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Attracting Men

On April 15, 2006

I would like to generate some discussion about how to attract men to CBE. At the conference last summer there was some mention about CBE wanting to do that -- maybe it was even put in terms of a goal -- I can't remember. If any of you have been successful in doing that (signing men up), I'm sure it would be helpful to the organization if you would share it here.

Personally, I don't have much hope that it can be done, at least in large numbers, due more to the nature of the way Christianity is practiced than the nature of CBE. Beyond the obvious reason that many do not agree with CBE's mission, a lot of men don't like something even more basic: going to church and other Christian organizations' meetings. In Why Men Hate Going to Church [Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005], David Murrow presents a practical and realistic appraisal of why men actively avoid church -- even Christian men. This is not the typical Bible book store book. Part of this book will make you see red, but it may be worth the effort. Murrow does remind the reader that he is presenting men as they are, not as they should be, and that while he does have to generalize to make his points, he realizes that many people do not match the stereotypical views.

According to published statistics, about 61 percent of the people in the pews are women and only 39 percent are men. Almost a quarter of married women who attend Christian churches attend without their husbands. Neither is this just an American problem. Women are much more likely to be involved in the activities the church believes makes you spiritual (or look spiritual): discipleship, attending Sunday School, holding a leadership position, attending small groups, having a quiet time, reading the Bible, sharing faith with others, etc. But "38 percent of men described themselves as spiritual but not religious compared with just 28 percent of women, suggesting 'traditional religious institutions may be somewhat less equipped to fulfill the spiritual needs of men.' [Gallup] This is further evidence that men are interested in God, but uninterested in Christianity as it's currently practiced." [Murrow, p. 65]

If the majority of people actually showing up at church are women, it only makes sense that pastors aim their sermons at those who are present. Listen to the words you'll hear there: sharing, relationships, support, nurture, feelings, community, precious, tender, gentle. Worse yet are theological words: being saved (something passive and done to me?), lost (oh, yes, let's ask for directions), bride of Christ (what!?), family of God (how about kingdom of God?), personal relationship with Jesus (not in the Bible; how about walk with Christ?), or worse yet, passionate relationship with Jesus (you mean sex?), intimacy with God (you mean sex?). And even worse yet, the songs we sing: "Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly," (Yikes!), "Away in a Manger" (The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head), "In the Garden" (the sound of His voice is so sweet the birds hush their singing); and even praise music lyrics: "Hold me close, let your love surround me." "Bring me near, draw me to your side." "I'm desperate for you. I'm lost without you." "You're altogether lovely... altogether wonderful to me." "Oh Lord, you're beautiful. Your face is all I seek." "You are beautiful, my sweet, sweet song." Between church and chapel at my university, most of these praise songs were sung within the last month while I was present. While I do love my savior, I don't sing these songs. I don't speak that way. Why would I sing that way? A lot of other guys in the room don't either.

Most of this stuff would make a male heathen's skin crawl. Lots of male Christians', too, and probably some females' as well. Is there anything CBE can do to communicate better with men? Maybe form a task force to look into it?

What can CBE do differently that would attract men? Is it possible for couples to live egalitarian lives and still recognize differences between the sexes? Statistics are apparently starting to show that Christians are living egalitarian lives more and more even while they profess headship heirarchy. I'm not sure how that works, but maybe the rank and file are ahead of the philosophers and theologians.

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