The following is an excerpt from my book Why Men Hate Going to Church (Revised edition). To order an autographed copy, click here.
Some pastors are uncomfortable in the presence of men. I once heard a minister tell this brutally honest story about his struggle to love his men. Here’s my paraphrased version:
I was a bookish kid with skinny arms and thick glasses. When I entered junior high, the big, athletic boys started picking on me—calling me “faggot” and “mama’s boy” and slamming me into lockers. I hated this bullying and learned to avoid the jocks through high school.
In college, I heard a call to ministry. I discovered a deep love for the Scriptures. I went on to seminary and became a pastor.
My first church was a small, rural congregation full of old people. I took to my role with gusto. Life was good as my bride and I settled into our roles.
One Sunday, something unexpected happened: a power couple in their late twenties walked into the church. She was petite and beautiful, and he was . . . a jock. Broad shoulders. Prominent brow. Large fists.
I could hardly get through my sermon that day. By the time I delivered the benediction I was an emotional wreck—but I had no idea why.
The following week, the power couple showed up in the adult Sunday school class, which I led. I stammered through my lesson, and then opened it up for discussion. The jock opened his mouth and offered a brash opinion that contradicted Scripture. I felt a rush of pleasure as I corrected his theology. My tone was harsh and condescending. We never saw the couple again.
Years later, I was hired by a larger church. It had a men’s ministry program. The guys always invited me to participate, but I was so busy in my new job I never seemed to have the time.
One day Elmer, one of our elders and a leader in the men’s ministry, made an offhand comment that brought me to my knees. He said to me, “Pastor, why don’t we see you at our men’s gatherings? Are you afraid of men?”
Elmer had hit the bull’s-eye. In a moment of shining clarity, I saw myself slammed against a locker. My survival strategy since junior high was to avoid men—particularly masculine ones. In fact, by going into the ministry, I had chosen a career that kept me away from manly things altogether. Eighty percent of my daily interactions were with women—and I liked it that way. In those rare instances when I had to deal with men, there was usually a woman present, which kept me safe.
When I was a boy, I was powerless against the jocks. But now the tables were turned. As a pastor, I had the power. My weapon was my doctor of theology, and I used it like a club to bludgeon my adversaries and have my revenge.
I prayed and asked God’s forgiveness. I asked him to give me a real love for men—even the big, scary ones.
So I attended my first men’s breakfast. I started mentoring a group of young men. I told my story to other pastors. One Sunday I even wore shoulder pads and a football jersey in the pulpit as an illustration.
To my delight, when I began investing in my men, my heart changed. And so did my church. We started growing. A lot of the gossip and backbiting went away. Even the youth group grew. Young men started sitting in the front row.
I entered the pastorate to protect myself from men, but now I can’t imagine doing ministry without them. They are no longer my adversaries—they are my brothers.
Pastor, if a man wounded you at some point, you may bring a fear of men into your ministry. You may be cool to men, or find yourself competing with them. You may allow yourself to be cowed by an aggressive parishioner—or suddenly lash out in anger at him. You may have an instinctive negative reaction to men’s things (hunting, fishing, the military, sports, resource development, muscle cars) that you can’t explain.
If any of these describes you, I strongly encourage you to share your story with a small group or a professional counselor. You need healing. Ask God to give you a genuine love for the men in your congregation.
Does this describe you or a pastor you know? Leave a comment below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.