Church Is For Girls

The modern church is geared toward women and men don’t fit

Church Is For GirlsI have known the title for this post for a long time. In my heart I knew it was true, but I struggled to articulate why. Now I can.

I read David Murrow’s book Why Men Hate Going to Church hoping to understand why I struggle so with church attendance. Though it’s no one’s fault (and yet we are all complicit), the Christian church is a place where women thrive and men die. In most all that it does – from décor, to language, to programs, to music, to sermons – today’s church provides what women crave, while offering little that appeals to men. Guys: check your testosterone at the door.

This explains why women make up the majority of church attendees. In going to more than one hundred churches, I’ve never been to one with more males than females. That’s because church is for girls. It really is. If you don’t believe me read Why Men Hate Going to Church. (The book also explains how to fix it.)

Clearly, the church repels the Wild at Heart guys. Yet, I’m not a wild at heart kind of guy, at least not in a conventional sense. I assert my masculinity in non-stereotypical ways. I see myself as a spiritually militant misfit:

  • I am an advocate who pushes the envelope for change, yet the church is adverse to change. There is no place for my voice.
  • I am a thought leader who pursues innovation, yet the church wants lay leaders it can control. It doesn’t want me.
  • I am a person who challenges the status quo, yet the church institution exists to maintain the status quo and suppress dissension. It fears what I represent.
  • I am a spiritual seeker who probes issues that most don’t consider, yet the church hates questions that lack pat answers. It shuns me because I am spiritually impertinent.
  • I am a follower of Jesus who yearns to take spiritual risks, yet the church wants to be a safe place that doesn’t confront anyone’s unexamined theology. My risk-taking perspective isn’t wanted.

I once actually found a church that encouraged me in these things. It was a church plant. We made change normal, pursued innovation, constantly challenged the status quo, encouraged questions, and embraced risk. In many ways we followed The Barbarian Way, and I thrived.The one instance where men find a place is in church plants. Click To Tweet

Incidentally, David Murrow says the one instance where men find a place is in church plants. I get that. I was alive at this new church.

Yet over time, decision by decision, the church became civilized. It instituted structure and limited me. It became more and more like the thing it sought to break free from. I no longer fit. I slowly withered. I didn’t want to go to church there anymore.

“The church has emasculated me,” I told my wife. (That hurt me to say.)

“But you let it,” she answered. (That hurt me to hear.)

“It’s only because I so badly wanted to fit in and be accepted.” (That hurt me to admit.)

But in the end, I don’t so much like this person I’ve become, and the church still doesn’t want me.

After all, church is geared for girls and I’m a guy.

[This is from Peter DeHaan‘s July newsletter, “Spiritually Speaking.”  Receive the complete newsletter each month.]

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Why Don’t You Go To Church?

Last Sunday I asked the question, Why do you go to church? Today, I ask the opposite question to everyone else: Why don’t you go to church?

Though I’m not in this group, I’ve talked to many who are. They have multiple reasons, some of them good, some of them warranted. Here’s what they say:

  • I don’t get anything out of it. (In our Western-world culture we approach church with a consumer mindset, looking to get something. What if we went with the goal to give something, be it to God or someone else?)
  • It’s boring. (The true wording is “I’m bored by it.” The reality is we choose to be bored or seek to be engaged. However, this is far easier to do at some churches than others.)
  • No one talks to me. (Yeah, this can happen, but we greatly increase the odds of conversation if we’re approachable. Even better, initiate the conversation.)
  • It’s full of hypocrites. (In one way or another, aren’t we all?)
  • They don’t talk enough about _____. (Maybe that’s because we’re preoccupied with a certain topic, perspective, or issue; seek balance.)
  • They talk too much about _____. (Maybe they’re out of balance. Or Perhaps God’s trying to convict you of something.)
  • All they do is ask for money. (Some churches do a lot of that, too much, in fact. People who go often learn to tune it out, but it can really make visitors squirm. I’m sorry.)
  • I don’t like the minister. (Yeah, personalities can get in the way, just like in all aspects of life.)
  • I don’t like the messages. (There may be a reason; is God trying to tell you something?)
  • I don’t like their style of music. (Personally I don’t like the music at most churches, but going for entertainment is the wrong reason; sometimes music connects us with God, and sometimes we need to push through the music.)
  • It’s superficial, full of phony people putting on a false front. (Yes, there are poseurs in our world, including church; just make sure you’re not one of them.)
  • I’m too busy. (We make time for what matters.)
  • I don’t experience God’s presence there. (Whose fault is that, the church’s or yours?)

I understand what they’re saying and agree with much of it. Yet I persist in going. For all its limitations, church is worth the effort.

The New Church in Town (Visiting Church #7)

Sunday we visited a newer church. Their website says “multi-generational contemporary worship service” – and it is. They’re also non-denominational “because God has called all believers to unity.” I like that.

We walk in and people are informally mingling; several introduce themselves. Of all the churches we’ve visited so far, this is the most effective at pre-service interaction.

The sanctuary is a simple rectangular room that seats 55, but I only count 24 present. I forget it’s Memorial Day weekend. There are no pews but comfortable chairs instead. They say attendance is often near capacity and on Easter they maxed out. Soon they’ll move to a different facility, much nicer and more inviting; it’ll seat 160 and they’re confident they’ll soon fill it.

Three ladies lead us in singing modern praise songs. Instead of instrumentation, they use accompaniment tracks. They don’t have songbooks but display the words on a flat-screen monitor.

The pastor is in week two of a series. Last Sunday was about God’s sovereignty; today is about God’s providence. He boldly delves into some tough questions about these subjects.

Afterwards, he tells me most members are younger in their faith; they’ve come without any church baggage and are eager to learn. Since they don’t know how they’re “supposed” to behave in church, there aren’t any bad habits to overcome. This explains the informal nature of the service, the socializing beforehand, and their arriving without Bibles. Their eagerness to learn is why he goes deep in his teaching.

Although the church is expanding numerically, their leader is more pleased with their deep spiritual growth. As is often the case, it’s new churches, and not the established ones, where people discover God and grow into a vibrant faith. Newer is often better.

[Read about Church #6 and Church #8, start at the beginning of our journey, or learn more about Church #7.]