Years ago, I was the editor of a major Christian leadership magazine and had a brainstorm for my upcoming column. I wanted to call my article “Crushed Testicles,” based on Leviticus 21:20.
I wasn’t really surprised when my boss said he liked the article but thought the title was a bit too graphic. We ended up calling the article “Holy Testosterone” instead.
Although I was fine with toning down the title, in retrospect I wonder if we did the right thing. The Bible never shies away from graphic language in fear we might be offended. It doesn’t include any disclaimers or apologies when Leviticus 21:20 (NASB) lists “crushed testicles” as one of the characteristic that would disqualify someone from the priesthood. Now, as then, courage and “holy testosterone” are indispensable qualities of successful leaders.
This is not an argument against women in leadership, for the New Testament makes it clear that all believers are now called upon to enter the church’s “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9). And, like Joshua, we’re all called to be “strong and courageous,” whether male or female (Joshua 1:7).
In contrast, though, we as Christian leaders in America have too often become polite, respectable, noncontroversial and steeped in religiosity—very different from the Lord Jesus we profess to emulate. As if Caspar Milquetoast were our role model instead of Jesus Christ, we’ve often chosen “getting along” over being true leaders…pleasing people over pleasing God.
The implication of the phrase “crushed testicles” is not that someone was born (or “born again”) with this condition. Rather, such a condition is nearly always the result of some injury on the way to becoming a leader or in the midst of serving. Whether this is applied to those who leave seminary with less “testosterone” than when they went in, or to those emasculated and crushed by church conflicts or satanic onslaughts while in the ministry, it’s a debilitating condition that God wants to remedy.
If you have been in ministry any length of time, you’ve no doubt been injured or bruised. It goes with the territory. To put it bluntly, our testicles get crushed by the pressures, rejections, and betrayals we encounter along the way.
Our tendency when injured is to lose our boldness and shrink back from further battle. But this is the very reaction we are warned against: “Do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward…My righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him” (Hebrews 10:35-39).
Many of those who went into the ministry with a vision to change the world are now staying in ministry only with a vision of retirement. Testicles crushed along the way, testosterone depleted, they set their sights only on surviving, not thriving.
Let’s face it: The ministry is not for the faint of heart. In order to be successful, we need holy boldness…courage. It does no good to have vision if we’ve lost our nerve and our will to fight.
The stress on Christian leaders in America is seldom the result of overt persecution. Sadly, most of us have not been enough of a threat to anyone to be persecuted.
Instead, the stress comes primarily from the daily wear and tear of babysitting self-absorbed believers who are more concerned about their own needs than about the gospel. Having chosen to babysit rather than confront, emasculated leaders find themselves increasingly frustrated with a ministry typified by spinning of wheels instead of changing of lives.
Those with crushed testicles not only are crippled from leading, they also are disabled from reproducing. Like eunuchs, their castration prevents them from having normal “intercourse” and raising up a new generation of leaders. Amazingly, this lack of spiritual reproduction has become accepted as normal by many who are in leadership today. Losing sight of the clear biblical mandate to equip new leaders, many leaders have become content to have no spiritual offspring.
Be clear on this: It is not a sin to have been crushed. But it is a sin to wallow in an impotent condition, not letting God heal us and restore our courage to lead and reproduce.
After listing the traits that would disqualify a person from the priesthood, God concludes Leviticus 21 with this word of encouragement: “I am the Lord who sanctifies them” (v. 23). This means that no matter what condition you find yourself in today, God is committed to help and heal you if you let Him.
Take heart! Today there can be a whole new beginning for your journey of faith.
Good one, Jim. The best I’ve read from you.
You’ve impressed us all with that posting!