Cliff is a man’s man. On the job he’s known as a go-getter and a very hard worker. He’s a good provider who loves his wife and kids. He’s well respected by his neighbours. Cliff drives a powerful 4×4 Double-Cab pick-up truck. He loves the outdoors and takes every opportunity for hunting and adventure. He enjoys a cold beer and a naughty joke now and then. And Cliff never ever goes to church…
Ask him why he doesn’t go to church, and he’ll use words like boring, uninteresting, guilt-monger, irrelevant and hypocrite.
We live in a society wherein Christianity is experienced as a religion for females and not for strong, practical men. Christianity, in its various flavours, is “something the wife likes”. Masculine men find churchgoing a painful ordeal and they generally distrust pastors as smooth-talkers and crowd-hypnotists who attempt to charm the gold from one’s purse. Pastors psychologically attract women, and occasionally these women manage to drag their husbands to church…
Deep inside, Cliff is a God-fearing patriot with a strong sense of reverence for a Deity. But going to Church is the last thing he will consider — a dozen or so bad experiences with untenably boring sermons and “smooth” pastors, have shown him again and again that it is just not the place for level-headed, mature, strong men to go. He trusts these gut-feelings and has written off the option of attending Church.
Cliff is not alone. Men have believed this for centuries. In the 1800s, the preacher Charles Spurgeon said,
“There has got abroad a notion, somehow, that if you become a Christian you must sink your manliness and turn milksop.”
Cliff experiences Christianity as incongruous with his logical thought-processes and manhood. Based on his observation and analyses, Cliff views Church as a place for insecure, emotionally disturbed or simply “stupid” women and half-men.
CHURCH …A WOMEN’S THING?
The pastorate of a Church is a men’s club. But almost every other area of church life is dominated by women. Whenever large numbers of Christians gather, men are never in the majority. Not at revivals. Not at crusades. Not at conferences. Not at retreats. Not at concerts. With the exception of men’s events and pastoral conferences, can you think of any large gathering of Christians that attracts more men than women? If there are men present, be sure that at least 75% of them were dragged there by their women.
Visit the church during the week, and you’ll find most of the people working there are female. Drop in on a committee meeting, and you’ll find a majority of the volunteers are women — unless it’s that small bastion of male presence — the building committee. Look over the leadership roster: the pastor is likely to be a man, but at least 75% of the ministry leaders will be women. Examine the sign-up sheets for volunteer work, prayer, Sunday-school, and nursery duty. You’ll be lucky to see more than a couple of men’s names on these lists. One pastor recently told me, “If it weren’t for the postman, every visitor to the church during the week would be a woman.”
Male pastors come and go, but faithful women provide a matriarchal continuity in Christian congregations. Women are the devoted ones who build their lives around they typically perceive and express as “commitment to Christ and His church”. Women are more likely to teach and volunteer in church and are the greatest participants in Christian culture. The reality in many churches today is this: the only man in the congregation who actually seems to practice his faith, is the pastor.
With so much female presence and participation, the church has gained a reputation as a ladies’ club, in the minds of men. Cliff does not attend church for the same reason he does not wear pink: neither is proper to his gender — the place, the atmosphere and the sermons are effeminate and quite creepy. Cliff knows one thing: he hates going to church. He tried it a few times and the experience was bad, very bad.
HOW THE GENDER GAP AFFECTS WOMEN
Connie from Cape Town is a lifelong Methodist, a 58 year widowed mother of 4 sons. She says, “None of my sons goes to church anymore. Two of them are divorced, and now all four are living with their lady friends. It’s sad.” Bernice from Johannesburg says, “I have a large extended family. Not one of the men ever goes to Church.” Vicki’s husband, Ron, attends their local Baptist church. “But he’s a total hypocrite,” she states. “He screams and curses at home and all the way to church. Once he’s inside, he puts on a smile and plays ‘Mr. Charming.’ Why won’t he let God change him?” Caroline from Port Shepstone is a 27 year-old single woman who won’t date non-Christian men. “But I’m beginning to rethink that,” she admits. “I go to a small Pentecostal church. There are NO single guys my age there, or at other similar churches. This man at work was trying to date me, so I told him our first date would have to be church. He came, but I think it freaked him out big-time. He never called me again.”
