Why Men Hate Going to Church

David R. Murrow, Why Men Hate Going to Church (Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson, 2005) 248 pages.

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From the back cover: “Less than 40 percent of adults in most churches are men, and 20 to 25 percent of married churchgoing women attend without their husbands.” “Murrow explains the problem and offers hope and encouragement to women, pastors, and men. (This book) does not call men back to the church—it calls the church back to men.” Murrow has worked in the television industry for over 25 years writing and producing documentaries, specials, and commercials. He says that in the summer of 2000, he was about to give up on being a Christian, but key influences (George Barna – The Second Coming of the Church; Leon Podles – The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity; John Eldredge – Wild at Heart) gave him renewed hope. He currently is the director of Church for Men, an organization that seeks to restore the masculine spirit to churches.

Contents

  • Introduction
  • Part 1: Why Men Hate Going to Church
    • Chapter 1: Men Have a Religion: Masculinity
    • Chapter 2: Why Judy’s Husband Hates Going to Church
    • Chapter 3: Men Aren’t the Only Ones Missing from Church
    • Chapter 4: The Masculine Spirit and the Feminine Spirit
    • Chapter 5: The Adjustment Thermostat
    • Chapter 6: Who Needs ‘Em?
  • Part 2: The Three Gender Gaps
    • Chapter 7: The Gap of Presence
    • Chapter 8: The Gap of Participation
    • Chapter 9: The Gap of Personality
  • Part 3: Understanding Men and Masculinity
    • Chapter 10: What Biology Teaches Us About Men
    • Chapter 11: What the Social Sciences Teach Us About Men
    • Chapter 12: Men Seek Greatness
    • Chapter 13: The Pursuit of Manhood: His Greatest Quest
  • Part 4: The Straws That Break Men’s Hearts
    • Chapter 14: Men Are Afraid… Very Afraid
    • Chapter 15: The Church is Out of Touch
    • Chapter 16: Check Your Manhood at the Door
  • Part 5: Restoring the Masculine Spirit in the Church
    • Chapter 17: Leadership and the Masculine Spirit
    • Chapter 18: Pastors and the Masculine Spirit
    • Chapter 19: Teaching and the Masculine Spirit
    • Chapter 20: Worship and the Masculine Spirit
    • Chapter 21: Women and the Masculine Spirit
    • Chapter 22: Ministry and the Masculine Spirit
  • Part 6: Meeting Men’s Deepest Needs
    • Chapter 23: Every Man Needs a Spiritual Father
    • Chapter 24: Every Man Needs a Band of Brothers
    • Chapter 25: The Second Coming of the Masculine Spirit

Introduction

David Murrow has wondered for years why men hate going to church. His conclusion: church is perfectly designed to deliver low male turnout. It is unintentionally geared towards women, children and the elderly.

“Men want to know God, but they want nothing to do with church… Truth is, the modern church is not designed to do what Jesus did: reach men with the good news… Now it’s time to call the church back to men.” (viii)

Part 1: Why Men Hate Going to Church

Something is happening in our churches that sucks the lifeblood out of men.

Chapter 1: Men Have a Religion: Masculinity

Men who don’t go to church are into the religion of masculinity. Murrow’s description: “His work, his hobbies, his entertainment, his follies, his addictions, everything he does is designed to prove to the world he is a man. His religion also demands that he avoid anything that might call his manhood into question. This includes church…” (3)

The pastorate is a men’s club. But almost every other area of church life is dominated by women.” They dominate the large meetings, staff, and volunteers.

When men don’t go to church, it’s hard for mothers to get their sons to go. It’s also hard for single women to get dates.

The men of the Bible were manly-men—tough, earthy, working guys. But men like that don’t attend church today. The men who do come are “humble, tidy, dutiful, and above all, nice.” (6) The few men who do attend are usually minimally involved.

>> Murrow glosses over the weak, self-protective, and fearful side of Moses, David, etc.

The sad thing is that no one seems to notice that men are missing.

Who’s to blame for the gender gap in churches?

  • The men themselves.
  • Church culture. People in the pews demand things that perpetuate a culture that repels men.

A church without a vital core of men following Christ will die. “If the men are dead, the church is dead.” (8) But the situation can be reversed.

Murrow says he isn’t advocating a male-dominated, “submit to me, woman” atmosphere in church. He feels the answer is “teaching, practices, and opportunities that allow for both masculine and feminine expression in the church.” (10)

Murrow’s main audience is laywomen, because they will play a key role in men returning. He challenges women to “humble themselves, pray, and allow the men of the church to lead the body toward an adventure.” (11)

Chapter 2: Why Judy’s Husband Hates Going to Church

Murrow’s mother and father disagreed on where to set the thermostat a home. His dad preferred to set the thermostat at 68. But as soon as he left for work, his mom would set the thermostat set on 77. The church is the same way. “Men have been absent or anemic for so long that the spiritual thermostat in almost every church is now set to accommodate the people who actually show up and participate: women, children, and older folks. But men suffocate in this environment, so they leave.” (14)

The culture of today’s churches values safety over risk, stability over change, preservation over expansion, predictability over adventure.” (14) “Few churches model men’s values: risk and reward, accomplishment, heroic sacrifice, action and adventure.” (15)

Men value competence and are competitive, but they feel incompetent at church. “Women are better at relating, emoting, nurturing and offering verbal expression” (16), which happens a lot in church. Men need to be needed, but many of today’s churches don’t need their masculine gifts.

