Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Is Your Church Man-Friendly?

I was working at Turning Point the other day (where I do some contract counselling) and saw an old issue of "New Man Magazine," the official magazine of Promise Keepers. Now I'm not a big PK guy, but I was bored and the cover looked interesting so I picked it up. Inside there was an article called The Unsafe Life which was about men, risk, and living as a Christian man. One thing that immediately caught my attention was the following:

"It's a life that requires kingdom risks, standing up for righteousness, having a confrontational side and a willingness to lay down your life for God, family and beliefs. Listen to a growing number of Christian men's ministry leaders and they'll tell you such a life is not only biblical, but it's also crucial to a man's well being.

The only problem? Men won't hear that message at most local churches. In fact, the leaders New Man spoke with say far too many churches promote a quiet, non confrontational life that tells men to be passive and nice. It's a message that commonly accompanies an unbiblical portrait of Jesus as a weak and mild Savior. Such teaching, leaders say, is like man-repellent and hurts the church as badly as it does men."

The article goes on to say that the Church emphasizes the gentle, loving, kind virtues of Jesus (which are fantastic) but when it misses other virtues such as boldness, righteously angry, courageous, obeying sacrificially, etc, we are missing out on other important parts of the Gospel that resonate with men. The also note that sermons and especially worship reflect this dynamic and put off a lot of men who find it difficult to only connect with the "nice" side of Christ and ministry.

I have actually been thinking about this idea for awhile. Is the church/my church/your church not man-friendly? I think there is some truth to this. I often feel that church is too nice. Perhaps this is why man churches are having difficulty engaging men into leadership and ministry. Is it possible the church is missing men's hearts and emasculating the Gospel? Is our music and teaching (style and content) more appealing to women (and offputting to men)? I'm curious to hear what other people think about this topic.

P.S. Here's some tips (pdf) on how to make your service man-friendly.

May Light increase!


Anonymous said...

I'm all for a guys night Mark. Living in community, enjoying eachother during special times, not just Sunday mornings typical at most churches...

...but really, does a NASCAR symbol reflect the righteous anger of Jesus???? Even if men find it difficult to connect with the "nice" side of Christ, it is still a part of who He is the picture like you said. And absolutely during Sunday services, we should vocalize God's and our own anger at the injustices going on around us, in our communities. I think women equally need to hear the message of boldness and courage, and be stirred by that side of the character of Christ as well.

I just read through acts, and was reminded how "bold and courageous" the first apostles and Paul were. They put themselves unhindered out there, to be questioned, judged, persecuted and killed...they must have witnessed this from Jesus himself!! I think there's a message here for women as well, that's all I'm saying...anyways, women aren't so "nice" a lot of the times anyways... :o)

Mark, you are so good at drawing us in to think about some of these things. Thanks.


Moxymama said...

I do feel that to some extent churches tend to immasculate men. They are told that to be a Christian man they can't be a confrontational man in many instances. A terrific book that explores much of what you mentioned is Wild At Heart. As a wife and mother of a son it was very insightful. I really think it's a book all should read.

Elayne said...

I have thought this for a long time Mark. You've probably heard me talk about it before. What I don't understand is why do we assume that all men would relate to: hunting, fishing, sports, tools, construction, snowmobiles (ref. to pdf) and not books, art, cooking, pursuit of wisdom, etc. There are REAL MEN who do not hunt, fish, enjoy sports, construction or snowmobiles...leaders who command respect, have no trouble being confrontational given the right circumstance, and boldly live their faith every day. There must be a better way to reach men. Honestly I can't imagine why any man would enjoy the falsetto singing in our churches these days. I used to love the sound of my Dad's bass voice in church (along with many other men) and the great male song leaders that could lead a congregation because we could hear them sing instead of whisper. When we did away with the songbooks we took away the notes and therefore the ability to sing harmony so the poor guys all had to sing falsetto. What guy can feel good about himself doing that?!
Great post. Wish the churches were listening!

Anonymous said...

I really like what you had to say Mrs. Goertzen!

Jacquie Roberts

Philip A. Kledzik said...

