Welcome to the Big Picture Podcast, I’m Joel Fieri and I’m back to hopefully bring come clarity and keep the conversation going about what’s happening today in the Church and greater society. And, I’m not alone this week. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dave Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church and host of the Church for Men podcast, along with e2 media network’s own Jefferson Drexler, to discuss the “Feminization of Today’s Church”. With so many people today hesitant to stand up and say there is something tragically wrong with the course most churches are heading toward, the three of us tackle some tough issues head on… like men are prone to do. So, without further ado, here’s part four of our roundtable discussion…
DAVE: Men won’t put up with a church that has “squishy” rules. They just won’t. Because, like I’ve said, men will sacrifice relationships on the altar of rules.
JOEL: And, ultimately a church or society with “squishy” rules – where we are heading – is not a safe place. And most women want to be safe, above all. So, it’s in the best interest of women to have their men be strong and in leadership. It’s good for the men as well. Men need to see men up on stage and in leadership. Even the guys who don’t want to step out and lead, if they see a strong man stepping up and leading, they will follow.
JEFFERSON: Ok, but so we don’t sit here and sound like three curmudgeons who are just pointing fingers and saying, “This is wrong with the Church… and this is wrong… and this is wrong…” What are some steps that today’s church leaders can make after they take a hard, honest look in the mirror? What are some things that churches should institute now in order to change the unhealthy direction they are headed in?
JOEL: I think it starts with the church leaders’ personal walks with God. As men, Christian leaders need to come to grips with this trend. They need to read God’s Word and be obedient in their own lives to God’s commands. And, honestly, people need to start praying for their churches. By lifting up our churches, families, and communities, we will inevitably become more engaged. We also need to put away fear. Especially the fear of “making waves” by possibly offending someone and the fear of criticism that may come our way. To change the direction of our Church is scary, but to see it go in an apostate direction is even scarier. Without a healthy Church to turn to, where else is there to go?
Finally, we need to realize that we know the final score and we are on the winning team. That means something. So, don’t be afraid to step out in leadership.
JEFFERSON: Is that what you’ve seen, Dave? Is fear of the unknown or fear of potential risks stopping churches from making the changes they need to make in order to secure their long-standing?
DAVE: Well sure. Because, once a church reaches a certain size, it has a certain donor base. Then 20% of the donor base covers 80% of the Pastor’s salary. He will know who those people are. So, as long as he can keep those people happy, giving, and volunteering, he can “make his nut” for the next week.
So, the economic incentive is to sweep things under the rug and keep the key givers happy. Strictly speaking from a monetary perspective, there is not a lot of value in bringing in new people unless they bring in more giving.
So, once a church transitions from a “growth phase” to a “plateau phase”, it becomes more essential that the pastor keep everyone happy, especially the key giver and volunteers. This becomes a disincentive to growth, change, innovation and dealing with the church’s problems.
But, your original question was in regards to practical, baby-steps that a church can take. Joel focused on the Spiritual: Prayer, the Bible, Obedience, etc. Those are all very, very important. But I would say that if a church wants to be more welcoming to men, the first thing they should do is to go out and find some 22-to-30-year-old guys from outside the congregation – and a wide variety of types (construction workers, bikers, I.T. guys, programmers, etc.) – and invite them to walk through the church’s space and get their honest opinions of the church’s facilities.
Tell them, “We’re not going to try to convert you or anything, we just want you to come to our church service and tell us, through the eyes of a young man, what is it we can do better? How can we help you relate?”
Those guys will give you a fount of wisdom!
And then, have the courage to make the changes that are necessary to get that guy in the door – and get him to stay long enough to hear the Gospel.
The problem is that so many times, guys come into church with their defenses immediately raised so that they don’t even hear the Gospel when it’s given. They just sit there and think, “When can I get out of here? When is that guy in the skinny jeans gonna stop singing? When is this interminable sermon about the Ten Commandments gonna be over?” He’s just counting the minutes until he’s out the door.But, if you created an environment that engages him, as a man, then he’s not going to be counting the ceiling tiles. He will be engaged in the service and the Gospel message. It’s about creating an environment where a man can be a man and engage with the Gospel as a man.