So church seems pointless to men and they look for environments where the thermostat is set to their liking.

Chapter 3: Men Aren’t the Only Ones Missing from Church

Women in their 20’s are also not attending church. Men and women in this age group skip church because churches “ignore or vilify their values.” (18) The chart below shows what different groups of people gravitate towards:

  Security Oriented Challenge Oriented
Values Safety
Stability
Harmony
Predictability
Protection
Comfort
Nurture
Duty
Support
Preservation
Risk
Change
Conflict
Variety
Adventure
Competition
Daring
Pleasure
Independence
Expansion
Audience Women
Older Adults
Young Adults
Men

The modern church is simply using the wrong bait to fish for men and young adults.

Jesus promised to set you free, not to ensure your safety. “When it’s dangerous to be a Christian, men are more likely to count themselves in…. we must recapture the challenge of following Jesus.” (21) Men need room to challenge one another, rock the boat, and take risks.

This kind of challenge may help churches reach women, because women are becoming more comfortable with masculine values.

“Are you taking risks as a body? Are your members challenging each other or comforting each other? How about you personally: Do you walk with God for adventure or security? Do you pray for God’s will or God’s protection? Do you embrace change or try to stop it?” (22)

Chapter 4: The Masculine Spirit and the Feminine Spirit

When most people think of Christ and his followers, they think of feminine values (love vs. competence, communication vs. power, support vs. skills, nurturing vs. results, loving cooperation vs. competition).

“Modern churches are women’s clubs with a few male officers.” (25)1 Congregations need a healthy dose of the masculine and feminine spirit, but the masculine spirit is often condemned in church. For example, “churches that set specific goals and measure achievement are looked down upon for being too focused on numbers.” (26)

Extremes in either direction are bad. Too much masculine spirit often leads to legalism. The focus is always on performance and what you do for God. Too much masculine spirit can also lead to people to look the other way when husbands abuse and belittle their wives. But too much feminine spirit leads to “velvet coffin” Christianity: no one is being challenged and few people are growing, The overarching values are being “nice” and seeking comfort.

Men gag on velvet coffin Christianity. Jesus wasn’t this way. He stirred controversy everywhere he went. He often insulted people, calling the Pharisees “white-washed tombs” and his close fried Peter “Satan.” He did comfort the downtrodden, but Jesus made most people (especially religious people) feel uncomfortable.

“Churches are comforting Christians to death, because the feminine spirit has taken over and the masculine spirit has withdrawn.” (27)

For many men, attending church is like hanging around the “women’s apparel department at Sears.” (28)

Chapter 5: Adjusting the Thermostat

Every church has a “spiritual thermostat.” “Here are six common settings found in today’s congregations:” (29)

Challenge Casting a specific vision of greatness, outward focus, culture of leadership, to the point, emphasizing grace
Confrontation Parishioners are hammered on a weekly basis about their sin
Conformity Everyone expected to do, read, and believe the same thing
Control Feminine control: guilt, manipulation. Masculine control: rules, authority, submission.
Ceremony Preserve tradition
Comfort "Family reunion churches," be nice, keep the peace, live a decent life

We see aspects of the top three settings in Jesus’ ministry. “Christ confronted the religious, and he comforted the needy. But he challenged everyone else.” (29) His thermostat was typically set on “challenge” and he hated the bottom three settings.

>> If we want churches that are well taught and faithful to sound doctrine, won’t healthy groups to some extent believe the same thing?

Churches must be willing to challenge men if they want to attract men. If you ask nothing great, you’ll get nothing special.

The church needs a culture of challenge among laypeople and that will require person-to-person discipleship—one person helping another. “Today’s evangelical church has discarded the discipleship model in favor of the academic model.” (34) But most men are less comfortable in a classroom and don’t grow to maturity in a classroom environment. “Men are changed by what they experience, not necessarily by what they are told.” (34) “Genuine discipleship takes place only when members of the group are spurring one another on… (men in the church) must know each other deeply, trust each other implicitly, and be willing to speak the truth even when it hurts.” (35)

Chapter 6: Men: Who Needs ‘Em?

Men benefit from attending church. Attending church…

  • …is the most important predictor of marital stability and happiness.
  • …moves people out of poverty.
  • …correlates with less depression, better self esteem

But men avoid church and suffer for it.

The presence of a high concentration of men in a church is a sign of spiritual health. But most men think the church doesn’t need them. This makes them feel rejected. “Generally speaking, men’s gifts and abilities do not match the ministry needs of the typical American congregation.” (38) Men fear failure and since many jobs in the church are relational and carry a high risk of failure, they avoid them. Men sign up to serve instead in areas of perceived competence (e.g. being an usher, maintaining the grounds, overseeing finances, etc.).

How can we make men feel needed?

