Friday, June 16, 2006

Male Humility and Strength

Men need to adapt whatever prayer postures they feel comfortable with. The predominant model today is hands folded, head bowed, eyes closed. This is a picture of meekness and passivity. I’m told this, too, is a product of the Victorian era. Before that time Christians prayed with outstretched hands, palms up, face up to God with eyes open! I’ve begun praying this way, and it has revolutionized my communication with God. It just feels more masculine. I feel more like a soldier communicating with my commanding officer.”

David Murrow, “Why Men Hate Going to Church,” page 192.

The words strong and strength appear 561 times in the New King James Version, while weak and weakness show up just 83 times. We need to acknowledge our weakness in relation to god’s strength, but we do not need to obsess on it. It’s far more effective to speak of strength when teaching men.”

David Murrow, “Why Men Hate Going to Church,” page 180.

Jesus wasn’t meek. He “took on” the church leadership. He confronted his disciples. Jesus was strong. King David was strong. The Apostle Peter was strong. The Apostle Paul was strong. They were strong in the eyes of the “people”—they were humble in their relationship with God. Men need to learn to be humble before God. Men also need to have confidence that God has gifted them for ministry and that God is using them to build up his eternal kingdom.

Men will not follow a weak leader. The church needs to show them the strong side of God, Jesus and the Apostles. Let men see the strong male leadership of the Reformation and the Great Awakenings. There is a place for men in the church. This does not mean that women have to be put down. Rather, just the opposite! God wants men and women to reach their potential in life and ministry.

Prayer is about humility and strength. Men are not afraid of being humble before God. Men know what it means to follow a strong leader. They know what it is like to be empowered by a strong leader. Men are willing to follow a strong leader into a battle against overpowering odds. Prayer is where they connect with their God—their leader. It is where they receive their strength. Think for a moment about professional football. The coach of the Seattle Seahawks is a STRONG leader. The team members know who is in charge. For a couple of years the current quarterback butted heads with coach—the quarterback thought he know what was best for the team. When Hasselbeck was willing to submit to the coach’s authority the team (and the quarterback) blossomed. They are now a powerful force. Men need to come under the authority of God. When they do, they become a powerful force. Prayer brings about that humility and strength.

Our churches need humble men. Our churches need strong men.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Men are Afraid

In “Why Men Hate Going to Church,” Murrow says that men are afraid.

Men are afraid of being viewed as incompetent. Most men have never read much of the Bible. They aren’t sure of what Jesus taught. They don’t know how to find Philippians. They aren’t comfortable working in the kitchen. Most men are afraid of singing off key. Other than the yard work and building maintenance there isn’t much that goes on at the church where a guy can feel competent.

Men are afraid of the Christian lifestyle. Guys don’t want to be viewed as a “nerd” or a “nut case.” No man wants to become Ned Flanders. Men are concerned that they will have to leave their masculinity at home or stop being masculine all together.

Men are afraid that they will have to check their leadership skills at the door. Guys don’t like poorly running cars or businesses. They want to change things for the good—fix the things that are broken. They are use to taking charge at work but are afraid to lead in the same way at the church. Let’s face it; most pastors have ZERO training in management and leadership. Our churches are filled with guys who can lead and manage but they are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings.

Men fear that they will have to become super-husbands. They worry that the expectations of their wife may include going to church several times each week, a weekly date with the wife (not a bad idea), being a model babysitter, becoming a good listener that can also share his feelings. The list for super-husband could go on and on.

Men fear homosexuality in the church (this is Murrow’s idea). They see church going men as less masculine than the guys at work or the game. They see “sensitive” men at church. They hear the news media reporting on whether this church or that church will ordain gay pastors or priests. Some men have heard of how many Catholic priests are gay. Men fear homosexuality in the church.

Men are afraid of heaven! What’s the typical picture of heaven? It involves you and men, wings and harps. What self-respecting guy would want to float around on a cloud all day playing a harp for all eternity?

Are their fears real? Yes. Are the fears justifiable? Maybe. It has been said that a person’s perception is their reality. That is true for men. We need to combat those areas that cause men to be afraid.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Masculinity Bank

“…every man has within himself a masculinity bank. Each time he succeeds in a manly endeavor, a few coins drop into his bank: ka-ching, ka-ching. For most men, the bank can never be filled.”

David Murrow, “Why Men Hate Going to Church,” page 105.

“Masculinity banks experience withdrawals as well. If a man fails in manly endeavors, he loses a few coins. If he does something that his peers regard as womanly, its like pulling the stopper out of the bank and dropping coins down the sewer.”

David Murrow, “Why Men Hate Going to Church,” page 105.

“I went to a sportsman’s show and polled ninety-five guys on the question of women’s destinations. Thirty-two percent of the men thought church was a woman’s destination, while only twelve percent thought it was a man’s destination. A man will go to a women’s destination but will not tarry there.”

David Murrow, “Why Men Hate Going to Church,” page 107.

“Since men work so hard to fill their masculinity banks, they are naturally reluctant to give up their coins. Men avoid anything that might drain their banks.
David Murrow, “Why Men Hate Going to Church,” page 106.

