August 26, 2010

Why Men Hate Church

2006 1523 page5 caphen my pastor and good friend, Dave, gave me a book to read several months ago, he told me I probably wouldn’t like it.
He was right.
I must say that the author makes some very good points, which I try to keep in mind as in my local church I minister as an elder of spiritual formation. And I agree with his conclusion. However, I don’t agree with how he got there.
David Murrow’s book Why Men Hate Going to Church postulates about how churches must do more to attract men. Although church leadership is dominated by males, he believes that the church has done little to attract men to the larger church body—at least real men. “Most men who like today’s church style are passive.”1
2006 1523 page5He goes on to describe the reasons why he believes men are turned off by church. One reason is that he believes a person must be able to speak, read, and pray out loud in church, and “the average man is not going to be as good at that as most women.”2 A second reason is that he believes the methodology, such as having a classroom experience for Bible study and the whole “learning process” attracts more women than men. And another reason is that we use feminine metaphors for the Christian walk. “In the last fifty years, the dominant metaphor used to describe the Christian life has been ‘a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.’ Jesus’ command was not to ‘have a personal relationship with me,’ but to ‘follow me.’ Men can handle that.”3
So, according to Murrow, men don’t like church because they can’t read well, speak well, pray well, learn well, or love well. If I were a man, I think I would be offended by that picture of my gender.
I’m sure there are men who do not do these things well, as there are women. But to think that all men want their church decorated with trophy bucks, camping equipment, and can endure only a 10-minute sermon seems a little shortsighted to me. Sure, if we want to attract only that segment of the male population, it’s a good plan. But to say that that’s why men in general aren’t coming to church seems quite shallow to me.
I think there’s an element missing from this equation, and it has to do with the great controversy. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12).
I believe, as many of you do, that Satan is working extra hard in these last days to take as many people with him as he can. We can see this in how he targets children through abuse and exploitation, wounding many physically, emotionally, and spiritually for life. We see it in how the family is being hit and torn apart. And I believe we see it in how men—husbands and fathers—are being led to believe that church is irrelevant to their lives.
I agree with the author that we must keep asking the question “What can we do to attract more men?” All types. We can do more; we know that women outnumber men in church attendance. But we must also be cognizant of the deeper issue going on. I do not believe that “men hate church” because the church is too feminine, pastors are sissies, and men’s learning capabilities and attention spans are smaller than women’s. Men have an awesome spiritual responsibility to God and their families—and to themselves. And Satan will do all in his power to make them shirk that responsibility. Even by making them believe the community called church that can help them grow spiritually is only for women and passive men.
1“Too Few Good Men,” an interview with David Murrow, Leadership, Winter 2006, p. 17.

Bonita Joyner Shields, a former assistant editor of the Adventist Review, is the editor of Cornerstone Connections. This article was published August 17, 2006.