  1. Men need to hear: “You are desperately needed.” “Without you, all is lost.” “You have a sacred role.”
  2. Jettison the job-board approach to ministry (church advertises/defines a role and tries to find a person to fill it). Instead, start with the person and help them find a role. Take an inventory of their gifts and think of creative ways to deploy them.
  3. Expand the ministry of your church into areas where men have expertise.

“The great majority of ministry in Protestant churches is focused on children, next on women, and then, if there are any resources left, on men.” (41) Some groups hope to reach parents by reaching their kids. But if kids are the church’s focus, men will tend to see church as a woman’s responsibility and stay away. As teenagers in the church get older and they don’t see their fathers following Christ, they eventually leave the church as well.

Jesus, by contrast, focused his ministry on men. Jesus took this approach because men play an indispensable role in the body of Christ and because he knew his message would resonate with women anyhow.

“Christianity was and is distinctive among Western religions in its high valuation of feminine religious qualities. Its worship centers around the domestic motif of the Eucharistic meal, and its morality encourages meekness, humility and even a certain passivity. The irony in all this is that, though the early Christians focused on the newness of the feminine gifts, they displayed thoroughly masculine qualities in promoting their new doctrine! Masculinity is assumed in early Christianity and shoots through the whole New Testament like an electric charge: Jesus’ bold confrontations with the Pharisees, Peter’s courageous leadership of the new sect, Paul’s aggressive missionary strategy, and so on. Most of the first generation was martyred for its beliefs—hardly a mark of the meek and mild! And though on is hard put to find a New Testament text urging Christians to the masculine values of aggressiveness, independence, bravery, or resistance to injustice, these are precisely the qualities these people displayed in the face of Jewish and Roman oppressiveness.” (44)2

“While Christian values tend to be perceived as feminine, they must be lived out in an aggressive, masculine fashion.” (44)

How do men’s gifts promote church health?

  1. Their expansionist outlook makes things happen.
  2. God values their risk taking (see Matt. 25:14-25, the parable of the talents).
  3. Men value rules, which can protect the church from heresy.
  4. Men are always trying to improve things.
  5. The presence of spiritually alive men brings strength to the church.
  6. Men bring money to the church.
  7. Godly men attract women.
  8. Men bring their family. “When a mother comes to faith in Christ, the rest of her family follows 17 percent of the time. But when a father comes to faith in Christ, the rest of the family follows 93% of the time.” (47)

Christianity needs men to survive. The number of unchurched men is growing. Meanwhile, in the U.S. and Europe, Islam is growing because it appeals to men. “In spiritual matters kids tend to follow their fathers… a Christianity without significant masculine presence will atrophy and die.” (48)

Part 2: The Three Gender Gaps

There are three gender gaps plaguing the church today.

  1. The gap of presence. Women attend church in greater numbers than men.
  2. The gap of participation. Women are more active in the local church and more likely to practice spiritual disciplines like daily prayer.
  3. The gap of personality. Certain male personality types are utterly absent from the church.

Chapter 7: The Gap of Presence

“There are more women (61%) than men (39%) in the pews.” (53) This is true in every age category. “To my knowledge, there is no Christian sect or denomination in America that attracts more men than women.” (54) << The Xenos college ministry does.

Black denominations have the worst gender gap. Next worst are churches in liberal, mainline denominations. Non-denominational churches are the best (although they still report a gender gap).

Denominations with the largest gender gaps are also declining numerically.

There are “faith” groups in the U.S. that attract more men than women. They include: atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews.

Younger churches and larger churches seem to be more successful at attracting men.

Murrow wonders: Does (A) the church get large because men are present, or (B) are men present because the church is large?

Arguments for A

  • Men follow other men.
  • Bold leadership attracts men.
  • Women like to worship in the presence of transformed men.

Arguments for B

  • Maybe men like the “buzz” surrounding a successful church.
  • The quality of the service in a large church is usually high.
  • Big churches often emphasize risk, productivity, and growth.
  • Men may also like the anonymity and business networking opportunities.

How did the gender gap happen?

  1. The industrial revolution brought long hours for men.
  2. Clergymen began to tailor their messages to women.
  3. Pastors were seen as a special class of men who were allowed to exercise their feminine gifts. They were perceived as weak sissies.
  4. Women and pastors teamed up to abolish male pleasures like drinking, smoking, gambling, cursing, etc.
  5. In the prosperous 50’s, men returned to church.
  6. But the church in the 60’s knew nothing of discipleship.
  7. If current trends continue, women will dominate the clergy in mainline, protestant churches.

Chapter 8: The Gap of Participation

If your church is typical, most of the pillars who uphold it are female. Women are more active in the church than men (see supporting charts on p. 64-65).

  • They are more active in parachurch organizations.
  • They take more classes.
  • They buy more Christian books and music.
  • They volunteer more often for various roles in the church.

But compensating for lack of male involvement is leading some women to burnout.

Chapter 9: The Gap of Personality

“Certain types of people rarely involve themselves in a local church.” (70) Murrow calls them “High M” men. They are risk takers, fun lovers, and dangerous men. These fun-loving people are often shut down. Then they leave. Dangerous men communicate that they’re not to be messed with. They are also often run out of church. That’s too bad, because we need more fun-loving and dangerous people in church.

