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Mega-church pastor Craig Groeschel says men need to learn how to fight

Craig Groeschel, pastor one of the largest churches in the U.S., says men should "man up." (Image courtesy of
Craig Groeschel, pastor one of the largest churches in the U.S., says men should "man up." (Image courtesy of

Craig Groeschel, pastor one of the largest churches in the U.S., says men should “man up.” (Image courtesy of

The founder and senior pastor of one of the largest churches in the United States—with 15 locations in five states—is inviting men to fight. Craig Groeschel’s, in his new book, Fight: Winning the Battles That Matter Most, challenges readers to “man up.” He says that God gave men “a warrior’s heart” and they need to learn to fight the right battles “for God’s sake.” Here, we talk about which battles he thinks men should fight and if he agrees with pastor John Piper that God gave Christianity “a masculine feel.”

JM: When you look at the portrayals of men in Hollywood and pop culture, we are inundated with these images of tough-skinned, violent, “manly men.” What are you seeing that is causing you to be concerned that men in America are becoming too passive?

CG: I think we see extremes portrayed in media. There is everything from the tough guy that just goes out and does everything wrong because he wants to, and then there is also a real passive portrayal of men who are unfaithful to their wives and are not involved in the lives of their children. I think both extremes are extraordinarily dangerous.

In society, I think one of the biggest problems we see is that men now–maybe because of the role models or maybe because of a number of factors–walk away rather than stay in when things get difficult. We see this in our churches whenever a marriage gets tough. Rather than staying and fighting for the marriage, it just seems like people give up rather than helping their children do the right thing and being involved in their lives. They say, “Well, I’ll let my wife handle that part.” So men may be fighting battles, but they are fighting the wrong battles. They are fighting for themselves and fighting for things that don’t matter. I look at the fight and really help to try to inspire men to try to reengage in the right battles and fight when they matter the most.

JM: Can you talk about some of those specific circumstances where you are inviting men to fight back?  You aren’t referring to the battlefield, but is it the home, the workspace–what are some more specifics of those?

Image courtesy of Zondervan

Image courtesy of Zondervan

CG: The last thing I would want to do is say to guys to go pick fights. That is not what we care called to do. In the book, I really look at three specific areas that make men weak. We talk about lust, entitlement and pride. I think those big problems are causing guys to disengage from the real battles.

If you ask to really pick one of the most important ones, I think that we really need to fight for our marriages when approximately 50% of marriages end in divorce. We are treating it like marriage is a contract rather than a covenant. We really need to fight for our marriages. I also really believe that we need to fight for our children for them to be able to live strong in a world that is leading them astray.

Another thing is that a lot of people don’t think about, is issues of purity. A lot of men will just say, well we are men and we always have to look at women or be lustful, whatever. It is not that big of a deal. It really is a big deal. I believe we should fight for purity.

I also think that in a world that we deal with lust and talk about pride, lust is our “want it”, entitlement is “deserve it”, pride is “I can handle it.”

A lot of guys are getting ahead of themselves by pursuing material things and getting in massive financial bondage.I think we need to fight for financial freedom so that we can be generous and use our resources to help others.

JM: Craig, as you are sharing this message, how are men responding to it?

CG: The thing I know about men is that when you tell a guy what he is not, he is going to believe it. When you tell him what he can’t do, he will believe it.  Even in the church world, the difference between a Mother’s Day sermon and a Father’s Day sermon is always funny to me. Mother’s Day, we tell mothers how great they are and Father’s Day we tell them how pathetic they are. That does not work with us because if we don’t feel like we can win, we don’t want to play. So, what I am trying to do in this book is really help and see that you are created with a heart of a warrior.

I want to tell men, “There is divine potential in you.  You have, by the power of God, the ability to stand up and fight.” That resonates with men. It is almost like when someone you respect says, “I believe in you.” Then you better believe in yourself.  I am trying to help and see that God believes in them even though our enemy specializes in making strong men weak. Our God specializes in making weak men strong. That resonates deeply with the heart of men. I am thrilled to see them responding well already even the book has barely been out.

JM: Yes, and in the book you say “weak is the new strong.”  Can you say a little more about this? What does that look like in the life of a man?

CG: Pride is such a big issue for us. We will drive 27 miles completely lost before we ask for directions because we want to think we can handle it ourselves.  I work with men all the time that get into dark situations and maybe they are battling with an ongoing addiction. I will always tell them, “Look, you are a smart guy. If you could have gotten out of this by yourself, you would have done it a long time ago. You simply can’t. You think you are strong enough to handle it, but you are not. What you really need to do is admit openly that you are weak and you are vulnerable in this area and that is when God’s strength can be made perfect through you. If you are going to try and fight with your own strength, that is very limited. God’s strength is everything you need.”

