Why many men are turned-off by today’s church experience
Jason, my nine year old, loves learning about the Bible. This is no surprise as most kids are very open to the stories and message of the Scriptures. It’s when we grow up that it gets worse. But I digress… My son loves stories about Jesus. But you know what? He never asked me if Jesus loves him. Surprised? He just doesn’t seem that concerned about it. No. Actually, what fascinates him and interests him the most are the following:
– Was Jesus strong?
– How big are angels?
– Can the Archangel Michael beat Satan in a fight?
– How do we win in the end?
– Am I in God’s army?
– How strong are demons compared with angels?
– Can God create a rock that even He couldn’t move?
Okay, you get my point. Boys, like mine, and like I was, are into hero worship. And their hero has to be brave, strong, smart, victorious, and not taught about in Sunday School by a 50 year old lady who says he is “mild, meek, kind, soft, and loving.”
While these traits may be part of how Jesus was, they are way over-preached and only paint a small speck of the whole of His persona. Jesus’ personality is far from the child-loving, lovey-dovey, long-haired hippie-type we see portrayed not only in paintings, but also regularly in many Sunday sermons. My savior loved children, yes, but He was also a robust carpenter. He was meek, but firm; peaceful, but resolute; loving, but hating anything that desecrates the work and the Word of God, and He was certainly strong enough to face the religious leaders of the day and call them a “brood of vipers.” And that’s the Jesus that the apostles followed. This is the man whom Peter called “The Christ, the Son of the living God”.
So you see, my boy really loves the Manliness and Power of Jesus as much as His Love and Godliness. And this begs the question: “Is it any different with grown men?” And the answer is no, it isn’t.
In fact, how Jesus has been taught in churches for many decades now has caused many men to leave organized religion altogether. The result is that churches have become even more feminized. And when I say this, let me be clear, I don’t mean that pejoratively. There is nothing wrong with feminine traits. God made the masculine and feminine aspects of our human nature to serve a purpose. There is a place and a time for the virtues of more feminine behaviors. However, I am saying that overly feminized church settings will inevitably make men lose interest. And the results aren’t good for the body of Christ.
In 2005, noticing this alarming trend, David Murrow wrote a book which had a very controversial title: Why Men Hate Going to Church.
In his book, he argues that most churches are failing in reaching and connecting with men because their methods, setting, teaching and curriculum are, well, for lack of a batter word… effeminized. And he makes a very compelling case to support his claim too.
Murrow also notes that churches who are strong and thriving have a very high percentage of male engagement. He also notes the opposite, i.e. churches a that are dying or not growing have a very small percentage of male attendance. Coincidence? Don’t believe it!
Obviously, many of our present practices in church are quite a turn-off for your average high-testosterone male. What am I talking about? Well, let us first consider some of the titles / Lyrics of our favorite Sunday morning worship songs:
- “God, You are beautiful”
- “I’m so in love with You”
- “I pour my love on You”
- “Heaven meets earth like a…”
- “Your fragrance is intoxicating”
I am not by any means an overly athletic man. My body doesn’t scream ‘testosterone’. And, honestly, I’m not what you would call a man’s man. But, truthfully, I find worship songs like these to be more of a turn-off to my manhood than anything else. They don’t draw me closer to God, and frankly, some of them just make me wanna run out of the building screaming.
David Murrow, said this about the feminine nature of church worship in an article on his website:
“Many of today’s most popular praise and worship songs are feminine in nature. They envision God as a lover rather than a leader. A lot of these songs would be considered homoerotic if sung by a man to another man. What would you say if a man walked up to you and spoke the words of this popular praise song:
I can feel your presence here with me
Suddenly I’m lost within your beauty
Caught up in the wonder of your touch
Here in this moment, I surrender to your love
Men don’t call each other “beautiful.” Nor do they talk about being in love with each other. Yet every Sunday we invite men to express their love to a male God using language no man would dare say to another. Even at Christian men’s events the praise music is often feminine in nature.”
Other points to consider about what may be a turn-off to men:
- Holding hands. Men, generally, just aren’t touchy-feely. It just makes us uncomfortable.
- Worship through music and singing. Even for songs with no feminine undertones, this is, generally, enjoyed more by women than men.
- The highly social aspect of church-going. Loud crowds make some men feel ill-at-ease. These guys usually prefer one-on-one time or are just awkward in large social settings.
- The lack of leadership (or advancement) opportunities. Believe it or not, a lot of men skip church because they feel all the good jobs, ministries, or positions in the church are already taken and they feel like a useless cog in the machine.
Let’s talk about worship for a minute. Worship doesn’t and shouldn’t limit itself just to singing, or singing in church for that matter. In his book, Sacred Pathways, author Gary Thomas shows us that there are nine distinct ways that a believer can express worship towards God. When I read the book, I felt relieved. Why? Well, for the longest time, I had always felt like a poor worshiper when in church. You see, I got my kick out of a solid and inspiring sermon. If it were up to me, I would skip the music altogether and double sermon time when in church. Through reading Thomas’ book, I understood that my type of worship is through nature and doctrine, what he calls ‘Naturalist’ and ‘Intellectual’. This took away my guilt over church music boredom.
Let’s address the lack of involvement of some men. You’d be surprised at the number of men who prefer staying home and watch football over going to church, not because they are spiritual slackers, but just the opposite! They avoid church attendance because they feel left out or don’t feel they can contribute in a meaningful way. Of course, they won’t verbalize it this way. In fact, they might not even be able to identify what turns them off themselves. However, when probed, we realize just how rampant this problem really is. This is why having strong men’s ministry in churches is so crucial.
A strong and dedicated men’s ministry in churches will enable men to:
- Love, worship and glorify God in a manly way.
- Establish their godly Kingship at home.
- Lead their families better.
- Love their wives better.
- Enjoy fellowship with Christian brothers.
- Become accountable and vulnerable.
- Joyfully instruct their children about the ways of God.
- Get involved and committed in their church.
- Discover and utilize their God-given gifts.
- Establish and maintain good work ethics.
- Develop their leadership outside the home.
If you’re a guy reading this article and it touched a nerve, you should talk to your pastor about setting up a man’s group or ministry in your church. You can share this article with him to let him know where you’re coming from with this.
And women should also be made aware of this problem. Actually, if you’re a woman reading this article, you should perhaps consider going a step further and reading Why Men Hate Going to Church. Why? Because, for one, It could help you understand more thoroughly why your husband just won’t come to church. Or, If you are part of a church where 65% or more of the attendance is female, you will understand why and you could tell the pastor about the importance of creating a strong and thriving men’s ministry to remedy the problem.
Men’s exodus from traditional ‘church’ is not just the result of an increasingly pagan society, it also has a lot to do with the way we’ve been conducting church services and ministry. Our tendency to cater to ‘women and children first’ has caused men to feel ostracized from an institution that desperately needs their involvement and leadership. If we bring back the testosterone in our churches, the men will joyfully follow… and then take the lead!
Why Men Hate Going to Church, David Murrow
Sacred Pathways, Gary Thomas