“Step into any church parking lot, and you’re likely to see an attractive young mother and her brightly scrubbed children scurrying to church. Mom may be wearing an impressive diamond ring on her left hand, but the man who gave it to her is nowhere to be seen. ” This is one of the opening lines in David Murrow’s book, “Why Men Hate Going to Church.” Murrow points out a problem creeping up in most churches today that for the most part goes unnoticed: there are far more women in our church than men. According to the U.S. Congregational Life Survey, “Women comprise more than 60% of the typical adult congregation on any given Sunday. At least 20% of married women regularly worship without their husbands. There are quite a few single women but hardly any single men in church today.” The church I serve as pastor of is no better, in fact, it’s worse. We have a pretty consistent 2 to 1 ratio of women to men that come and participate in our church.
This is not a new problem. It’s likely always been a problem in the church. Charles Spurgeon, who was pastor of a church in England in the 1800’s, once wrote, “There is a notion, somehow, that if you become a Christian, you must sink your manliness and turn milksop…You must not do this, and you must not do the other: you are to take out your backbone and become molluscous; you are to be sweet as honey towards everybody, and every atom of spirit is to be evaporated from you…I do not believe in such Christianity at all. The Christian man, it seems to me, is the noblest style of man; the freest, bravest, most heroic, and most fearless of men. If he is what he should be, he is, in the best sense of the word, a man all over, from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot.”
Why do so few men come to church anymore? Why are there far more women than men? Why is it that so many married women come to church without their husband? Why is it that there are far more single women than men in our churches today? Business guru W. Edwards Deming said, “Your system is perfectly designed to give you the results you’re getting.” The churches we create today are too feminine for men to feel that church should be an important part of their life.
Churches like to key in on relationships and security. This is not what excites men. The overly-feminized Jesus that has been portrayed in movies and books has crept into our modern-day worship songs. We use words like loving, caring, kind, and nurturing to describe Jesus. While all of these are true, these are hard words for a man to get pumped up and excited about. Good Christians are described today as being meek, sensitive, passive, and sweet. While those things are appropriate at times, again, if this is what the Christian faith is all about, this is going to be very hard to capture a man’s heart and life using these words.
Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill in Seattle, has never been one to mince words. “In 2008, he told Christianity Today that too many American churches are populated by “chicks” and “a bunch of nice, soft, tender chickified church boys.” More than anything, he seems intent on recasting the image his congregants have of Jesus. In a 2007 Relevant magazine interview, Mr. Driscoll sneered at Christians who “recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair.” Read the Book of Revelation, he said, and you will see that “Jesus is a prize fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed.”
Whether or not you agree with Driscoll’s statements, it does get you fired up, doesn’t it? And that’s exactly what men need today: To be fired up. And to be re-introduced to a God who is more than just love and kindness. He is a God of courage, might, and power!
While there is nothing wrong with finding security and comfort in Jesus, in having a personal relationship with Jesus, and in using some more-feminine values to describe our God, what I am calling for and urging for today is for churches to balance out the feminine spirit with the masculine spirit in a healthy way. It is appropriate and will get more men fired up when we call on them at times to give up their comfort and security and risk their faith! It is important for men to see their walk with Jesus as a relationship that includes risk, reward, adventure, and courage. And for as much as we harp on the more feminine values of Jesus, we can also bring up the more masculine values of Jesus like courage, bravery, risk, and heroic sacrifice!
Men want to be challenged. They don’t want to be spoon-fed everything. I believe there is nothing more challenging than following after Jesus. But that’s not often the way following Jesus is depicted. Truly following after Jesus calls for a radical life. A life that will include bravery, courage, risk, adventure, dare, and so much more. Too often churches pray “Keep us safe…watch over us and protect us.” That prayer is boring to a man. Plus we already have God’s promise that he will protect us and never leave us. Rather than praying that, consider praying this: “God use us. Challenge us. Give us courage. No matter what happens, even if hardship comes my way, help me stay faithful to you. Even if I face danger and I’m not safe, give me what I need to be victorious for you.” The reality is that if we are truly following after Jesus, it is going to be dangerous. We are going to be stretched. We are going to be uncomfortable. Let’s embrace this idea of challenge rather than running from it and even praying against it. A church that challenges its members is a church where men thrive.
I am not advocating for a male-dominated church. I’m simply pointing out a problem and saying we have to do something about this. If we fix this problem and are effective at reaching men, it would have a very positive trickle-down influence with all of these people and areas: single women, families, the church, and the community.
As of right now, there are 2 single women in church for every single man, which practically tells our single women that half of them, if they want to marry, will be lucky (or blessed) enough to marry a man who follows Jesus, and the other half will be marrying down, in a spiritual sense. Single women can be excited about men coming back into churches because their chances of finding a single man who follow after Jesus would increase. Those married women who have been dragging their kids to church every Sunday unsupported would now be able to have that much needed support from their husbands. So many women who sit alone on Sunday’s with their man back at the house dream and desire that their husband would come with them. For many of these women, if we can tackle bringing more men into the church, this would really be a dream come true! Churches would benefit from more men as well. The number and mixture of gifts that would be added to the church gives us the ability to accomplish so much more together! I believe communities would benefit as well. As men are being challenged and inspired to radically follow Jesus, men will begin to see that there is nothing greater than following after Jesus. As they see this, they will become more like Jesus and use their gifts, their talents, their resources to make wherever they went a better place!
It’s time for churches to man up and get serious about reaching the men. To do this churches need to take an honest look at the system they have put in place to see why they are getting the results they are getting.
Rather than sitting back and not doing anything about that, our church is going on the offensive. This Saturday we are launching Real Men of Jesus. Real Men of Jesus is a men’s ministry that will challenge men to radically follow Jesus, honor their families, and serve their communities. In this ministry there will be elements of risk and adventure. There will be time for competition and challenge. We will grow and challenge each other to be the men that God had intended us to be. We will embody the life of Jesus, who at times was a mighty warrior, and at other times a self-sacrificing servant. He knew when to compete and challenge the status quo, and when to give himself up for the benefit of others. This is a God I want to follow! This is the God of the Bible. This is Jesus! And following after Him is the manliest and coolest thing I could ever do with my life!
Big thanks to David Morrow and his book, “Why Men Hate Going to Church.” I would highly recommend it for any church leader or pastor that wants to make a difference and bring more men into the adventurous life of following Jesus and into our churches.
What are your thoughts? What are some things today that churches can do to reach out to the men today?