“Churchgoers are more likely to have passive personalities than the population in general.” (70) Passive personalities lead to passive institutions which change at a glacial pace. People wired for leadership find something else to do. There’s no pressure to act like a man in church. The average man at church is a tamed man – clean, courteous, conscientious, nice. The church will only attract risk takers by taking risks.

Leaders of today’s churches are loving and committed, but often not gifted in leadership.

  • They keep people busy, but is anything being accomplished?
  • They don’t move people toward a compelling vision.

“Studies show that men who are interested in Christianity have a less masculine outlook on life than other men.” (72)

“Women who had highly feminine scores were also especially religious, while women who had more masculine scores were neutral or averse to religion.” (73)

“This may explain why so many gay men are drawn to church, while lesbians avoid it.” (73)

Why don’t high M men come to church?

  1. They don’t see other men that they can relate to in church.
  2. They feel incompetent participating in ministries dominated by feminine values.
  3. There are no strong, risk-taking role models to show them the way.

Part 3: Understanding Men

Men find the church too feminine for their liking and it’s nearly impossible for them to flourish there. The next four chapters describe what men want.

Chapter 10: What Biology Teaches Us About Men

Men’s brains are different than women’s brains.

  • Men have more testosterone.
  • Testosterone is associated with dominance, physicality, and high self esteem in men and women.
  • Testosterone levels in men are higher in the morning and lower the rest of the day.
  • Women generally have more serotonin.
  • Serotonin calms people down and is associated with self-control, less aggression, and less violence.
  • Men have a larger amygdala (the part of your brain that remembers painful experiences). It causes a powerful fight-or-flight impulse when it encounters a situation that resembles a past threat.
  • Women have better language skills. They are often better readers. They use 20,000-30,000 words a day, while typical men speak just 7,000 to 10,000 per day.
  • She is stimulated by words. He is stimulated by images.

Ways to help men/boys

  • Realize that boys don’t do well in a classroom environment that limits activity and emphasizes verbal skills.
  • Introduce friendly, physical competition for men and boys
  • Ministries for boys should meet in a gym for a “highly kinetic” worship experience.
  • Have an intermission in your worship service
  • Find a way to let men move around.
  • Deal with conflict decisively.
  • Encourage people in conflict to bring their problems out in the open.
  • Let boys settle differences with competition or a controlled fight – like an arm wrestling match.
  • Don’t call on men/boys to read out loud.
  • Encourage men to listen to the Bible on CD.
  • Use easier to read modern language translations (e.g. NLT).
  • Sermons, classes, and fellowship all emphasize words. Teachings need to be more visual.

Christians are the first to assert the difference between men and women. Why don’t we recognize the difference and do something about it?

Chapter 11: What the Social Sciences Teach Us About Men

Early on, most of a boy’s caregivers are women (e.g. mom, babysitter, nursery workers), but eventually he must take his place in society as a man. Men often see church as an obvious apron string to cut because many are brought there by a female influence. Men have an intense fear of returning to their mommies. They often see church as regressing back. When men become afraid, they tend to isolate themselves.

“If your son never gets to know a man who is walking with Christ, chances are very slim he will ever walk with Christ.” (91)

Men tend to be project oriented and women tend to be program oriented.

  • The problem with programs:
    • Programs don’t provide a plan-work-celebrate-rest work cycle that men love.
    • Programs sometimes have fuzzy goals.
    • Programs usually offer no exit point.
  • Churches should offer more project-based ministry opportunities.

Men also tend to be more oriented to the outdoors and find it easier to find God outdoors.

Men were the hunters, women the gatherers. Is your church for hunters or gatherers?

Men were the warriors:

  • Liberal churches infuriate men because they: (1) are consistently opposed to war (2) in some cases remove all military imagery from teachings and music (3) don’t talk about Satan.
  • The language of spiritual warfare is effective with men.

Men were called to self-sacrifice:

  • Movies like Braveheart that feature a central character who sacrifices himself inspire men. Jesus is the ultimate example.
  • “Deep in his heart, every man has a desire to expend himself for a great cause.” (97)
  • If you doubt this, consider Islam.

Men used to be the keepers of religion, but if Christianity fails to engage men, its influence will wane.

Chapter 12: Men Seek Greatness

There are certain people “who see it as their job to humble anyone who might get praise or credit. (They) hurt men, because men, who are created in God’s image, aspire to do great things, just as God does.” (98-99)

“If you want to capture the heart of a man—especially a younger man—you have to offer him a shot at greatness.” (99)

Is it a sin to seek greatness?

  • God promised to make David and Moses’ name great.
  • Jesus didn’t rebuke James and John for wanting to be great… he just directed them towards the true path of greatness. See Mark 10:35-45.

Men can seek greatness found not in self-promotion, but self sacrifice. We should find ways to recognize men. “It is no sin to recognize men for the good they do. It’s not about exalting individuals; it’s about celebrating what God is doing in people’s lives.” (102)

Greatness isn’t glory. That belongs to God. Greatness is reflecting God’s glory.

Chapter 13: The Pursuit of Manhood: His Greatest Quest

“Without masculinity there would be no civilization as we know it.” (103)

Every society needs people to carry out risky, dangerous jobs. Masculinity makes people willing to take risks. This informal code involves standing up to danger, bearing up under suffering, and sacrificing yourself for the good of others. Men can’t switch masculinity on and off.

