Monday, August 07, 2006

Where are the Men?

The Western Recorder, the weekly newspaper of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, ran a fascinating story this past week by Kristen Campbell of the Religion News Service entitled, "Getting Men to Church."

Much of the article is an analysis of David Murrow's book, Why Men Hate Going to Church.

Consider these interesting insights that Campbell noted and quoted from Murrow's book:
  • "My background is in marketing and advertising ... the target audience of almost everything about church culture was a 50 to 55-year-old woman."
  • The theology and practices of Judaism, Buddhism, and Islam offer "uniquely masculine experiences. Every Muslim man knows that he is locked in a great battle between good and evil, and although that was a prevalent teaching in Christianity until about 100 years ago, today it's primarily about having a relationship with a man who loves you unconditionally. And if that's the punch line of the gospel, then you're going to have a lot more women than men taking you up on your offer because women are interested in a personal relationship with a man who loves you unconditionally. Men, generally, are not."
  • On Sunday morning, "We're going to sing love songs to Jesus and there's going to be fresh flowers on the altar and quilted banners on the walls."
Pretty heavy stuff. We have all recognized for generations the glaring absence of men from our churches. Maybe it's not because they're simply not interested in spiritual matters. Perhaps they are just not engaged by the overwhelmingly feminine presentation of the faith in our churches.

What do you think? And what should these insights mean to us as we consider the task of Church Planting in the North American culture?


Blogger irreverend fox said...

I think that book (by Murrow) is a MUST read for everyone thinking about north american missions.

I read it twice and can not say enough about it.

The "Jesus" presented in most churches, "traditional" and "contemporary" is a de-fanged, de-clawed wuss who no man could take seriously. It's like who do you think most men admire: Mr. Rogers or Rambo? Who do most women most admire?

3:54 PM  
Blogger Roger Ferrell said...

Geoff and Irrevend,
I have not read the book yet, but plan to do so. Speaking of what Christian men are supposed to look like - I was just on the Catalyst web site this morning and looking at things like their Xbox giveaway and last year's "World's Largest Whoopie Cushion". And it seems to me that there has got to be a middle ground on this. Men are not animals (Christian Halo tournaments?) and the bible warns us not to be crude. I enjoy paint ball and white water rafting but also like to garden. I help my wife do dishes and put kids to bed and she loves that. Can we have some men who are both nurturers and warriors, not neanderthals or wimps?

I do admire Mr. Rogers and, while I think Rambo's skills might come in handy if I am every pursued by a platoon of armed men, I don't want to be him. You know which movie character I really connected with in the last few years? The "last samurai" in the movie of the same name. This guy is tough as nails but also gentle as can be. He paints, he contemplates, he grows cherry trees, he loves children, then he straps on his katana and goes to war. Problem is he is probably also Buddhist. Why don't we have more examples of renaissance Christian men who are thinkers, poets, AND warriors? That is who I want to be and who I want to teach my boys to be. I also have been re-reading the Aubrey-Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brien. These guys play classical music, write long letters to their wives, classify rare plants and animals and then shoot cannons and blow things up. What great, rich characters. I recommend these books highly (much better than the movie adapted from O'Brien's Master and Commander).

One of the reasons why Christian guys get in trouble is because we don't give them anything dangerous to do and God made them to do dangerous stuff. That is why Geoff and I started Mission M Possible. The Christian life is supposed to be an adventure, not a bore, and there is lots of dangerous work to be done. But our systems and structures seem to be designed to turn out bureaucrats, not buccanears. I was told a few years ago by a friend in ministry that I had a reputation for "doing what God had called me to do no matter what anyone else thought." It was meant as a rebuke and he made it sound like a bad thing! I think that is a good thing. Isn't that what Jesus did? I'd love to hear some other guys chime in on their favorite "real men" examples from literature, movies and real life and what we in the church can do to shape men who are dangerous to their enemies, gentle with their loved ones, a joy to their friends, and godly to all.

12:55 PM  
Blogger Geoff Baggett said...

I can't believe this topic didn't gain more "traction" in the blogosphere ... things are mighty quiet this week.

Anyway - I think we do need to give very serious thought to design our ministries in new churches so that they may better reach men. Statistics prove that if we can reach the man of the home, the family will follow.

7:33 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Hey. That's a great book.

I just red your post on about lessons, etc., and I think you made some great points. It isn't fair to compare a sermon to a scholarly research paper submitted at a seminary. And you're right, we ministers of small congregations need all the help we can get!

I plan to try and keep up with your blog. Feel free to stop by mine anytime.

2:44 PM  

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