Pentecost was just the other Sunday-it is a huge celebration at our church. We have a birthday party for the Christian church on that day. This year, we also had a baby shower as a part of the celebration. Wendy leads one of our small groups—a ladies group. More than half of the ladies in her group have little or no connection to any church apart from the group. We don’t have many babies at our church, so this is a BIG deal. As usual, that weekend we had both Saturday night and Sunday morning church. Following the Saturday service anyone who wants to goes out to dinner at a near-by restaurant. That night, who should be sitting at the table next to us but Wendy, her husband and parents. Wendy’s husband delivers a particular type of “car part” to local car dealers. He also has a car that he races. He is almost never in church. We invited him to the BIG CELEBRATION the next day. We told him that guys were going to be at this “shower.” Even the guy that rides a Harley to church was going to be at the shower. There was nothing we could do to convince Wendy’s husband to attend church and the shower.

Not all men fill their masculinity bank the same way. Some fill it by playing golf—others by painting. Some fill it by hunting and fishing—others by playing the guitar or drums. The point is that all men have a masculinity bank that they strive to keep as full as possible. For the man who was not raised in church, going to church does not fill his masculinity bank (at least not until he meets Christ Jesus and finds out what church is really about.).

It does not have to be this way! Jesus was a “manly” man. Jesus was a carpenter. A carpenter in his day worked with both wood and stone. Four miles northwest of ancient Nazareth was the palace of Herod the Great. Work was continually being done on the palace—wood and stone work. It is likely that Joseph and his son Jesus would have worked on the palace. It would have been hard work, physical work. Jesus would have been a man among men. Strong muscles. Rippled abs. Not some “girly” guy. Men followed him. Men hung out with him. Men sought him out. Men… Men… Men… Being with Jesus DID NOT cause with withdrawal from the “masculinity bank.”

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.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Why Men Hate Going to Church

My plan was to begin writing about the meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) this week. The meeting starts on Thursday and not much is going to happen between now and then. Others (as well as myself) have written at length about the issues facing this Assembly. So, instead of rehashing the issues I will use this week’s blog to look at another book. The book is called, “Why Men Hate Going to Church,” by David Murrow. Is it a great book? No. Is it a good read? Maybe. Then why would I waste your time writing about this book? The book deals with an important issue. MEN HATE GOING TO CHURCH!

Let’s set some ground rules before proceeding. First, the book is not talking about the men who go to your church (or my church, for that matter.). It is referring to the “average” male in the USA. Second, remember the first rule. Third, you may disagree with some of the author’s points (as do I), but remember he is not talking about you and me! Let’s look at some of the ideas in the book and see if there might be something we can do at our churches to become more “man-friendly.”

Church statistics don’t lie. The majority of people who attend church are women. National statistics of church attendance (across all Christian churches) show that 60% of the people attending church are women and 40% are men. After reading those numbers I immediately thought, “That’s not true for my church!” So, off to our church attendance and membership records I went. I was right; those numbers do not represent our church. Our church’s attendance is 60.1% female and 39.9% male. I was shocked! Take a few minutes and look at the stats for your church—its membership and attendance. Some guys join the church to “please” their spouse and are conspicuously absent most weekends. What do the numbers for your church show? If your church is close to a 50 – 50 balance please comment this week to help us know what you are doing to reach out to men!

I preached a multiple week sermon series on “Why Men Hate Going to Church.” The response was shocking. The women of our church really wanted to know why men don’t like going to church. They were/are more than willing to change things if it will encourage more men to attend church. The response from men was even more shocking. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I am not the typical PCUSA “pastor type.” I don’t wear a robe (or even a suit about half of the time). Stop by the office in the summer and you will probably find me in shorts. And, I do not stand at the back of the sanctuary following worship to shake hands with people as they leave. I use to do this, but that is a different story. Typically, I “hang out” at the front of the sanctuary so that people can come and talk with me. During the “men series” I would have men who would never seek me out after church make a b-line to shake my hand. Not a word would be said! One particular day a guy came up to me. I was speaking with someone else so this man just patiently stood there and waited. When I was free he shook my hand, folded his arms across his chest and just stood there. This man’s wife had attended the church for years. He began attending a couple of years ago. They would immediately leave church following the service—never once going to the fellowship hall for coffee and food. That day he just stood there beside me with his arms folded in silence. He finally said, “Good message.” He unfolded his arms and walked away. In those moments of silence he “spoke” volumes. He had recently retired after working as an electrician for 30 years. He was use to working with men. He wasn’t use to sharing his feelings. His standing there “communicated” more than his words ever could.

A little over a month following the “men” series his wife had knee-replacement surgery. I visited her in the hospital the day following the service. We laugh, joked and prayed. She told me how thankful she was about the church and how she and her husband really enjoyed the church. That afternoon she died of a heart attack while in her hospital bed. I spend many hours with her husband over the next week. We had a special connection because of the “men” series.

Please follow the blog this week as we look at this topic. If you are a female reader please invite your husband to follow the blog and comment—especially if he isn’t in church every week.

We can’t leave our men behind.