“Masculinity is an informal code imposed on all the men of the tribe. In order to be accepted as a man, one must stand up to danger, bear up under suffering, and sacrifice oneself for the good of others.” (104) If men don’t do this, they are rejected. This code forces men to be manly in peacetime, ensuring they will be ready in wartime.

Men gradually earn their masculinity (like putting coins in a bank) in various ways—excelling at their careers, making money, playing sports, remodeling a kitchen, etc. Men avoid activities perceived to be unmanly. Such activities rapidly drain their “masculinity bank.” Going to church is one of those activities.

That’s why, when they do go, men go to church with reluctance, projecting an air of disinterest or mild hostility.

Women feel no shame crossing over into men’s roles (a woman swinging a hammer) but men feel shame taking on women’s roles (a man holding a purse).

Men do not/should not need to give up their masculinity in order to follow Christ.

Part 4: The Straws that Break Men’s Hearts

There are many reasons why men hate church. The number one reason: There are too many hypocrites in church.

Chapter 14: Men are Afraid… Very Afraid

“Men’s fears focus around loss of… independence and women’s around the loss of significant relationships. We [men] most fear engulfment, anything that threatens to rob us of our power and control. Women most fear abandonment, isolation, loss of love.” (115)3

Features of church that make men afraid:

  • Men fear incompetence and often lack the Bible knowledge and verbal skills they need to shine in church. For too many men, the path to Christ leads through a classroom.
  • They also don’t like to sing in public or be singled out in a crowd.
  • Men are aversive to embracing a straitlaced lifestyle. Some men see Christianity “as the end of fun and challenge.” (118)
  • Men want the freedom to debate and argue. They object to an anti-intellectual, antiquestioning atmosphere common in many churches. Some men worry that their kids are being “brainwashed.”
  • Matchmakers in the church pressure single men to get married
  • Married men are intimidated by pressure to be super husbands.
  • They also can feel jealous about their spouse’s devotion to Christ or the church. Women should remember they are not the bride of Christ, the church is. They should also remember that their husband will never measure up to their ideal. If you are looking for the church to provide what your husband can’t, he will grow to resent it.
  • Men also are threatened by homosexuality. Murrow questions the wisdom of holding hands while praying, or embracing first time visitors.
  • “The Catholic priesthood, the nation’s most visible pastoral group, is said to be more than 50 percent homosexual.” (123) << Murrow bases this on an article in the Boston Globe (Mark D. Jordan, “What Attracts Gay Men to the Catholic Priesthood” May 3, 2002, Section A, 23.
  • Men associate church with not getting a lot of sex.
  • Men are also afraid of heaven because it sounds like a boring place with no fun and nothing to do.

Chapter 15: The Church is Out of Touch

Many churches are frozen in time. As a result, people that gravitate towards church have passive, change-resistant personalities.

Many churches are lagging behind the culture in use of technology. If you want to attract men (and young people), don’t run away from technology.

Many churches offer a low-quality worship service that makes men cringe. Amateurish music is a turn off. Be willing to say no to those who aspire to perform in your church. But don’t be such a perfectionist that no one can be involved.

Other tips on being more in touch with men:

  1. Be punctual and don’t let the meeting go long.
  2. Don’t back away from absolutes. “In de-emphasizing in recent generations a concern with absolutes and ultimates, heaven and hell, and eternity and infinity, modern Christianity has taken a decisive turn toward feminine religion, which is typically interested in the immanent and the incarnational, and finding God in the small things, they everyday, and the mundane… As liberal religion stresses increasingly the immanent and ‘horizontal’ dimensions of faith to the exclusion of the transcendent and ‘vertical’ reality, it inadvertently ignores the voracious appetite of man for the Great, a Wholly Other, and the Eternal.” (131)4
  3. Fortress Christians who try to insulate themselves from the surrounding culture have a “scaredy-cat” image that also repels men.

Chapter 16: Check Your Manhood at the Door

Reasons why Christianity and Manhood are incompatible:

  1. Christians portray Jesus as Mr. Rogers with a beard: he is sensitive, compassionate, and inclusive. But the real Jesus at times was fearsome, abrasive, ill-mannered, willing to offend, and courageous.
  2. Christian virtues that churches emphasize are feminine: weakness, humility, relationships, communication, support.
  3. Christian terminology is feminine:
    • We call men to be saved (like a damsel in distress). Jesus challenged men, “follow me.”
    • We prefer “family of God.” Jesus spoke of the “kingdom of God.”
    • Terms like “passionate about Christ” or “intimate, personal relationship with Christ” appeal to women, not men.
    • We need less “love affairs with God” and more “friendship” or “partnership with Christ” or walking with Christ.
  4. Christian music is feminine—stripped of all references to the military, strength or battle.
  5. Christian ministry is feminine and often involves getting in circles, singing and sharing.
  6. Christian worship is feminine, appealing to the emotions but leaving little for the intellect. “Prayer and share” time is often dominated by women.
  7. Christian dress codes appeal to women.
  8. Christian holiness is feminine.
  9. When men do something that involves risk taking, aggression, or a tough response, they are often criticized.

