Friday, May 8, 2015

where have all the Christian men gone?

Photo: Individuell Människohjälp

Women are from America.  Men are from Africa.

Before I continue, I should warn you that I'm going to make broad generalizations in this article based off of my own experience.  They can't possibly include everyone's experience and may not even reflect what is statistically true (in which case, I will edit).  My thoughts are definitely my own and don't reflect anyone I work for/with.

Okay, that said . . .

Women are from America.  Men are from Africa.

At least, as far as the church in America is considered, women are more in line with the culture the church expects to reach, and men are farther from the church, more foreign to it, and there lacks a coherent plan to reach them.

There are absolutely exceptions to this rule, but this post isn't about them.  This post is about the cry from our female Christian friends asking, "Where have all the Christian men gone?  And why are the ones we have found so apathetic toward pursuing relationships?"

First, a very encapsulated bit of history: feminism and the sexual revolution of the 1960s are responsible for the idea that women don't need men, an idea that persists today.  The natural consequence of this idea is that men should cower in awe of the power/beauty/strength/intelligence of women. This has been tremendously successful in academia and business but horribly damaging in relationships.

Men who want to date are left either embracing the sexual revolution, thus eliminating all motivation for commitment, or complying with its demands that men bow in reverence to women.

So far as the church is concerned, most congregations took an antagonistic attitude toward these culture shifts, teaching their members the evils and dangers of feminism and the sexual revolution without noticing that the culture around them was swallowing it up.  That is, the church drastically overestimated its influence in a culture that had rejected its authority.

Okay, so back to men.

1.) Men are farther from the church than women are.

Go ahead an pen your theological hate mail (because that's what Jesus would do . . .) explaining to me that "God sees all sin the same," but please just ball it up and throw it away.  I'm not talking about it being harder for men to get to heaven than women these days.  I'm talking about their hearts being harder to hearing from God at all, especially in the context of today's local church.

There's one nasty little four letter word responsible for this: porn.

90% of boys are exposed to porn before age 18.  68% of young adult men look at porn at least once every week.  Men are 543% more likely to look at porn than women.

Studies have shown that men who view pornography are significantly less likely to want daughters.  To sum up: porn makes men hate women.  It distorts the image of God found in female form.  It warps their sense of who God made them to be as men.  It enslaves men to perilous lies.

If you don't think this makes it harder for men to hear from God, you're out of your mind.

When churches are successful in reaching men, a lot of times, there's a lot more work to do with men than there is with women before they are "the marrying kind."

2.) Men are more foreign to the church than women are.

Take a minute and think about what would make your pastor think you were progressing as a Christian.  Seriously.  Stop and think for a minute.

It probably starts with church attendance, but then we get deeper into "pray and read my bible everyday" and maybe "give up a bad habit" or "worship passionately."  If we're feeling particularly holy, our pastors would love for us to give money every week or go on a trip to help people.

Most churches lead people to believe that they're progressing as Christians if they're having more frequent emotional experiences with God.

There could be a scorecard:
  • Cry during a sermon. +5 points
  • Raise your hands during worship. +10 points
  • Stop a sinful habit. +80 points
  • Adopt a Compassion International orphan. +2,000 points
I'm not saying that any of these things are bad.  In fact, most of them are good in the right context.  But let's be honest, if emotional connection to anything is important, women are at a distinct advantage.

Churches used to build hospitals, fight slavery, and peacefully defy empires.  In many parts of the world, they still do.  A lot of churches in America want you to stand in the dark and sing slow ballads about how you want to snuggle Jesus.

Nothing I'm saying here is new.  Books upon books have been written about the disconnection between men and churches.

3.) There is no coherent plan to reach men.


Even when churches do address men, the attempts are often so brazenly macho, it's off-putting.  None of my friends, none, have ever invited me to a cabin in the woods to shoot guns and barbecue red meat.  We did go to a Coldplay concert once, though.  That's sort of the same, right?

If churches were serious about reaching and discipling modern men, they'd do better to address them like they were from another country.  Learn their language.  Address their needs.  Live in community with them.  Give them hope.  Teach them to live the kinds of lives they desperately want to live.

Imagine if a church had the guts to say: "men matter."  They would risk the outrage of modern feminists to be sure, seeing it at the expense of women.  But what if that church helped men become the greatest protectors, defenders, and advocates of women that this world has ever known?  I'll bet you'd find a few "good ones" at that church.

Ladies wondering where all the Christian men have gone, pay attention here: depending on where you are part of a church, if there are men in your church, they are either more sensitive men (i.e. less likely to pursue you and risk rejection), they're struggling through leaving an old lifestyle, or they're only half as connected as you are.  Or maybe some combination of the above.

There's nothing wrong with being a sensitive Christian man.  I am one.  I've been one as long as anyone could rightfully call me a man.  But I was afraid of you ladies.  My sin wasn't sleeping around with a different woman every week, it was desperately hoping that just one woman would soothe the loneliness in my soul (and then being bitterly disappointed when my cloying eagerness made all of them run for the hills).

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This rant would be pretty depressing without some action points, so, ladies who are feeling the absence of these bold, Godly men you seek, here's my advice.

1. Pray for the men of your church.

Some of them may look like pansies now, but a boy slayed a giant with child's weapon.  God is in the business of making much out of little.

My wife prays for me all the time.  I'm pretty sure her prayers work even more than the ones I pray for myself.

2. Talk to your pastors.

Ask them what they're doing to reach and build Godly men.  If it doesn't include the church actively participating where the young men in your community are (sports, business, military, etc.), press them on it.  You'd be surprised what a group of women on a mission can accomplish.

Missionary dating is a bad idea, but that doesn't mean missions is.

