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Sons of Issachar:

Becoming Men of Understanding and Influence in the Community

As Christ-centered, Bible-based, 21st century “Sons of Issachar,” men carry the power to exert catalytic influence in their respective communities. Here are three ways men can change the world.

By Samuel Rodriguez

Our faith is not like any other faith. Our faith is transparent, transcendent, and transformational. Our faith teaches us to cross over obstacles, shout down walls, break through crowds, and walk on water — even in the midst of storms.

Our faith enables us to survive the fires of life, overcome den of lions, shake off serpents, and move mountains. Our faith empowers us to see the invisible, embrace the impossible, and hope for the incredible.

Corresponding faith enables us to distinguish between the pathetic and the prophetic. For we recognize that we live in difficult times — times darkened moral relativism, spiritual apathy, cultural decadence, and ecclesiastical complacency. Yet our current spiritual socio-cultural malaise stands exacerbated as a result of a lack: the lack of Christian men exerting influence.

Throughout American history, Christian men confronted challenging moments with righteous courage, virtuous heroism, anointed leadership, and prophetic activism. From pastors who preached against tyranny during the Revolutionary War to Christian abolitionist leaders of the 19th century, Christ-serving men changed our nation. Today, the lack of Christian male leadership in our culture and in the public square speeds this generation’s unprecedented moral and spiritual decline.

Yet in the midst of a pathetic reality lies a clarion call for the engagement of a demographic within the Church: Christian men, with the potential of providing a prophetic antidote to our precarious surroundings. The Church and nation desperately need the engagement, empowerment, and emergence of America’s Christian fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons as the “Sons of Issachar.”

“From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take” (1 Chronicles 12:32, NLT).1

Issachar’s tribe lived surrounded by paganism, idolatry, unrighteousness, consternation, angst, and flux. Yet the men of this tribe understood the times and subsequently proceeded to provide direction for Israel through influential leadership.

Accordingly, as Christ-centered, Bible-based, 21st century “Sons of Issachar,” we carry the power to exert catalytic influence in our respective communities. We can initiate change by reconciling the vertical and horizontal planes of the Christian message, renewing a Spirit-empowered ethos, repudiating complacency, and redeeming the narrative of prophetic activism.

Reconcile the Vertical and Horizontal

The men from Issachar’s tribe understood the times and led according to that understanding. Today, Christian men are poised to influence family, community, church, and culture when we understand the holistic message of the Cross.

No other symbol incorporates passion and promise like the cross. A simple symbol depicting two pieces of wood, one vertical and the other horizontal, successfully branded the eternal hope of glory to all mankind.

In Genesis 22:7, Isaac asked Abraham, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” John the Baptist answered in John 1:29: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

The sinless Lamb of God provided the means for human redemption by bearing sin’s curse on the cross. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole’” (Galatians 3:13).

Madison Avenue and billion dollar ad campaigns could not conjure up the loyalty, commitment, and multigenerational allegiance to a message the humble cross inspires. You won’t find the message of the cross written on the wood. Rather, Christ’s sacrifice communicates this amazing message: love, grace, and eternal life.

That universal Christian symbol powerfully and with unbridled persuasion not only conveys a message of what is to come, it also reminds us what life truly is: a cross. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

The Cross, like life, is both vertical and horizontal. Vertically, we connect to God, His kingdom, eternal life, spiritual truths, divine principles, and glory. Horizontally, to our left and right, we live in community and function in the context of relationships, family, culture, and society.

Simply stated, the Cross is both vertical and horizontal, redemption and relationship, holiness and humility, covenant and community, Kingdom and society, righteousness and justice, salvation and transformation.

For too long, men have lived either vertically or horizontally, but few have succeeded in living, speaking, equipping, leading, and ministering from where the vertical and horizontal planes of the Cross intersect — the nexus of Christianity.

Markedly, this is the place where conviction marries compassion and truth joins hands with mercy. The nexus represents the location where men reconcile the prophetic with the practical and faith with action.

