Saturday, February 07, 2009

Monday, January 12, 2009

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one."

1 Corinthians 5:11 (English Standard Version)


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What is the relationship between the wrestler on the left and Stone Cold on the right?

A. brothers
B. father/son
C. cousins
D. none of the above

Answer: D, none of the above. The shocking reality is that the guy on the left is Steve Austin back in the early 1990’s. Amazing, huh? If you don't believe me you can watch this old clip of "Stunning" Steve Austin (don't worry...there's no middle fingers, beer or swearing...)
Steve Austin worked his way up, making no money, getting beat to death 40+ weeks a year and clawed his way into the WCW in the early 90’s. What you need to understand is that industry is as cut throat as national politics…or worse. For every Hulk Hogan there are thousands of wrestlers with lots of potential who never “break in” as they say. The odds of one ever seeing themselves in a wrestling ring on TV are very, very slim.

So you do what you have to do, as they say. You follow the money, take what you need to take to get in the ring one more time and you say what you need to say to get over with the fans. Steve Austin was no different and in the 1990’s the gimmick he had was that of a good looking, arrogant and blond stud. The good folks at WCW even teamed him up with the late Brian Pillman and formed the now famous tag team, The Hollywood Blonds. I heard Steve Austin speak about this in an interview once and he indicated that he was in that tag team long before he had ever even been to Hollywood!

In the locker room Austin was anything but a sissy. Ask anyone in the mid-90’s about Steve Austin and they would have quickly let you know that Austin was one hard working man. He kept his nose clean for the most part (as much as a wrestler bouncing from city to city week after week could of course) and usually did what was asked of him. He might have had a pretty boy persona in the ring but Steve Austin was known as a work horse.

He had respect in the locker room and management tried to figure out what to do him. While not gargantuan in size, he wasn’t a midget either. He had solid mic skills, could flow with the electricity generated by the crowd in the ring and was good looking enough to be a champion. Yet they could just not market him the right way. He wasn’t as talented in the ring as the WWF’s emerging blond bombshell Shawn Michaels and the WCW already had a blond bombshell of their own in the legendary Ric Flair. Austin was fired by WCW while injured in 1995, they just couldn’t figure out how to market him and he ended up simply lost in the mix. They cut him loose.

Nice…after working his tail off, keeping his nose clean for the most part, doing what he was told for the most part and taking all those “bumps” for the WCW they cut him loose while injured. The gimmicks had not worked and his days of going to the ring as someone else were over. He was contacted by a friend in the business named Paul Heyman who ran a rouge wrestling organization…the infamous Extreme Championship Wresting…ECW. The vibe of the mid 1990’s was that of rebellion and postmodernism was more thoroughly than ever flooding pop culture. Nirvana and Pearl Jam ruled the airwaves and a raw aggravation with hypocritical polish society often put on things rose as Generation X emerged into their teens and early 20’s. Out went the Cosby’s and Home Improvement in came Roseanne and Friends.

Extreme Championship Wrestling was not family friendly. Its home was a rundown bingo hall in Philadelphia with folding chairs and some bleachers and it was the wrestling counterpart to the grunge movement in music and fashion. It was bloody, raw and real. And that’s where Austin landed…in ECW.

He took full advantage of this new setting. Certainly the money wasn’t as good and the over all work environment not nearly as safe. But Steve Austin found a place where he could develop an in ring persona which was nothing more than an amplification of who really was backstage. In those days in both the WCW and the WWF wrestlers were not allowed to curse each other in front of the crowd…in ECW you were not allowed NOT to curse at each other. It was all about being real with real emotions and passion in the ECW. And Austin took full advantage of this new found uncensored platform. While he was not yet “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (he went by the name “Superstar” Steve Austin) the Stone Cold famous today began to emerge. While his attitude and intensity with the mic and in the ring might not be considered over the top today, back in 1995 it was shocking to say the least. It was as if this Austin guy was just being himself, as if he really thought this stuff…as if he was being real or something.

And the fans ate it up. Men, young men…were eating it up.

Well, Vince McMahon could have cared less about “Stunning” Steve Austin just a few months prior…but this “Superstar” Steve Austin presented a new opportunity for the WWF. They snagged him after his brief stint in ECW and brought him in as the “Ringmaster” Steve Austin.

Austin already had his fill with the gimmick style of wrestling. He came in, shaved his golden locks, dawned simple black trunks with black boots…looked totally disgusted and stomped to the ring intending only to beat the life out of whoever was in his way in a manner that just seemed so serious and real. He didn't simply look "mean" or "mad" like other wrestlers...Austin looked "real" and as if he was not playing a character at all (flicking the crowd off and cussing at them the whole time btw). There were no pyrotechnics, he didn’t rip his shirt off, he didn’t have a glittery robe, he wasn’t an IRS agent, he wasn’t a leprechaun, he wasn’t a zombie, he didn’t dance around, he wasn’t doing voodoo or playing an air guitar. He was just Steve Austin and he was there for one reason…WIN…and then go home.

