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