Xtreme Character Challenge - Wales 2022

October 20, 2022

Men left behind

The public intellectual, Jordan Peterson recently said men are dying for lack of an encouraging word. He is right. How many men are taking their lives or dying inside just a little each day due to lack of connection, accountability and friendship.  

Almost everywhere the media and institutional narrative has become hostile to men. At the same time we see society drifting further away from its moorings and the traditional moral order which is putting many men at significant risk. They are losing direction, a sense of purpose and many are conflicted, believing their God-given masculine traits are inherently evil.

Our traits are a gift not a curse

One of these traits, is a natural aggressive instinct so that we can take dominion, and thrive in an un-tame world. We were built to shape our environment, protect our households, to forge bonds of fraternity. Man was made for mission.

Where is this mission to be found today for the domesticated, modern man, especially those trapped in an office or sedentary work?...His strength is redundant, he is away from his homestead, His wife is working in an office down the road and his kids are in kindergarten being taught something inappropriate. Life has never been as materially comfortable but our souls are like the desert. Is it any wonder that men are lost in a sea of drugs, porn, computer games with a lack of aspiration and hope. That this has happened is no accident. There are forces at work which are content to see the men of a society, weakened, sedated, distracted using their very God given natures to destroy themselves. When a city is left without its defenders, expect it soon to be plundered..

Does the church want men?

Does the church have an answer to the crisis in masculinity? The answer of course should be a resounding yes. But the better question to ask might be, “Do men think the church has an answer to what ails them?” The answer is mostly, no.

We have a problem  - The Christian path offers men a life of challenge, purpose and hope - True faith in Christ makes sense of the world. Yet too many lazily believe the lie that church is the domain of the weak-minded or the crackpot.

Churches don’t help themselves. So many are “nice”, sanitised and middle class. Those that have a bit of red meat about them do lead their parishioners to the Cross.. YES.. and AMEN!.. but what comes next?..What about wild, glorious masculine KINGDOM living?

It can’t just be me that craves action, connection and a life of adventure. Sometimes, I feel like an outlier..Everyone else seems so content going through the motions. I need to experience the extremes to bring me closer to God.

God wants men

I have wrestled with this over the years but recently I had an encounter which forced the scales from my eyes - I went on an XCC weekend run by the Christian Charity 4M and the Reverend James Ray.

I deliberately will not say too much about the weekend in this post because I want you to go on one, and the point is you don’t go knowing too much in advance.

From the outset - I will say that this organisation has a Christian ethos but there is no hard sell, however one thing slowly becomes clear over the course of 3 days; that the Christian life is one of transformation and adventure. All that is required is trust and obedience.

Are you up for the Xtreme Character Challenge (XCC)

Men of all backgrounds are invited. From barrister to ex-prisoner - all are welcome.

I went on the weekend in Wales this October expecting a hard physical challenge and perhaps to hear a little about the importance of faith in life. This may be the experience for most. Like I said, there is no compulsion to faith just the expectation of a rugged, challenging weekend. The XCC team will be pleased for you, if you showed up, worked hard and went home with more friends than what you started with.

The miles don't matter

For me, however this was the most significant spiritual experience I have ever known. It finally felt like I had arrived home - I was in a wild environment all I had to do was keep going forward and trust. I’d gone with some expectation of a tough couple of days, to see if I still "had it" aged 48? I soon found God doesn’t care how many miles you walk or how fit you are - he is interested in the heart but layers need to be stripped back to get there. The XCC team like a skilled surgeon knew just where to cut.

I reason that physical hardship, and a particular type of discomfort open a window into a man’s soul and if you have an attuned sense of metaphor and at least some biblical literacy, you will see great truths expounded. Truths our fathers and grandfathers knew. Truths we have forgotten. What happens next is entirely up to you.

As I reflect on this weekend, I think about church and faith for men. For so long we have been trying to make church “comfortable” a nice place to come and it should be a holy place of praise, shelter and restoration but it should also be a place of adventure, challenge and fraternity - Men need this because we are built differently. We need to feel like we are striving upward towards the shining city on the hill together. We cannot do life alone in a sanitised bubble.

Can life ever be the same again

With my new friends standing beside me, I met with God on a mountain in Wales, Wind howling, rain lashing. Everything stripped away. As I stood at the foot of an old rugged cross, dropping my rucksack to the ground and with tears in my eyes, for the first time in as long as I could remember - I felt it right there - A love and a peace that surpasses all understanding. Life can never be the same again.