I tell men, and this is true for me, “you are only as strong as you are honest.” If you are not honest and vulnerable and transparent, you are going to get kicked. You are going to get kicked hard. So, I look at Samson who is a strong man. We are not called just to be the alpha type-A strong guys. We really need to be transparent. We need to be vulnerable. We need to ask for help. We need to be honest about temptations, our vulnerables and our sins. That is when and the community, strength of other people, by God’s power we actually can overcome and we can win. We can do what he has created us to do.

JM: Not too long ago, pastor John Piper upset a lot of Christians when he remarked that God gave Christianity “a masculine feel.” Is that consistent with your views and message?

CG: I have a ton of respect for John, but I think that Christianity is broader than a masculine view. I think the imagery for God is Heavenly Father. He also cares for those as a mother would care for her hens. I think as a man, I enjoy relating to God as my Heavenly Father, but I think it would be a mistake to limit him and try to put a gender handle on Christianity.

About the author

Jonathan Merritt

Jonathan Merritt is senior columnist for Religion News Service and a contributing writer for The Atlantic. He has published more than 2500 articles in outlets like USA Today, The Week, Buzzfeed and National Journal. Jonathan is author of "Jesus is Better Than You Imagined" and "A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars." He resides in Brooklyn, NY.


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  • While I appreciate that this is more nuanced than Piper, it still falls into the problem of suggesting that these are ‘masculine’ attributes instead of universal attributes.

    This seems to be challenging men to be more engaged with their families. Which is fine. But that is not particularly masculine. Women are engaged with their families as well. Women need to focus on purity and pride as well.

    I get that some men will be more engaged with this type of challenge. But other men will not. And some women would be engaged in an aggressive type of presentation as well.

    I am not suggesting there are no differences between men and women. But I do find it odd that there are so few presentations of what ‘men should be doing’ that are really unique characteristics of men. Mostly they are they general biblical values and then presented as if they were uniquely male values.

  • I love how he hit me with a lift hook on how we can win by being vulnerable. I was prepared for this to be another misogynistic message on “true” Christianity being uber masculine.

    I agree with embracing the importance of “fighting” for our relationships instead of just giving up when things get really difficult. In my experience, the commitment to continue moving towards each other, especially when things are difficult, is what gives people the best chance to make it to the end together.

  • I agree with him about the need to fight for marriages and purity. As a former addict to sexual sin, I believe we don’t say enough about the fight, and most people don’t understand what it really means to “struggle” against something. My wife and I share a blog and my latest is about that fight, and how we (men and women) can become fighters again over the sins that plague us:

  • Piper’s call for a more masculine Christianity is nonsense, of course.

    Craig’s call for men to be aware of their spiritual potential in Christ in light of the things he has seen men face is interesting. I would have thought that the general basic doctrinal principles underlying this call to men would apply to women as well, and would have liked to hear his position on that.


  • I am truly glad that God is going to use all of what these week teachings are doing to the Church for the good. One of the biggest misconceptions the Church is conveying today is the idea that a Christian will suffer with a two nature issue all of their life in the flesh. It is not only not Biblical it is the biggest lie Satan uses against a believer to stunt a Christians spiritual growth because of its hint of legalism and poor teachings. Where is the Good News in struggling with a lie? The sin of the World was taken care of by the finished work of the Cross. Our New Creation in to Jesus at the Resurrection and Salvation completely cures us of this problem. People accuse Paul of struggling with this affliction with no basis. The Romans 7 man is clearly addressed to “learners of the law” and unbelievers. His first person verbiage is rhetorical and is explained by the the fact that as a new creation we are no longer bound by covenant of the law and able to consummate our new marriage in to the covenant of Grace with our Lord “I thank God – Through our Lord Jesus Christ” is Paul’s clear response to this. Stunting peoples spiritual growth to sell books be it whoever is not scriptural and is not the Gospel. Accepting our Kinship and ministering the Gospel of Grace is what we are called to do and the Love of Christ will build the Church. MacArthur’s doctrine about Spiritual gifts doesn’t fly because being a Pastor/Teacher is a Spiritual gift to the Saints. Driscoll’s teachings of the ministry of death on stone is stunting the growth of His congregation. My continuous prayer for our leaders (Church and Governments) and all my brothers & sisters remains Ephesians 1:15-23 & 3:14-21. Who’s we are = Who we are. Grace and Truth came in the Person of Jesus. “It is Finished” Means to believe that the fullness of God moves in when you embrace what He has done and how much He LOVES you! You are POSSESSED by the Creator of ALL CREATION. Believe it and Receive it. Glory to God

