The Church’s Male Dilemma

The Church’s Male Dilemma September 29, 2015

shadow-of-man-infront-of-stain-1539233For the last several years, authors like my friend, David Murrow, have passionately argued for re-engaging men with the Gospel, through the Church–creating a two-fold dilemma for the Christian Church in the 21st Century:

The first dilemma: Does the Church even want men? Some will find that question preposterous. Of course the Church wants men. The call of the Church is to reach all people, male and female.

I would argue, however, that at least in my denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, it’s a fair question. While no one would ever come out publicly and say that the ELCA doesn’t want men, subtle messages from time to time suggest some aren’t sure if we really do.

The lack of any compelling call in our denomination to find new ways to re-engage men speaks volumes through its silence, given that, according to some, almost 70% of ELCA worshippers on a given weekend are female.

Some in our denomination hold up Paul’s passage from Galatians 3:28, where he says that there is neither male nor female, as a biological imperative rather than a theological one, neutering Image of God Male and Female (and especially male). The passage is clearly articulating a theological point that in spite of all of our differences—and there are significant biological and brain differences between men and women—we are one in Christ.

Men, generally speaking, are motivated by challenge, competition, risk-taking, and hierarchy. Mainline denominations like mine aren’t comfortable with that kind of language, preferring stability, consensus and status quo.

The second dilemma: We may want to re-engage men, but if we do, what do we do with them? What kind of men do we want men to be? What language will we use in engaging them? What does it look like for men in the 21st Century to follow Jesus as men?

Should we use war and warrior language? Language that seems so violent in today’s world of religious terrorism?

Do we go in the opposite direction and talk about being “gentle-men,” language that often robs men of their masculine, action-oriented, get-something-done energy? Language that often makes men passive?

Do we call them to be the “head of the household,” language that has so often been misused, devaluing women in the process?

If we want men in the church, what kind of men?

There are over 100 differences between a male and a female brain. The primary hormone in men, 20 times higher than in women, is testosterone. Testosterone is an action hormone.

What does it look like for these testosterone-charged, act first think second, fix-it-focused-brained men, to follow Jesus through our local congregations?

Each congregation and denomination will have to wrestle with that question. But a great place to start: How Jesus called men to follow him.

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