The Sons of Issachar must remain committed to both the vertical and horizontal. Yet how do men reconcile these two planes? We embrace our biblical mandate to provide leadership in our homes, community, and spheres of influence. Our reconciliatory activities require the acceptance of a simple truth: God changes us so we can change the world.

In addition to living a life of integrity and providing both spiritual and physical nourishment for our families, male Christ followers must make cultural reformation a priority. We will accomplish this corresponding goal when, on a daily basis, we seek to address a need in our community, whether it is feeding the hungry, welcoming a stranger, ending human trafficking, promoting racial reconciliation, mentoring fatherless children, or bringing good news to the poor.

For example, if praying, fasting, worshipping, and sharing the gospel represents the vertical then defending life, protecting marriage, voting biblical values, confronting injustice, warning against pornography, rebuking racism, mentoring the fatherless, and serving the least of these represents the horizontal. Additionally, as vertical and horizontal high priests and worshippers, we receive God’s anointing and instruction on Sunday so we can change the world for the glory of Christ Monday through Saturday.

We need men dedicated to prayerful deliberation and prophetic activism, addressing sin and confronting injustice, protecting life and alleviating poverty, reaching the sinner and reforming the culture. It’s not either/or; it’s both/and. It’s righteousness and justice.

Church and society will be best served when Christ-following men reconcile Billy Graham’s message of salvation through Christ with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s march for justice. As Sons of Issachar, we can and will exert maximum influence when we lift holy hands in conviction and stretch out helping hands with compassion.

Renew a Spirit-Empowered Ethos

Issachar’s men understood the times and led with prophetic courage — not as a result of happenstance but as a consequence of spiritual empowerment. Similarly, the sons of today’s Christ-following tribe can influence our communities and provide prophetic leadership by renewing Spirit-empowered living.

For this reason, application of Holy Spirit-guided lenses will enable us to discern and understand our times. Thus via the conduit of biblical allusions we understand and acknowledge that real spirits exist in communities throughout America today.

For example, a spirit of Pharaoh lives holding people captive in the Egypt of bondage and fear. A spirit of Goliath persists in mocking and intimidating the children of God. A spirit of Jezebel still prompts men and women to hide in caves through sexual perversion and manipulation. A spirit of Absalom continues to divide homes, churches, and relationships. And a spirit of Herod tragically kills the young through abortion, poverty, and sex trafficking murdering infant dreams and vision.

Yet, Sons of Issachar, let us be assured that there exists a Spirit more powerful than all these spirits combined. Our tribe’s mandate is demonstrating that the most powerful spirit alive today is not a spirit of Pharaoh, Saul, Absalom, Goliath, Jezebel, or Herod. Our generational call and commission require us to articulate, with truth and love, that the most powerful Spirit on the planet is none other than the Holy Spirit of Almighty God. “ ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty,” (Zechariah 4:6).

At the same time, Spirit-empowered living enables us to exert influence in our communities by living a life of freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17); holiness (1 Peter 1:16); comfort (John 14:16); and power (Acts 1:8). We must remember that charisma without character is like driving a luxury car on reserve fuel. It can only take you so far.

As Spirit-empowered men of understanding and influence, we live to offer a counter-narrative. Hence, to every spirit that facilitates the platform of moral relativism, spiritual apathy, cultural decadence, and lukewarm spirituality we construct the following alternative: For every Pharaoh there must be a Moses. For every Goliath there must be a David. For every Nebuchadnezzar there must be a Daniel. For every Jezebel there must be an Elijah. And for every devil or demon that rises up against us, there is a mightier God that rises up for us.

Repudiate Complacency

There exists a fine line between the prophetic and the pathetic. A prophetic church recognizes the biggest problem in America is not a pathetic moral relativism, cultural decadency, or spiritual decline. The number one problem in America is the unfortunate posture of a lukewarm church.

In Old Testament days, Issachar’s men understood the times in which they lived and led with wisdom. They repudiated apathy, understanding that today’s complacency is tomorrow’s captivity.