3. Encourage the men of your church to disciple one-on-one.

In whatever circle you're close to men (your family, your small group, etc.), ask guys you respect who they are bringing up in the faith.  If they're not helping grow up Godly men, kick their butts.

My heart aches for the wonderful, Godly women that Lindsey and I have known who can't seem to find their equal.  But we rejoice greatly when they find those men, and we are all better for having seen God answer those prayers.  Stay strong.  God hears you, and we love you.

6 comments:

  1. Well, said. The challenge is this. So much of what surrounds us today waters down everything we do. You have a thought provoking question....Google in your pocket, done. We don't have to think. You are concerned about the ethics of your school, your church, your friends...well, you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, and you don't want to be told to stop rocking the boat. So you sit down in said boat until it sinks. Our society, very much the American society of today, can't ask the hard questions, can't have the difficult conversations, and is scared to share their battles, or ask their friend if they can help them through theirs. Pastors, and lay alike, are uncomfortable talking about something as unseemly as porn. They will mention it in a sermon, but sit down one on one, and bare souls. Too hard for most people to stomach. Easy road, easy money, easy theology. Don't stand up, don't demand excellence, don't push with everything within you to be what you were made to be. Sin, and the sin you stress here, porn, finds the path of least resistance, and unfortunately that is a very wide 6 lane freeway in our country. Excuse, tolerate, rationalize, sympathize, immobilize. We need to be brave, on both sides of the topic, to humbly ask for help, and to call sin, sin...and then be the conduit of true forgiveness and restoration. We giggle at the Carl's Jr. ads, we are okay with clothing that used to only be found in Frederick's of Hollywood, now being sold in malls to our kids. We make it easy for men to fall, easy to stay down, and hard for them to feel that they can ask for help. Black and white, no grey. Not watered down. It's not okay for men to be consumed by this malady behind closed doors, nor is it okay for fast food commercials to blare it into our homes with next generations men are being attacked already. Stay strong, my friend and keep writing.

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    1. Much has been written about the pornification of our culture, and I think it is right on. It's difficult, when a former Disney star rides a wrecking ball naked through her music video on TV, to tell young men that seeking out more of the same is damaging and wrong. Thank you for adding this thought to the discussion!

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  2. Thank you so much for writing this. I am a woman, asking myself this very question about the men in the American church. I pray for them regularly as I know much about the world of trafficking and porn and its negative effects on everyone involved. I was encouraged by your article and feel empowered to have some conversations with my pastors about the work they're already doing to reach men, and to encourage other great men of God who could have a great influence on younger men in their lives. Thank you so much for sharing.

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    1. Thank you for engaging! There are so many factors that have led to the decline of men in our culture (sociological, economic, technological, spiritual, etc.). It truly seems the only way forward is for men who have overcome these hurdles to reach back and pull a young man up. I hope you find receptive ears and see meaningful change!

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  3. Raj, this is really great. And I really appreciate what you have to say. What follows is really just a long-winded “amen.” :)

    As a single Christian woman I see first hand the problem that you’re talking about.
    I can’t tell you how many times my friends and I have asked that same question, “Where are all the Christian men?” And not in a “oh, I want some guy to waltz in and sweep me off my feet, quoting bible verses along the way” kind of way. Just like seriously, where are the solid, single Christian guys? (If you find some, let us know. ;) haha)

    Unfortunately, there seems to be such an emphasis in the current culture on instant gratification and living purely for the sake of entertainment and experiences that it leads to a state of eternal “Neverland.”

    You said:
    "Most churches lead people to believe that they're progressing as Christians if they're having more frequent emotional experiences with God.”

    I think that’s a huge part of the problem. People want to 'experience' God because then he can be whoever they want him to be. Rather, if we see God and search for who he truly is: perfectly holy, the definition of love, full of grace, the creator of all that exists, the origin of all truth, etc. then our behaviors change. Our worldview shifts to see who we are before God. We see reality as it truly is, not how we want it to be.

    The truths that we’ve been graced with are worldview shattering and therefore life changing.

    Christian men and women have a responsibility themselves to take ownership of what they believe in, to study the scriptures and see what God has for them. God has revealed himself and given “everything pertaining to life and godliness” So there’s really no excuse. As created beings who have been saved from eternal wrath as a result of our own rebellion, the natural reaction should be to want to know love, and serve the one who has saved us.

    I loved what you said about discipleship. I want to encourage my brothers and the men in my life to live strenuously and strive after the things of God. I want to encourage older men to come alongside and disciple other men (and that doesn’t just mean old men). Everyone is an “older man” to someone. Young boys need to be taught and discipled too. It reminds me of Titus 2: "Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. … Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works…”

    We need to be willing to get involved in each others’ lives. We need the truth of the gospel to be so close to our hearts that it can’t help but overflow and effect those around us.

    Once that happens, holiness and the process of sanctification becomes the priority for both sides, and less emphasis is placed on finding the right person, but rather being a person who strives after the things of God.

    Thanks for taking the time to think on and write about these issues, and by extension, making others do the same. :)

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    1. Thanks, Erin! Something that I didn't touch on very much in this article is that when churches started emphasizing numerical growth, spirituality became commoditized. It's easier to package an experience (like a movie or a Disney vacation) than true discipleship and life change. The title of my blog comes from a quote, "Never try to sell a meteor to a dinosaur. It wastes your time and annoys the dinosaur." Jesus calls people to take up their cross, to come and die that they might live. It's hard to build something with mass cultural appeal when that's your salespitch. Instead, it happens on a small level, seeing one life change, hearing someone else's story, encountering the Bible in a way that deeply alters you. I've had several men in my life, of varying ages, who have shown me what it means to follow Jesus. You're absolutely right. Everyone is older than someone else. Discipling just means helping out the guy who is coming up next.

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