Why do men hate going to church? My friend, David Murrow has written a best-selling book on the subject. Filled with all kinds of great insights, David points out many of the ways in which the Church, over the years, has increasingly conformed itself to values and programs that speak better to women.
Or, to say it another way, while men may not be able to articulate it, they hate going to church because the church has been feminized.
David’s book helped launch a rethink among many church leaders about how to proclaim the message of Jesus in a way that speaks to the brains and sensibilities of men. As one highly impacted by David’s work, his suggestions for reaching men have been both spot on and healthy for the church as a whole.
But as is often the case when the church seeks to correct something, the shift to a more masculine church has, in some cases, gone too far. In fact, I’d suggest that rather than re-masculating the church, some congregations have moved into a new form of emasculating Christianity, by building what I’ll call a Steroid Church.
The Steroid Church is usually marked by an angry leader, presenting an angry Gospel. Confusing challenge with anger and tyranny and confusing grace with law, these congregations preach demand rather than grace. And more often than not, exclude women from leadership and, in some cases, from having any voice at all in the faith community.
For purposes of illustrating my point, I present the following graph with a few values I see in the Feminized Church, the Steroid Church, and the Masculine Church. (Admittedly, this is a broad stroke, soundbyte chart that will need some further amplification in posts to come. But for purposes of this post, I am intentionally throwing out words/concepts with no interpretation to see where they might land for you readers!):
Feminized Church Steroid Church Masculine Church
Relational Hierarchical Leadership
Intimacy Control Action
Knee to Knee Authoritarian Shoulder to Shoulder
Emotive Obedience Mission
Verbal Demanding Doing
Sit/Learn Lecture Learn while doing
Servanthood Power Sacrifice
Collaborate Regulate Decisive
Women/Men equal Male Dominant Men/Women equal
The Gospel clearly breaks down any hierarchy between males and females. Paul says that in Christ there is neither male nor female (Galatians 3:28). This is not a gender-neutering verse but an equality-in Jesus verse. So the best of churches will be a healthy blend of male and female values (reflecting the Creator who made us in the Creator’s image as male and female.) But because the Church, as David Murrow suggests, has leaned so far into a more feminized way of doing ministry, congregations would be well served by putting a full-court press on reflecting male values in church as well, perhaps even putting them front and center for a while to attract some masculinity back into the church.
But to do so, a congregation does not have to go the Steroid route. Putting masculine energy back into the scandalous concept of grace will lead to a healthier church than will an angry, law-oriented, demand-oriented, put-women-in-their-place message.
Mars Hill in Seattle, for example?