Arguably, the Church, once the most catalytic and influential institution in our respective communities, stands guilty of not only complacency but of sacrificing biblical truth on the altar of political and cultural expediency. To a great degree we have abandoned our truth-telling mantle and God-given purpose.

The voices of many Christian men today are silenced by a culture and society committed to marginalizing faith, redefining family, and limiting freedom. Only the repudiation of complacency by Bible-believing agents of change will build a firewall against the enemies of truth and grace.

The situation reminds me of a nature documentary I watched. A lion returning from a hunt was ambushed, suffering seemingly mortal wounds. He had no strength — not even enough to raise his claws, lift his head, or open his eyes.

At that moment, the cameras captured the images of a band of predators moving toward the lion’s position. They didn’t come to finish off the injured animal but to kill his cubs. Though the wounded lion could barely move, he used his last available resource: his roar. Immediately, all the enemies threatening the lion’s offspring fled.

The film’s narrator said, “Why did the enemies of the lioness flee? They know very well that as long as the lioness roars, they cannot take away what belongs to her.”

What about our generation of men? Will we be complacent, or will we roar? Today’s Sons of Issachar must reconcile an understanding of our time with deliberate determination to repudiate complacency. We cannot remain silent.

We must not permit the pathetic noise to silence the prophetic voice. Silence is not an option when 30 million of our brothers and sisters live in poverty. Silence is not an option when, in 2014 America, men abandon their roles as fathers, our children are slaughtered, pornography marries technology, God is mocked, pushers are more admired than preachers, school grounds look like battlegrounds, and our neighbors sit paralyzed by the gate called Beautiful begging for change. It’s time to emerge as vertical lambs and horizontal lions. It’s time to pray, but it’s also time to release a collective, faith-filled roar.

Redeem the Narrative of Prophetic Activism

In the Old Testament, the men of Issachar’s tribe knew what course to take and what actions to engage for an effective outcome. Today’s Sons of Issachar must understand and embrace what I recently shared with a group of men committed to transforming their communities in the name of Jesus.

First, there is no such thing as comfortable Christianity. Second, truth must never be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency. Thirdly, we should measure Christianity by the constant of loving actions rather than the variable of rhetorical eloquence.

As Christian men, our mandate includes redeeming the narrative of prophetic activism. In other words, we, as men of righteousness, must live out the gospel on a daily basis not just through the words uttered internally in our homes but even more by the actions taken externally in the world.

Meanwhile, as the enemies of truth and grace continue to project our values as archaic, intolerant, and irrelevant, we are called to shine the light of Christ in a world darkened by agnosticism, eclectic spirituality, and moral ambiguity. As men of God — as godly men — we can redeem the narrative by our fruit and actions. We can show the world that Christianity is not primarily about what we oppose, and it’s never about anything we desire to impose. Christianity is about what we propose: a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Sons of Issachar, it’s our time to arise. This hour represents the greatest opportunity to redeem the narrative of prophetic activism. A secular reporter, skeptical of Christianity, asked, “What do Christians do, besides going to church on Sunday?”

We love.
We forgive.
We turn the other cheek.
We bless our enemies.
We walk in integrity.
We live abundantly.
We give food, water, and clothing to those in need.
We welcome strangers.
We preach in and out of season.
We worship in the Spirit and in truth.
We shine the light of Christ.
We do justice.
We love mercy.
We walk humbly before God.
We change the world!

Therefore, righteous warriors, rise up and make disciples. Rise up and fulfill the Great Commission. Rise up and be filled with the Holy Spirit. Rise up and heal in His name. Rise up and deliver with His power.

Rise up and live out true religion, clothe the naked, and give shelter to the homeless. Rise up and defend life, eradicate poverty, and speak on behalf of those who cannot speak for themselves. Rise up and defend religious liberty, end human trafficking, and welcome strangers.

As 21st century Sons of Issachar who understand the times and exert prophetic influence by reconciling the vertical and horizontal, renewing a Spirit-empowered ethos, and repudiating complacency, what will we accomplish? We will change the world!

SAMUEL RODRIGUEZ is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (Hispanic Evangelical Association).

Note

1. Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

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