The church needs to offer equal time to the masculine spirit.

Part 5: Restoring the Masculine Spirit in the Church

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

Chapter 17: Leadership and the Masculine Spirit

Church experts agree that laymen need to step up and take on greater leadership roles in their churches. And churches that have “dynamic, gutsy leadership are growing and attracting men.” (151) This is needed to overcome the leadership crisis in many churches.

Some Christians piously argue that we shouldn’t aspire to leadership. But true leadership is servant leadership and aspiring to lead is aspiring to serve.

“(Men) are looking for men who will lead them to greatness.” (151) Pastors must be freed up from mundane duties in order to focus on this. >> I agree. What can I do to convince men that God offers them great things and lead them to accomplish it?

Effective leaders need a balance between the masculine and feminine spirit (e.g. from Acts 6 – the apostles devoted themselves to teaching but still ensured that widows were cared for). When leaders effectively delegate and focus on what matters, everyone is better cared for.

Consider having two pastors – one focusing on leadership and the other on teaching.

Consider recruiting leaders from the corporate world, not necessarily from a seminary.

Put a system in place to identify and train lay leadership in the congregation:

  1. Use personality/temperament tests to identify leaders in your congregation.
  2. Banish the word facilitator from your vocabulary. Men follow leaders, not facilitators.
  3. Support your ministry leaders at every level. Back them up on the decisions they make.
  4. Support leadership development and training.
  5. Don’t shoot your leaders. Believe the best about their motives.

“Whenever possible, put men in leadership positions.” (156) Murrow says the Bible assumes male leadership and argues practically that men will aspire to lead when they see other men leading. “When women lead, men leave.” (157)5

“Statistics indicate that denominations that have opened their doors widest to female leadership are generally declining in membership.” (157-158) “On the other hand, some of the most gifted Christian leaders I’ve met are women… Women led in the Bible. To say women are never called by God to lead in church or to say they lack the capacity for leadership is quite a stretch. We need great leaders of both genders in the church today.” (158)

Advice for women in leadership

  1. Consider men’s expectations when making decisions.
  2. Don’t be quick to take leadership away from men.
  3. Make developing men a top priority.
  4. Lead courageously.
  5. Be willing to be tougher. (158)

Remember that men aren’t into pointless business. They want to be part of something greater than themselves. “Every usher and parking lot attendant, every teacher and team leader must see himself as a link in a chain going back to Christ himself, a foot soldier in an army that is transforming the world.” (159)

“If you can clearly state a unique purpose for your church (and restate it often), the men will be encouraged.” (160) Tips on purpose statements:

  1. Try to make the church mission statement short and specific.
  2. Repeat it frequently.
  3. Always stress the purpose when announcing events.
  4. Small groups for men must have a clearly stated purpose.
  5. Eliminate any meetings that have no purpose.

Don’t be afraid to set high standards. “Rick Warren built Saddleback Church on this philosophy: ‘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.’ Warren adds, ‘People don’t resent being asked for a great commitment if there is a great purpose behind it.’” (161)6

Promise men obstacles, not ease. Consider Shackleton’s advertisement for his expedition: “Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages. Bitter cold. Long months of complete darkness. Constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.” (162) 5000 men applied for 26 open slots on the expedition.

“A man who is challenged into God’s kingdom will be a follower forever.” (163)

Don’t beg and plead with men to follow Christ, challenge them.

Men hate futility and want to see results. Jesus said our job is to produce fruit that lasts. Pastors must periodically thin unproductive ministries so that the healthy ones have room to grow. One church prunes the bottom 10% of their ministries every year. If you fail to do this and allow men to plug into fruitless ministry activity, they will burn out, become passive, and maybe even leave the church.

Chapter 18: Pastors and the Masculine Spirit

“Leading a church is like trying to play cards in a hurricane, and seminary prepared you to preach, not lead.” (168)

If your church is a one man show, you will attract “sheep rather than tigers.” (168)7

  • give permission and give up control
  • cast vision
  • free people up to make on-the-spot decisions
  • encourage and equip
  • send them out
  • get out of the way

Help your pastor deliver great leadership…

  • Give him time to pray.
  • Follow his leadership, even if it leads you into the unknown.
  • Support his vision.

Studies show that the average pastor exhibits more feminine traits that the average man in the population at large. Murrow warns against being overly verbal, expressive, or sensitive. He encourages picking up a few manly hobbies. Dress down to earth and use simple language. Be honest about your struggles. Don’t put on a performance when you teach, just lay it out.

Have a take on things. “Men want a pastor who proclaims the gospel with boldness, unashamedly and unapologetically, but not with a harsh or condemning tone.” (171) We need pastors with strong convictions and a gentle spirit.

Challenges that churches with women pastors face:

  1. A woman pastor may inadvertently move the thermostat to comfort just by being herself.
  2. Boys in the church may not have a single male role model who is a committed follower of Christ.
  3. Many female-led churches are liberal.

Men need a pastor with a “shepherd’s heart and the spirit of a warrior.” (174) Women can lead effectively if they (1) speak men’s language, (2) defend the truth of scripture (3) are visionary (4) are willing to challenge others.

