Joe Ehrmann - Baltimore, MD, USA

A Quest for Christian Manhood. My journey has been the struggle to allow God to define who and what I am in Him. This particularly fleshes out in allowing Christ to convert my understanding of masculinity and manhood. I grew up in a blue collar urban environment that at the earliest age started to define my masculinity by its world value system.

In America masculinity is defined by three basic criteria. First, is athletic ability. I was taught early on that the more you could dominate on the athletic field somehow the more of a man you were. Popularity and social status in the playground seemed to emanate from the ability to hit the hanging curve or make the open field tackle. Second, as I moved from the athletic area into the adolescent arena, masculinity was defined by the ability to attract and dominate the opposite sex. Somehow the ability to manipulate and dominate the other sex seemed to elevate you as a man. And the connection to athletic ability seemed to complete the power to dominate. The third criteria is economic success. As I moved into the adult realm the defining issues of masculinity revolved more and more around power and possession. The progression went from the playground to the bedroom to the boardroom. And in our society if you could ever put the three criteria together you would be the ultimate man.

In my own journey I was able to put the three criteria together. I managed to dominate athletically and ended up playing professional football for thirteen years. With athletic success came the ability to attract and dominate women and also the financial windfalls. In the midst of all this "success" I found myself living a life of tremendous pain, emptiness and futility. I call this destination sickness. I had done everything my culture had taught me yet to be a real man only to get to the top and realize I had been led on a wild goose chase. It was at this point that Christ came into my life and I understood where real meaning, value and purpose was to be found. I went off to seminary and started an urban ministry that by all accounts has been very successful.

However, four years into the ministry I discovered that my motivation was more motivated by my personal pain than my love and obedience to Christ. I had converted my spiritual life but had not converted my understanding of masculinity to the model of Christ. It realized than in the "world" I had been taught to define myself in terms of power, posistion and prestige. As I reflected over the early years of my ministry I realized that I had tried to define myself in terms of buildings, budgets and body counts. The same basic definitions had been taken from one arena into a "christian" one. I was trying to define myself by the size of our ministry, the number of people we served and the social position accredited to me by the Body of Christ.

The danger of this is multiple but the important lesson is that you will never be truly able to create an empowerment ministry if you are in need of the power to define who you are. I think critical to empowerment ministries, to racial reconciliation and every other aspect of servant ministry is the redefinition of who and what we are. We must be defined in terms of Christ like relationships and be sure that the cause we name is the cause of Christ.