Why Men Hate going to Church
This week I read a book by David Murrow. The title of the book is “Why Men Hate going to Church”. This book deals with a major and troubling issue with Christianity as a whole, even affecting the church, and that issue is that Christianity is pretty much the only major religion where there are more women worshipers than men.
So, what seems to be the problem? Well, in today’s busy world, men seldom go to church! Furthermore, of the men who do attend church, most decline to invest themselves in the Christian life as their wives and mothers do. The majority of men attend services and nothing more. One man said, “I go mainly for my kids and my wife. Church is okay but it really doesn’t enthrall me like it does her.”
Who is the gospel touching today? Women. Women’s ministries, women’s conferences, women’s Bible studies and women’s retreats are ubiquitous in the modern church. Men’s ministry, if it even exists, might consist of an occasional pancake breakfast and an annual retreat. How did a faith founded by a man and his twelve male disciples become so popular with women but detested by men? The church of the first century was a magnet to males. Jesus’ strong leadership, blunt honesty and bold action mesmerized men. A five minute sermon by Peter resulted in the conversion of 3000 men.
Men Hate Church – Reason #1
Today’s church does not mesmerize men; it repels them. Just 35 percent of the men in the united States say they attend church weekly. In Europe male participation rates are much worse, in the neighborhood of 5 percent. This hardly sounds like a male-dominated, patriarchal institution to me.
Let me be blunt: today’s church has developed a culture that is driving men away. Almost every man in America has tried church, but two-thirds find it unworthy of a couple of hours once a week. When men need spiritual sustenance, they go to the wilderness, the workplace, the garage, the corner bar, the stadium, the racetrack, a novel or a movie.
Men’s disinterest in Christianity is so consistent around the world, it cannot be explained
by pride, father issues, sin, or distraction. Neither can we say that men are just less religious because this is untrue. Male and female participation are roughly equal in Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism. In the Islamic world men are publicly and unashamedly religious—more so than women. Of the world’s greatest religions, only Christianity has a consistent, nagging shortage of male practitioners.
Men Hate Church – Reason #
Christianity is still growing worldwide, but it is losing ground to two aggressive competitors: secularism and Islam.
Secularism is the “de facto” religion in much of Europe today. Rationalism, materialism, anarchy and radical environmentalism are a few of its common guises. It’s on the rise in America as well. One study found that the number of adults who subscribe to no religion doubled during the 1990’s. The number of unchurched Americans who don’t attend services except for holidays or weddings nearly doubled between 1991 and 2004.
Islam is the world’s fastest-growing religion and it is also enormously popular with men. Since 1950 the number of Christians in the world has doubled but the number of Muslims has more than tripled.
Islam is growing worldwide and it has made its strongest inroads in the African American community. More than 90 percent of the converts to Islam in the united states are African-American men, one of whom who grew up in a Baptist church but converted said, “In Islam I found a stronger ideal of brotherhood and moral discipline and of manhood.” Why are secularism and Islam on the rise? I believe it is their ability to capture the hearts of men.
WHAT IS THE CURRENT TREND IN THE CHURCH?
The typical churchgoer is a woman. The U.S. Congregational Life Survey pegged her as a fifty-year-old, married, well educated, employed female. The weekly gender gap is about 13 million. (Adult women = 480,000,000; Adult men = 35,000,000)
There are more women (61%) in the pews than men (39%). Today 20-25% of America’s married churchgoing women regularly attend without their husbands. Younger churches seem somewhat more successful in attracting and retaining men. This suggests that as a church ages, it loses its men and is unable to attract more.
What causes this? Think of the need of a young church. Startup congregations need men’s gifts. Risks must be taken. Plans must be made. Buildings must be built. Men love this stuff. They have a lot to offer a young church. But as a congregation ages, it begins to value feminine gifts such as nurturing, stability, and close-knit community. Not that these are bad but they stifle the masculine gifts. (Now we’re getting somewhere).
Two Kinds of Men
There are two types of people in the church: pillars and caterpillars. The pillars uphold the church with their prayers, their work, and their donations. They build the kingdom of God by the sweat of their brows. The caterpillar crawls in on Sunday morning, sings a few songs, listen to a sermon, and crawls out again, not to be seen for a week.