Chapter 19: Teaching and the masculine Spirit

“There’s a lot of teaching going on in church, but not much learning. Men realize this.” (175)

Tips on teaching men:

  1. Let men discover truths for themselves.
  2. Give them hands-on experiences.
  3. Use object lessons (like parables).
  4. Let men ask questions and challenge the party line. Don’t shy away from frank and salty dialogue and debate.
  5. Sermons should have a single point and be short (20 minutes).
  6. Break your sermon up into clear chunks: exposition of the passage, an object lesson, and a sermon.
  7. Be direct and to the point.
  8. Challenge your audience.
  9. Do something surprising in your teaching.
  10. Interact with popular media.
  11. Tell stories—especially about Christians who courageously follow Christ.
  12. Emphasize strength more than weakness.
  13. Use masculine imagery and language: “challenge,” “adventure,” “skill,” “strength,”, “endurance,” “pride,” “influence,” “courage,” “accomplishment.”
  14. Present Jesus as the man that he was: powerful, dangerous, and unpredictable.

Chapter 20: Worship and the Masculine Spirit

Most women can’t get enough worship, but men have to be “in the mood” to enjoy it.

Tips on running a worship service that appeals to men:

  1. Make sure the performers are high-quality.
  2. Make sure it is fun.
  3. Introduce competition.
  4. Give men hi-profile spots in the worship service.
  5. Keep the service moving along. Don’t spend too much time on any one aspect.
  6. Feature more energetic and vigorous music.

Murrow points out that the “worship service” format is a relatively new phenomenon and warns that we’re “getting dangerously close to making music an idol.” (187)

There are ways to expand worship beyond singing. Worship can involve other ancient modes of praise giving. << Murrow doesn’t interact with the idea that other types of service can constitute worship as well.

Other tips on worship

  1. Study and practice the various types of worship in the Psalms.
  2. Make sure the people who lead music in your church are talented.
  3. If it’s a sing along, make sure the lyrics are in men’s vocal range.
  4. Favor performed music vs. sing-alongs when targeting the unreached.
  5. Offer men-only worship opportunities.
  6. Advertise a singing-free men’s retreat.
  7. Select songs with masculine lyrics if you do sing at a men’s retreat.
  8. Worship outside in nature…
  9. … or pick a venue like a hotel conference room. Move worship out of the church building.
  10. Room décor should be masculine.
  11. Don’t encircle men and all lay hands on him at once in prayer. Go one at a time. Use a semicircle.
  12. Keep prayers brief and to the point.
  13. Avoid church-speak in your prayer.
  14. Suggest specific things to pray for when meeting with other men to pray.

Chapter 21: Women and the Masculine Spirit

Tips for women who want to help men be more involved in church…

  • “Accept changes that will make your church friendlier to men even if those changes make you a bit less comfortable.” (193) This means being willing to cut dearly loved ministries that are ineffective AND allowing “the men to do things you may not understand or approve of.” (195)
  • Allow your church to focus its energy on developing men.
  • Allow the church service to be challenging and visual, offering men opportunities to stand up and move around.
  • Let your husband choose a church that best meets his needs.
  • Let men gather without women in the room so they have an opportunity to be open.
  • Women whose husbands do not attend church should band together to pray for them.
  • Don’t force the men in your family to go to church.
  • Be less religious and more real.
  • Don’t fill the vacuum in all the ministries in the church. Let a few ministries teeter on the brink of failure and see if the men will step up and serve.
  • Let your husband lead and instruct the family.
  • Don’t question your husband’s competence or manhood or act spiritually superior.
  • Don’t hold back in following Christ. “If men see your walk with God as something exciting, something that’s affecting the world positively, they may become intrigued.” (200) If you go to church out of a sense of obligation, don’t expect the men in your life to follow.
  • Shift the focus of your women’s ministry from learning about God to having adventures with God.
  • Realize that Christianity is not God’s plan to remake men so your life can be more pleasant.

The best way to reach men is to “give up on religion and start following Jesus.” (202)

Chapter 22: Ministry and the Masculine Spirit

“Over the years, we’ve come to define Christian Ministry as the things women are skilled at—and Christians serve primarily in areas where women have more experience.” (203) But how can we release men to serve in areas of their strength?

  • Expand ministry into areas where men excel, like working on cars, doing handyman work for widows, etc.
  • Use gift inventories and personality tests to identify gifting.
  • Pastors: realize you are not ministers, your people are. You are their coach.
  • Make the path of progress in your church clear. Give men a ladder to climb.
  • Do a few things well. Give men a focus.
  • Maintain an external focus.
  • Give men big projects that capture their imaginations.
  • Give men risks to take. “Christianity based on risk avoidance will never attract men. If our message is full of don’ts, be careful’s, and play it safe’s, men will turn their backs.” (207)
  • Give men adventure… short term trips are good for this.
  • Deploy men in servant evangelism (e.g. fixing up houses, passing our drinks, cleaning bathrooms, etc.).
  • Create men only roles, opportunities, and events.
  • Let your men make a meaningful contribution, even the nonChristians you are trying to reach. Men will come to Christ through serving Christ.
  • Get the word out about what your church is accomplishing.
  • Charge men money for classes, retreats, etc. They equate something that costs money with value.
  • Encourage men in your church to extend personal invitations to nonChristian men to come to church.
  • Provide multiple entry points for men: Alpha class, small groups, men’s events, sports leagues, etc.
  • Also provide exit points. Ask for a short-term commitment. Pay attention to the cycle of “plan, work, celebrate, rest.” (211)

Part 6: Meeting Men’s Deepest Needs

Men need something more than Sunday morning worship to grow and flourish. They need discipleship.