If you can do that, your church will grow.
The secret of the megachurches is not the “hot band”, it’s not the praise guy with the goatee, it’s not the pastor with the hot sermons… it’s the fact that they’ve created an environment where men will stay long enough to hear the Gospel.
JOEL: I would also add that the key is discipleship. And most churches have gotten so far away from that. Dave, you and I were a part of the era of the American church when one-on-one discipleship was THE THING. The Master Plan of Evangelism was Jesus’ plan: to invest personally in men. I know you talk a lot about the Ten Minute Sermon – Hey Pastor, instead of taking all those hours throughout your week to write your hour-long sermon, why not take a shorter amount time and write a ten minute sermon, and then spend the rest of your time in your week discipling and investing in men? Then, they will turn around and disciple other men, themselves. That’s Jesus’ model.
But, we’ve abandoned that.
DAVE: Because today’s church model is more efficient at reaching more people.
JOEL: Right. It’s become a numbers game. And, actually, Jesus took care of that, too. He did a lot of miracles that pulled in a lot of numbers, but then He pulled aside 72 to follow Him closely. And out of that 72, He chose twelve to be His disciples. And even out of His disciples, He pulled aside Peter, John and James as His closest confidants. And even from those three, He chose Peter to build His Church upon.
But, it all starts with a church getting its men engaged, especially the twenty-somethings in your congregation by having the older men disciple them.
I always tell my wife, the thing that made me the man I am today were the older men in my church who, when I was a knuckle-headed twenty-something dummy, taught me how to obediently follow God, study the Bible, treat a woman, and work as unto the Lord. Without those older men, I don’t know where I’d be today.
JEFFERSON: I find the dichotomy so interesting: Our goal is to bring the Church back to men, to raise men up as leaders, and to have them bring their families. Yet, two of the key elements I’m hearing from the two of you are AESTHETICS (the environment) and RELATIONSHIPS (discipleship). And, when most people think about aesthetics, they think, “Let’s make the building look pretty.” That’s how we ended up with all the felt banners and iris flowers adorning our church stages.
DAVE: Okay, but I gotta push back on that. The aesthetics are secondary to the Spiritual. The Spiritual ALWAYS trumps that practical. If the Holy Spirit is alive in a church, the pastor can come out wearing lipstick and drag, and the men will stay.
IT’S ALL ABOUT GOD.
But, all things being equal, practical things do matter. Because, by addressing the practical things, you remove the distractions that cause men to count the seconds before the service is over.
JOEL: You need to subjugate the aesthetics to the overall mission. And, the mission is: To win people to Christ, teaching them to obey all that He has commanded.
DAVE: The example I always give is this: Let’s go to Phoenix, AZ. Here’s a wonderful, little community church that is preaching the Gospel. It’s January, and they have a huge missions budget. They give thousands of dollars each month to missions. It’s wonderful.
Then their air conditioning goes out.
They’ve got a decision – we can fix the air conditioner, or we can continue to give thousands of dollars to mission.
Now, what would Jesus do? He would give money to missions. And, so they decide to forgo fixing the air conditioner. And then January turns into February. It’s getting a little warmer, but it’s okay. Eventually, April comes and it’s about 90 degrees outside. They notice that their crowd is becoming a little bit smaller, but that’s okay because they are still doing what Jesus would have them do.
Is there air conditioning in the Bible? No.
Is there missions and evangelism in the Bible? Yes.
So, the church continues to “do what Jesus would do” with their money.
And then July hits. It’s 110 outside and 114 inside the church building. And the crowd that was 200 in January is now down to 20.
They lost sight of the practical in search of the Spiritual.
So, what I say is this: the Spiritual is ALWAYS more important. But, if you don’t get the practical right, your people will leave you. So, we have to pay attention to these practical things.
Thanks for listening to the Big Picture Podcast regarding the problems and possible solutions facing today’s Church. If you enjoyed this week’s episode, please check out our other podcasts and videos on the e2 media network, leave a few comments, and tell your friends about us. Be blessed!