If your church is typical, most of the pillars are female. Women are:
100% more likely to be involved in discipleship
57% more likely to participate in adult Sunday school
54% more likely to participate in a small group
46% more likely to disciple others
39% more likely to have a devotional or quiet time
33% more likely to volunteer for a church
29% more likely to read the Bible
29% more likely to attend church
23% more likely to donate
16%: more likely to pray
Booksellers know that women buy 75% of Christian products so they work hard to create an atmosphere of femininity. They even write more of the books.
Diversity is the Church
The church is short of a diversity of personality types. Churchgoers are more likely to have passive personalities than the population in general. While 62 percent of Americans have passive personalities, about 85 percent of the Christians tested in study have passive personalities.What are the implications of this imbalance? Any institution so heavily tilted toward passivity will itself become passive. It will tend to value tradition and stability over innovation and growth. (The church becomes stagnant.)
A leadership crisis is crippling the church because the passive are the ones who lead. The lack of bold visionary leadership is driving men away from churches. Men are looking for strong risk-taking leaders to show them the way. They are looking for healthy role models for their sons. Men need wise spiritual fathers who will tell it to them straight. They are not finding them in church so they’ll look elsewhere.
More Women Than Men
The fact that in 2016, church membership and attendance has been mostly relegated to women, children and the elderly should send chills up our spines! I do need to mention that the gender gap and age gap is closing in. In the 1970s and 1980s, Church membership and attendance from women, children and the elderly outnumbered men by 20% more than it does now. I don’t think that this is the kind of church that God wants. So, how did the church get this way?
In order to understand this, we will need to look at some historical facts. The shortage of men was partly due to new working conditions brought on by the industrial revolution. Men were working longer hours at factories and mines, some of which operated on Sundays. Other had to leave town to find work. Women, children and aged men were the only ones left in church.
Shortage of Men
Clergymen, finding their church filled with women, began to tailor their messages to them. The vengeful God of the Calvinists was supplanted with a warm, comforting Jesus who matched the sensibilities of the predominantly female congregation. One of the era’s favorite hymn was “Jesus, Lover of my Soul, Let me to thy bosom fly.” This romantic view of Jesus was popular with women whose husbands had little time for them. But men were repulsed by Christ as lover and had no desire to fly to His bosom.
During the Victorian Era, men and women were consigned to strict gender roles, but pastors were something in between, a special class of men who were allowed to exercise feminine gifts. Pastors moved in feminine circles; preaching to women, counseling women, drinking tea and eating cakes with women. The image of the thin, weak, sissy pastor was common in literature of the day (Jane Eyre). Ann Douglas writes, “It seems highly likely that, in a period when religion was more and more the province of women, many of the young men drawn to the church were seen to be deeply attached and even similar to the women they knew best, namely their mothers.” Victorian women adored these effeminate, sensitive, caring men, but their husbands were not impressed. They steered clear of church as a result.
During the prohibition era, the gender gap was 60-40, similar to today. However, after the great depression and leading into the 1960’s, the pews were filled by an almost equal amount of women and men because that was the so-called builder generations. But when the paint dried, men began to get bored. There was nothing left to do and they left again.
Men Hate Church – Not Every Man
Not every man has a specific reason for hating to go to church. Some just feel a general unease with it. “The style of worship is not compelling to me. It’s just the feel of the whole thing. Emotionally the style doesn’t connect with me.” Remember that Islam captures and retains more men than Christianity. Why is that?
Well, Christians emphasize Christ’s feminine characteristics while ignoring his masculine ones.
When people think of Christ, they think of His feminine side. A gentle Jesus, meek and mild. People often stress his sensitivity, his compassion, his inclusivity. Liberal churches have recreated Jesus as a benevolent Teacher who is always gentle, tender, and accepting. This Christ would never offend anyone, never judge anyone, and of course never send anyone to hell. Christians have so accepted the non-masculine Jesus that the very idea that he could be sexually tempted touched off a firestorm with the release of the film “The last Temptation of Christ.” But the bible says in Heb. 4:15 that “Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are—yet without sin.” Nevertheless, many Christians couldn’t imagine Jesus tempted by sex.
