Man Up!

By Paul Koch


What has happened to men? What has happened to making a bold stand, to taking action when it is called for, to doing the hard thing? Why do we care about the court of public opinion or turn to the gossip and slander of parochial pulp newspapers to validate our decisions?

My friend and colleague, Tim Barkett, has a great line that we should bring into more common usage. It is not a difficult phrase or overly technical. It suits a wide variety of situations and ought to be employed on a regular basis. Tim will tell you he learned it from his dad, a hard working tile man who didn’t have time for whining sons or inept workmanship. If your back hurt from carrying boxes of tiles or your knees from spending excessive time on the concrete floor he would simply say, “Man up!”

Seriously, this phase is beautiful and much needed in our day and age. It doesn’t dismiss an individual’s problems. It doesn’t say they aren’t real or painful or difficult. But the line “Man up” calls for action despite the difficulties and pain. It also says that there is something inherently masculine about doing just that. So, when my boy begins to throw a temper-tantrum because he isn’t getting his way I say, “Son, it’s time to man up.” He knows that his whining isn’t going to get him what he wants, and he knows that a man doesn’t whine.


Now just in case you think this phrase only works for sons, don’t be fooled. As a father of four girls the call to “Man up” has meaning for them as well. It is different I suppose, for they don’t want to be men like my son does. But when the phrase is employed, they know they are being called to go beyond what they feel at that time. They are being reminded that our emotions are not transcendent, and at times we need to simply “man up” and do what needs to be done.

It is not necessarily the familial or pedagogical usage of this phrase that we need to recapture but the often ignored and even maligned ecclesiastical usage. The church is inundated with terrifying numbers regarding the health and future of its existence. Our mailboxes and email inboxes fill up with solutions to struggling stewardship awareness, lack of missional zeal, youth engagement or even estate planning. Then we go to district conventions and pastoral conferences, where the numbers begin to bury us. One after another we see decline and hostility and disconnect with our culture.


We might turn to the so called experts who promise to lead us out of this quagmire. We model our work and effort after the celebrity pastors and churches that seem to have it all going so well. Perhaps a return to more ancient forms of worship is necessary. This might speak to a culture that is drowning in entertainment and shallowness. Then again, perhaps a more contemporary worship style, more relaxed, more in tune with the younger generation is necessary to grasp their attention and hold it long enough to speak about Jesus!

Maybe the solution is in school ministry or community involvement or cross-cultural work. Or we could focus on inter-generational practices or small group ministry or leadership training. The church is full of experts imparting their advice to direct our future, telling us the best strategies and governance policies for success. They come equipped with flow charts and video presentations and support groups. But what we really need is one who will stand up in the midst of it all, one who will look at the church dead in the eye and without flinching and say, “Man up!”

It’s time for the church to quit wringing its hands about every wind of change and shift in the culture. It’s time to man up and do your job. It’s time to do what you must do, what you have the authority to do and what you exist to do! It is time to be the hitmen and midwives of God. It’s time to wield His Word to kill and bring forth new life. The old must come to an end in the proclamation of the church. Quit looking over your shoulder. Quit whining about how difficult it is. Man up and do God’s law and gospel to them all.