Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Stickin’ It To The Man!

Written by: on November 6, 2014

Stickin’ it to the MAN!


As long as there are people living in societies there will be social classes.  As long as there are social classes, there will be disparities between those classes — “haves” and “have-nots.”  As long as there are “haves” and “have-nots” there will be perceptions of inequality, injustice and oppression; there will always be a privileged class and an underprivileged class.  Whatever terminology we choose to use to define these stations in life, and the manners in which they relate to one another, as long as there are people living on the earth there will always be “the man.”  And everyone else will be trying to “stick it” to him.  Whether or not “the man” is actually at fault for whatever societal ill he is being blamed is to be answered case by case but in general, Social Theory will seek to understand and explicate why inequities exist and will try to level them out, all the while elevating the oppressed.  This is a good thing…

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 10.59.28 AMClick HERE!

In a nutshell, Social Theory, as an anthropo/sociological discipline, exists to ferret out injustices an inequities lurking within our societies.  As a result, a paradox of sorts is found.  Social Theory is at its best when and where social injustice is at its worst.  Should social injustice ever be eradicated, Social Theory would quietly fade away, a no longer necessary hero of yesteryear.  We see Social Theory as being “vitally engaged with the repression, oppression and indignity of unequal social relations: it is a deeply political, sometimes melancholic, but profoundly humane critique of the structural forces which underlay the self-destructive pathologies of contemporary societies.”1  It seems to me that this should be the organic work of the church.

I remember reading somewhere about a person being called to set captives free and intervene on behalf of the oppressed, enfranchise the disenfranchised and elevate the poor, to bring liberty to the (unjustly) captured.  Who was it that lived by those mandates?  Hmm…  Well, maybe “Contemporary” Social Theory isn’t so contemporary after all.  In the important  words of Phillip Struckmeyer, “why social theory and why not theology?”2  Asked a different way, shouldn’t the mandates of scripture be enough to instruct us in the ways of righteousness as individuals and as a society?  Why must we leave it to good-hearted pagans and atheists to highlight our inadequacies?

One thing that I find interesting is that the ones doing the most “sticking it” to the privileged class are others from the privileged class that feel guilty for their privilege.  The dichotomy presented in that dynamic, oftentimes, is that the social theorists raging against societal injustices and inequalities do so from the safety of their ivory towers, far removed from the unwashed masses for which they are advocating.  Very few are willing to get their hands dirty while doing the work of elevating the downtrodden, preferring instead to study from a far, rage from a safe distance, swing the pen instead of the sword.  When we find those few, we should link arms with them, be inspired by them, and use whatever is in our hands to contend for justice, remembering that God is near to the broken-hearted and kind to the oppressed.

Anyone remember this little lady?


Or this guy?












They preferred to actually do something about the inequalities they observed instead of just studying them.

I wonder what theories they ascribe to?




1. Elliott, Anthony. Contemporary Social Theory: An introduction. Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition. 2009.  342.

2. Phillip Struckmeyer, “Why Social Theory, Why Not Theology?” DMINLGP.com, November 6, 2014, accessed November 6, 2014, http://blogs.georgefox.edu/dminlgp/why-social-theory-why-not-theology/

About the Author

Jon Spellman

Jon is a husband, father, coach, author, missional-thinker, and most of all, a follower of Jesus.

14 responses to “Stickin’ It To The Man!”

  1. Nick Martineau says:

    Jon, I think it was last week I mentioned that the smartest people I know can articulate difficult concepts in a way everyone can understand. Well your post did just that. Thanks for clearly laying out social theory, the role of the church, and tying it all in with our Advance. It’s clear Jason has put our reading together to walk us down this path…As I keep pondering it seems to me that Social Theory isn’t just another tool in the handbag of the Pastor. It is the heart of Jesus and how we should looking out into our communities. Thanks.

  2. Mary says:

    By your articulate definition of Social Theory as a discipline to ferret out injustices, I’m reminded of the similarity with how education is seen as the panacea for a better society. It has been branded and held up as the answer to all the problems in our society. And while education, like social theory, is necessary to better understand this world, we still continue to sit in a society of violence, immorality, and hopelessness. In these current realities, I am most energetic to say we need Jesus who brings good news. And interestingly, that statement circles back to having some education and understanding of social theory. Thus the paradox, once again.

  3. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Jon, My father-in-law is going to love this. He lives to “stick it to the man.” I love the thought of Is 61:1-3 and the clarity that brings. I was just at the Dream Center in Los Angeles, CA this week and saw what “the Church”, a church, in action looks. The thought of the Church, a church, existing for social transformation is not a theory, I believe it is more actually its mission of join God in His redemptive work. Good stuff bro!

  4. Jon Spellman says:

    Matthew Barnett has done a great job of pioneering a reproducible model of community transformation due to the active observation and intentional action of the church. We’re pretty proud of Matthew. We stole him from the Assemblies of God! You know he is the pastor of our flagship church, Angelus Temple, in Echo Park.


  5. Brian Yost says:

    “Very few are willing to get their hands dirty while doing the work of elevating the downtrodden”.
    Great post, Jon. You hit the nail on the head. Most people with a conscious will feel something when they witness injustice or see the downtrodden. As children, most of us quickly moved to offer help to those in need. Very quickly, however, we learned that to help another usually means to hurt ourselves. Another way to say this is that helping others requires sacrifice. Each time we turn away, it becomes easier. Eventually, we have no difficulty in saying, “It’s not my problem.”

  6. Dave Young says:


    Yes, “very few are willing to get there hands dirty” and yes some would rather write about it then do something about it. Although, we’ve seen some amazing people get their hands dirty, as your post highlights. It was such a huge privilege to sit at the feet of Mary Burton, i think that was the highlight of my trip. Listening to her testimony, her life of addressing the social injustice at her door step.

    We shouldn’t get too skeptical about making a difference. I’ve seen churches get mobilized, I’ve seen people when given a clear path for engaging a social injustice; I’ve seen them bravely step forward and make a difference. Yes it rare, and that might be more a leadership issue then a lack of compassion.

    • Jon Spellman says:

      Dave, somehow we, as leaders, have to become more skilled in the arena of capturing and transmitting narrative. When we see good things, we should herald them from the hilltops! We should be celebrating where the Gospel is breaking through, bringing transformation.


  7. Dawnel Volzke says:

    Very well said! I noticed a theme through the stories shared by Leon, Xola, and Mary. They all ‘did the right thing’ as opportunity presented itself. Further, each had depth and breadth of knowledge concerning the society that they they engaged.

    Many people today lack knowledge about society…and knowledge is needed if we want to make a meaningful difference and to develop solutions to problems. Ultimately, we must prepare ourselves, be aware to the needs around us, and react when opportunity presents. I found this quote from Mary Burton: “At first it was all so new and strange to me, I didn’t know how to react. I decided to wait and watch and be silent for a little while to gain a better understanding of all the forces involved. But after a short while I just couldn’t sit back any longer.” (http://www.worldtrek.org/odyssey/africa/mary/marystory.html)

  8. Travis Biglow says:

    Hey John,

    It is so true that there will always be the “man.” I am seeking to do something to help my in my denomination but sometimes i feel its not worth it. But as you said we need to do something about injustices and thats what compels me. Its terrible that social injustices are frequently going on in our churches. I believe there is too much favortism and the adoption of the worlds theory of socialization. Its bothers me so much to be involved with situation where what is really going on is kept from the fore front. I think for the principles of Christ to be exemplified better it must begin in the church. The church has to stop that top down mentality and the “man” conept first.

Leave a Reply