Read the following paragraphs and tell me which one best describes Jesus Christ and his true followers:
PARAGRAPH ONE: True Christians value power, competency, efficiency, and achievement. They are always doing things to prove themselves and develop their power and skills. Their sense of self is defined through their ability to achieve results. They experience fulfillment primarily through success and accomplishment.
PARAGRAPH TWO: True Christians value love, communication, beauty and relationships. They spend a lot of time supporting, helping and nurturing one another. Their sense of self is defined through their feelings and the quality of their relationships. They experience fulfillment through sharing and relating.
OK, which paragraph is the best description of the Christian ideal?
If you chose Paragraph Two, you are not alone.
I’ve posed a similar question to more than ten thousand people – men and women, Christians and non-Christians. Without exception, every group I’ve ever asked has chosen Paragraph Two as the most accurate portrayal of genuine Christianity.
Then I tell them where these paragraphs come from: Chapter 2 of the book Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus. Paragraph One describes life on Mars; Paragraph Two describes life on Venus.
This little exercise illuminates one of the great challenges we face in reaching men with the Gospel – the widespread perception that Christ’s values closely resemble women’s values. Men’s values seem foreign in church – misguided, unspiritual and unchristlike.
Why do people think this? Why are men’s values seen as incompatible with the Gospel? Here are three reasons.
1) The grand narrative arc of the New Testament emphasizes feminine themes.
When Jesus came, he encountered an abusive, legalistic religious landscape. First century Judaism had devolved into a loveless, controlling religion that was dominated by men. It was truly the faith of Mars.
So Jesus got to work, taking an axe to this performance-based religion and the men who proffered it. Paul established the primacy of grace. John’s message was one of love.
The founders were not seeking to feminize our faith; they were merely attempting to balance the scales. However, the narrative arc makes it easy to forget or downplay the more masculine aspects of our faith (bravery, boldness, certainty, exclusivity, goal orientation, etc.).
2) The majority of Christians possess Venus values.
Worldwide, Christian women may outnumber men by more than 2-to-1. Naturally, they bring a feminine sensibility to the faith they practice. Their huge numbers propel our theology and polity in the feminine direction.
In addition, the median age of churchgoing women in the U.S. is 50. Men perceive Christianity as a faith for little old ladies because in many cases, it is.
3. The Christian-industrial complex targets female buyers.
Women purchase up to 75% of Christian products. They are two-thirds of the Christian media audience. And they comprise 61% of the adult crowd in the typical U.S. worship service.
Christian authors, composers, musicians and pastors know their audience is heavily female, so they subtly tailor their products to win over this demographic. Both men and women consume these products. Pretty soon everyone is seeing the Gospel through a feminine lens.
Is it a bad thing that the church is known for Venus values? Certainly not. Love, communication, beauty and relationships are essential gifts that Christians offer to the world. These values also provide a needed counterpoint to the Martian values we experience in the everyday lives.
But the abundance of Venus values make it difficult for a man to get excited about church. They are good values, but they are not his values. They are his wife’s values. They are his mother’s values.
This perception keeps men from even looking into our faith. And it may be one reason so many young black males are turning to Islam.
Because the church is so committed to feminine values it sets up a situation that’s rather unfair to men. When a woman comes to faith in Christ, the church communicates to her, “Welcome to church. You’re pretty much fine the way you are. God gave you gifts that are in harmony with His purposes, so just learn to use them.”
But when a man comes to faith in Christ, the church communicates to him, “Welcome to church. You are in need of major renovations. God gave you gifts that are in conflict with His purposes, so you must not use them.”
Another way of putting it: women must change 20 percent of who they are to fit into church culture, while men must change 80 percent of who they are.
When a man presents his natural gifts of strategic thinking, aggressive activity and blunt honesty to the church, the church says, “No thanks, not only do we reject those gifts, you need to stop exercising those gifts, which we associate with sin.” The church doesn’t literally say this to men, but men get this message all the time from a variety of sources.
If you think I’m exaggerating, simply read paragraph one again. Can you imagine a church based on these values? Would you attend such a church? Or would you see it as unhealthy? Comments are open. Or join the discussion on our Facebook page.