A few years back author David Murrow found himself like many men. He loved God, but he hated going to church. “Sunday morning would find my body in the pews, but my heart was elsewhere. I was so desperate I began exploring alternative religions, including Islam. Did I mention I was an elder in my church?”
Quite a few attend out of habit. Others attend services simply to keep their wives happy. Most guys do nothing midweek to grow in faith. Few churches are able to sustain a viable men’s ministry. Was Murrow alone? So he asked men, what is going on! After his research he authored a book “Why men hate going to church”
He found that there is a large gender gap in today’s churches. On a given Sunday there are 13 million more adult women than men in America’s churches. The main argument in the book is that the church has become feminized. That is, the church is a place where the average woman can feel quite comfortable because it is set up for her success. From the ways churches function to the way that conflict is dealt with, most churches cater to women.
How do most churches deal with conflict? Generally speaking, when conflict arises men default to, “Let’s step this outside and settle this like men.” And when it’s finished they can shake hands and move on. For women conflict is more typically internalized and thus bitterness grows and you avoid that person at all costs. Thus the cliche: men get angry, women get even. Yes this is somewhat generalized, but research indicates that this is the case for the vast majority of men and women as research indicates.
So what does this mean in a local church? Think of how most churches deal with conflict. The author would argue we deal with it like women. We would find it reprehensible for two of our deacons, in the midst of an argument, to say “Let’s step outside and settle this like men.” But we find no problem dealing with conflict like women by suppressing anger, disallowing outward disagreements, and never actually speaking about it, etc. Here’s the point, both models are a bit messed up, but the church caters to feminine sensibilities.
Why should it even matter, however, for the church to address this issue? I mean shouldn’t men just change and deal with it? First off men are not in our churches, they are missing. Well the statistics reveal that men are the gatekeepers for the faith. Here’s what I mean by that. I saw a study about a year ago (and Murrow indicates this too) that demonstrated if a child came to faith in Christ there was about 20% likelihood that the rest of the family would follow suit. If the mother came to faith in Jesus there was about a 28% likelihood the rest of the family would follow. But if a father began following Jesus there was over a 93% likelihood the rest of the family would follow in his footsteps. Men are strategic to the cause of Jesus in our world.
Take the architecture and the overall decorum. Today even down the the paint colors, the couches and the flowers it looks more like a civic center than a church and who loves going to the shows at the civic center?
Then there is the type of Jesus they present. Some churches present this almost rad hippie style god with flowing sexy hair. A Christ that was loving not a fighter. Most songs are about how much it feels good to be in love with Jesus. Men want war anthems about faith, victory, overcoming, loyalty and winning.
Something has to give. We can continue in our pursuit of insanity just hoping on a vain wish that the men will one day come back to church. Or we can actually reevaluate and change our course. Failure to do so is unacceptable I think.
David Murrow’s has some great insight and practical suggestions as to how we might help usher in change…if you want to read his book. Why Men Hate Going to Church, offers more than 60 pages of practical ideas for bringing a healthy, life-giving masculine spirit to your congregation – and to your own walk with God.