Connie, Bernice, Vicki, and Caroline know from personal experience: The church is having trouble reaching men. Women comprise more than 75 percent of the typical adult congregation on any given Sunday. At least 25% of married women regularly attend without their husbands coming along. There are quite a few single women but hardly any single men in church today. Every day it gets harder for single Christian women to find like-minded, Church-attending men for romance or marriage. Step into any church parking lot, and you’re likely to see an attractive young mother and her brightly scrubbed children scurrying to Sunday school. Mom may be wearing an impressive diamond ring on her left hand, but the man who gave it to her is nowhere to be seen.
WHERE ARE THE MANLY MEN?
Although males have not completely abandoned the church, manly men like Cliff have all but disappeared. Tough, earthy, realistic, engineering-minded working guys rarely come to church. High achievers, alpha-males, risk takers, and visionaries are in short supply. Fun-lovers and adventurers are also underrepresented in church. These rough-and-tumble men don’t fit in with the quiet, introspective, passive and gullible type of men who populate church pews today. The truth is, most men in the pews grew up in church. Many of these habitual male attendees come only because they enjoy participating in comforting rituals. There are also millions of men who attend services under duress, dragged along by a mother, wife, or girlfriend.
What a contrast to the men of the Bible! Think of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Elijah, David and Daniel. They were lions, not lambs — take-charge men who risked everything in service to God. They fought valiantly and spilled blood when necessary. They spoke their minds and stepped on toes. They were true leaders, tough guys who were feared and respected by the community. All of these men had two things in common: they had an intense commitment to God, and they WERE NOT timid wimps. Plus something important: They did NOT attend Christian style religious services, but worshiped God in the field, in the Tabernacle (Mishkan) or in the Temple (House of YHWH; Beit haMiqdash).
Today, men of the calibre of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Elijah, David, Ezekiel and Daniel do not attend to Christian churches. Why?
Furthermore, of the men who do attend church, most decline to invest themselves in the “Christian life” as their wives and mothers do. The majority of men attend services and nothing more. Jay is such a man. He’s in church most Sundays, but he’s not very excited about it. “I go mainly for my kids and my wife,” he says. “Church is okay, but it really doesn’t enthral me like it does her. I’m always relieved when things are over and done with and I can drive off.”
Who is being touched by the Christian gospel today? Women. Women’s ministries, women’s conferences, women’s Bible studies, and women’s retreats are ubiquitous in the modern church. Men’s ministry, if it even exists, might consist of an occasional men’s breakfast, where some invited speaker talks about investment, tithing and business ethics, using a biblical vocabulary and a few motivational references to biblical characters.
How did Christianity become so popular with women, but so boring to men?
Today’s Christianity does not attract men; it repels them. Fewer than 20% of the men in the USA say they attend church fairly regularly. In Europe male participation rates are much worse, in the neighbourhood of 4% or less.
WHAT’S IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE GENDER-GAP IN CHURCH ATTENDANCE?
For decades those few people who noticed the gender gap have assumed that men are to blame for it.
Why do women seem drawn to the church when men are not? What’s the difference?
Something in Christianity is driving strong, masculine men away. Almost every man in America has tried church, but more than 75% find it irritating, repulsive, boring and irrelevant.
When men need spiritual sustenance, they go to the wilderness, the workplace, the garage, the pub, to a psychologist or a psychiatrist. They watch their heroes in the stadium or on the racetrack. They plunge into a novel or sneak off to a movie. Church is one of the last places men go to in order “to find God.”
More than 85% of American men believe in God, and 75% call themselves Christians. But less than 25% attend church.
Men’s disinterest in Christianity is so consistent around the world, that it cannot be explained by pride, father issues, sin, or distraction. Neither can we say, “Well, men are just less religious,” because this is untrue. Male and female participation are roughly equal in Daoism, Buddhism and Hinduism. In the Way of Israel (Judaism), synagogue attendance is in the order of 75% male and 25% female. In the Islamic world, Muslim men are publicly and unashamedly religious — often more so than their women and daughters. Muslim men are very proud of their religion and faithfully attend Masjid (Mosque) each and every Friday. On any Friday, Masjid attendance is in the order of 75% male and only 25% female. Of the world’s great religions, only Christianity has a consistent, nagging shortage of male practitioners.
What is it about Christianity that is so deeply repulsive to masculine men, driving them away?
Let us dig deeply – very deeply — to discover the main reasons for this phenomenon.
The disinterest of real men in Christianity, is, in fact, a potentially positive and redemptive phenomenon, for a number of reasons. These reasons are:
[Assignment left to the astute the reader…]