Again…this might not seem like a big deal now…but at the time this was just unheard of. Only the “stiffs” (wrestlers going nowhere who were brought in to be the punching bags on TV) wore such bland outfits. And flying the middle finger? Frequently? At the crowd? Unheard of! Before this the villain might shake his fist at the crowd and bellow a “ahhh…shut your yappers why don’t ya!” or something but that’s about it. No one had ever seen something like this Austin guy…the same guy the WCW just couldn’t figure out what to do with.

From that point Steve Austin’s fame took off like a rocket. He became “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and the rest is history. He was not just a popular wrestler…he literally transcended wrestling and became a legendary cultural icon in the west. This is particularly true with the very segment our churches are the least capable of reaching…men born in and after the 1960’s.

The first and foremost thing I believe our pastors and church leaders need to really “get” in order to more effectively communicate with unconverted men in our culture is what Austin got in 1995…authenticity. We do not fool these “real men” with our painted smiles, perfect hair, pat evangelical answers or glossy personalities. No man is always happy, no man is always patient, no man is always sweet and no man always has all the answers. So when we present ourselves this way we instantly lose the respect of men who were not raised in the evangelical bubble.

I’m always amazed at how out of touch with authenticity church leaders can be…and they often talk about how they want to be “authentic”. It’s kinda creepy actually. So often words like “authentic” are nothing more than new hip evangelical buzz words which seem to be presented as a new “style” to adopt or something. As Mark was saying in our last comment section, this is not a style. KNOW YOURSELF AND THEN BE YOURSELF. You’re not perfect and we all know it…acting like you are is insulting to our intelligence and makes you irrelevant in the end (in this day and age for sure).

Of course we need to stop here and be clear. Authenticity can be a wonderful excuse for being a complete jerk or pervert or whatever. “This is just how I am so deal with it” is not being authentic. Actually…I take that back…it’s being an authentic jerk. Steve Austin never considered the feelings of others to say the least and that is an example of what needs redeemed. We as Christians are to be “Christ like”…not “me like”. We represent HIM and not ourselves. So we put on Christ and act on HIS behalf. This is very true. The reality however is that from the moment of our Deliverance until our Glorification we are being worked on by the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes…even pastors. We are being changed and made new…we are in the process of being saved by Jesus. While our people do not need to know what our temptations are they ought to be sure we struggle to mortify the flesh and submit to the will of Christ just as much as they do (if not far more). They ought to know we suffer. They ought to know we agonize over our sinfulness and lack of faith. They ought to know we are not always happy, that we can and do often hurt. They ought to know that we are councilors who receive counseling. They ought to know we have not arrivedbecause we have not…and to present ourselves as if we have is inauthentic to put it nicely.

And men will not respect, follow or pay much attention to someone who is not the real deal or to someone who is so insecure inside that they must overcompensate by presenting a glossy evangelical front.

Yes, Stone Cold Steve Austin was a character. But the character was nothing more than an amplification of Steve Austin…a hard working Texan who was an aggressive straight shooter. When Austin stripped down his in-ring persona to nothing more than an amplification of himself…men responded and still respond. The very men who IGNORE us.

Pastors are not performers like Austin and so we have no need to “amplify” our personality in that way. But I’m going to suggest that we strip down our church persona just a bit. I suggest we no longer present ourselves as the guy with all the answers and the guy who just loves being a doormat and is always real super sweet and nice. We’re obviously not fooling these guys…they’re all at home watching the pre-game and paying no attention to what we’re doing. Be real. I’m afraid that so many pastors and church leaders have been under so much pressure from their tradition, family and people to have it all together for so long that some guys just don’t know who they are and so being “authentic” is quite confusing and unnatural to them…and I’m being serious. It’s why so many pastors and church leaders burn out, drop out or fall out of ministry every year.

So…clue #1 as to why Steve Austin connected so powerfully with the men we are so poor at connecting with.

Stone Cold was Steve Austin.

"For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned." Romans 12:3 ESV

Monday, August 25, 2008

The next installment about the church and men will be up tomorrow and that’s the bottom line cause Gary Fox SAID SO! Oh wait…I’ve been watching that Stone Cold video from last time too much, sorry about that.

None the less I came across this short clip from Mark Driscoll addressing an issue which will go hand in hand with the over arching topic we’ve been into dealing with men. Here Driscoll addresses the issue of “provocative language” which in the next several installments I will contend is vitally needed today from behind our pulpits if we ever dream to capture the fascination of “real men”. Take a look and let me know what you think in the comment section.