Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Spiritual Thermostat

“When Dad wasn’t around, Mom was free to set the thermostat where she liked it. So it is in most churches. Men have been absent or anemic for so long that the spiritual thermostat in almost every church is now set to accommodate the people who actually show up and participate: women, children, and older folks. But men suffocate in this environment, so they leave. When I say spiritual thermostat, I’m not talking about the temperature inside the church building. Rather, I’m talking about the culture of today’s churches, a culture that values safety over risk, stability over change, preservation over expansion, and predictability over adventure. Ignore what’s preached from the pulpit, and look at what actually happens on Sunday morning. Almost everything about today’ church—its teaching style, its ministries, the way people are expected to behave, even today’s popular images of Jesus—is designed to meet the needs and expectations of a largely female audience. Church is sweet and sentimental, nurturing and nice. Women thrive in this environment. In modern parlance, women are the target audience of today’s church.”

David Murrow, “Why Men Hate Going to Church,” page 14.

“Men are drawn to churches (and Christians) with guts.”

David Murrow, “Why Men Hate Going to Church,” page 21.

“The church is a peculiar organization, led by males, but dominated by women and their values. Dr. Leon Podles says it well: ‘Modern churches are women’s clubs with a few male officers.”

“Why Men Hate Going to Church,” page 25.

Does a church have a “spiritual thermostat?” And, if it does, who controls the thermostat?

There is a thermostat in our church’s sanctuary. I am the one who normally sets the thermostat (it is programmable). Every now and then I come into the church on Sunday morning and find that it is VERY warm. Someone has raised the temperature setting of the sanctuary. Do you know who? It is a very nice guy who does a lot around the church. When is wife complains that she was cold at worship he resets the thermostat. So, who actually controls the temperature thermostat at our church? An older lady does!

The “spiritual thermostat” is not much different. Most things that go on at a church are designed with women in mind. The unspoken mantra is “don’t rock the boat.” We want things to “feel” good. If a “rough looking” male enters the church people feel uneasy. Men are expected to “dress” in a way that is uncomfortable for them (who designed the tie—a hangman?). Men have to “tone down” their language. Is it any wonder that men who were not raised in the church are uncomfortable with coming to church?

Let’s think about Jesus for a moment. He was a man’s man. He hung out with fishermen. They were rough. They were uncouth. They carried swords. He rocked the established church. He was disrespectful to the Pharisees and Sadducees. The men who were “sinners” liked him. No wonder the people liked him.

Jesus would not fit-in in most of our churches. He wouldn’t fit in the Presbyterian Women’s group. The PCUSA doesn’t even have a ministry that focuses on men! The spiritual thermostat is set for women. Jesus would have to reset the spiritual thermostat for most of our churches and our denomination.


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