  • It’s not only that men must learn to fight; but that Jesus Christ has CHOSEN (Gr. stratologeo – enlisted) us to fight, i.e. a good soldiers enduring hardness (2 Timothy 2:3-4). We are the Body of Jesus Christ. We are NOT Christ’s bride. His bride is the holy city, the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:2, 9-11). This horrible notion is a tradition of men, which is not after Christ (Colossians 2:8). It is single most reason why the Church has gradually been emasculated as its men have been feminized. While the gals embrace the notion that they’ll end up ‘married’ to Jesus, we men of the Word; we men of the Cross are turned off – especially since it isn’t so. Personally, I am a son of God; Jesus and I have the same Father; I am an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ of our Father’s riches; I am a soldier; I go forth with Christ to judge and make war (Revelation 19:11-14); and, finally, Jesus Christ makes me a king and a priest to rule and reign with Him.

  • John 3:29 isn’t talking about Jerusalem, Rich, but about the people of God as the Bride waiting for the Bridegroom. The people of God are the Bride of Christ, and that has nothing to do with man’s tradition and everything to do with gospel teaching.


  • Great article, I liked your points. Men are constantly being portrayed as either bumbling testosterone driven beasts or wimps. We need to challenge our guys to be men after Gods desires and heart. Strength in fatherhood has been under played in a culture of sexual equality and now chosen gender roles. I am glad you are making a point of challenging men to be men of God. Interestingly some of my fellow readers are concerned you left out the ladies. I am not, I get it! Men have far to Long not been the leaders in the home, church, and community they should be. The Bible challenges our culture and it doesn’t confuse gender roles with modern bias. Go Bible, Go Jesus!

  • No, Tim, John 3:29 speaks of a betrothal custom. John is offering an anology of his relationship to Jesus: namely that he, John, is in the role of the friend of the bridegroom. He is fulfilling his role of preceding the bridegroom, announcing the arrival of the bridegroom. Actually, though, John is closer in relationship with Jesus, as they are cousins.
    In Pastor Groeschel’s last paragraph, he takes exception to John Piper’s claim that Christianity should have a “masculinity view or feel.” Well, well, well, telling men they are the bride of Christ certainly connotes a “feminine view or feel,” doesn’t it?
    This is why I say the Church has been emasculated by the feminization of its men.
    Until the Church is “caught up,” we are the sons of God, as opposed to the O.T. where the children of Israel are the people of God. Once different companies of saints are found to be in heaven, each loses its earthly identity. I.e. saints includes ALL saints of ALL dispensations. Therefore, the saints in Revelation 19:8 include all the saints that are in heaven by the occasion of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, Who is not even present. He arrives in verse 11. And in verse 14, the armies which were in heaven followed the Lamb to go forth to judge and make war. Sound like a bride to you? It doesn’t to me.
    Tim, you may like the “Church-is-the-bride” moniker, but I’m staying with what the Word does actually say about the Church of Jesus Christ – militant (in love), triumphant, and coming again to reign.

  • Thanks, Rich. You read those passages to mean one thing. I see them as describing the people of God as the Bride of Christ. I think I’m right and you think you’re right. God loves us both immeasurably.


    P.S. I still think I’m right. I bet you still think you’re right. Oh well. 😉

  • Pastor Craig Groeschel’s statements about men needing to learn how to “fight” were completely justified. He didn’t intend to leave out women when talking about fighting the battle of life. I think that Groeschel simply associated the general term of fighting with men and used that as a premise for his book.

  • No mention of repentance, no mention of accountability relationships, in the article, with other men. The cord of two or three strands is not easily broken. I’ll bet this book reads like a self help book. Craig is deeply associated w/hillsong which is becoming more of a “church” with an appearance of “feminizing” the entire congregation worldwide, lots of women asserting a dominant teaching role in many “men and women” settings, including Sunday teachings. No mention of iron sharpening iron, the word “transparent” being used when “craig” already is talking about honesty and vulnerability, so it is merely a confusing buzz-word in those instances. The multi-campus model doesn’t work, been there and led away, many “poorly-ministered-to” people not walking in biblical truth in those places, I was never comfortable with the tolerance of purely eisegetical teachings.

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