I was interviewed the other day by a newspaper reporter on the topic of men and the Church. She mentioned the statistics about how men are leaving the Church or not attending church in the first place and then asked, “Why does it matter? Why should the Church care about reaching men?” The essence of the question was: If men don’t want to go to church, so what? It wasn’t asked negatively. The reporter followed up with great questions. But the initial question had that undertone of why should the Church try to reach men if men don’t want to be reached by the Church? Perhaps a better sense of the question was this: Why should men go to church? What difference does it make for them? What difference does it make for the Church?
My initial response (which I didn’t verbalize) was: If the statistics were reversed and women were dropping out of church, we wouldn’t ask, “Why does it matter?” The first question or two would probably be: “Why is that happening and what do you think the Church needs to do about it?” It would be seen as a major crisis for the Church.
My first verbal reply was that it had to do with the message of the Gospel and the Christian belief that God’s grace is for everyone, male and female. We believe that Jesus comes to call all of us to follow him; that life is found in him. So we want men and women to hear that message and follow Jesus through the local congregation.
My follow up answer had to do with men and culture. Men without a vision for good, noble manhood tend to end up either violent or passive. I talked about the fact that over 90% of those in prison are men; how almost every day we read a story about another man doing harm to others. Or we see passive men: giving up on fatherhood, their wives, living lives focused on Fantasy leagues and 24-hour-a-day sports and video games (at the risk of over-stereotyping.) With fewer and fewer young men attending and graduating from college, with no strong skills for liveable wages, these passive and/or violent men will be a huge burden on society.
The Church can offer men a vision for good manhood. Jesus not only models that manhood but calls men into it, forges it in them, and empowers them to live it out.
In other words, the Church should care about reaching men because society needs good men—men who are good husbands, dads, employers, employees, citizens, and churchmen. When the Church gets it right (and that’s another issue) the Church can offer a compelling vision for that kind of manhood that, over time, can help build a better society.
Why should the Church care about reaching men? Because the world needs good men. Because Jesus can forge men into good men. And because Jesus died and rose again to empower men to be good men.