There are two problems with this soft Jesus. One is that it is not fully accurate. It only paints one half of the picture. Two is that no man wants to follow a feminized man. Men are looking for a real man to follow: dynamic, outspoken, bold decisive, tough and fair.
It is ironic that the Jesus of Scripture is exactly like this. He was fearsome Mark 4:41 said his disciples were terrified of him and “no one
dared to ask him any more questions Mark 12:34. He was abrasive and was unafraid to offend people (Matt. 15:12). Jesus Christ is the most courageous, masculine man ever to walk the earth and we’ve turned him into a wimp.
Another reason that men are turned off from Church is that many Christian churches use feminine themes, imagery and vocabulary.
Many of the sermons and language that we use describe feminine ideals such as relationships, nurturing, sharing, feelings, and communication. Some mainline churches go so far as to strip masculine pronouns from hymns, liturgy, and even Scripture in an effort to make women more comfortable in church. We are no longer sons of God but rather children of God. Let me ask a question, why is God described in male terms if God is a Spirit? Why do the laws directly mention men and not so much the women? Linguistically, it is clear that masculine theistic terminology dominates the Scriptures. Throughout both testaments, references to God use masculine pronouns. Specific names for God (e.g., Yahweh, Elohim, Adonai, Kurios, Theos, etc.) are all in the masculine gender. God is never given a feminine name, or referred to using feminine pronouns.
Finally, The church used to allow aggressive warlike images of Jesus in hymns such as “Onward Christian Soldiers”, but by the turn of the 20th century hymns had taken a decisive move toward the feminine. In 1913 C. Austin Miles wrote “In the Garden.”
The first hymn ( onward Christian soldiers) isn’t used that much is most congregations anymore but the other ( in the garden) and others like this are. Even modern Christian worship is full of imagery that attracts women more to the church then it does men.
Songs such as; Thank You, Hold My Heart, In Christ Alone and Draw Me Close are all wonderful songs and inspired. However, if you read the lyrics carefully, they most definitely attract women much more than they do men.
It would seem as though Christ has put down his sword and picked up a daisy!
So, how do we re engage men?
Men Need Vision
First we must understand that men need vision. The Bible says, in Proverbs 29:18 – When there is no vision the people perish.
Jesus had a vision. He called it the kingdom of God and it was huge. It involved nothing less than a re-creation of the world, one person at a time. And did you know that we are His partners in this task. This vision was the focus of his entire life. Everything about his life was tied up in this vision. It was the reason Jesus lived and died.
Unfortunately for the modern church, men don’t have a vision of what God is doing in his church. Church then becomes a club instead of a cause where we try to improve ourselves morally or keep ourselves busy. We have to see the significance of the tasks we are given to do. The state of this country and this world depends upon the smallest prayer that we say.
Men Need Purpose
Next, men need purpose. Most guys don’t know what the purpose of the church is. That’s because most churches have not agreed on what their specific purpose is. What is our mission statement? Neh. 4:6 For the people had a mind to work”. A study of Shell Oil employees shows that people who retire at age 55 and live to be at least 65 die sooner than people who retire at 65. After age 65, the early retirees have a 37% higher risk of death than counterparts that retired at 65. That’s not all. People who retire at 55 are 89% more likely to die in the 10 years after retirement than those who retire at 65.
Men Need High Standards
Finally, men need high standards. Many people think the church asks too much of its members. In reality it asks too little. A study by Thom Rainer of two thousand churches showed that without exception the churches that attracted unchurched people were high expectation churches. He said, “People have no desire to be part of something that makes no difference and that expects little.”
We have to ask confidently for a big commitment. Jesus always asked for a commitment clearly and confidently. He was not at all reluctant to ask men and women to drop everything and follow him. People do not resent being asked for a big commitment if there is a great purpose behind it. Most often, we draw back from challenging men to greater commitment, assuming their laziness. We then wonder why men have so little respect for the church—even as we presume so little respect for them. Matt. 16:24-25 – Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
Therefore, I am calling every man to be the man and the leader that God wants you to be. I am setting the standard very high today, even for myself. God wants us to excel spiritually in every area of life. God wants us to be the best husbands, the best sons, the fathers, and the best teachers. Eph. 5-6
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