In a world where movie and video-game producers, car makers and cosmetics marketeers all recognise and make special appeal sell to the instincts and characteristics of men, what have Christian book publishers and DVD producers got to offer?
In many ways the Old Testament has a better idea of what men really want to read than the New.
I’m not talking about spiritual stuff and salvation here, I mean the kind of stories, practical actions and hard learned lessons that makes the most of a man in what he’s best equipped to take in and give out.
So what Christian themed books of fiction, teaching, biography and Bibles are there for men? What books are is your man - husband, brother, father, son or friend most likely to receive gladly and read avidly? Here are a few ideas and suggestions to make book shopping for your man successful and satisfying – for both you and him.
Don’t buy him a book that has all the answers
Give your man credit for some intelligence and an independent mind. If you’re looking to buy him a book about Bible stuff, find one that seems prepared to debate the issues rather than simply lays down its authors view. Books with the letters SPCK (Society for the Propogation of Christian Knowledge) have a long reputation for discussion and explanation.
Tom Wright’s ‘Simply Jesus’ is an SPCK book. To involve your man in a good faith based argument, get him ‘The Meaning of Jesus’, co-authored by Tom Wright and alternative thinker Marcus Borg. Marcus Borg’s own book ‘Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time’ is a choice to consider if your man isn’t satisfied with traditional church answers to difficult theological questions.
Don’t give him the kind of fiction you read
If you’re not put off by the title, try ‘The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook’ by Jeff Kinley or ‘Night of the Living Dead Christian’ by Matt Mikalatos. These are books for the man who’s not quite left the church yet, and has a wry sense of humour with a taste for the irreverent, the absurd and a hope that all is not yet completely lost. ‘Monster’ by Frank Peretti, like his other novels combines the contemporary suspense/thriller genre with themes of prophecy.
Fiction writers Tim Lahaye with Jerry B. Jenkins and their ‘Left Behind’ saga, produce prophetic/thriller fiction often with apocalyptic themes. Again with prophetic themes, even bordering on the occult and so not to everyone’s taste, is ‘The Preacher’ by Darren Dillman. Ted Dekker with titles like 'Obsessed' and 'Showdown' continues to be a best selling Christian thriller writer with a following among men.
Davis T. Bunn’s ‘Lion of Babylon’ takes the form of a thriller set in war torn Iraq. With insight into connections between faiths and the relevance of faith to the real world, it has some good reviews of its hopeful message and authentic feel.
Don’t buy him the biography of a woman
There are lots of inspiring biographies of godly and courageous women – and we’re all thankful for their lives and stories. There are lots of biographies of heartrending accounts of men and women struggling against illness, oppression and circumstances – but remember you’re trying to engage him, not batter him emotionally. I'm not saying all women’s biography is a turn-off for men. For instance, Jackie Pullinger’s ‘Chasing the Dragon’ is a story of drug dealing, prostitution, murder, blackmail and fear in Hong Kong’s infamous ‘walled city’.
Men like war stories and don’t knock them for it. Like it or not war is a reality that brings out the very best in the best of men, and the very worst in the worst, so all men should be encouraged to know the truth about war. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is the man who was man enough to stand up to Hitler when he and the church he led could have given in, had an easy life and survived. Instead he - and many like him showed truly masculine courage, even to the point of involving himself in the desperate plot to kill Hitler directly bringing about his own execution in the last days of World War II.
If you can’t bring yourself to buy war based stories for your man, think about the biography of a sportsman or other notable public figure he might of heard of and care about. Don’t buy him the biography of player in a sport he doesn’t like or follow – there are too many American sports biographies out there. For starters, look at the new biography of ‘Chariots of Fire’ runner, Eric Liddell: 'Pure Gold' by David McCasland. Alternatively, the new biography of Formula 1 racing driver, Ayrton Senna: ‘Christ in a Crash Helmet’ by Richard Craig.
Still well received by men are David Wilkerson’s accounts of Nicky Cruz’s work among the violence of New York street gangs in ‘The Cross and the Switch Blade’ and ‘Run Baby Run’. Both books are getting on a bit now, but are still relevant - particularly to young men in the contrasting images of compassionate, God-aware manliness and the selfish, egotisitcal alternative.
Don’t buy him a self help book about men
Too many ‘self help’ and ‘how to be a Christian man’ books look like corrective instruction manuals reprimanding, even punishing men just for being men. he won’t like it unless it’s a book he's chosen for himself. We men like to think we already know what’s wrong with us; don’t remind us. So don’t buy him anything that seems to be moulding him into something he’s not and wouldn’t much want to be – or even would.
Don’t buy him ‘Courageous’ or ‘Fire Proof’ – even though they’re about the kind of family man and father every man does want to be. Buy these for the family – men will love to watch them with you and the children, no problem. But men need to watch them out of choice, not because someone thinks we might learn something. Men watch films for entertainment. Don’t buy him ‘The Resolution for Men’, ‘The Love dare’ or other male discipleship programme. Let this be something your church does and to which he can sign up voluntarily with other men. If he chooses not too, don’t make him.