I agree that today too much attention is given to a loving Jesus and even the loving side of God. It has been said many times that we need to see and know the Judge as well. Christ died a gruesome death for each of us. That was His love. A pat on the back isn't what gives us eternal life in His presence. Jesus was the one that called the Pharisees a "brude of vipers" that was very controversial and not nice, BUT TRUE. We have been taught, and I even tell my own children (hmmm), "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all" and "WWJD". We think about WWJD of our actions "is this sin and should I not be doing this?". Yesterday I saw a billboard that had WWJD with D crossed out and HATE written above it. I was with my family at the time. We couldn't believe what we were seeing. After writing this response I think that was a believer that thought that up. Even though some, who don't know God, might never think about it, could it be that we've forgotten that Christ and God HATE sin? They HATE it!!! God will not let sin in His presence. He loves us but HATEs sin, without Christ we are covered in the one thing God hates. Wow! Scripture even shows us that as we are the branches we get pruned back at times to help us grow. God cuts away the sin and those things that "so easily entangle" us. We know that sometimes sin (and not repenting of it) can bring about physical maladies. God loves us and He will prune us and it can hurt.
I just published a novel that follows a man through the "sin-curve" (tempation, hesitation, inacting, etc). In this it shows how not repenting can bring about a physical "pruning of God".
Philip A Kledzik
"An Issue of the Heart"

Mark said...

Philip: Um, thanks for for contributing to the conversation (although it seemed mostly to be about hyping your book). I don't think we need to hype God's gentle and compassionate love less (actually we need to hear more about that!), but simply to make sure its balanced with the other attributes and virtues as well.

Moxymama: I have read Wild at Heart - three times! To say that book strikes a chord with me is to highly understate it. I don't agree with everything Eldredge says but I agree that certain desires are strong in most men's hearts and we need to be mindful of them.

Elayne (Mom): In general I agree with you. As soon as we use an example of anything it will be obvious that some men (or women) won't fit that mold. And so we are tempted to throw it all out. But it seems to me that it is possible to make some generalities. Do all men like fishing? Of course not, and it certainly doesn't make you a man or not. But certainly there are many men who do enjoy it. We certainly make strong generalities on Mother's day about what Mom's like (and should be like) and no one raises too much concern. My point was that in a very general way I'm concerned that church services don't seem very man-friendly and I'm wondering if anyone else feels that way.

Hmmmm . . . I've noticed that no men are willing to say anything about this which makes me afraid. Are most men too scared to say the truth - perhaps because there is indeed something true about this?

I would say in my church that it is not anti-men, it simply doesn't have a strong focus on some things that men resonate with. Also, if I want to be honest, I would say sometimes that I feel our music feels way more female friendly then man friendly. Why is that? Well perhaps because for the past several months the Sunday worship leader is always a woman, there are rarely male singers, and the songs are (as far as I know) only chosen by women. Is this bad - not necessarily, much of that is due to the fact that no men are stepping up to the plate and the people in the worship leading positions are doing an excellent job with what they have. But I think in some ways it does leave men with a feeling like there is some kind of inequal representation here. You don't notice it at first, but eventually (like with all inequality) you just start to feel like something is not quite right.

Leading our youth group, I noticed that there was always a tension between what kind of music the guys wanted to play and the girls wanted to play. Thus the two sides were always in "healthy conflict" to make sure that worship reflected both approaches. The guys often wanted faster, bolder, more action oriented songs while the women usually wanted more thoughtful, gentle, deeper songs. IMHO, the best worship times were when both these sides were reflected in the package.

I think we need to be careful not to exclude men or women from any part of the communal Christian experience and realize that sometimes there will be disagreements on focus/experience that fall roughly along gender lines. That's why it is so important that both sides are heard and listened to.

So again I pose the question: Is your church man friendly? Why or why not? I'd love to hear some men bravely give their opinion!

Elayne said...

Well, here I am again. I emailed Mark this little story and he thought I should post it here (even though I'm a little embarrassed to do so!) but here it is:

For approx. 10 yrs. I worked in an all-male office other than myself. Due to the nature of our work we interacted a lot with clergy of all denominations and faiths. I spent a lot of my time trying to defend our Evangelical pastors, male musicians and other men from accusations of being "gay". These guys seldom thought of any other pastors as gay but after working with some of our Evangelical people they often surmised these men were gay. Even though it frustrated and angered me at the time, I could often see why they felt the way they did. What do you make of that?

Anonymous said...

I think it isn't just churches that emasculate men, it is society. The whole women's lib movement made it seem bad for men to be chivalrous. Society doesn't want men to slay any dragons, it wants them to stand back and let the woman save herself. I don't think that men have to be pigs to be manly.

As far as my church is concerned, maybe it helps that we are all farmers and more on the "manly man" side of the spectrum, (and i guess we are still kinda conservative) but i never thought that it didn't stress manly things. If anything we need more women doing things like leading worship and even speaking! (I know mark, that's pretty bold)


Jay Boaz said...

We're not all farmers Eric!

Jay Boaz said...

That was a tongue-in-cheek response, by the way, I'm not mad or anything. :)