very suspicious of them because they’re overseeing the parallel process in the church world to what happened when Walmart put all the mom and pop general stores out of business. It’s hard not to be mad at the people who go to the Walmart churches when the rest of my life in a mainline denomination will probably consist in hopping from one dying mom and pop church to another. At the same time, I have heard some of these guys preach, and it seems like there is an order of magnitude of difference in quality. I don’t know quite what I mean by that. I don’t agree with all the theology, but I feel like I’m hearing from someone who is smitten by God. There’s a zeal and sense of urgency that you don’t find very often in mainline preaching. But I’m honestly not sure whether I’m confusing the hubris of an alpha male for the holiness of a man of God.

This weekend, at our Methodist district training day, the keynote speaker was a pastor named Jorge Acevedo from a Methodist megachurch called Grace Church in southern Florida. He wasn’t somebody whose theology I could dismiss because it was strictly Wesleyan. It was on-point, frank, and emphatically evangelical (at least in the sense that I use the term to self-identify). One of the things that Jorge said was that the pastor’s primary responsibility is self-responsibility and that our main job is to live out the gospel in front of other people through every aspect of our daily lives. I’m taking that on as a challenge because I think I’m too much of a fanatic and not enough of a disciple. I’m extremely passionate about my theological opinions. I love the ecstasy of wrestling with new mysteries about God, but I’m woefully lacking when it comes to actually engaging in daily practices that would make me exude the spirit of Christ.

My hope is that if I do a better job of daily spiritual discipline, I’ll become the man of God I’m supposed to be. It may result in preaching that gets people fired up, or it may result in God setting me free from caring whether I draw a crowd or not, but either way, I’m hoping that I’ll grow out of being a nervous, angsty, jealous alpha male so that I can be more useful to God, whatever He wants to do with me.


3 thoughts on “Alpha Male vs. Man of God

  1. I love your honesty and vulnerability here, Morgan. I also find myself a little incredulous that someone like Mark Driscoll would read Henry Nouwen, who wasn’t a “man’s man” as described above in any sense I can think of! Does he really read Nouwen and quote him? Or is that you?

    I find myself thinking I’d probably like going to your church, and that you should just be yourself and not try to perform for your congregation. The quality I like most (and think most important, too) in a pastor is humility. I’m “hearing” humility in your words here. Tell them what you understand about God and the Bible from a sincere heart, and they won’t care whether you’re a “man’s man” or not. Personally, I’d rather drive a 10-mule team through Death Valley in August than sit under a “man’s man” in the pulpit! Good thing my husband agrees (I don’t think Driscoll would approve of my wise, kind, gentle husband– and I tend to think that’s a plus on my husband’s side! *grin*)

  2. Start with a spiritual director, Morgan. One of the best things a pastor can do for him/herself. If you’re not already, start reading Peterson/Nouwen/Rohr/May/P. Palmer/David Benner – these guys live the life as well as wrestle with the head stuff. Blessings – I love what you’re doing here and want to encourage you in your pastoral journey. I just retired (first year under my belt as of 12/31) from 17 years in ministry after a mid-life call to seminary and the church. It’s a life that is both rich and tough and finding companionship along the way is absolutely vital.

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