Instead, look to give a daily devotional geared for men. Remember, if you want him to use it, it’s about his image of himself and how he percieves your image of him. For starters, try ‘Every Day for Every Man’ subtitled ‘365 Readings for Those Engaged in the Battle’. Its green and tan cover is manly enough for the contents to get a fair chance at being taken seriously. Each devotional equips men with the weapons and armour needed to fight and win on a daily basis.
Don’t buy him a Bible with flowers on it
And unless he’s an older traditionalist, don’t buy him one that looks like it was waved about at the Salem witch trials. Instead, buy him a Bible he’ll be pleased to be seen with. If you’re looking to buy him a Bible, think about it being found in his work place while he’s with all his non-church friends. Imagine the finder holding it up for all to see and shouting, ‘Whose is this, then?’ Would he be pleased to reply, ‘That’s mine. Bring it over here, mate.’ Or would he rather pretend he’d not seen it before? And imagine the same thing happening during coffee after a church service.
This means buying a Bible with a cover he would be proud to own. Believe it or not there’re plenty to choose from. For starters, look at the newer ESV Thinline Bibles with soft leather covers in navy blue, shades of tan, burgundy and black.
If you know he likes the less formal, paraphrase translations, look at the Message Remix editions with soft leather covers in Shades of grey, blue, purples and browns. Remember, there may be times he doesn’t want to be spotted with a bulky, ugly or garishly coloured Bible. Respect him for that and look at giving him a pocket version that’s easy to carry and even hide.
Don’t try to tell him about the problem
We are men; we don’t ask directions and we don’t ask people to tell us why that is. There are lots of reasons men don’t go to church and we know them all. It’s just that no-one asks us with any obvious intention of changing things. But if your church is serious about making itself man-friendly there are some useful books to help you start to appreciate the problem and the solution.
'Why Men Hate Going to Church' by David Murrow is just one of them. OK so it’s a very American view and based on the idea that men going to church going is actually normal, but at least it acknowledges the reality. Looking at what men would rather do than go to church, the book starts you thinking about why church is such a turn off for men. ‘Where are the Men’ by Pastor Jacqueline Flowers, and ‘Where have all the Men gone’ by Charlie Anderson are also books to help your church start taking seriously Christianity’s failure to inspire and mobilise the men of the twenty-first century.
Carefully choosing and buying the right Chrsitian book for your man might be the start of the reversal of the seriously downward trend. So put your man first, choose carefully in love for thekind of man he is - not what anyone thinks he should be, and you'll not go wrong.
Quick Guide to : Christian books your man will read
Buy him a book that debates the issues:
- ‘Simply Jesus’ by Tom Wright
- ‘The Meaning of Jesus’ by Tom Wright and Marcus Borg
- ‘Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time’ by Marcus Borg
Buy him the kind of fiction he reads
- ‘Night of the Living Dead Christian’ by Matt Mikalatos
- ‘Monster’ by Frank Peretti
- ‘Left Behind’ saga by Tim Lahaye with Jerry B. Jenkins
- ‘The Preacher’ by Darren Dillman
- ‘Lion of Babylon’ by Davis T. Bunn
- ‘The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook’ by Jeff Kinley
Buy him biographies of men
- ‘Chasing the Dragon’ by Jackie Pullinger (an exception)
- ‘Bonhoeffer’ (Deitrich Bonhoeffer) by Eric Metaxas
- ‘Pure Gold’ (Eric Liddell) by David McCasland
- ‘Christ in a Crash Helmet’ (Ayrton Senna) by Richard Craig
- ‘The Cross and the Switch Blade’ ‘Run Baby Run’ by David Wilkerson
Buy him a devotional that doesn't lecture him
- ‘Every Day for Every Man’ by F Stoeker, K Luck, S Arterburn
Buy him a Bible with covers a man would choose
- ESV Thinline Bibles with soft leather covers
- Message Remix editions with soft leather covers
- Pocket Bibles in most translations
Ecourage you church to value its men
- ‘Why Men Hate Going to Church’ by David Murrow
- ‘Where are the Men’ by Pastor Jacqueline Flowers
- ‘Where have all the Men gone’ by Charlie Anderson
- ‘Who Let the Dads Out?’ by Mark Chester
Over to You
At Eden.co.uk you can find a truly interactive Christian community helping you find all you need to live, learn and grow your faith.
Finding books, films, resources and activities to engage men individually and collectively is a problem best solved by shared experiences.
- Want to share your experiences of reaching out to men; your successes and failures?
- What books and other resources would you choose and recommend, and why?
Tell us. Post your ideas, views and tips – beautiful, bizarre and brilliant at Eden.co.uk
April 2nd, 2012 - Posted & Written by Les Ellison