Been reading David Murrow's book Why Men Hate Going to Church, very interesting. Having recently been to a meeting about church and men, it's given me quite a lot to think about. We are looking at how we do ministry to and for men at church, and the questions raised by both the recent breakfast meeting and Murrow's book need addressing.
The pivotal issue is simply this: is church to feminine? To which the answer is almost certainly yes. Odd then that if the culture of the church is predominately feminine, why are most of the senior leaders still men? Hmm.
Murrow suggests that over time the church has simply fallen into line with the culture of the people who fill the pews, on average 60-70% female. So we come into buildings that are decorated with flowers, painted in pastel colours and designed around a nurturing, comforting, caring ethos. Now none of those things are bad, no one is saying that. The point is that the environment and the content of our services leans away from a masculine agenda and towards a feminine agenda.
How we reset the balance, according to Murrow, is to choose to set the thermostat of the church to more male-oriented settings like challenge rather than comfort. But doing this is maybe not so easy to work out. We can preach challenging sermons but are they presenting the right kind of challenge? I don't know. But it certainly bears some reflection and some thought about how we prepare and present our material in order to challenge everyone in appropriate ways.
I've always maintained that following Jesus was the most courageous decision I have ever made in my life. It has been a hard life, not the easy life that many non-believers think it to be. If I hadn't have chosen to commit myself to becoming a whole-hearted follow of Jesus Christ I could have sailed through life selfishly seeking my own goals and meeting my own needs. I could have been driven by whatever desires I had. Instead I chose to submit myself to someone else's authority. I also chose to follow God's call into ministry, another courageous choice that has been anything but easy.
So why does the gospel I preach come across as uninteresting or irrelevant to men? Maybe I've failed to emphasise the risk and challenge of following Jesus in favour of the language of relationship and sentimentalised commitment. Maybe I've not lived out a discipleship that is strong in heart.
Whatever the reasons, the need to think seriously about we engage men for the kingdom of God remains.
More to come I'm sure!