Chapter 23: Every Man Needs a Spiritual Father

“God calls every man to become a spiritual father.” (215)

Murrow cites 1 Cor. 4:14,15 and argues that “a church with many teachers but few fathers is a church in trouble.” (216) << That statement is probably true, but I don’t think that is what Paul is addressing in 1 Cor. 4:14,15. He’s simply saying that as the person who founded the church, he is their spiritual father. For that reason, the Corinthians should heed what he has to say and imitate his faith.

Men follow men. And men are perishing in our churches for want of an example to follow. The founders of our faith (Jesus, Paul, etc.) were spiritual fathers and lived out their commitment to God in a way that influenced men to follow.

George Barna says that after 8 weeks, most recent converts are no longer connected to a church. Without becoming spiritual fathers, we will never hold on to them.

Murrow cites G.F. Watkins church, Powerhouse Christian Center, as an example of a church that offers discipleship to men. The pastor is a spiritual father to a dozen men, each of these 12 works with 12 others, and so on. <<< I wonder how many generations down that goes?

The women disciple each other as well.

What do spiritual fathers do?

  • They walk with God and lead men by example to maturity in Christ.
  • They offer ongoing relationships/investment for the people they mentor and are available to the person for the rest of their life.
  • They teach other men by example.
  • They teach men how to “release their masculine energy” (e.g. cope with feeling powerless, handling rage, and overcoming fears).
  • They move men from self-absorption to an outward focus.
  • They administer discipline when needed. Their relational investment gives them the authority to do this.
  • They help men discover who God designed them to be.
  • They help men discover how God designed them to live.
  • They expect their “sons” to become spiritual fathers to other men.

Spiritual fathering, as described above, must become the foundation of the church.

Chapter 24: Every Man Needs a Band of Brothers

“Every man wants to be part of a team that does something great.” (222) If the church offered this, you wouldn’t be able to keep men from coming to church.

Men rarely have good relationships with other men in the church. How can we form them into platoons?

  1. Preach against spiritual individualism.
  2. See platoons (small discipleship groups) as the building blocks of your church (not just an add-on).

Things you need to know about men and relationships:

  1. Though men want and need relationships, they rarely use the term or think relationally. They tend to form partnerships centered around activities (sports, football, fishing, etc.).
  2. Women form relationships face-to-face. Men form them side by side—as they participate together in a shared activity.
  3. The deepest male relationships are formed in a crucible. “Men who have competed together, sweat together, bled together, and overcome adversity together are bonded for life.” (225)
  4. Don’t push men too far, too fast, or they will pull away.

Men need to know God personally. Many men know about God, but don’t know him personally. They only way they will know him personally is through discipleship.

Leave no man behind. Breaking into smaller platoons will help ensure that all the men in your church will have a chance to build relationships.

Chapter 25: The Second Coming of the Masculine Spirit

“We welcome the masculine spirit by considering men’s needs, assigning them a sacred role, and letting them be men.” (227) Recognize the difference between sexes and stop squeezing men into a feminine religious mold.

Ministries that are working for men:

  1. Small groups.
    • Barna’s research shows that from 1994 to 2004, male attendance in small study groups doubled while church attendance was flat. Men are clearly spiritually hungry, but the typical Sunday service is very unappealing to them.
    • If small groups are so appealing to men, maybe new church plants should center their strategy around forming small platoons of men.
  2. Promise Keepers and other men’s ministries… they’ve finally figured out how to market their ministry to men.
  3. Outdoor ministries that include hunting, fishing, rafting, etc. (e.g. John Eldridge’s Wild at Heart Boot Camps).
  4. Work projects like Habitat for Humanity designed to help the poor.

Ideas for leaders and scholars: Leaders should have a summit and discuss ways to attract men. Scholars should study reasons for the church gender gap in depth. Seminaries need to revamp their training.

What you can do: Get people in your church talking about ways to engage men. Recognize and welcome the masculine spirit in your church. It’s time to drop our nets on the masculine side of the boat.

Footnotes

  1. Citing Leon Podles, The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity (Dallas: Spence Publishing, 1999) p. ix.
  2. Citing Patrick M. Arnold, Wildmen, Warriors and Kings: Masculine Spirituality and the Bible (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1991) p. 69.
  3. Citing Sam Keen, Fire in the Belly, On Being a Man (New York: Bantam Books, 1991) p. 140.
  4. Citing Patrick M. Arnold, Wildmen, Warriors and Kings: Masculine Spirituality and the Bible (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1991) p. 77.
  5. Quoting pastor Dan Jarrell.
  6. Citing Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), p. 345.
  7. Quoting John Eldredge.